San Jose Spotlight: Muralist Harvests City’s Wealth of History

PUBLISHED NOV 19, 2020 12:00 A.M.
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While the word’s been out about the history of other Bay Area cities, from San Francisco to Oakland to Berkeley, San Jose sometimes seems like a hidden gem, only made famous in recent decades by the emergence of the Silicon Valley.

San Jose Spotlight recently highlighted an artist looking to show other parts of the South Bay metropolis’s history.

Lila Gemellos, a 34-year-old artist and UC Riverside alum who grew up in East San Jose, has been painting murals around town that showcase its history.

“For me as an artist, there’s such a wealth of history in San Jose and such a wealth of culture that you could spend a lifetime discussing this place visually,” Gemellos told Spotlight. “If I can make you stop, that’s what I’m going for every time. Whether it’s educational or just to provoke the thought—I’m not sure, but the history is the low hanging fruit there.”

Gemellos’ latest mural is in downtown San Jose at San Pedro Square. Another mural she has completed is at the Falafel Drive In.

Historian April Halberstadt—who, like Gemellos, is a member of the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission—praised the work Gemellos is doing to bring awareness to San Jose.

“She knows things because she’s been here,” Halberstadt told Spotlight. “One of the problems that we have as San Joseans, is every city has their own flavor and culture. But San Jose has a hard time defining that to other people, probably because we grew so fast. … So that’s part of what she’s doing, is to point that out to people.”

And in the process of pointing this out, it makes for colorful murals paying tribute to a fine city.

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