Q&A with Jessica Gutierrez: Learn How San José's Martha Street Art Event Began.

Photo by Jesus Hernandez - www.jhphotography.info

Photo by Jesus Hernandez - www.jhphotography.info

Welcome back to The Coffeehouse Invite! This is a place where we feature artists, entrepreneurs and local business to inspire others to connect, collaborate and create. We’re excited to have Jessica Gutierrez, an arts and wellness advocate, who provides resources for communities in need. We’ve had the chance to attend one of her Marta Street Art Events and we wanted to learn more about how it came to existence. Read on below to learn more about Jessica’s work in the community, the upcoming Martha Street Art Events and tips on creating art.

The Coffeehouse Invite: Hi Jessica! Thanks for joining us at The Coffeehouse Invite. Tell us what you do.

Jessica Gutierrez: Overall what I do is generate and hold spaces for creative communities that are typically underserved, underrepresented, and undervalued in San Jose. I share my resources--academic, material, financial, professional, creative--in order to (ideally) provide opportunities for these communities that do not typically have access to the arts and wellness. This intention informs all aspects of my life--working as a high school art teacher in East Side San Jose, Community Arts Manager at Be the Change Yoga and Wellness Studio, Arts and Culture Coordinator for Conscious San Jose, and most recently, hosting Martha Street Art events. I also do graphic design on the side which tends to be more corporate.

The Coffeehouse Invite: What makes the arts scene in San Jose special to you?

Jessica Gutierrez: I’m still really new to the arts scene in San Jose, but I have learned a lot in the last year or so. What makes it special to me is the immense diversity, connectivity, and authenticity in the arts that I never saw growing up in Sacramento. I feel connected to the “home grown” spaces that I have built community with here. I’m still learning all of the politics and inner workings of the San Jose “art world”, and there are definitely systemic issues that need to be resolved just like in any institution that’s deeply rooted in inequity. But overall, I feel a sense of belonging amongst the creatives here and have never been in a place that’s felt more like home.

The Coffeehouse Invite: Can you tell us what Martha Street Art Night is? What made you decide you wanted to create this type of event?

Jessica Gutierrez: Martha Street Art was designed to create space where all people can come share their art with others and connect with creatives from the diverse cultural city of San Jose. Specifically, Martha Street aims to be an inclusive and opportunistic space for the groups that are typically marginalized in the art world (e.g. people of color, womxn, LGBTQ+ folx, and those who have never received a formal art education). So one day my housemate made a joke about us having a gallery in our house (four out of five of us make art). And I responded “Okay, let’s do it.” Everyone laughed, but if you know me then you know I do what I say I’m going to do.

I decided I wanted to host a community art event, chose a date, made a flyer, organized the gallery artists, and started sharing the event on social media. About a week before my housemates were like “Oh shit, she’s serious” and they all started pitching in and getting hyped. We had our first Martha Street Art Night on November 2nd and it was a huge success. And by success I mean there was a huge turn out of artists from all different communities that came to share space and connect with other creatives.

I realized that first night that what we had put together was bigger than ourselves. From there, the intention gained more clarity to not only bring all types of creatives into a space together but specifically to showcase the work of artists that are not typically provided space or a platform in art institutions.

The Coffeehouse Invite: Any memorable experiences you would like to share during the Martha Street Events?

Jessica Gutierrez: The outpour of support and gratitude has been the most memorable to me because I recognize that people want these kinds of spaces in San Jose. A specific memorable experience was watching everyone excitedly drawing together around a table at our Art Exchange. My first thought was “This is beautiful” and my second was “This is an introvert’s dream.” Sometimes social settings can be hard for people--especially introverts, especially people with social anxiety, and especially artists. So this space is about welcoming all of those people too because I know what it’s like to go to a social event feeling awkward and disconnected. Also just seeing hella creative folx from different walks of life and from all types of diverse communities showing up as their authentic selves is pretty awesome.

The Coffeehouse Invite: Who are a few local artists who inspire you?

Jessica Gutierrez: Here’s a few badass local womxn artists:

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Vanessa Palafox (@pfox) is the coordinator of JTown Art Walk, a social justice activist/photographer, and an advocate for community engagement in the arts. She is has an amazing way of bridging gaps to cultivate collaboration and is also an incredible organizer/photographer/human.

Angela Smith’s (@aoinoir) work explores symbiotic relationships of power and empowering femininity through empathy. She has expanded the impact of the SJSU Printmaker’s Guild in the greater San Jose community and, as a result, spread the love and passion for printmaking.

Christina Von’s (@chrs.v) art is based on conversations and questions that she has with/for herself. Much of her work explores her relationship to her Khmer culture as a first-generation woman.

The Coffeehouse Invite: Can you share how we can be part of the Martha Street Art Night Event experience?

Jessica Gutierrez: You always be part of our events by simply attending and sharing space with us. The more creative people we have coming together, enjoying each other’s compact, and collaborating with one another, the better. We can only uplift one another if we reciprocate that energy and show up for each other. In other words, however you feel called to offer energy to the space will be welcomed as well as reciprocated. Also feedback is VITAL in order to ensure that impact reflects intention. So, providing feedback upon attending our events will help me to continue to return to the intention of Martha Street.

The Coffeehouse Invite: What can we expect at the next Martha Street Art Night Event?

Jessica Gutierrez: Our next event will be a daytime one which differentiates it from our prior events which were all held in the evening. We wanted something more lowkey and also wanted to take advantage of the sunshine. Martha Street #4 will feature an Art Gallery, Local Vendors, Performances, Live Screen Printing, Puesto (Taco Stand), and Live Art.

The Coffeehouse Invite: What are 3 tips you would give someone who would like to start creating and showcasing their art?

Jessica Gutierrez:

1. Just. Do. It. Nike said it first but seriously...if you don’t see a path for the thing you want to do, then make that path yourself. Find the people that align in intention that can contribute to a shared vision, then make that shit happen.

2. Collaborate. Find others that are doing similar work and collaborate with them. The more you can bridge together different communities, the more overall sense of community you will build. People have to be able to connect with each other to have empathy for each other.

3. Don’t burn out. You will probably hear this from any community leader or organizer, but make sure that you get rest and practice self-care. If you’re working in a collective, make sure you are setting boundaries with one another suitable to what you each need as individuals. Make sure that the work you’re doing is important to you and re-evaluate your “why” often.

The Coffeehouse Invite: Any other upcoming projects, events or collaborations you would like to announce?

Jessica Gutierrez: The next Martha Street Art event is not scheduled yet, but I will be organizing several different collaborations through Conscious San Jose and Be the Change throughout the summer. Conscious San Jose offers free programs in parks across San Jose from June to August, so I will be activating the arts programming in those spaces. These parks programs culminate to the Conscious San Jose Festival at St. James Park on September 21st. Many of the artists and performers that have been part of Martha Street will be part of the festival as well. In addition, Be the Change has a collaboration with the Museum of Quilts and Textiles in the works around art and yoga, so stay tuned for that!

The Coffeehouse Invite: At Chi, we encourage others to reach out and find people to collaborate with. Are you looking for anyone to work with? If so let, our Chi community know.

Jessica Gutierrez: I am always looking for collaborators! If you have a similar vision of bringing arts and wellness access to underserved communities in San Jose, please contact me!

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