SVCF's new art program aims to start conversations and elevate artists

Silicon Valley Community Foundation recently unveiled two new art installations in our Mountain View headquarters, the first results of the foundation’s newly created art committee. 

The committee was formed with the goal of inspiring SVCF staff and guests through artistic expression, illuminating the challenges and successes of the people who live and work in Silicon Valley. The committee is comprised of a cross-departmental team of SVCF staff who share a passion for art, and the group is particularly focused on the bringing SVCF’s community impact mission to life in our physical spaces.

“Art is a universal experience that helps us translate perspectives, moments, struggles and triumphs in a way that transcends all social boundaries,” says Tobi Sondgroth Becerra, SVCF Senior Philanthropy Advisor and art committee co-chair. “We hope that the work of the art committee becomes a reflection of the communities we serve and supports Bay Area artists in a substantive way."

The ongoing project will showcase local artists and elevate important community issues and themes.

ArtistsThe first art to go up on the walls was a series of six large typographic murals by Bay Area artists Sergio De La Torre and Chris Treggiari. De La Torre and Treggiari have been investigating sanctuary cities and Bay Area immigration policies for the past ten years, and their installation features original quotes from participants, collected through conversations with community members and local nonprofits. The vinyl lettering took 13 hours to install. Question prompts that elicited the quotes included, “What is a sanctuary?”, “Have you seen an ICE raid?” and “When did you forget you were an immigrant?”.

This is a SanctuaryRelated to SVCF’s strategic grantmaking focus on immigration, the quotes address immigration policies and widespread injustices, and the artists hope that the pieces will educate, inspire and empower SVCF staff and visitors. 

I am an Immigrant"The spacing is intentional to make the words look foreign,” explained Treggiari. “Our work is rooted in research and dialogues.”

“Art elicits empathy in a profound way,” said Cathy Kimball, Executive Director and Chief Curator at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, who worked with De La Torre and Treggiara on the curation of the installation. “In this divisive time in our country, I used to wonder if looking at art is the best use of our time, but then I realized that art has never been more relevant,” she says. 

RodriguezThe next installation was a series of murals on the foundation’s lobby doors, by Sam Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been a full-time professional artist for the past five years, and currently lives in San Jose with his family. He views art as “a mirror, or sometimes a window to society” and was excited to work on a project for a client in the nonprofit sector that is closely involved with the local community.  

SVCF’s art committee gave him broad parameters regarding the nature of the murals, simply requesting that he highlight the values of the foundation and the diversity of the people that it serves in a unique and creative way. Rodriguez painted four distinct portrait murals that work together as an arrangement. “Every piece I do I look at as an arrangement. It is more about the story and the experience than the medium.” Rodriguez says. “These pieces were inspired by identity. I want viewers to feel the humanity in the portraiture.” The series blends different languages, ages, cultures, facial expressions, and various indicators of identity, reflecting the diversity found in the communities served by SVCF.

Rodriguez invites viewers to explore the layers and complexities of the murals. Words including “hope”, “respect”, and “unity” are present in the artwork, but the letters are stylized and some of the words are in languages including Arabic and Mandarin. 

Mural Art

Rodriguez spent three weeks in the SVCF lobby painting the murals, which afforded SVCF staff the unique privilege of watching him work and seeing the paintings progress to their final beautiful state!

In the future, the art committee is excited to share work from other talented Bay Area artists. In addition, they are seeking philanthropic support to expand its work. If you’re interested in being featured or contributing to the art committee, email Tobi Becerra at tsbecerra@siliconvalleycf.org for more information.