This week the 20 by 30-foot refurbished mural depicting a thousand years of Santa Clara Valley history was reinstalled near Gate 15 inside Terminal A at Mineta San Jose International Airport, completing the challenging and at times uncertain transition of a popular painting that had hung in the main hall of Terminal C since 1977.

The painting by noted California muralist Millard Sheets was a gift to the community in 1976 by the San Jose Mercury and San Jose News, predecessors of the Mercury News, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the founding of San Jose and the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the newspapers.  Millard Sheets spent six months creating the work in his studio in Claremont, CA. It was the last of 120 murals that Sheets had painted.

The mural consists of a series of scenes that pay tribute to the area’s heritage, beginning with native Californians, through Spanish explorers and Mexican rancheros, to the early days of the development of technology leading to Silicon Valley.

The Airport’s recent comprehensive modernization project included the demolition of old Terminal C starting last summer.  Knowing that the mural deserved a special place in the community, the City of San José Public Art Program conducted a thorough investigation with expert art conservators to find realistic and cost-effective ways to preserve the mural.  In its efforts to find answers, the City reached out to the community, historic preservation organizations and the Sheets family.  Initial assessments by consulting art preservationists suggested that it might be nearly impossible to save the mural, or, with cost estimates as high as one million dollars, could be prohibitively expensive to preserve it. So the official recommendation was to document the painting with high-resolution photography and create a detailed facsimile for remounting if the original could not be saved.

Tony Sheets completing mural restoration.

Then Tony Sheets, the son of Millard Sheets and an artist himself, drew from his previous experience in saving five of his father’s other murals from destruction. Under Sheet’s direction, a crew of workers from Hensel Phelps Construction Co., the airport’s project contractor, successfully removed the mural from the Terminal C with minimal damage. They began slowly and gently peeling the mural from the wall, rolling two large strips of the canvas on to plastic and copper pipes scavenged from the now deserted terminal.  Five painstaking hours later, with additional workers joining the effort, the mural was removed from the wall, largely intact without damage. Over the past several months, Hensel Phelps workers have painstakingly removed wallboard and glue from the back of the mural, preparing it for restoration and installation in a new location inside the airport.

Workers carefully unroll mural onto wall during reinstallation.

Earlier this week the artwork was installed in its new location in Terminal A. Tony Sheets removed decades of grime from the mural and finished restorative touch ups and repair of minor damage and with that, an epic preservation effort is complete so that Millard Sheets gift will continued to be enjoyed for years to come.

Painter, muralist, water colorist, and architectural designer, Millard Sheets was born in Pomona, California in 1907.  He was active in the local Public Works of Art Project, the first New Deal art program in 1933, and he became one of fifteen artists chosen nationally to paint murals in the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. in the 1940s. He headed the art departments of Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School for more than 20 years until 1955. For 27 years beginning in 1952, Sheets also designed the buildings, murals, and mosaics for offices of Home Savings and Loan throughout California. Millard Sheets died at the age of 81 in 1989.

2nd Artists-in-Residence Team to Present  Climate Clock Proposal: Two Showings

Please join ZER01, CADRE Laboratory, SJSU, City of San Jose and Montalvo Arts Center for a presentation by the second Artist in Residency Team for the San Jose Climate Clock Initiative. Artist/aerospace engineer Geo Homsy along with engineer/”artist-to-the-stars” (i.e. Bjork, U2) Bill Washabaugh and Amorphic Robotic Works founder and artist Chico Mac Murtrie will present their design for “The Organograph”.

First Chance:
Friday, February 25th; 6:00 -9:00 p.m. at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga as part of Montalvo’s “Final Fridays”
See where the team has been working and living during their residency here. Enjoy a glass of wine and an intimate setting on the grounds of Montalvo Arts Center . For more details, go to the  Facebook invitation at

Second Chance:
Tuesday March 15th 5:00 PM-6:PM  at the Tuesday night lecture at the SJSU Art and Design School in Lecture Hall 133 in the Art Building.
An introduction to the Climate Clock will be given by ZER01 Executive Director Joel Slayton. Teachers  are welcome to attend and to bring their classes to this Tuesday night lecture at the SJSU Art and Design School. Please RSVP if you are bringing your class. After the lecture you are welcome to stay at the SJSU Art Tuesday Gallery opening for some art and snacks. For more details, go to the Facebook invitation at

Find more information about the project and San Jose Climate Clock initiative at Climate Clock Project Description .

Public Art Committee

Next meeting: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 5:30 P.M.

Meeting Location: City Hall, Council Wing – Meeting Room W-119, 200 E. Santa Clara Street,  San Jose.


1. Special PAC meeting to review Climate Clock proposal to be scheduled for the last week of March.

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a. Action to approve the design development for the solar element public art project by student Joseph Sanchez and the San Jose State University Department of Industrial Design. (District 3 and Citywide).

The full agenda packet can be viewed in a dowloadable format at

Public Art Committee meetings are open to the public.

The Public Art Committee, a sub-committee of the Arts Commission, is advisory to the Commission and to San Jose City Council. The Public Art Committee monitors and provides oversight in the planning, artist selection, development and design review of public art projects throughout the City.

City Hall Exhibits
Current exhibitions as of newsletter distribution.

The following exhibits are presented by the City Hall Exhibition Program, a project of the San Jose Public Art Program. All exhibits are free and open to the public.

The exhibition spaces are located at San Jose City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA.

Just Opened
OrbSWARM. Robotic Orb created by SWARM, an international collective.Photo courtesy of the SWARM collective.

Exhibition: Invention: A Celebration of Silicon Valley Innovative Spirit

Location: San José City Hall Tower lobby cases
Dates: January 2011- November 2011

Embedded deep in the American psyche is the pioneer spirit, a longing for adventure and a passion for exploration. Central to our nationhood is a deep desire to leave no frontiers unconquered. Surveys and opinion polls taken over the decades reveal an American public with a profound faith in technology, soaring imagination, and a prodigious appetite for the new-fangled. Nowhere is this national spirit of innovation and invention more prevalent than in San José, the capital of Silicon Valley. By turning the spotlight on an eclectic selection of inventors, artists, designers, engineers, visionaries and tinkerers from all over the greater Bay Area, Invention: A Celebration of Silicon Valley’s Innovative Spirit gives the residents of San José an opportunity to celebrate their creative regional brain trust and unique identity, one that is envied the world over.

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