Marketing is for terrible people, and art is for people who don’t realize they’re terrible. Leave it to a city-sponsored “art project” highlighting San Jose’s sewer system to synergize the two.
Last month, San Jose officials proudly announced that they will begin painting some of the city’s manholes a fluorescent shade of green—electric green, for those easily stimulated by color palettes—to raise the public’s awareness about how to properly dispose of fats, oils and greases. The project, submitted by the artist team of Claire Napawan and Brett Snyder and opaquely dubbed the FOG Awareness Pilot Public Art Project, will include the painting of 75 manholes, 2,900 informational door hangers and 14-15 decals being affixed to the side of maintenance trucks.
Total cost for the project: $85,000.
The project has already spent $20,000 of that amount conducting community outreach. If that seems like a good deal, you’re probably an artist. Perhaps a con artist.
Jennifer Easton, the city’s friendly public art director, admits that the project “does kind of sound like marketing,” but she adds if that’s the case it’s “actually very cheap marketing.” Easton defends the project as falling under the artistic license of Russian constructivism and/or social practice, which has an emphasis on raising awareness and changing behavior.
“Is this the most sophisticated?” Easton asks.
The answer: Of course not. But let her continue.
“I think in this case it’s really about the conversation,” she says. “That’s what we’re really trying to honor.”
Funds for Gang Green come out of the little known public arts budget, which allocates 1 percent of the cost of all new construction projects—not renovations or partial improvements—to public art focusing on the city departments that do the work. In this case, Easton says, the funds were rolled over for several years by the Department of Transportation, which is collaborating with the Environmental Services Department and Public Works.
For a project dedicated to easing the burden of San Jose’s sewage system, it’s a wonder the city didn’t rededicate Cesar Chavez Park’s favorite poop snake, Quetzalcoatl. But that would just be derivative.
Correction: A previous version of this post used an image of a sewer drain and not a sewer manhole. Also, an artist's name was misspelled. San Jose Inside regrets the errors.