Features & Columns

Lively Weeks of Arts Blends
San Jose's Cultural Brew

A Year-End Celebration of Vietnamese-American Artists" took over the City Hall Rotunda, showcasing numerous local and internationally renowned visual artists
Last week's 'Journey of Tao' celebration in San Jose featured 12 straight hours of artistry.

What began with a one-day Vietnamese journey to San Jose City Hall will continue this weekend, as numerous local arts organizations join together, throw parties, raise funds and make their city a better place to live. The entire week already feels inspiring, so a round-up column becomes necessary.

On Friday, Jan. 20, "The Journey of Tao: A Year-End Celebration of Vietnamese-American Artists" took over the City Hall Rotunda, showcasing numerous local and internationally renowned visual artists, both young and old. As with many Vietnamese events, color reigned supreme. Organized by Jenny Do, who once operated the Vietnamese-themed Green Rice Gallery in downtown San Jose, the one-day exhibit celebrated Tao, the popular Vietnamese deity whose domain is the kitchen, symbolizing the hearth and home.

Toward the end of the lunar year, Vietnamese people offer Tao a send-off party before he reports back to the Celestial Palace.

After a boisterous ribbon-cutting ceremony, numerous emcees took the stage, as if they were the kitchen-masters of the whole event. The exhibiting artists posed for pictures left and right. Food was served, and the tea was strong. After a Tet dance, a zither performance and some karaoke-style wackiness, Do officially announced the formation of SJ VietArts, a new cultural organization representing Vietnamese people. The single downside of the show was that it lasted only 12 hours. The journey ended, seemingly, before it even began.

"Even though time was not our friend, I tried to convince all the artists that we could do a good show, even though it was just for one day," Do said, adding that she hopes to bring back the Green Rice Gallery in some capacity. "The Vietnamese are 12 percent of San Jose's population. We've been here 42 years, but we never go to the art museum."

SJ VietArts isn't the only organization adding color to the city, of course. This Friday at the San Jose Scottish Rite Center, the annual Arts Panorama fundraiser will explode with numerous local organizations musicians, artists and performers all taking the stage, one after the other. This time, the South Bay Guitar Society and the Noon Arts & Lecture Series conspired to sponsor the whole thing. The roll call will include members of Firebird Chinese Orchestra, Lyric Theater, Chamber Music Silicon Valley and previews of Lyric Theatre's production of Princess Ida. Local legend Mighty Mike McGee will join other performers in the lobby, including visual artists and members of San Jose Youth Shakespeare. Yes, there shall also be a silent auction.

The Silicon Valley Arts Coalition normally throws the whole shebang together at Le Petit Trianon, but this time around the event transports to the Masonic spheres of influence in the secret societal dimensions between Highway 87, Almaden Expressway and Curtner. As the masons might tell you, traveling is a good thing.

One component will not change, thankfully. The ebullient emcee, one Ms. Susannah Greenwood—aka Princess of Artsalot, who also penned the book 100 Things to do in San Jose Before You Die, in which this very event is mentioned—will master the ceremonies.

"This will be my third time as emcee of the Arts Panorama," Greenwood said. "It's one of my favorite events. I'm just there really as a super cheerleader for these groups and for the arts in San Jose."

But the good life doesn't conclude with the Masonic Temple. A week's worth of color will continue this Sunday—not a resting day by any stretch—as the San Jose Chamber Orchestra's "La Dolce Vita" Fundraiser takes over the Silicon Valley Capital Club. This one is fancy but not elite. Classical musicians, as well as their benefactors, will congregate for yet another dazzling gala hoedown spectacular. The theme for the evening takes its inspiration from Federico Fellini's legendary film, La Dolce Vita, in which a man-about-town columnist searches for happiness by infiltrating many different societal events all in one week. What a concept.

After all is said and done, San Jose will have had the Vietnamese, the Freemasons and the Italians all supporting the arts. Now that's diversity.