Houyee Chow, Alumna creates mural celebrating LGBTQ life in San Jose

Friday, June 18, 2021 - 15:16

Identity and activism are center stage in queer artist’s work

As a first-generation, biracial, queer woman, Houyee Chow (B.A., ’18) knows firsthand the power of representation. So, when the Mexican and Chinese American artist was selected to design and paint a mural celebrating the city’s LGBTQ culture, she knew just what to do. She put a call out to the South Bay queer community asking for selfies. Everyone who submitted photos was represented in her mural. She wanted to depict actual members of the community, but painted them in rainbow colors, her way of saying there’s no mold for queerness, she adds.

The mural is one of two completed this spring in downtown San Jose’s newly established LGBTQ district, the QMunity District. The district, concentrated on Post Street between South 1st and South Market streets, is home to restaurants, nightlife and now public art. Last year, San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez, the nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy group Project MORE, the Santa Clara County Office of LGBTQ Affairs and the San Jose Downtown Association announced the new district and put a call out to queer artists to submit their proposals for the mural project. Chow and Nick Ybarra were the two queer artists chosen for the project. Ybarra’s mural focuses on LGBTQ history, while Chow’s is more of a celebration of the people behind the culture.

A native of San Jose, Chow says the project was personal. “Being a queer person of color in San Jose, when I was little, I thought we didn’t exist. … I never really saw any representation,” she said. “It was a magical experience to create a beautiful space for the queer community so we can feel welcomed, heard and seen.”