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You Are Welcome

Fostering welcoming places for all at the Welcoming Interactive in San Jose

Last week, Students Rebuild partnered with Welcoming America and local San Jose artists Joe Miller and Roan Victor on a mural that transforms art created by Welcoming Interactive conference attendees into a single symbol of support for displaced neighbors.

Leaning on the crowd-sourced postcard art, the mural is the product of one local community uniting to extend a message of warmth and welcoming toward the region’s – and world’s – refugees. 

The mural depicts an Anna's hummingbird and a manzanita bush, both native to northern California, with the San Jose skyline and rolling hills beyond. Miller and Victor selected the hummingbird for its cultural significance as a symbol of good tidings, its reputation of determination, and ability to take on dangers and challenges beyond its size. The postcards created during the event were incorporated into the mural as flowers for the hummingbird.

“The hummingbird is a bit of a fighter, it sends a message of welcoming and protection, a positive image for visitors,” explained artist and exhibit designer Miller. “Hummingbirds are native to San Jose and have significance in the landscape and ecosystem throughout California and Mexico.”

“I like to create a sense of place where whoever is looking at the mural will learn a bit about the environment,” added Victor, a painter and muralist. 

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Hosted April 26-28, the conference and its mural celebrated a year of partnership between Students Rebuild and Welcoming America as part of Students Rebuild’s Welcoming Refugees Project. The 2022-2023 project provides resources for classrooms to create art about supporting refugees. Each work of art generates a donation to organizations that are providing help to refugees, like Welcoming America. 

Welcoming America supports different communities around the country in welcoming displaced families from around the world, and their annual Welcoming Interactive conference highlights successful practices and inspiring stories about immigrant inclusion, programs, policies, partnerships on economic development, and more. This year’s conference was hosted in San Jose, a Welcoming America-certified Welcoming City. The city was judged against other cities in being welcoming to refugees in the following areas:

  • Government & Community Leadership
  • Equitable Access
  • Civic Engagement
  • Connected Communities
  • Education
  • Economic Development
  • Safe Communities

The creators behind the mural, Miller and Victor, are artists and educators with strong ties to the San Jose art community. They’re united by a shared belief that creativity can be a safety net for some people. If you’re local to San Jose, you might find Joe and Roan at Works/San Jose where artists of all ages and skill levels have a space to share their point of view through art. Roan is also the co-founder of Know Future Gallery in San José.

“We’re so grateful to the Welcoming America community, and the artistsJoe and Roan for collaborating on this beautiful piece of symbolism, and to our partner Welcoming America for hosting such creative programming!” said Students Rebuild Managing Consultant Alexandra Manuel.

A few highlights from the event are included below:

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