Can a mural deter graffiti? San Jose will find out

A giant mural project is underway in San Jose to help beautify downtown and deter graffiti. The "100 block" mural is being painted on South First Street.

100 artists mainly from San Jose, five from out of state, are each adding their own personal mark. The mural is halfway done and is attracting a lot of attention.

The artists are breathing new life into the old Valley Title building across from California Theatre in downtown San Jose. 

“We are really aiming to represent San Jose’s diversity in this piece of artwork,” said Exhibition District Executive Director Erin Salazar. 

Each artist is creating their own independent design on a three square foot block.

“It’s just a big collaborative gradient,” said Salazar “The idea is we go from black and white into orange, red, yellow, pink, purple, blue, green. We are creating a visual aesthetic from afar and tiny little murals up close.”

The eye-catching display is titled “100 Block.” It’s dream for Erin Salazar, who is founder of the nonprofit Exhibition District. The project is three years in the making.

“My block is me,” said Corbrae Smith of Oakland. “This is my first mural ever. I’ve been an artist my whole life.”

Smith is part of the Oakland art scene. He created what he calls a futuristic afro-space theme. The blocks range from portraits to abstract art to cultural tributes. Christina Von’s parents are from Cambodia.

“My piece here are faces of Cambodian dancers,” said Von. “They were entertainers for the king of ancient Cambodia.”

Artists using creativity to inspire positivity.

“I definitely started doing some illegal stuff when I was really young and realized there's a lot more that I can be doing to give back to the community as opposed to taking away from it,” said Z Dillon of San Jose. 

Dillon used to tag graffiti in San Jose. He’s now using his spray can in a more constructive way to benefit the community. He painted a rendition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, dressed in Sharks colors. 

“It’s a life encourager, it's what I love to do,” said Dillon. 

"Hopefully people can look at this and all the murals and think ok, wow they just did this so maybe
I can go do the thing that's calling me,” Smith. 

Each artist is getting paid $300, thanks to a $30,000 grant. The new mural is set to be unveiled on March 1 time for Cinequest.