Home News Art is a major part of San Jose’s new fire training center

Art is a major part of San Jose’s new fire training center


Using a firefighter ax, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan officially chopped the ribbon Thursday on the city’s new Fire Training Center and Emergency Operations Center. But in addition to providing invaluable training for first responders and a centralized headquarters for emergency response, the $90 million complex on Senter Road is also going to be home to a large collection of public art.

The most visible of these is “The Resilient City,” a layered, cut metal mural by Oakland artist Johanna Poethig that’s installed on the street-facing wall of the Emergency Operations Center. Over the next month, about 30 more pieces will be installed inside the buildings. So what’s the point of putting a lot of art where the public will rarely — if ever — get a chance to see it?

Michael Ogilvie, San Jose’s director of public art, told me there are some very good reasons to do just that. First, the buildings are expected to serve as regional training centers for first responders and emergency management officials. There’s a public lobby and meeting rooms where the work of local artists will be seen by visitors.

And equally important, Ogilvie said, it was an opportunity for the city to patronize its homegrown creative community at a time when they needed it most.

“When this building was being planned during the pandemic, many artists had lost work or commissions,” he said. “We designed some projects to provide stimulus for as many artists as possible. Along with ‘Holding the Moment’ at the airport, this was one of the projects that did that.”

But Poethig’s installation will be what everyone associates with the building. She spent time talking to Ray Riordan, director of the office of emergency management, San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien Jr. and others to understand how to appropriately symbolize the purpose of the facility.

The piece, which took about a year to complete and was installed last year, includes familiar San Jose skyline buildings like the Bank of Italy, City Hall and the 88, as well as the Gonzales/Peralta Adobe and homes from Japantown and other neighborhoods — with monochromatic beams radiating from behind them. Three figures represent first responders and even a clipboard-wielding management figure stand on cube-shaped rubble that eventually becomes like a penrose-tile pattern — one that never repeats — as it gets closer to the city. That’s something Poethig said she used after talking to emergency responders.

“They’re trying to prepare for these disasters, and there are patterns to them but they never repeat,” she said. “It’s kind of an optimistic way to hold the whole composition together but it also has this meaning behind it that I picked up from talking to them.”

SUNNYVALE’S HONOR ROLL: What a Leap Night it was in Sunnyvale on Feb. 29, as the 57th annual Celebrate Sunnyvale awards at the Hilton Garden Inn drew more than 150 people, the biggest crowd in memory to attend the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce event.

Family law attorney and former Sunnyvale Mayor Pat Vorrieter was presented with the Murphy Award for lifetime contributions to the community by Lockheed Martin’s Benita Kent. Vorrieter — joined by John Vorrieter, her husband of 61 years, and other family members — shared that she lives by three principles: imagination, integrity and involvement. From her perspective, the “i’s” definitely have it.

The evening’s other honorees were City National Bank Vice President Amal Allan (professional of the year), Applied Materials (large business of the year), DishDash Restaurant Group (mid-sized business of the year), Detati (small business of the year), iHealth Labs (technology and innovation of the year), KeyPoint Credit Union (community impact award) and Livable Sunnyvale (nonprofit of the year)

SOCCER VALLEY USA: You’ve got to love the enthusiasm that Bay FC, the new women’s soccer team, was drumming up in the week leading up to Saturday’s sold-out home opener at PayPal Park, usually with a giant inflatable Bay FC soccer ball accompanying them.

Mayor Matt Mahan wears a Bay FC letterman jacket at PayPal Park in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, March 28, 2024. Bay FC's opening game on March 30 is already sold out. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)
Mayor Matt Mahan wears a Bay FC letterman jacket at PayPal Park in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, March 28, 2024. Bay FC’s opening game on March 30 is already sold out. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

Team leadership — including Coach Albertin Montoya and General Manager Lucy Rushton — stopped by San Francisco City Hall and gave San Francisco Mayor London Breed a team letterman jacket, team co-founders Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner met with fans at Santana Row, and San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan stopped by PayPal Park to get his letterman jacket, as well.

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