Self-Guided Art Tours


This is only one in a series of self-guided Art Tours providing an easy and fun way to explore the thriving Bay Area art scene at your own pace. Each is complete with a printable map of destinations, and suggestions on how to plan your time, and where to stop and eat along the way.

Check out the other tours:

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Downtown San Jose

Last updated: June 2010

san jose

Do you know the way to San Jose? Easily accessible by Caltrain and freeways, San Jose is a city with a rich history and a burgeoning arts scene complete with museums and galleries of all stripes, and public art around many corners. There are also frequent events for art lovers including the area's South First Fridays (at, monthly art openings.

Though San Jose is better known for its techies rather than its artsy crowd, the downtown SoFA District is quickly becoming a hot destination for art lovers. Its multi-faceted arts scene is growing by the day, offering countless opportunities to experience and engage with the work of local and international artists. You won't be disappointed.

To complete the tour in one day, you'll need at least four hours once you get to San Jose, including breaks for lunch or a coffee. You should wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Before heading out, we suggest checking venue Web sites for information on current and upcoming exhibitions, to confirm hours of operation, or to make an appointment.

Note: Before heading out on your tour, go to the Phantom Galleries' Web site at to map out their current sites along your tour. Hosted in the windows of downtown businesses, Phantom Galleries are places where local artists can display their colorful works in an effort to enliven the streets of downtown. As their name implies, these galleries like a phantom disappear and appear in different locations so keep an eye out for them.

If you have more than one day to devote to fiber, we suggest taking a trip to San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and The Lace Museum (in Sunnyvale, CA).

Here's a preview slideshow that you can watch at

Also, here are some videos that you might want to watch to give you a sneak preview of what you might find on your tour:

We recommend starting at the beginning of South First Street, right where it splits off from South Market Street. Your first stop will be the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), an eclectic space featuring two galleries, a video installation room, and a cozy, educational reading resource room. There is also an installation space called Night Moves in the ICA's two large, street-level windows. Night Moves usually features video art projections on view even when the ICA has closed for the evening.

Next door to the ICA is the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, a 30-year-old organization featuring the dynamic craft, textile, and quilt artists who are often overlooked by larger institutions. These are not your granny's quilts or knitted Afghans -- exhibited work ranges from traditional to contemporary craft, and the subject matter ranges from very conservative to very subversive. Featuring a lovely gift shop and roomy gallery space, the Museum of Quilts and Textiles is not one to skip.

Your next stop will be MACLA, Movimiento del Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. MACLA houses a performance space as well as a gallery and represents multicultural artists from around the world. Beyond showcasing the work of emerging artists from the Latino community, MACLA strives to initiate cross-cultural dialogues. Their performance space offers a year-round season of poetry, theater, music, and film -- be sure to consult their schedule to see if there is anything you want to attend after the tour.

After MACLA, take a quick detour by turning right on East Williams Street to have a look at Space 47, a newer, independent project gallery that supports local artists and reaches out to "cultural entrepreneurs."

Then head back to South First Street for a stop at Works/San Jose, possibly the most experimental of all the stops on this tour. In their large space, they feature contemporary art and performances, as well as workshops for artists of all ages. Works is a member-run organization and was founded by a group of local artists abiding by the "success is in the process" philosophy. Works facilitates the ever-present need for artists to take risks.

You'll surely be ready for a meal or snack at this point, and there are many delicious choices just a few steps away. Two blocks over on South Third Street is Iguana's Taqueria, a locals' favorite known for their gigantic burritos. If you're looking for something a little fancier, continue down the street to Paragon, an upscale restaurant featuring American brasserie cuisine. Also on South First Street is the ever-popular, retro diner, Johnny Rocket's or Asqew Grill for affordable ribs, chicken, and other starchy delights.

Now that your belly's full, backtrack a bit on South First Street and stop at Anno Domini Gallery. Housed in an old movie theater, Anno Domini, The Second Coming of Art & Design, showcases urban contemporary artists from around the world. Run by a prolific San Jose designer duo Cherri Lakey and Brian Eder of Two Fish Design, Anno Domini boasts two gallery spaces (it looks like one gallery, but it is actually two) and is a hub for a form of photography called Lomography.

You can purchase all kinds of "Lomo" cameras in Anno Domini's shop, as well as art books, 'zines, and reasonably-priced artworks. World-renowned urban and graffiti-based artists such as Shepard Fairey, David Choe, Gary Taxali, and Bruno 9Li have exhibited works at Anno Domini. Be sure to check out the murals covering the north side of Anno Domini's exterior. The murals serve as a history of artists who have exhibited there.

Kaleid (another project started by Lakey and Eder) is where you'll find local artist flavor -- more than 60 San Jose artists show and sell work in this gigantic, former retail space. Each artist has their own little area to display fine folk, and glass art, along with wearable creations crafted from candy wrappers and jewerly. It's the perfect place to pick up a souvenir to remember your lovely art-filled day in Downtown San Jose.

If you choose to go the museum route, you'll find the San Jose Museum of Art. Before entering the museum, you may want to take a moment to marvel at the architecture of St. Joseph's Basilica, which is right next door. The San Jose Museum of Art's collections include contemporary photography, drawings, paintings, sculpture, installation, new media, prints, and artist books. World-famous artists such as Joan Miró, Viola Frey, Richard Diebenkorn, Yoshitomo Nara, and countless others have exhibited work at the museum.

To end your artsy adventure, take a rest in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park across the street from the museum. If you're not ready to slow down, take advantage of the Plaza's seasonal ice-skating rink, or head over to San Jose Repertory Theatre and catch a show there or back at MACLA. Or catch an indie flick at the Camera 12 Downtown. All are within walking distance of the plaza.

Below you'll find contact information for each venue. There is metered street parking along South First street and public parking lots located at San Salvador and Market, and the Convention Center garage. The Caltrain stop is very convenient. Check out their map and schedule at Also the VTA (Santa Clara County Transportation Agency at goes to downtown San Jose.

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
Where: 560 South First St., San Jose
When: Tuesday - Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 12pm-5pm, closed Sunday and Monday
Phone: (408) 283-8155
Cost: Free

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
Where: 520 South First St., San Jose
When: Tuesday - Sunday 10am-5pm, first Friday of every month, also open 8pm-11pm, closed on Mondays. The main galleries are closed between exhibits but the museum store remains open.
Phone: (408) 971-0323
Cost: $8 adults, $6.50 students and seniors, free forSan Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles members and children 12 and under, free the first Friday of the month

Where: 510 South First St., San Jose
When: Wednesday & Thursday, 12pm-7pm, Friday & Saturday, 12pm-5pm
Phone: (408) 998-2783
Cost: Free

Space 47
Where: 47 East William St., San Jose
When: Wednesday-Friday 12pm-4pm, and by appointment
Cost: Free

Works/San Jose
Where: 451 South First St., San Jose
When: Thursday and Sunday 12pm-4pm; Friday 12pm-7pm
Phone: (408) 286-6800
Cost: Free

Iguana's Taqueria
Where: 330 South Third St., San Jose
When: Monday - Wednesday 11am-12am, Thursday -Saturday 11am-3am, Sunday 11am-10pm
Phone: (408) 271-9772

Where: 211 First St., San Jose
When: Monday - Friday 11:30am-2:30pm, Monday - Thursday 5:30pm-10pm, Friday and Saturday 5:30pm-11pm, Sunday 5:30pm-9pm Phone: (408) 282 8888

Anno Domini Gallery
Where: 366 South First St., San Jose
When: Tuesday - Friday 12pm-7pm and Saturday 12pm-5pm
Phone: (408) 271-5155
Cost: Free

Kaleid Gallery
Where: 88 South Fourth St., San Jose
When: Tuesday - Friday 12pm-7pm, Saturday 12pm-5pm
Phone: (408) 271-5151
Cost: Free

San Jose Museum of Art
Where: 110 South Market St., San Jose
When: Tuesday - Sunday 11am-5pm, closed Monday
Phone: (408) 271-6840
Cost: $8 adults, $5 students and seniors, free for SJMA members and children under 6; $2 discount for San Jose Library cardholders.

St. Joseph's Basilica
Where: 80 South Market St., San Jose

San Jose Repertory Theatre
Where: 101 Paseo de San Antonio (at Third St.), San Jose
When: Saturday-Sunday 12-5pm.
Phone: (408) 367-7255
Cost: $30-$59

Camera 12 Downtown
Where: 201 South Second S., San Jose
Phone: (408) 998-3300
Cost: $10 general, $7.50 students, $6.75 seniors and children 12 and under, $7 matinees

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