Mural of Pint-Sized Immigration Activist Sophie Cruz Beams Over San Jose

Detail of “Sophie Holding the World Together” by El Mac spans a park-facing wall of the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose. The mural was commissioned by the San Jose Museum of Art and The Propeller Group. (Rachael Myrow/KQED)

If you’ve walked past the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose in recent weeks, you’ve seen it going up...a giant mural of a little girl. The dedication is Saturday, and likely to benefit from the spillover crowd coming from the local March For Our Lives just a mile away at San Jose City Hall.

The mural features a gargantuan, smiling Sophie Cruz, who, at nine years old, is one of the nation’s youngest and most well-known immigration reform activists.

You might have seen her on YouTube. When she was five, she ran out to greet Pope Francis in his motorcade when he visited Washington DC.

Cruz got to meet President Barack Obama at the White House. Then, last year, she impressed quite a few people with her self-possessed stage manner at the Woman's March on Washington.

The mural, called “Sophie Holding the World Together,” was commissioned by the San Jose Museum of Art to complement an exhibition by the artists’ collective called The Propeller Group. Curator Lauren Schell Dickens explains the group is focused on "rethinking the way media does or does not support ideas around nationalism, nationality, immigration, refugeeism, connectivity; all those sorts of questions."

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Dickens says Tuan Andrew Nguyen of The Propeller Group was impressed with how many murals there are in downtown San Jose and wanted to add to the mix.

The Propeller Group has worked with El Mac (Miles MacGregor) before in Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere.  The art museum didn’t have an available public-facing wall. The building's  historic wing, sitting alongside the Circle of Palms Plaza,  dates back to 1892. So they partnered with the art gallery Empire Seven Studios to find one the few walls in San Jose it hasn't already covered with a mural yet.

El Mac writes in his blog about this mural: "When I met Sophie to shoot reference photos of her, I asked if there was anything she wanted to hold for the photographs, and she came back holding a globe. This seemed perfect, while the lotus was added to symbolize the beauty that can grow from humble origins."
El Mac writes in his blog about this mural: "When I met Sophie to shoot reference photos of her, I asked if there was anything she wanted to hold for the photographs, and she came back holding a globe. This seemed perfect, while the lotus was added to symbolize the beauty that can grow from humble origins." (Photo: Rachael Myrow/KQED)

The Propeller Group likes to break free of traditional museum walls and get out into the community -- something the San Jose Museum of Art wants to do more of, too. "The themes of the mural -- this idea of borderless thinking, I think speak to our desire to engage people where they are," Dickens says.

On a personal note, she adds, "“It's a really hopeful image about what our future can be. She's a girl. She's young. I loved showing it to my nieces, who are nine. They're pretty blown away that someone that young, someone their age, could have an impact, could inspire other people, could be featured in a monumentally sized wall mural."

Sophie Cruz, El Mac and Tuan Andrew Nguyen of The Propeller Group will all be on hand outside the Children’s Discovery Museum Saturday at 2 p.m. to officially dedicate the mural.

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