Stories from the Ground: Painting the McKinley School Garden Mural

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Just behind the school garden at San Jose’s McKinley Elementary is no longer a barren white wall, but instead an inspiring canvas of imaginative color. The artist behind this transformation is San Jose native, Mike Borja. As Borja’s first large scale mural, he admits that this project has been “a big chapter of my life”. Both a teacher at a private art school and for the non-profit organization Coach Art, Borja volunteered hundreds of hours into the creation of the all hand painted and nearly complete mural. Not only was Borja’s time volunteered, but so was the entire project. Stores in our local community donated all of the resources, such as paint, brushes, and preserving varnish. As for an assistant in the project, Freddie Vega, a member of the local artist community called The Heart of Chaos Crew, also volunteered countless hours of his time.

The students at McKinley were able to participate in the mural by voting on its theme (inspired by the book ‘The Secret Garden’) and in painting the first layer. Borja said that it is not uncommon to overhear students bragging to their friends, “I painted that strawberry!” Borja added that interactions and experiences like this are exactly what he hopes to witness. Out of the hundreds of kids at McKinley, Borja knows that this mural will at least inspire a handful. Either way countless stories have been created in the process and there is always going to be new meaning discovered in this fresh wall of color.

If you are interested in finding out more about Mike Borja’s art you can check him out online at or you can always find his work on display at Kaleid Gallery, located at 888 S 4th St here in San Jose.