New downtown Santa Rosa walking trail honors local activists

“Each person has achieved something unique. At the core of every story is a search for justice,” the artist behind the project, Kristen Throop, said.|

As Santa Rosa artist Kristen Throop spent long months researching the history of local activists, she had a specific goal in mind. Now the whole community can see the results.

“For the past year I’ve been working on a public art commission for the City of Santa Rosa. It’s a walking trail through downtown which honors the work of 14 local activists,” Throop said.

“I've drawn a portrait of each activist and combined that with an audio recording which people can access with their smart phones,” she added. “The idea is to be able to walk the trail while listening to some amazing and wonderful stories about people who have worked hard to make our community better.”

The public launch of the project will be held Sunday with a presentation at the Central Santa Rosa Library, followed by a tour of the markers, bearing the portraits applied in decal form, along the pathway.

The path of 12 sidewalk markers stretches from College Avenue to Julliard Park. Each marker contains a portrait of one or two important activists from the community. Each portrait features a code that links to an online audio description of that person’s life and activism.

“Each person has achieved something unique. At the core of every story is a search for justice,” Throop said.

Throop will speak at the event, and the five activists being honored who are still living will take part in a panel discussion.

They are attorney Bernice Espinoza, LGBTQ rights activist Magi Fedorka, educator and origami expert Henry Kaku, disability rights activist Anthony Tusler and Charlie Toledo, director of the Suscol Intertribal Council.

For a complete list, including the deceased honorees, see the fact box with this story.

“At the conclusion of the event at the library, I will be leading a walking tour of the entire project,” Throop said.

The starting point of the trail is outside the entrance of the Central Santa Rosa Library, on the left as you turn to enter the library.

If you go

What: Launch event for “Claiming Justice,” a walking trail through downtown Santa Rosa which honors the work of 14 local activists.

Where: Central Santa Rosa Library, 211 E St., Santa Rosa

When: 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29

Admission: Free

Information: 707-632-4591,

Extensive research is one of the artist’s trademarks. Between 2018 and 2022, Throop developed a body of art and writings inspired by a single painting by the French artist J.A.D. Ingres: his portrait of Pauline, the Princesse de Broglie, which he completed in 1853.

She exhibited that project at the Backstreet Gallery in Santa Rosa’s South of A Street (SOFA) arts district and later at the Hammerfriar Galley in Healdsburg.

For her trail-marker project, Throop teamed up with Santa Rosa’s Art in Public Places effort last year through the ArtSurround program, which paired artists with businesses, municipalities and nonprofits willing to host new public artwork.

ArtSurround was organized by Creative Sonoma, the public agency established in 2014 by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to support and promote the arts.

Of the 27 Sonoma County ArtSurround artists, nine received grants from Santa Rosa’s Public Art Program for their projects, said Jessica Rasmussen, arts specialist and project manager with the city.

Besides Throop, the artists are: Anna Wiziarde and Julian Billotte, MJ Lindo-Lawyer and Josh Lawyer, Nicole Jones, Barbie Watts, Mario Quijas and Dani Burlison.

The 14 activists honored in the “Claiming Justice: On the Trail of Local Stories” project:

Evelyn Cheatham (1953–2019): Founder of Worth Our Weight, a cafe which taught professional culinary skills to approximately 500 young apprentices. Worked for police oversight. An accomplished chef.

Bernice Espinoza (born 1981): Poet and civil rights attorney. One of two defense attorneys in Sonoma County who provide free legal counsel to people in deportation proceedings, particularly asylum seekers.

Magi Fedorka (born 1958): Educator and early LGBTQ-rights activist in Sonoma County. In 1990, proclaimed Pride Resolution before Sonoma County Supervisors.

Vince Harper (1966–2021): An advocate for social and economic justice. Director of Community Engagement at Community Action Partnership (CAP), where he worked for 32 years.

Henry Kaku (born 1948): Has spoken for 20 years about his family’s internment at Tule Lake during WWII. Educator and origami master. Judo Sensei who offered free self defense classes for Asian Americans.

Bill (1927–2014) and Lucy Kortum (1928–2022): Preserved public access to the coast. Mentored and developed the local environmental community. Were involved with the founding of many environmental and political organizations.

Mei Takaya Nakano (1924–2017): Inspired by the anti-war and civil rights movements to speak of her internment during WWII. An accomplished author and activist.

George Ortiz (1934–2020): Co-founder of Latinos Unidos, California Human Development and many other organizations. Early organizer of Latino community. Marched with Cesar Chavez and United Farm Workers.

John Richards (1824–1879): Began successful barbershop and bathhouse in Santa Rosa in 1856. Advocated for political change. Representative at Colored Citizens conventions. Involved with two important African American newspapers: the Pacific Appeal and The Elevator. Paid for education of African American children in town.

Charlie Toledo (born 1950): Executive Chair of Suscol Intertribal Council, which is dedicated to the unity and preservation of Native American culture and a safe place for Native Americans to gather and celebrate traditions.

Anthony Tusler (born 1947): Disability rights activist who documented the 1977 504 protest at San Francisco Federal Building, a watershed moment in history of disability rights.

Gilbert Gray (1916–1997) and Platt Williams (1928–2014): Founders of local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Leaders in the African American community.

Throop chose the activists to be honored with pathway markers and audio clips, and did her own research, Rasmussen said.

“It was totally Kristen Throop’s concept,” she said. “I think she did a really good job of reaching out into the community to identify who was going be highlighted in her project.”

To Kaku, 75, substitute teacher and origami artist, his inclusion in Throop’s project was a pleasant surprise.

“I was honored,” he said. “I have been doing origami for probably 70 years.”

Through his art, Kaku has participated in events held to promote understanding of Japanese Americans and their heritage.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

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