According to family lore, Anna and her twin brother Daniel were conceived on Staten island, however, were born in Ohio. Growing up in the Midwest was fun. Unlike the Silicon Valley where she lived most of her life.
For Anna, the Midwest had four seasons. Spring brought frozen ground and lilacs. Summer brought fireflies and tadpoles. The fall brought various colors of leaves. It was spectacular. Unfortunately, they all fell to the ground, but her family always, like most midwesterners, made piles of leaves and played with them prior to burning them in the backyard. She never forgot the brisk fall air, it was a sign of the winter to come.
Winter was not her favorite season, but she loved it a whole heck of a lot. It came with its own set of challenges. Not everyone, including her family, had all the appropriate clothing to deal with winter. She even caught pneumonia one winter. What she really, really, enjoyed about winter was ice skating and ice fishing.
At 13, her family moved to Silicon Valley, San Jose, Hotel California. She and Daniel did not have an easy time in their new school environment. Anna was a little bit more Street savvy than her twin, who was in those days, a geek or a nerd, and got beat up for it.
Eventually, Anna and Daniel graduated from high school, although she almost didn’t make it. Anna would work her way through college at San Jose State University (SJSU), where she provided credit evaluations. Upon a suggestion by her father, after earning her BA degree from SJSU, she and her father started their own credit evaluation services.
Anna took her college work experience to become her very own Boss Chick, netting 360k annually, with 12 employees, all from doing credit evaluations, holding consumers hands, especially the attorney’s call, counted on that. That’s when she put her feet on her desk and said, “Yup, Yup, Yup – I’ll do some research if you can provide me with a copy of a legitimate canceled check.”
A sudden stroke suffered by her father and he said, “I can’t get up.” But her sister left him there for 30 minutes. He survived only to be kicked out of the facility b/c he screamed out in the middle of the night, “do any of you old wench’s give B.J.’s.”
During her father’s hospice, his silent business partners wanted to cut him out of the business. It was either kick her Dad out of the business, or train-up some lackey wanted by the silent partners, so Anna just walked away.
According to Anna, “Another f’ing job was finding her Dad a placement. Oh but he got better only to insist that her best friend Kristy buckle his seat belt up when they went out for dinner. Men!”
The start of the millennium decade saw Anna earning a California Real Estate Broker’s license, the highest real estate license in the State of California. While a project manager for Stanford Management Company at Stanford University, she managed property endowments, land lease reviews, and oversaw $10 million in monthly construction disbursements.
In 2007, she received a paralegal degree from De Anza College in Cupertino. While attending classes, she volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), reporting to CASA of Silicon Valley under the jurisdiction of Santa Clara County Superior Court.
For the youth she was an advocate, Anna had to write reports and appear in court to report that the young man’s needs were being met concerning living conditions, school, and activities to enrich his life. One of her proudest moments in her life was to see her child advocate graduate from high school in 2007. In the world of the foster care system, the high school graduation rates are quite low. Thus, a celebration was held at HOME!
When children reach the age of eighteen, they are forced to leave its system. It’s called aging out. For these youths, according to Alternative Family Services, they are two times more likely to be without housing compared to their peers, and young men in California who were in foster care are 82% more likely to become homeless.
In a move that is practically unheard of, Anna and her husband adopted her child advocate after he aged out of foster care, and legally adopted him as their son.
The late 2010s brought life altering changes. In 2018, her twin brother died of a heart attack, and in 2019, her son went to prison. That’s when she reached out to California prison artist Donald “C-Note” Hooker through a pen pal site. C-Note is the world’s most prolific prison artist.
As Anna got to know C-Note through their postal mail correspondence, she began to admire both his literary and artistic voice. A voice she would later learn had impacted others too.
In 2016, C-Note created his first political work of art, Black August – Los Angeles. It is listed in Wikimedia Commons’s extensive Library as one of only 12 artworks in its Black Cultural Archives.
His 2017 artwork Incarceration Nation has now become America’s premier work of art on mass incarceration.
Also in 2017, his Hurricane Harvey inspired During the Flood, would be used by grassroot individuals and organizations to advocate for prison evacuations during the 2019 and 2021, Category 5 and 4 Hurricanes Dorian and Ida.
One year into the global pandemic, Anna decided she wanted to start her own independent brokerage firm that would combine art and real estate. In March of 2021, Anna D. Smith Fine Art and Real Estate Broker became an official Silicon Valley business.
Starting in March of 2020, indoor-gathering health restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic denied the public access to art galleries and museums. Since the public could not come to the art, Anna brought art to the public. In the fall of 2021, Anna made a move that was at the time, unprecedented in the art world, she funded and curated an outdoor exhibition that was the first billboard Prison art installation. The “Look Up!” artist’s billboard exhibition, Oct. 17 – Nov. 16, featured C-Note’s 2017 Incarceration Nation.
The exhibition led to A Better San Jose Peaceful Rally, a two-hour peaceful rally that was held on November 2, 2021, near the “Look Up!” billboard art installation exhibition. The rally focused on issues pertinent to San Jose, California, and featured presentations by diverse social justice grassroots individuals and organizations. These individuals and groups provided information on action items related to San Jose’s homeless youth, the homeless crisis amongst citizens returning home from prison, and the power of education through high school graduation, trades, and university degrees.
Another concern raised by A Better San Jose (ABSJ) was the lack of a credible response from local elected officials, including the Mayor of San Jose, San Jose City Council members, and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. These elected officials were invited to attend the rally via email, but either did not respond or said they had scheduling conflicts.
A Better San Jose was founded by Anna, who was passionate about bringing the arts to the community, which had been deprived access to local galleries and museums due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Better San Jose consists of individuals and organizations interested in improving the health and wellbeing of all San Jose residents.
In September 2021, ABSJ founder Anna D. Smith purchased a Polaroid x Keith Haring camera and film. She took photos at the “Look Up!” billboard art installation using this camera and film, and these photos were later featured in an article on the history of Polaroid, alongside Andy Warhol. The photos were also included in the Wikipedia article on billboards.
In the fall and winter of 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic had largely subsided, a new strain of the virus emerged, Omicron. This led to a resurgence of the pandemic and the reimposition of indoor gathering restrictions by local officials.
In response to this, Anna, the founder of ABSJ funded and curated another artist’s billboard exhibition called “Look Up!” 2, Hope & Beauty, Dec. 27, 2021 – Jan. 31, 2022. The exhibition featured the spring of 2015 digital artwork Colored Girl Warholed by American prison artist C-Note. The artwork was inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1962 painting Four Marilyns. The exhibition took place in the Santana Row District of San Jose, which is a popular outdoor shopping and dining destination.
The “Look Up!” 2, Hope & Beauty billboard art installation exhibition was extremely timely, as it took place during the worst week of the Omicron coronavirus surge. From January 30 to February 5, 2022, over 18,400 deaths were recorded in the United States.
June 27, 2022, was Anna’s 60th birthday, she woke up with a daunting task ahead. She would be skydiving. It’s best to hear about her birthday from her, in her own words:
Eventually my twin and I graduated from high school, although I almost didn’t make it. We went on to get bachelor’s degrees, and he went to the navy, while I started my own business. I got married, and he got married 10 years later, and that’s when he asked me to go skydiving with him. However, I didn’t have the money nor the courage. Nearly 10 years later, my twin suddenly died of a heart attack. Unfortunately heart disease was in our family. In the absence of my abiding twin brother, I think sometimes there’s no justice in life. That’s when I decided to go skydiving in his honor.
I woke up on the morning of June 27th, 2022, as a 60-year-old woman. However, I slept so well the night before, I felt like a teenager. I was excited and full of life wanting to jump out of that damn plane!
I had to be there at 2:00, but I left at 12:00. Driving to Silicon Valley Skydiving in Hollister, I couldn’t wait to get there. All the traffic signs or conditions gave me a sense it was my DAY!!! Because there was no traffic!
When I arrived, I was led into a trailer where I signed away my rights and my life. It was the second time, as the first time was online, when I scheduled my jump. I was then informed that everything I brought needed to be put back in the car, except my id, cell phone, and car keys. I waited for 40 minutes with other wannabe skydivers, who hadn’t jumped before, just like me. Finally, I was put in gear and was surprised by my Brazilian skydive instructor Igor.
Igor asked me if I was scared. I told him “No.” He said to prove it, and held out his hand mimicking his hand trembling. I showed him both of my hands, and none were trembling, and I even posed like my homegirl Madonna in her music video Vogue. You know, like “Strike a Pose.” We all laughed, and somebody chimed in at Igor and said, “She’s even better than you.” We then walked over to the plane, it looked like a Cessna, and we took a few pictures. I then climbed up a ladder to get inside the plane. There were other wannabe skydivers in the plane, skydiving with an instructor just like me. Without going into further details, I’ll just let the video speak for itself.