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I’ve officially transitioned to the non-profit sector as the Community and Grants Manager for Gray Area Arts and Technology Theater. After graduating this past May, I had to make some major decisions about my life and career path. It was challenging. But it was necessary for me to be courageous and pave a new path for myself as a cultural worker. I’ve been freelancing for quite some time and already knew that I was working my way towards becoming a full time arts professional. But I honestly didn’t think I would get to where I am today.

As you can see in my profile picture above, I’m pretty ecstatic (although this photo was taken in 2012, it certainly captures my excitement and enthusiasm for life). But more important, the three other individuals pictured are my teammates. We have been given the task to research Cultural Equity during the Emerging Arts Professional fellowship. The fellowship will be 9 months. The entire cohort is comprised of 18 individuals from all over the Bay Area. We are assigned to different research areas, which include: 1) The Creative City, 2) Cultural Equity, 3) Arts & Enterprise, and 4) Regenerative Practices. My group will try and tackle the following:

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You can learn more about the fellowship here. I highly encourage reading through the profiles of the individuals in my cohort. I can’t believe I get to work and research with this talented and brilliant group of cultural workers and producers. Amazing!

Asterisk Arts Organization feature on Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA)

On San Francisco’s bustling, highly trafficked Market Street, the organization Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), is changing the face of arts and technology in a significant and dramatic way. Seeing a lack of representation in the digital arts movement accompanied by a profound interest in creating a space where such art could be seen, founder and Executive Director Josette Melchor created the nonprofit in 2009 in the midst of a financial crisis. Despite the downturn in the economy, Melchor dedicated her efforts to creating a space for both aspiring and established artists and creative technologists. From interactive artworks and data visualization to creative coding, this organization has become one of the most prominent spaces for arts and technology, fostering change and innovation not only regionally, but also internationally.

At its core, Gray Area works with established artists such as Aaron Koblin and Camille Utterback to expose the public to software-based works that are both interactive and immersive through various tools of technology, such as programming, coding and data visualization. Integrating audio- and sensory-based controls, the works you might experience at a GAFFTA exhibition or event undoubtedly showcase most ingenious and experimental uses of programming technology and how contemporary art is created. Even donations to Gray Area have been made into a work of art. The nationally recognized and award-winning work Seaquence is a virtual art piece intertwined with a participatory aspect where donors are given a gift in return: a musical life form. Resident artists Ryan Alexander, Gabriel Dunne and Daniel Massey co-created this interactive music platform, forming multifaceted art to dynamically and physically enable donors to see their contributions transform within a virtual environment, thus becoming part of an even larger visual- and music-based system. Gray Area artists, technologists and faculty are constantly forging radical new ways to bring the community into the creation and discussion of the work. Although the organization can easily boast its tremendous creative talent, the exceptionally skilled faculty aims to teach novice technologists within the community both technical and artistic skills such as programming and electronics. The goal is to draw different sets of curious minds into the discussion and progression, bridging the gaps between arts and technology.

Gray Area is particularly well known for weekend events called hack-a-thons, which gather creative professionals across multiple disciplines such as art, engineering, education, architecture, journalism and writing. These events facilitate the creation of mobile applications, with objectives such as fostering transparent communication between citizens and government officials. Hack-a-thon participants also produce conceptual artworks that transform public data into visually dynamic pieces. More recently, the nonprofit was awarded a $100,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Arts to put toward the implementation of a National Data Canvas Project. According to Gray Area, “The project will distribute data-driven art in urban environments across the United States and will include a mobile application for public use. Utilizing data.gov, the project will allow the general public an enjoyable and engaging way to discover new information through artistic data visualization and interactivity.” Essentially, the project will allow for artists, designers and developers across the nation to create works in their own region based on creative coding assembled by the San Francisco–based Gray Area team.

Situated in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, Gray Area wanted to take part in the overall revitalization of the neighborhood by bringing some the city’s brightest creative talent to the district to assist in affecting change. As this center takes on even more demanding and worthwhile projects, there is one particular initiative that is both notable and eye-opening. The Creative Currency: New Tools for a New Economy is the latest initiative seeking to bring community leaders and organizers, politicians, artists and technology professionals together to affect change within a community with their collective skills.

Originally published and posted to Asterisk SF Magazine, please click here to view

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Independent scholarship has been difficult. Navigating through art history, criticism, and journalism without teachers to reign in all these ideas, fellow peers to test ideas, an editor reminding me of a deadline, and/or a project or paper due at the end of a few weeks makes for a challenging approach at scholarly research and constant engagement. Then again, this is MY forum and virtual space. Another issue that has come up for me – creating context. It’s only me writing and it’s the first time I’ve admitted this, publicly, posting every day is hard! Structure and organization are starting to scream feverishly at me and I’m listening.

That said, whoever you are, dear reader (hoping it’s not just you, Mom), you may see some changes in content in the next few weeks. There’s going to be some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes [Insert David Bowie trackTurn and face the strain…time may change me…]. Having scoured some of my favorite online and print art magazines to see what works for me and what doesn’t has been a great exercise. I’ll definitely try to keep things light and fun. After all, this is the space to engage, right? Who knows, I may incorporate a bit more sound and video (hmmm, intrigued? So am I!). There’s gotta be other ways to attract and involve the reader.

I’m curious, for anyone interested in sharing, privately or publicly through the comment thread, what form of media gets you interested and involved (other than Facebook or Twitter)? Art-wise, what questions do you have? What themes or concepts would you like to see covered? I’m trying to approach this independent research in a way to help me fine tune my interests as well, obviously, BUT I always love a good conversation (even if it’s a virtual one). 🙂

Portrait of George I by Elyse Hochstadt, Courtesy of the Artist

With the valiant effort of keeping with my “art diary” format and writing as much as possible in the new year (every day to be exact), I figured it would be nice to write about a Bay Area artist. I’m hoping to learn more about her work as well as her processes as the year progresses. There will be more, I can promise you that, dear reader. For now though, I’m just spinning my wheels and getting the juices flowing. So, let me begin today’s entry…

As an adult, I’m much more fascinated with fairy tales and their allegorical meanings than ever before. Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with artist, Elyse Hochstadt, to discuss her art work. During our conversation, I was drawn to Portrait of George I instantly. Hochstadt mentioned her affinity to Grimm’s Fairy Tales as we talked about some sources from which she draws inspiration. Intrigued by her fascination, I couldn’t help but read through some of the various stories (i.e., The Wild Swans, The Juniper Tree, etc.) when I got home. Recalling my experience of seeing Portrait of George I, it was both a visual and physical representation of a fairy tale. Although a chair has a function and purpose in daily life, there is a repurposing of the ordinary into something extraordinary with this piece. It is enigmatic and magical. At first glance, there is a sense of wonder and fear as if the chair were to suddenly come alive to the touch. The illusion that what you are seeing in space must become something other than what it actually is, which is a well crafted piece of art work with carefully placed feathers using the chair as a base for the overall structure. However, the organic form offers no hard lines other than the wooden legs visible at the very bottom of the piece. It’s a mirage of sorts that welcomes your own interpretation and re-working of your mythologies.

This is just a mere introduction. More thoughts to come…