Emergence Recap: Collaborations in Situ

collaborations in situBy Leora Lutz

Talk is, in fact, not “cheap” as they say: it gets ideas going. When the mission statement loses its voice that is the time to start walking again – to walk the walk. And that is what the three panelists at the Collaborations in Situ discussion at the Emergence Conference on June 4, 2012, have been doing.

At the round table were Renee Baldocchi, Curator of the de Young Museum’s Artist Fellows Program; Lex Leifheit of SOMArts; and Ernesto Sopprani of The *OFFCENTER. Moderated by Julie Potter, EAP Fellow, the panel casually yet passionately discussed the objectives, achievements, and challenges of creating and sustaining a residency program in the City.

Urban residencies stimulate collaboration

Stepping outside of the comfort zone and taking risk became a starting point that each speaker mentioned when reviewing their various program models. New thinking is the key to a residency, from a curatorial standpoint as well as for the artist who will be the resident. Symbiotic to the process of collaboration is creating innovative, engaging, and important experiences for not only the artists but for the public, too.

One particular model of an artist residency is the retreat, or the intensive workshop. Many of them are pastoral retreats, where the artist resides on site in the company of others of like-mind. The residencies range from one month to longer, and are designed for the artists to make work without the distractions of daily life that would normally take away from their studio practices.The residencies in discussion on this day are not pastoral retreats. They are in the heart of San Francisco, and are geared toward not only an extended period of time for intensive art making, but also involve a commitment to engage with the pubic in compelling and innovative ways. All three of the programs support interdisciplinary models of making, incorporating social practice, performance, and exhibitions.

In a sense, the residency helps propel the artist from the solitary position as maker and into the active role of engagement with audiences in innovative ways. The innovation is two-fold as the projects grow between the curators and the resident artists, but also often becomes multifold depending on the additional artists or collaborators that the artist may invite to join them and expand their ideas.

Collaborations in Situ drawing by Todd Berman

Drawing by Todd Berman

Taking it beyond

A key to innovation with all three of the panelists’ programming is the balance between experimentation and developing a final outcome through rigorous (and fun) exploration and incubation of new ideas. Activating space is part of the final outcome goal in order to impart cultural learning, and to question the role of institutions and their “obligation” to the public.

Through a reciprocal sharing platform, the programs can become sustainable, and be resilient engines for taking risk and being spontaneous. The artist is the centralized idea-generator and the institution or organization works closely with them to develop their concept and bring it to full fruition for the public. Because of the interdisciplinary structure of the work, and the malleability of performative works, the projects can travel – decentralizing the static position of the institution. It gives flexibility to literally drop the art at any location, even exploring new modes of exhibition through the internet, and thus removing the preciousness of site-specificity.

As the round-table continued, new topics came up as the discussion morphed into its own version of a professional performance. One of these nuggets of collective genius brainstorming was the topic of a “Road Map” for artists. In asking themselves out-loud, one has to wonder about the countless other artists that are not being represented or being accepted into their programming. There is not enough funding to include every artist, so how could they help the ones who are left out? The passion and concern to do more is there…what exactly that is will have to happen over more discussions.

Collaborations in Situ photo by Robbie Sweeny

Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Collaboration in situ: it’s meta!

An ongoing challenge of the programs was to address traditional definitions head-on and find solutions every time the word “no” comes up from partnering or governing entities. Reaching out and constantly bringing new people into the mix allows for fresh voices and new perspectives to achieving goals. This drive also creates a dynamic ripple effect throughout the community. It is a continuous learning process – one that requires constant reassessment, revisiting, changing and adjusting with each passing year as the economy changes, and as the artists’ desires change, and the wants of the public changes.

Keeping artists in the forefront of the creative environment and supporting them is the basis for keeping change fluid and vital. Collaborations are an exciting, rewarding business and social model that empowers everyone involved and ultimately extends passion and vitality to the public and the greater community – it is win/win. Seek out mentors, get hands-on, dig in and don’t wait for funding to get started – find a way to do it, and most importantly talk to others.

About Leora Lutz

Leora Lutz is an interdisciplinary artist with an extensive history as a curator, gallerist, and art administrator. Her practice in all aspects grabs onto historical context, alters it, and re-presents it as a way to shift previous understanding into flux. Her work has shown at galleries, institutions, and museums, including MOCA, Palm Springs Museum of Art, UCR Sweeney Gallery, Riverside Art Museum, and the Henry Project Space in Seattle. Her art and professional bibliography includes numerous critiques and profiles from The Los Angeles Times, NBC news, White Hot Magazine and LA Weekly to name a few.

Todd Berman’s work can be found at The Art Don’t Stop. Robbie Sweeny’s photography can be found at In Gutters and Stars.

The Artist as Citizen and Public Arts Partnerships

The Artist as Citizen

and Public Arts Partnerships

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Intersection for the Arts
925 Mission Street, Suite 109, San Francisco (map)

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EAP brings together dynamic panelists to discuss artistic citizenship and issues of engagement with place.


For this program, among other inquiries, we ask:

* To what degree have artists become agents of community revitalization and place-making?

* How are cluster initiatives in the development of city spaces facilitating the role of artistic citizenship and providing opportunities for partnership with the public?

* In what ways are cities, curators, and organizations utilizing elements of the New Deal/ WPA legacy to create a new model for artists as citizens?

David KasprzakArtist
Julio Morales, Artist / Adjunct Curator, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Jennifer Parker, Professor of Art and Digital Art and New Media, UC Santa Cruz / Co-founder, OpenLab
Randy Rollison, Innovation Studio Director, Intersection for the Arts
Lizzie Wallack, envelope architecture + Design / Project Architect, ProxySF
Moderator: Sanjit Sethi, Co-Director, CCA Center for Art & Public Life

5-5:30pm Networking
5:30-7:30pm Moderated discussion and Q & A
7:30-8pm Reception (light refreshments will be available)

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This event is free and open to the public


Panelist Biographies:

David Kasprzak was raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 2000 he attended the Columbus College of Art and Design, Ohio, where he received his B.F.A. in Fine Arts. In 2003 Kasprzak was awarded a scholarship to Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy, where he focused on ancient art history and Italian cinema. During his stay in Italy, Kasprzak wrote and directed a feature length film titled Hitting The Same Car Twice. Upon returning to Columbus, Ohio, he began working for the Wexner Center for the Arts as a curatorial assistant and artist-in-residence. The final exhibition of his videos and sculpture was titled If Morning Never Comes (We’ll Be Just Fine). Kasprzak moved to San Francisco in 2005 to begin several curatorial endeavors, including organizing the group exhibition HYPERSPACES at Park Life, which presented the work of artists Sean McFarland, Paul Wackers, Orion Shepherd, and James Sterling Pitt. Kasprzak is currently pursuing his MA in Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts. His work has been exhibited in various galleries in California, Italy, Ohio, and Philadelphia, and often deals with subjects such as geometry, destruction, displacement, and paranoia in a humorous light.

Jennifer Parker is co-founder of Openlab and a Professor of Art and Digital Art and New Media at the University of California Santa Cruz. Parker’s research is rooted in sculpture, interactive art, new media, and kinetic art, including cross-disciplinary and collaborative research. Current projects explore new methodologies for art making that engage innovative, creative and collaborative research with art, community, design, technology, and science. Parker has exhibited internationally at a variety of venues including The War Memorial Museum in Seoul, Korea; the World Trade Center in Osaka, Japan; the Iskra History Museum in Kazanlak, Bulgaria; Califia Galerie and Skolska 28 Galerie in the Czech Republic. Locally Parker has exhibited, performed and presented at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF Camerawork; The LAB; Gray Area Foundation for the Arts; Southern Exposure; SFMOMA; Kala Art Institute; and ZER01 Biennial in San Jose. Parker’s work has been supported by NASA California Space Consortium; Art Matters; the New Forms Regional Grant administered by the Inter-Arts Program of the NEA; and the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts.

Randy Rollison (Innovation Studio Director, Intersection for the Arts) has served in a leadership role in arts organizations in New York City, Cleveland and Portland, Oregon before joining the staff of Intersection in 2008. A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, he is an award winning producer, director and actor. He is known primarily for developing and producing the world premier of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues”, which has had a global impact and proves that art does indeed have the power to change lives.

Born in Rochester, New York, Sanjit Sethi has done a residency at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, as well as earned a master of science in advanced visual studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Visual Arts Program in 2002. His work consistently deals with issues of nomadism, identity, the residue of labor, memory, and movement in the urban sphere—all of which involve various disparate social and geographic communities.Having completed a Fulbright Fellowship in India on the Building Nomads Project, Sanjit continued his strong focus on interdisciplinary collaboration while director of the MFA Program at the Memphis College of Art. His dedication to diverse forms of artistic practice extends in his new position as CCA’s chair of the Community Arts Program and codirector of CCA’s Center for Art and Public Life. Sanjit’s current work includes a collaborative project, titled Urban Defibrillation, the Gypsy Bridge Project, and the Kuni Wada Bakery.

Lizzie Wallack, Designer and Project Manager at envelope a + d, received her undergraduate degree in furniture design at the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco. After a brief stint as a photo stylist back in Boston, she returned to (the newly re-branded) California College of Arts to explore her curiosities concerning the built environment, people, and space. Her Masters of Architecture included several competitive distinctions: Jury Prizes, Design Excellence Awards, and the highly regarded Thesis Prize. She will be teaching her first course at CCA this summer. She remains hungry to envision the future of design while bookmarking images of late ‘60s-early ‘70s muscle cars, which one day she will have…in white, of course.

Mapping MAPP: The Mission Arts Performance Project

By Katie Fahey, EAP Fellow

Moving images were projecting on the horizontal boards of the backyard fence on Shotwell Street, sounds emanating from the speaker system running through conjoined power bars. Artists Sebastian Alvarez, Ralph Vazquez Concepcion, and Surabhi Saraf were rehearsing for the following night at Patio 308.

“What’s happening here? It’s 9:30,” grumbled a neighbor. Informing the newcomer about the Mission Arts & Performance Project (MAPP) was an exercise in delicate diplomacy. Yes, there will be loud noises. No, it is not just a party. Yes, you are invited.

Easy to join; hard to explain

Participating in MAPP is easy. It is describing MAPP that often is not. To wit, one prominent funder in the San Francisco arts world once wrote me of it, “the event that I’m forgetting the name of — the free, open-house, neighborhood program.”

A testament not to any lack of popularity of the bimonthly arts festival — which routinely attracts hundreds to its happenings — this speaks to, rather, the beauty of MAPP: its abstract nature and its unpredictability.

But if you had to describe it . . .

MAPP is a decentralized operation, open to artists, curators, and venues, established or not. Among those involved, experience levels vary significantly — from distinguished visual artists, accomplished musicians and published poets to first time arts presenters and “amateur” artists. A veritable acknowledgement of contemporary and community arts and culture in the Mission District, MAPP also offers a nonrestrictive, experimental platform for all participants — in particular a chance for artists to incubate a new work or test-run a new partnership.

For those desiring, a seasoned, supportive network is highly accessible. Need a venue? Someone has a garage/garden/living room for you. Need musicians? Each person in the room knows more than thirty of them. Never put on a performance event before? This friend has an amp you can borrow!

MAPP is the people who gather and performances that happen every other month. With an estimated average of fifteen venues per MAPP, and multiple performances in every space, there can be more than one hundred individuals engaged in aspects of planning and production each time.

Why get involved?

My playing a role in MAPP for the first time as an organizer this February was something that emerged quite organically. Through my position with the Red Poppy Art House, the inaugural MAPP venue, I had been aware of the program and attended many of the events. However, being excited by the prospect of working with talented artists and friends to contribute something uniquely our own was an important impetus.

No participant in the MAPP receives financial compensation. In fact, MAPP runs with zero funding whatsoever. At every location entry is free. Fantasies about how the pieces from Patio 308 would look projected on a much larger surface like the Great Wall in downtown Oakland might have to wait.

Unfolding the MAPP

On the night of the event of course I wondered, “Will anyone come?” In part this question was founded. The map for the MAPP (pun intended) provided locations for fifteen venues and ours was a distance from some of the others. The home of our friends, Jon and Ralph, we marked with shiny lettering at the door, and offered free sangria to visitors.

In the end, plenty of people came, saw, and were even moved by the video and performances. Veteran MAPPers came to check out the new addition, Mission Local readers who had seen the piece on the festival stopped by, and other friendly neighbors curiously wandered over. I spoke with a Japanese tourist about the digitally-manipulated footage being shown by artist Ralph Vazquez — taken, incidentally, from a recent trip of his own to Tokyo.

With the only glitch of the evening coming from the overloaded outlets providing power for the speakers and old-school fans that were part of Spin 4, the performance by Sebastian Alvarez and Surabhi Saraf, we mused post-event about the energy input and output of the evening. On the subject of their performance featuring large, colorful, fluid images projected live and accompanied by soft, murmuring vocals and the dissonant chopping of the fans, it was said modestly, “We were just trying to understand what we were doing.”

I believe that other participants would agree that the goal is not to gain name recognition or even an elevator speech for the MAPP – though, of course, these tools might prove useful when conveying to prudish neighbors its value and purpose. More important is to make the event come alive with the highest level of vitality possible, and to create awareness so others might be able to replicate it in their own neighborhoods, here or in other cities.


To get involved in MAPP, contact Rafael Sarria (rafael at redpoppyarthouse dot org), Georege Brais (georgebrais at gmail dot com), Jorge Molina (415.240.9125), or David Kubrin (415.824.8566). Or join the Facebook group.

Image: Ewedistrict

Incremental vs. Radical Change

After moderating last week’s EAP panel on “Building Community Through Technology” and live-tweeting this past Monday’s crowded “Beyond Dynamic Adaptability” conference, my brain is swimming in the blurry waters inhabited by words like audience, artists, network, and community.

James Kass (YouthSpeaks) and Robin Wu (ZeroDivide) agreed last week that the platforms for online engagement are changing so quickly that it’s unwise to invest deeply in one method or a specific tool. This message was echoed throughout Monday’s conference, particularly in the afternoon session I attended, which was hosted by social media guru Beth Kanter.

Here’s my thumbnail version of the major messages from that session’s featured speakers:

  • Anita Jackson (Moms Rising): Take an interweaved approach to engagement through “layer cake” marketing– multiple approaches and outlets with a unifying message.
  • Mark Taylor (KQED): Acknowledge and overcome fear of failure in order to innovate. Digital tools allow us to constantly reinvent; analog=finished, digital=in process.
  • Marc Vogl (BAVC): Consider carefully your audience’s expectations (especially creature comforts like ticket-buying experience and parking) and gratify them.
  • Tamara Alvarado (1st Act Silicon Valley): Make your space welcoming to people with a variety of backgrounds, and remember that existing norms might be preventing them from feeling welcome.
  • Michella Rivera-Gravage (CAAM): Integrate engagement strategies with programming process to attract audiences to the work of your organization throughout the process.
  • Annika Nonhebel (AXIS Dance): For small organizations, leverage the affordability of social media by making it a daily practice, and being smart about why you’re using it.

All great suggestions, but two questions popped into my mind:

1.) Is this glorified marketing, or is it fundamental change?
2.) Does anyone really know what they’re doing with social media?


Driving participation vs. driving sales

That afternoon session was framed with the question: “How can technology help enrich networks of participation?” Certainly Kanter’s proposal of a “networked nonprofit” and Nina Simon’s buzz-inducing discussion of her innovations at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History have both network and participation at the core of their being. Simon’s sticky-note driven community brainstorms and 72-hour program inventions prove that a new way of thinking (in this case, design thinking) can fundamentally transform and renew an institution.

But the dominant paradigm, especially for performing arts presenters, seems to swim against this tide. Conventionally, the creative artist and the show/art object are the locus of value, and delivering degrees of access creates the cost structure (think: donor dinner with the soloist). Much of the afternoon conversation proposed new answers to two old questions: how to attract customers, and how to retain them.

I might just be allergic to “tools and tips” conversations, but I was alarmed by the idea that our deepest response to social networking would be to now blast our message out in five channels instead of four. Not only do we often lack the resources to do it, it falls short of recognizing the radical transformation that Simon and others propose.


Keeping eyes on the mission

That said, one tidbit that caught my ear was when Simon characterized the changes at the MAH as transforming the place into a civic institution. She made it quite clear that she was “not there for the artists.” I’m sure, given the time for nuance, she’d include the artists as part of her community, but this point stung my artist/administrator heart a bit.

Certainly large institutions, especially those managing exhibition spaces, are a special situation. But since the majority of our arts non-profits do not run their own space, and are frequently run by a founding artist or a small group of artists, it may be a radical departure to posit that the organization is not centered around serving artists (or the Artistic Director) and their work.

On the other hand, Kass, Jennifer Maerz (The Bold Italic), and others stated with complete certainty that their efforts to build community online are ultimately intended to drive people to old-fashioned live performances. Going a step further, our panel posited that as an organization, knowing who you are is what allows you to embrace new tech tools, experiment with new ideas, and meanwhile never lose sight of the purpose of your work.

Recently Ken Foster (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts) came to speak to our EAP Fellows. One of the suggestions from his paper “Thriving In an Uncertain World” that seemed to strike a chord was, “Behave like an artist.” We heard the same message in different terms on Thursday’s panel, when Tanya Vlach (EyeTanya) suggested that engaging with negative or challenging comments on her blog had opened up new ideas and understandings. And again at Monday’s conference, Kanter and many others emphasized that experimentation and a willingness to fail were critical habits for innovation through incremental change.

We may not know where we’re going with our social media efforts, how precisely to measure our success, or whether creating more opportunities for participation will eventually do more than cultivate ticket purchases and donations. But if we have a deep understanding of our mission, it does allow us to embrace new possibilities, test new methods, and create new ways to connect and co-opt people into the work of fulfilling that mission. Do you want Facebook to be your “new focus group” or your theater’s back row to be full of “tweeps”? Doing a gut-check on how your leaders define your mission might make it easy to embrace those rather incremental changes, or in some cases reveal a need for changes far more radical.



EAP and the Foundation Center San Francisco co-hosted the Building Community Through Technology Creative Conversation on October 20, 2-4pm. The Beyond Dynamic Adaptability one-day conference took place October 24 at the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco, and was co-hosted by Grants for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, The San Francisco Foundation, and the Wallace Foundation, as part of the Wallace Foundation Cultural Participation Initiative.

Adam Fong is the co-founder and Director of EAP; read his bio here.

Networking Night for Artists and Art/Cultural Workers

Get to know your fellow artists and arts nonprofit colleagues.

Get connected! Here’s an opportunity to meet your colleagues in the Bay Area artist and arts nonprofit community. Bring your organization’s
promotional materials for our display table and plenty of your business cards. There will be refreshments, networking activities, and door prizes.

Co-sponsored by Emerging Arts Professionals (EAP) and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network San Francisco Bay Area (YNPNsfba).

With support from The Foundation Center San Francisco and the Irvine Foundation 


Thursday, October 13, 2011 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
The Foundation Center-San Francisco | San Francisco, CA





312 Sutter Street, 6th floor
San Francisco, CA 94108
This event is Free.