The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Shelby Graham: Beyond the Gallery: Artist as Collaborative Agents for Community Change

Shelby Graham (UC Santa Cruz): $5,000.00 for Beyond the Gallery: Artist as Collaborative Agents for Community Change

In the current economy, California’s cities face falling revenues that translate into empty store fronts, strained communities, and reduced funding for the arts. At the same time, existing galleries on campus find themselves too small or inaccessible for interdisciplinary projects and collaborative arts practice with community organizations. Yet studies show that the arts can be powerful agents for revival of communities and downtowns. We propose to connect UCSC undergraduates with fellow students and businesses in Santa Cruz, expanding beyond the gallery by teaming up with an Environmental Action Writing course and the Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency. This course creates opportunities for critical thinking about art in communities, promoting action research across disciplines and space. Collaboratively not only with each other but with the greater Santa Cruz community, students will create and share their projects in non-traditional settings such as vacant storefronts, alley ways, and other transitional venues. Students will apply state-of-the-art theoretical training in museum and gallery practice with active, collaborative communication skills and participatory art-action curriculum. A multimedia catalogue and an innovative video of the work in these traditional spaces will accompany the project and make their work available to viewers beyond the downtown spaces.

Press Release:
UCSC Students, Sesnon Gallery partner with City of Santa Cruz for pop-up art projects

May 24, 2012, Santa Cruz, CA: University of California Santa Cruz students are breaking
out of the traditional “white cube” art gallery and seeking empty storefronts on Pacific Avenue to
showcase their work. These students are participants in an experimental two credit studio class,
“Beyond the Gallery: Artists as Collaborative Agents for Community Change.” Thanks to a
generous grant from the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA),
Shelby Graham, curator of the Sesnon Art Gallery at Porter College, has helped over a dozen
students learn exhibition techniques while exploring their role as artists and activists. The City of
Santa Cruz also contributed funds.

The projects range from a free photo booth at the downtown Farmer’s Market, to bottles
filled with symbols of memories of Santa Cruz, to a constructed redwood “forest” outside in the
Abbott Square Courtyard. Artwork will be shown at the Museum of Art and History, the
Rittenhouse Building windows, and other venues. The public is invited to join the students on
Friday June 1, during First Friday Art tour and encounter these exciting, participatory
installations.

Empty storefronts and reduced arts funding are common in the current economy. Yet art
can help revive communities and urban spaces. Public spaces provide an opportunity for artists
to reach audiences who would not visit a traditional gallery, or to build large installations
impossible in smaller venues. In the spirit of community change, some of the students have
collaborated with environmental studies students or created projects with environmental and
social justice messages. For instance, “Nature BeWILDered,” by Sam Moll and Gabi Kirk,
encourages patrons to blur the lines between civilization and wilderness through a constructed
redwood forest and interactive writing pieces, installed at the Museum of Art and History.

Aside from this course, the Sesnon Gallery operates a museum-oriented program for
educational purposes. The gallery organizes an annual schedule of exhibitions that represents a
broad range of methods, media and cultures, in a local, regional, and national context, with a
focus on contemporary practice. The Sesnon Gallery works to integrate a broad range of
methods, media, and cultures into the lives of a broader community. The “Beyond the Gallery”
students are: Jen Brown, Leia Delabahan, Vivian Fu, Kristen Gautier-Downes, Chelsea
Gutierrez, Elizabeth Hibbard, Gabi Kirk, Grace Kistler-Fair, Fred Liang, Miguel Libarnes,
Charlotte Marriott, Sam Moll, Zachary Livingston, Dawson Timpany, and Dmitri Zurita. For
more information on “Beyond the Gallery”, including a list of installations and venues, please
visit https://sites.google.com/a/ucsc.edu/beyond-the-gallery/.

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