Art Reach was a new initiative to create an ongoing program of changing, outdoor interactive sculpture exhibitions in six related sites throughout downtown San Rafael, California. These sites included City Hall, a community center, the library, a central plaza and a city promenade, all within walking distance from one another. Local artists were encouraged to submit works that were innovative in both design and materials for quarterly installations. The planning, design and installation process encouraged cooperation and interaction among city agencies, business sponsors, artists, teachers and students. Art Reach was a part of the larger San Rafael arts organization, Art Works Downtown, whose objectives align with the Black Rock Arts Foundation’s ongoing effort to bring interactive public art to new communities. The initial project has since turned into the Art Works Downtown’s Outdoor Sculpture Program, which still uses the six locations to display creative sculptures and outdoor installations in downtown San Rafael.
The Burning Basket Project, developed in Homer, Alaska by Mavis Muller, is designed to unite geographically disparate communities through recognition and celebration of the connecting elements that span the Pacific Ocean between Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands. The project involves a series of free workshops in communities in Alaska, Oahu, and the Big Island of Hawaii. The workshops invite participants from diverse areas of the community to participate in the construction of a large (8 to 10 foot) intricately woven basket sculpture using natural indigenous materials such as grasses and a variety of plant and tree fibers. Volunteers participate in all elements of fabrication, including gathering, design and weaving. During a short exhibition community members are encouraged to add mementos to the baskets through the addition of written thoughts, sentiments, or objects; in this way the sculpture becomes civic property, woven with personal relevance. Each project culminates when the community is invited to gather for a potluck dinner, artist talk, and performances; then at sundown, the torch is lit and the basket ignited. In an effort to serve her community Mavis has worked to draw together a wide cross section of participating groups and individuals. In Homer, Alaska, the Native Alaskan community includes the burning ritual as part of their Healing Alcoholism seminar, and local mental health services offer a workshop on ‘letting go’.Prior to 2007, Mavis completed six basket burns in Alaska and California over the course of three years. The Black Rock Arts Foundation, through their 2007 grant, was proud to help extend her work to new communities in Hawaii.
Fleeting Fossils: Printing Moments on Stone
Designed to address perspectives on time, Pamela Petro’s Fleeting Fossils creates modern day petrographs printed from images captured by both the very young and the very old. Pamela believes that people at the beginning or end of life, just as early morning and twilight shadows, have sharply angled and enhanced ephemeral perspectives. Each group is asked to capture, photographically, what they most value in the town and in their personal lives – people, animals, places, things they can’t live without. The resulting images, in conjunction with those lent by local historical societies, are used to create petrographs, some up to several feet in size, for exhibition at sites in downtown Northhampton, MA including: sidewalks, patios, curbs, steps, cobblestones, crosswalks and benches. These occurrences are captured daily in a photographic record until they eventually disappear as the images printed on stone are weathered away.
Global Lives Project
The Global Lives Project is as an international endeavor seeking to expand global understanding of humanity through exposure to the daily lives of diverse individuals. This is done by immersing one in the reality of ten individuals on display and their different human experiences. The initial installation featured ten continuous 24-hour long videos capturing the daily lives of people with varied life circumstances and lifestyles; inviting the viewer to contemplate self and society, the disparate edges of privilege and poverty, and consider the essence of human existence broadly and pointedly. At its core, this installation empowers the viewer, through enhanced perspective, to become re-engaged as a participant in his or her own life. The 2007 grant from the Black Rock Arts Foundation was a Challenge Grant designed to match one for one other donations received by the project, and helped support initial film crews in India, Indonesia and Malawi. In 2013, the Global Lives Project continues its exploration of global human experience with plans to film ten new individuals all employed by various transit systems, such as a flight attendant or mule packer. By focusing on individuals with a common work and life experience, the project hopes to address, investigate, and create a sense of global connectedness. This next phase of the project will involve a team of nearly 100 global filmmakers and media artistis.
Language of the Birds
Language of the Birds is a permanent, site-specific public art installation on the threshold of North Beach and Chinatown in San Francisco. The Language of the Birds is a sculpted, illuminated flock of twenty-three translucent, suspended open books positioned to give the impression of birds in flight. Phrases, taken from books written by neighborhood authors or written about the local communities, are scattered and embedded in the pavement as if when the books took flight, the words fell from their pages. These suspended bird-books blink light patterns modulated to interpret music gathered from the community. The lights are also intended to evoke flight, giving the flock the appearance of being in constant motion. The Black Rock Arts Foundation was pleased to join the City of San Francisco, artists and local patrons in supporting this permanent art installation designed to unite area neighborhoods and impart some magic in ‘a language of birds’ (sometimes considered in antiquity to be the secret key to perfect knowledge) to all who encounter it.
PARK(ing) Day 2007
PARK(ing) Day 2007 addressed the need for more public, open urban spaces by challenging the way streets are used. The project began in 2005 when REBAR transformed metered parking spaces in San Francisco into temporary public parks. This inaugural effort generated an unexpected worldwide response; in 2006 the first PARK(ing) Day was created and resulted in 47 PARKs in thirteen cities worldwide, including Rio de Janeiro, London and New York City. Continuing their work in 2007, REBAR hoped to encourage participants to reprogram metered parking spaces into parks, but also aspired to extend the concept into public amenities such as bicycle repair shops and open worship spaces. As a part of their 2007 project, REBAR also created the Parkcycle (pictured above). According to REBAR, the Parkcycle was a human-powered design that appropriated hard, urban space, into open, green community space. REBAR’s aim is to provide the people of San Francisco, and the global community, with tools to help permanently reshape their street-scapes and urban space. PARK(ing) day is still an annual, worldwide event taking place on the third Friday every September in hundreds of cities around the globe.
Pet-O-Mat was a portable, interactive art exhibit contained within a rotating sandwich vending machine. In place of sandwiches, several dozen curious sculptures bearing resemblance to furry desert or household pets were on view through the clear, Plexiglas windows of each compartment. These fuzzy creatures were created from found objects such as fur, hair or bone. Viewers rotated the drum for a full visual tour of all the inhabitants, and if they so chose, inserted a coin for an opportunity to touch, or pet, the pet. The vending machine was placed in a high tech office building or other such location for unsuspecting lunching workers to encounter. This project was designed to bring surreal sculpture into the everyday work experience, injecting art, humor, and an element of surprise into a world otherwise occupied by prosaic concerns.
Serpent Mother is a 168-foot long metal sculpture of a skeletal snake coiled around her egg. Propane fed fire travels the length of her spine, erupting in 41 ‘poofers’ at the top of each hand-fabricated vertebrae. Her articulated head reaches a height of 30-feet and her hydraulically activated jaws open and close based on participant interaction. The space she creates with her coiled form can accommodate over 1,000 people. Originally created for Burning Man 2006, Serpent Mother was accepted in 2007 for exhibition at both the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival in Oakland, CA and Amsterdam’s international art and technology festival, Robodock, held in September of 2007. The grant from the Black Rock Arts Foundation was designed to help cover modification costs incurred to meet exhibition requirements. Serpent Mother was created by The Flaming Lotus Girls, an artist’s collective conceived to teach women metal arts, and defines the cutting edge of fire and kinetic art. The Black Rock Arts Foundation was proud to be a part of the collective’s endeavor to share this spectacular sculpture with new audiences. Serpent Mother still continues to travel to and be exhibited at large scale arts and music festivals such as the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and the Electric Daisy Carnival.