OMCA at 50 Community Conversations: Exploring Public Art Practices

Saturday, January 25, 2020, 10:30 am–4:30 pm | James Moore Theater & Throughout the OMCA Campus
Saturday, January 25, 2020 - 10:30am

$25 general; $20 OMCA Members
Ticket includes lunch and gallery admission.

OMCA presents a day-long symposium showcasing artists who are creating powerful and engaging work that shifts the field of public art practice. Artists, arts professionals, and art enthusiasts are invited to learn, share their experiences, and discuss the challenges and opportunities of engaging communities through artistic experimentation in public space. 

The event, part of the Museum's OMCA at 50 Community Conversations series, will be emceed by Liz Ogbu, designer and spatial justice activist, and includes an inspiring keynote address from Public Matters, a Los Angeles-based, award-winning creative studio for civic engagement. Two back-to-back breakout sessions offer participants the opportunity to hear from nationally recognized artists about their practice.

This event is part of the Rainin Foundation's Open Spaces Program, which funds temporary place-based public art projects in Oakland and San Francisco that engage communities, support artistic experimentation and energize public spaces.

Guests may choose one program from each of the two identical back-to-back sessions. Please rank your first, second, and third preference for the two breakout sessions. Each session is first-come, first-serve and selecting a session does not guarantee a spot. Capacity is limited.

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Session 1: Documenting and Understanding Stories of Immigration with Sergio De La Torre and Chris Treggiari
Join Sergio De La Torre and Chris Treggiari in a discussion and onsite demonstration of the Sanctuary City Project, where they document stories of migration, relocation, identity, and citizenship through their mobile print cart. 

Session 2: Impact, Acclimate, Space, and Shape: Kristin Damrow & Company Performance and Talk
Witness a powerful dance performance by Kristin Damrow, inspired by Brutalist architecture and OMCA’s Brutalist building, her work proposes the audience to reflect on their place in community and how as humans we adapt to environmental change. Following the performance, Damrow will share more about her practice and her projects, Impact and Acclimate.

Session 3: Sites and Sounds of Belonging with Szu-Han Ho
Hear from interdisciplinary artist Szu-Han Ho in a presentation about Migrant Songs, a project combining choral performance, experimental visuals, sound, and interviews with migrants from the Tiwa Territory. Learn about her activism at the ICE Headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Tornillo Texas Port of Entry.

Session 4: Making in Community with Rachel McCrafty 
Join Rachel McCrafty of ACE Monster Toys in a hands-on activity, offering guests the opportunity to create collaboratively in community. Hear more about her work as part of the special exhibition No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man on view at OMCA. 

Session 5: Articulating Trauma and the Medea Project
Engage in a thoughtful conversation with some of the core team members of the Medea Project Theater, which was created by Rhodessa Jones and utilizes art as an outlet for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, as well as those who are living with HIV/AIDS. 

Session 6: Taking Up and Breaking Down Spaces with Rafa Esparza
Join multidisciplinary artists Rafa Esparza in a discussion that dives into history and personal life. The son of Mexican immigrants, Esparza’s performance art often reflects his life experiences with colonization, queer identity, and collaborations.

Session 7: Design Activism: Protest, Placekeeping, and Power Building with De Nichols
Gain insight into the work of designer and strategist De Nichols, whose work focuses on supporting changemakers nationwide to develop creative approaches to the social, civic, and racial justice issues. Learn how she utilizes design to develop a vision and strategy for projects, like the Mirrored Casket, a sculpture made in the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and how she works with her community to envision a path for the future.



Keynote Speakers: Public Matters (Mike Blockstein and Reanne Estrada)
Public Matters is a Los Angeles-based, award-winning creative studio for civic engagement. Founded as a social enterprise in 2007, it develops and implements proactive education and engagement strategies that transform the culture, practice, and experience of civic participation in communities of color. These strategies aim to address the trust gap between institutions and agencies and historically marginalized neighborhoods and communities. Its work has addressed education, healthy food access, tobacco control, traffic safety, mobility justice, transportation, gentrification & displacement, and place-based narratives.

Mike Blockstein is a visual artist and educator with a long track record of expanding the boundaries of the arts. He is Principal of Public Matters, a Los Angeles-based creative studio for civic engagement that uses socially engaged art to leverage greater inclusion, public participation and transformative change. He developed and co-leads Public Matters’ leadership development initiative, Urban Futures Lab. His work addresses art’s role in civic life, working with diverse groups and institutions of varying scale to reflect on, understand and shape their physical, social and political geographies. Mike's work draws its roots and inspiration from his time with Southern Exposure where he formerly served as Executive Director. Mike is also a rare visual artist with a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Reanne Estrada is a visual artist based in Los Angeles. Her poly-disciplinary arts practice includes individual and collaborative works that have taken her across the U.S. and to the Philippines, South Korea, Italy, and Argentina. She is Co-Founder and Creative Director of Public Matters, a social enterprise engaged in collaborative, creative acts for public good, and is one-third of "Mail Order Brides/M.O.B.” a Filipina-American artist girl gang. Her work explores how bodies negotiate their identities, navigate shared and at times contested spaces, and reimagine their power within and outside existing systems.

Emcee: Liz Ogbu, Designer and Spatial Justice Activist
A designer, urbanist, and spatial justice activist, Liz is an expert on engaging and transforming unjust urban environments globally. From designing shelters for immigrant day laborers in the U.S. to a water and health social enterprise for low-income Kenyans, Liz has a long history of working with/in communities in need to leverage the power of design to catalyze deep social impact. She is the founder and principal of Studio O, a multidisciplinary design and innovation firm that works at the intersection of racial and spatial justice.

Her projects have been featured in museum exhibitions and profiled in publications globally. Her honors include IDEO.org Global Fellow, TEDWomen Speaker, and one of Public Interest Design’s Top 100. She earned architecture degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University.

Sergio De La Torre, Artist, Associate Professor & Chris Treggiari, Artist
Over the past ten years artists, Sergio De La Torre and Chris Treggiari have utilized primary and secondary research methods which have included talking with nonprofits and their constituents and civic institutions, as well as periodicals, think-tanks, and internet research. Through this process of collecting and researching, the artists then utilize engagement platforms to share their research and continue collection with the public.




Kristin Damrow, Artistic Director and Choreographer
Since 2010, Kristin Damrow & Company (KDC) has showcased 15 original contemporary dance works, including three evening- length performances, that enrich and activate the community. In January 2019, KDC premiered Impact, a work inspired by the egalitarian philosophy within Brutalist architecture. The company has been supported by the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Opportunity Fund, CA$H Grant, and the Center for Cultural Innovation. KDC has earned notices in Dance Magazine, Fast Company, Backstage and Disegno magazines, among others.

Artistic Director / Choreographer Kristin Damrow grew up on a rural farm in Wisconsin before studying in Chicago where she earned a B.A. in Dance from Columbia College. Since moving to San Francisco in 2010, she has been commissioned by Airbnb Design Talks, FOG Design + Art, SAFE House Arts’ Summer Performance Festival, Marin School of the Arts, and Articulate Austin in Austin, TX. She was also a resident artist at Iowa State University in 2018 and has taught master classes in dance at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Columbia College Chicago, Gibney Dance (NYC), Bodyvox in Portland, and the University of San Francisco

De Nichols, Social Practice Designer and Loeb Fellow at Harvard University
De Nichols is a designer, social entrepreneur, and keynote lecturer who mobilizes young creative change-makers through the production of interactive experiences, digital media, and social initiatives. 

Based in St. Louis, MO, Nichols is the Principal of Design & Social Practice at Civic Creatives, a design and strategy collective she founded in 2015 to help cities more boldly develop creative solutions for the civic and social challenges residents face. As a national keynote presenter and lecturer, Nichols champions the power of design and storytelling to inspire and equip audiences to spark creative social change across their communities.

Because of her leadership, Nichols has been deemed as a national Ideas that Matter recipient, a two-time Clinton Global Initiative innovator, and a St. Louis Visionary for her community impact. She additionally is a 2017/18 Citizen Artist Fellow of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and a 2018 Artist Fellow with the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis, MO.

Szu-Han Ho, Interdisciplinary Artist
Szu-Han Ho's work in sculpture, performance, installation, and text addresses the practice of exchange through diverse forms of collaboration. Recent projects include “Migrant Songs,” a choral performance art piece incorporating stories and songs of human and nonhuman migration; “BORDER TO BAGHDAD,” an exchange between artists from the US-Mexico border and Baghdad, Iraq; and “Shelter in Place,” a sculptural installation and performance inspired by her family’s history in Taiwan. Szu-Han lives and works in Albuquerque, NM and is currently Associate Professor in Art & Ecology in the Department of Art at the University of New Mexico.


Rachel McCrafty, Artist and Founder of Ace Monster Toys
Rachel Sadd, aka The Crafty Avenger, is a Bay Area-based artist, designer, and maker. She has been creating her whole life – whether crafting, drawing, sewing, painting, cooking or gardening – and she shows no sign of letting up. She loves DIY, creative re-use and upcycling, garment design for real bodies, teaching and sharing skills, learning new things and especially collaborating. Her unique energy and willingness to try things inspire those around her to engage their creativity and stretch their skillsets. Equally engaged by beauty and utility, she creates projects which span genres and challenge ideas about art, craft, and culture. Rachel is the President of Ace Monster Toys, an Oakland-based makerspaces with a mission to promote and encourage technical, scientific and artistic skills through social collaboration, education and individual projects.

The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women
The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women is an award-winning performance workshop committed to incarcerated women’s personal and social transformation, which is over 50 years old. It is founded and directed by Rhodessa Jones, the Co-Artistic Director of San Francisco’s performance company Cultural Odyssey. The three core members that will present will be Fe Bongolan, Felicia Scaggs, and Angela Wilson.




Rafa Esparza, Artist 
Rafa Esparza is a multidisciplinary artist who was born, raised, and lives in Los Angeles. Woven into Esparza’s bodies of work are his interests in history, personal narrative, and kinship. He is inspired by his own relationship to colonization, and the disrupted genealogies that come forth as a result. Using live performance as his main mode of inquiry, Esparza employs site-specificity, materiality, memory, and (non)documentation as primary tools to interrogate and critique ideologies, power structures, and binaries that problematize the “survival” process of historicized narratives and the environments where people currently navigate and socialize. Esparza’s recent projects evolve through experimental collaborative projects grounded by laboring with land vis-à-vis adobe, a labor inherited by his father Ramon Esparza, where the artist shares institutional space and resources with invited Brown and Queer artists and cultural producers. Esparza is invested in working in the local geographies of his hometown and that of the Southwest, including Mexico and Latin America.



The program is curated and produced by the OMCA Center for Audience & Civic Engagement’s Public Engagement Department with Programmer Patricia Cariño Valdez.

The symposium is part of the Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Program, which funds temporary place-based public art projects in Oakland and San Francisco that engage communities, support artistic experimentation and energize public spaces.