Posted by Nina on October 14, 2013
We have just published our annual report for the fiscal year that goes from July 2012 to June 2013. It is full of the people, stories, projects, and numbers that defined an exciting year of growth at the MAH. You can explore the annual report online (yes, it’s interactive). I am especially proud of our wide-ranging community partnerships, our new mission statement, and the commitment of staff, trustees, and members to the museum’s future. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any aspect of the report, please let me know.
Vance Landis-Carey, our Board President, introduces the annual report this way:
On behalf of the MAH Board of Trustees, I am proud to present the museum’s annual report for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. This was an incredible year for us, marked by continued increases in attendance and membership, strong financial performance, and powerful exhibitions and educational programs. Our board is excited about the innovative programs that have brought inspiration and energy to our community and have had an impact on museums worldwide. We are grateful to everyone who has made this work possible with your ideas, your donations, your creativity, and most of all, your participation. Thank you for being part of our community. These stories and successes belong to all of us.
I want to share my own thoughts about our new mission statement “to ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections.” Some people have expressed concern that this mission statement does not refer specifically to content (art and history) or methodology (exhibitions and educational programs). In crafting this mission statement, our board and staff focused on finding a short, motivating phrase that could give us the “why” that underpins the “what” of our longer vision statement and strategic plan. Our vision is to be a “thriving, central gathering place where local residents and visitors can experience art, history, ideas, and culture.” We wanted to redevelop our mission statement to drive us towards that vision.
We were inspired by mission statements at organizations like the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County (“Promote. Connect. Invest.”), the Monterey Bay Aquarium (“to inspire conservation of the oceans”) and the American Visionary Art Museum (“to expand the definition of a worthwhile life”). Each of these mission statements is short, motivating, and powerful. It does not describe what each organizations does but why they do it. Our new mission statement–to ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections–helps us focus every day on bringing people and ideas together through dynamic art and history exhibitions and educational programs. We remain committed to our core art and history content, even as we explore new ways to help people share experiences and enjoy unexpected connections around it.
Posted by emily on September 26, 2013
Emily Hope Dobkin is the Youth Programs Manager at the MAH. This post shares her story of the creation of Subjects to Change, our new teen leadership program. To learn more about the program and to apply, please click here.
When I was brought onto the MAH team a little over a year ago, Nina asked me about what some of my goals, passions and dreams were. Undoubtedly, there is a lot packed into my personal goals, passions and dreams. But what seemed to just automatically blurt out of my mouth at the time was, “I’d really like to work creatively with teens on a regular basis; to really give them a voice in the community…doing something in the realm of arts for social change.” Thereafter, my mind started reeling with possible ideas for such a program at the MAH. It further became clear that as a museum, we felt a strong need to work more closely with an important and often neglected segment of our population to make the MAH a more relevant and compelling place for everyone.
A few weeks later, I was sitting in Jamba Juice, minding my own business and chunky strawberry. Along came a young man who sat down at my table, pulled out his (what appeared to be) a brand new binder, planner, math homework, and flashed a smile full of sparkling braces. We started making conversation; he told me he was just starting middle school. I told him I was just starting work at the MAH. We talked about the newness of these situations, and I shared with him some of my ideas for a teen program at the museum. His ideas, feedback and general excitement spurred me to pursue this further.
A week later, I started arranging meetings to learn more about the teen culture here in Santa Cruz, and what was/is currently being offered to this population. During this time, I become much more aware of some incredible organizations that have been completely inspiring to our process of planning including FoodWhat?!, The Teen Center, Grind out Hunger, The Boys & Girls Club, Girls for a Change, Project reGeneration, The Watsonville Youth City Council, and later the Santa Cruz Youth City Council. What I came to learn is that there is not a program focused explicitly on community leadership, specifically through creative and artistic experiences, but a strong support for creating one.
A month later, I was writing a narrative for a grant to start a program called
Subjects to Change, a program geared to put teenagers in the driver’s seat and give them real responsibility and leadership opportunities in a creatively structured, supportive environment here at the MAH; a program that would focus on exploring what it means to be an active community member, how as community members, teenagers can create change, and the tools necessary to ignite leadership.
After being fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, I began to work with teens to co-create Subjects to Change. We hosted an initial C3 Meeting (C3 stands for Creative Community Committee and invites people to cross-pollinate and share ideas…the most promising of which we follow up on to plan new programs) last Spring where we invited teenagers to come learn about the program and offer their insights. 44 teens attended and shared what the community looked like to them from their perspective and what they felt are strong issues affecting them here in Santa Cruz. Some big topics were brought to light: Homelessness. Bullying. Gang violence. Race division, Public safety. Drug use. Stereotyping. Beach pollution.
From this meeting, a Teen Advisory Board was formed to provide us more feedback as we went into planning phases where we dug deeper into these issues.
Finally, a year after dreaming up this program, I am happy to report, we are just about ready to launch.
I saw my friend from Jamba Juice last Friday night here at Race Through Time. We’ve kept in touch, and he’s been volunteering regularly at the MAH. He told me how excited he was for Subjects to Change to start soon, and that he was almost done with his application. I am not sure if he is aware of how much that one conversation impacted our planning for Subjects to Change….but I hope for this program to do just that: to allow teens a place to truly be heard, however not just to be heard by me, but by each other and our community at a whole.
What it is
Staring in October, every Thursday afternoon Subjects to Change will come
together as a cohort and be exposed to workshops that include team building exercises, occasional guest speakers from our community, offsite work in the community, and documentation of the everyday experiences to help pinpoint issues in the community at large. Participants of Subjects to Change will co-create experiences that raise awareness on community issues through their own designed educational events and later an exhibit here at MAH. Teens will also have the opportunity to present their ideas and projects to City Council. Ultimately, teens from all over the county will be encouraged to listen, learn and engage in a way that allows them to work toward developing positive growth in our community.
I look forward to the stories of evolution and creative risk taking. I am excited to see Santa Cruz teenagers flourish not only individually, but together, while becoming vital assets to our community and contributing to the overall health of society. And just as Nina asked me about my goals, passions, and dreams, I am excited to learn about their goals, passions and dreams that I know will not only make a difference here within the walls of the museum, but will also break down some invisible walls that have been built up here in the community.
In just looking at the applications received thus far, it is clear that teenagers here are thirsty for opportunity to express their voices and make some big changes.
We are ready for it.
If you are a teen, or know a teen who is eager to make some changes in Santa Cruz county, please encourage them to apply today; the application due date has been extended to Monday, September 30, but please note space is limited.
Posted by Marla on September 16, 2013
When I was a kid, there was a huge piano in our house. I took lessons for many years, liked to practice, and have 3 songs in my repertoire. My childhood piano currently resides in my home (which incidentally was the residence of a piano teacher in the 1930s), but it remains mostly dormant. It is a lovely receptacle for photographs, vases, report cards, and other miscellaneous remnants of our lives.
A few years ago I received a phone call from a man in San Jose. He owned a painting of a Santa Cruz piano teacher and wanted to donate it to the MAH. I wondered if it was the same piano teacher that had once lived in my home, the one I secretly hoped would haunt my house in the middle of the night. I’ve been waiting to wake up to the melodies of a lone pianist. But that hasn’t happened, and the painting isn’t of my phantom musician.
Generations of Santa Cruzans may remember taking piano lessons from Vera McKenna Clayton. Born in Oakland in 1871, Vera moved to Santa Cruz in the early 1920s with her husband, Donald. Their Broadway St. home must have been a music lover’s dream with a parlor equipped with two grand pianos and an organ in the living room.
An accomplished musician and composer, Vera is credited to writing “Floating Down the San Lorenzo River,” published by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce for the 1928 Santa Cruz Water Pageant. She also penned the 160th birthday song for the City of Santa Cruz in 1929. Vera died in 1978.
In the painting, Vera at the Piano (by artist Sybil Hunington) we encounter a woman in a classic three quarter portrait. It’s a very French inspired, Rococo-esque composition of light and lyrical pastel hues. Vera is sweetly smiling, turning a page of music at the moment we stumble upon her practicing in the parlor. She’s looking at us perhaps about to say: “Oh this old thing? Did you like it? I just composed it this morning.”
I met William J. Adams, Jr. in 2004 when he came to the MAH to donate the painting. Mr. Adams is a graduate of Chaminade High School (Class of 1933). He married his childhood sweetheart, Maryjane, at Holy Cross Church in 1939. Maryjane’s piano teacher, Vera McKenna Clayton, played the organ at the ceremony. Mr. Adams gave me some biographical information about his wife and himself, and I thanked him for the painting.
I followed up with a formal letter of gratitude (standard practice), and so began my correspondence with Mr. Adams. Through the years, I have received updated information for the donor files. I look forward to these letters and enjoy writing back (never email), thanking him for the additional info, notifying him when the painting was on display, and sending my condolences when Maryjane passed away.
Upon receiving a letter this past summer, I wrote to thank him as usual. Instead of a reply from Mr. Adams, his daughter-in-law called to tell me that 96 year old Bill can’t drive to Santa Cruz anymore. He no longer writes much, yet Mr. Adams wanted to make sure my files were updated. It was important to him—and to me. As I write this, I have learned that Bill passed away last week. The file is complete.
I love that the story of an artifact doesn’t have to end with one account, but it can continue, overlap with another, and along the way connect others to it. And so I add my story to Vera at the Piano. I didn’t take lessons from her and she didn’t live in my house, but I wouldn’t mind hearing Vera play my piano, preferably in the middle of the night.
Posted by Elise Granata on September 14, 2013
As part of our ongoing Participatory Performing Artist-in-Residence Program (PPAIR) Allie is leading an immersive aerial dance performance with visitors at GLOW: A Festival of Fire & Light on the Saturday, October 19th digital art night (click here for more info). Audience-generated data will channel into a responsive display of light and sound for Allie’s performance.
by Allie Cooper
In collaboration with Craig Hobbs and Logan Gritton, I am experimenting with interactive mixed media to co-create an immersive aerial dance performance with the audience. Using a tactile interface and accelerometer technology inside of iPhones as well as user-friendly MIDI controllers, audience members will generate data that will be remixed to create intelligent lighting design and an atmospheric soundscape for the aerial performance.
Our prototype session clarified many of our questions regarding which interfaces are the most appropriate for large groups. While the Leap Motion and iPad did offer a lot of potential, we agreed that the learning curve is simply too steep and the effects too subtle for this application. The easy to use buttons on the Midi Fighter was very accessible and easy to interact with, and the tactile triangle was a success. We are looking forward to the triangle’s evolution to a 3-dimensional multi-surface interface and for the Midi Fighter’s audio assignments to be clarified.
The LED strips on the aerial rig made an epic debut at Burning Man and we received a lot of great feedback. On a side note, we’re also happy to report that the LEDs are capable of running entirely off of solar power! The next step with the LEDs is to develop more specific code for this project, syncing all of the technologies so that the strip lights will be reactive to the sounds and lights generated by audience.
As the technological side of the project becomes clearer we are looking forward to develop the artistic aesthetic. All along we have been inspired by spectacular examples of light in nature. Lighting storms, aurora borealis, and bioluminescence – all of these have a supernatural wonder that we’d like to explore in this creation. While the project in general does rely heavily on technology, we aim to balance that with visuals, sounds, and movement that are very organic. The audience will be able to interact with audio and visual producing interfaces throughout the night, with hourly performances seamlessly slipped in. The aerial dance will largely be improvisational, reacting to the environmental sounds and lights that the audience co-creates.
Posted by Elise Granata on September 3, 2013
Our Piece: Reflections on Ownership of Interactive Performance
by Lanier Sammons
As part of our ongoing Participatory Performing Artist-in-Residence Program (PPAIR), Lanier led an audience-interactive composition installation at Santa Cruz Music Night (click here for more info) on Friday, August 16th. Musicians interpreted visitor responses in each gallery to create a collaborative composition. Visitors requested changes to the tempo, altered the pitch or described their favorite sound for musicians to respond to.
In his book Performance Theory, Richard Schechner suggests that all performances contain a participatory element: audience members must, after all, choose to be audience members, and they can revoke their choice at any time during a performance. Works that I identify as audience-interactive, though, are a bit different. While a stoic ensemble might choose to complete a typical piece even in the face of an empty room, an audience-interactive piece cannot exist as intended without an audience. In these works, audience members are vital for the very fact of performance, not just its relative success or failure.
So naturally, I owe a hearty “thank you” to all of you who attended Santa Cruz Music Night on August 16th and participated in my audience-interactive piece, Triplum. You brought the piece to life, and it was a privilege to have your participation. Similarly, the performers (listed and linked here) deserve much of the credit for Triplum. Though the piece includes a very minimal score, it relies principally on these individuals’ abilities as both improvisers and interactive forces. I was very lucky to assemble a group full of virtuosos on both accounts.
Of course, all this gratitude implies a question: to what extent is this really my piece? Why, exactly, does “Lanier Sammons” sit there alone under the title? This is a question that I’ve often asked myself about my audience-interactive work. One answer I can give is that the elements I contribute to the piece (its structure, form, and directions) constitute Triplum’s stable, persistent body, while the contributions of the performers and audience members serve as energizing, vital impulses that spark the body to life. The body itself will remain the same for any performance of Triplum, but the impulses will animate it differently every time. This permanence, perhaps, provides a way to identify a discrete composer of an audience-interactive work.
I think, though, that there’s a better answer. And that answer is to say, simply, that this is our piece. In the case of Triplum, this answer feels especially right not only because of your contributions as audience members and those of the immensely talented performers, but also because of all the wonderful input I received leading up to the realization of the piece. As a Participatory Performing Artist-in-Residence this summer, I was very lucky to join in a few of the Hack the Museum events and to receive feedback during the brainstorming process from Executive Director Nina Simon. The piece also benefitted tremendously from Kyle Lane-McKinley’s and Wes Modes’ abilities to turn my barebones descriptions of the physical objects the piece into beautiful and functional pieces. All my work, too, is shaped in conversation with my wife, Clara Sherley-Appel, and her thoughts about Triplum were particularly inspired. Finally, my weekly meetings with Stacey Garcia and Alexandra Richardson were an immensely rewarding and delightful creative experience. Triplum could not have existed without their ideas, support, and hard work, and it’s their names that it feels strangest not to see along with mine under the title.
So once again, thank you. It was a pleasure to share Triplum with you, and I hope you enjoyed our piece. For more information about Lanier’s work, please visit his site at laniersammons.com.