Lisa Bielawa – Artist in Residence – Site Visit #1 @ Grand Central Art Center

June 30, 2012

It’s been an exciting week, with Grand Central Art Center having been extremely fortunate to host artist/composer/vocalist Lisa Bielawa as a visiting Artist in Residence.  This was Lisa’s first site visit to Downtown Santa Ana, as she begins the process of developing a larger project and an extended residency.

We worked to introduce Lisa to individuals in our community and sites around Orange County of possible interest.  The visit allowed her to experience our community, this region and to begin developing ideas for projects that could be realized through her artistic vision.

Tom Burke, Flying Bull, Inc. and a Special Events Consultant, provided a tour of the airstrips of the former Marine Corp Air Station El Toro in Irvine, now part of the development in process of the expanding Orange County Great Park.  Lisa was interested in visiting the site as she is currently developing projects on former runways as part of her upcoming Tempelhof Broadcast.  the Tempelhof Broadcast will be performed on the Tempelhof Airport runway in Berlin, and in development for performance on Crissy Field, San Francisco.  Tom shared brief histories of the site and recent activities, as we walked the runways and Lisa tested the sites sound qualities at distances.  It was a clear morning and the songbirds in the adjoining fields were clearly happy.

Lisa met with Allen Moon, of the David Lieberman Artists’ Representative, as they discussed the current international creative scene and the many individual acquaintances and friends they had in common.  Allen shared his perspectives of Downtown Santa Ana, along with his vast knowledge of the greater Orange County community and the individuals here for whom Lisa would benefit by meeting.

Dr. Pamela Madsen, composer, performer and scholar, California State University, Fullerton’s Music Department, met with Lisa at the recommendation of Allen.  She shared information on her role as director of CSUF’s New Music Festival, including her vision for the 2013 festival.  They talked about the current voice, music and composer communities of Southern California, including individuals involved with our colleague SoCal universities of CSU Long Beach, Chapman University, University of California Irvine, Los Angeles and San Diego, and the possibilities for collaboration.

Dennis Lluy, owner of Downtown Santa Ana’s Yost Theater, connected with us for even more inspirational conversation.  For a bit of background, the Yost Theater it the oldest theater in Orange County, originally built in 1912 during the Vaudeville movement.  Dennis has spent the past five years renovating the theater to an original feel and passionate authenticity.  Dennis is an amazing thinker and long-term generous supporter of Grand Central Art Center, as well as the OC Arts community in general.  After grabbing a bite to eat at Chapter One restaurant, we walked over to the Yost to spend some more time in the venue.  Lisa visited the site on the first day of her residency, but this return visit provided her the opportunity to wander through the space and test the theaters natural acoustics.  The space is amazingly live, with a hammered tin ceiling that helps to project a voice throughout, engulfing the site with beauty!

Along with the individuals from our direct community, we were also able to engage Lisa with artists currently connected with Grand Central Art Center.  We attended the UCLA Hammer Museum Yearbook Signing Party hosted by the Hammer for artists Adam Moser and Harrell Fletcher.  You probably recognize Adam’s name, since he just completed his Artist in Residence project here at GCAC, The Cut-Off Men.  At the event, Lisa was able to engage a bit with the Hammer‘s Curator of Public Engagement Allison Agsten and Senior Curator Anne Ellegood. She was able to have extended conversation regarding Social Practice, recent projects and the contemporary art scene of Southern California with Adam, Andrew Douglas of the Metabolic Studio, and Contemporary Art Curator Cassandra Coblentz (full disclosure, Cassandra is married to John Spiak, GCAC Director/Chief Curator).

We were fortunate to also have back at GCAC artist in residence Jules Rochielle.  She is here for another site visit, as she continues to connect with our community and further develop her project – meeting with individuals from El Centro and the Santa Ana Public Library.  Jules visit provided the opportunity to gather a few other Southern California artists for conversation and a quick breakfast gathering.  Joining us were recent OTIS MFA in Public Practice graduate Christina Sanchez and Los Angeles based artist Nancy Popp, who was recently named InterArts Chair at the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

More site visits were worked into the schedule, and through the recommendation of Jules, Lisa toured the Santa Ana River, which stretches 29 miles from Huntington Beach to Corona, and is located a couple of blocks from GCAC.  Walking the bike path, she explored the space and considered its concrete valley and closed railroad bridges as possible project sites.

Wednesday afternoon, Lisa hopped on the train at our local Santa Ana Train Station (again, a few short block from GCAC) and made the quick one-hour trip down to San Diego.  Once there, she first met with Steven Schick, Conductor of the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus.  She shared with him her experiences as artist in residence at Grand Central Art Center and her current thoughts related to project ideas.  They were able to brainstorm together and consider collaborative possibilities.  In the evening, she connected with Jim Rosenfield, President of the Mata Festival Board.  Lisa is actually one of the co-founder of the Mata Festival, with Philip Glass and Eleonor Sandresky.  Lisa had the opportunity to share more information regarding Grand Central Art Center’s vision with Mr. Rosenfield and talk about concepts for her project to be realized through our institution.

Thursday, before departing for the airport, Lisa met with Cathi Douglas, Editor of CSUF’s Titan Magazine.  The Titan Magazine team is working on an article about GCAC.  Lisa sat down with their team for a photo shoot, before meeting with Cathi for an interview at the Gypsy Den Grand Central Cafe.  Make sure to keep any eye out for an article on GCAC in an upcoming issue of Titan Magazine!

And with a packed schedule, somehow Lisa still found some quiet time throughout the week to sit within our GCAC Black Box Theatre, at the piano, working to compose new work for additional upcoming projects in her life.

Yes, another extremely successful visit by an outstanding artist who we are excited to have back in the very near future.  We’ll keep you posted as the project continues to develop and we will let you know dates for Lisa’s return when they are official.


Open Engagement, AAM, Social Practice and a Forward Vision @ Grand Central Art Center

May 24, 2012

Social Practice is a major focus of our Forward Vision at Grand Central Art Center (GCAC), so we were honored by an invitation to participate in the Open Engagement conference in Portland, Oregon (May 18-20).  GCAC was represented on two panels by Director/Chief Curator John D. Spiak, which included:

René de Guzman, Dominic Willsdon, John D. Spiak, Stephanie Parrish, Allison Agsten

It Turns Out There Is Room For Everyone: Museums and Social Practice – with panelists Dominic Willsdon (SFMOMA), Allison Agsten (Hammer Museum), René de Guzman (Oakland Museum of California), Stephanie Parrish (Portland Art Museum) and John D. Spiak (Grand Central Art Center). Moderated by Harrell Fletcher (Portland State University).

and

Gregory Sale, John D. Spiak, Pete Brook, Julie Perini

Prison Communities: You Can’t Arrest Your Way to a Solution. Social Practice Engaging the Criminal Justice System – with panelists Gregory Sale, John D. Spiak, Pete Brook, Rachel Marie-Crane Williams and Julie Perini.

Bernie Díaz (Faculty @ SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts), Ariel Gentalen, Karla Monterrey, Shannon Jackson (Director of ARC @ UC Berkeley), Carlin Boyle

We were able to encourage, with the help of GCAC Artist in Residence Jules Rochielle, a few California State University Fullerton students, a faculty and staff member to attend the conference.  Those in attendance included: CSUF students Carlin Boyle, Ariel Gentalen, Karla Monterrey; CSUF faculty member Gretchen Potts; and CSUF staff member Mylan Chacon.  The conference allowed the opportunity for these individuals to connect with national figures of the art world, including artists, theorists, educators and curators.  It was clear that these individuals were truly inspired by the experience.  We are sure this will have a major impact on GCAC and the CSUF College of Art, especially starting next semester, as these individuals are playing key roles on the campus community – Karla leading CSUF Arts Week this coming year; Ariel leading the CSUF Arts Inter-Club Council; and Carlin through her Evoke Unity efforts.

Three weeks ago, Spiak also represented GCAC through two panels at the American Association of Museums Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which included:

Getting into the Bones: Museums, Dance and Social Action – with panelists Gregory Sale (Arizona State University), Robin Conrad (Fullerton College), Elizabeth Johnson (Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts) and John D. Spiak (Grand Central Art Center)

and

Kris Morrissey, Robert Garfinkle, John D. Spiak, Emily F. Zimmern, Thomas M. Finkelpearl

New Roles/New Culture: Tackling Tough Topics and Engaging New Audiences – with panelists Thomas M. Finkelpearl (Queens Museum of Art), Emily F. Zimmern (Levine Museum of the New South), Robert Garfinkle (Science Museum of Minnesota) and John D. Spiak (Grand Central Art Center).  Moderated by Kris Morrissey (Director, Museology Program, University of Washington).

The inspiration and knowledge these conferences provided inform this institution as our Forward Vision document develops and becomes more refined.

The in-progress Forward Vision for Grand Central Art Center focuses on the belief that the key to success in Social Practice Residencies is complete honesty, trust and openness by the institution, curator and artist with all potential collaborators and participants. GCAC is open to exploring, through artistic practice and conversation, the complexities of society – acknowledging that we may raise more questions than perhaps answer.  This institution is open to flexibility and adjustment throughout a project/residency as envisioned by the artist, leaving the opportunity for new discoveries to develop – creating the possibilities for even greater, successful and mutually beneficial outcomes for artist, institution and collaborator.  We use the term “successful” loosely, as we acknowledge that failure of a process also brings knowledge.  These rules should apply to any institution exhibition, program or project, but they are even more essential when working with community and artists through Social Practice residence.  Without an honest approach, trust cannot be secured to build connections with diverse individuals through an artist’s vision.

Shannon Jackson (Open Engagement Keynote)

We also acknowledge the kinds of results that often occur at the conclusion of a residency or Social Practice based project are not always easily measured, in the traditional sense.  For example, attendance figures, tour numbers and budgets may not be the most appropriate measures of “success.”  Unfortunately, these are the most common types of statistics that funders and agencies require in grant reports, usually due immediately upon completion of the project.

GCAC understands that many projects in Social Practice should not, and can not, be limited by a set timeline for completion.  Therefore, it is our goal to provide an artist time needed to realize their vision.  Often the first question asked by individuals when inquiring of our Artist in Residence program is “how long is each residency?”  To this we will answer, “we do not know,” as each will be determined by the artist, their project and their collaborators working through GCAC.  We also understand that even though a project might be considered complete, impact of that project, and even the project itself, may continue beyond the artist and institution.

If It Doesn’t It Should (Open Engagement Panel) – Ted Purves, Harrell Fletcher, Cassandra Thornton

GCAC will look at traditional and standard matrix measurements for each project, but we will also measure, validate and share the success, and/or failure, of each Social Practice Residency through the following:  gathering of personal stories and testimonials (artist, institution, organizations, community); presenting at national conferences (American Association of Museums, College Art Association, Open Engagement); creating web and print based documentation (website, blog, catalogues); writing and publishing articles in national journals (Museum and Social Issues, Art Education, Journal of Art for Life); and direct sharing with colleagues of peer institutions and through society itself.

The Social Practice Artist in Residence is just one component of our institution, but the philosophies of this program will guide GCAC in the further development of Forward Vision documents for our exhibitions, education, public programs and outreach.  Their outcomes will be measured in the same fashion and be accountable to our mission as a contemporary art center.  We will raise questions, allow inquire, be open to opposing view points, be challenged and/or criticized, in the hope of understanding greater society, the role of contemporary art and our shared, or unshared, experiences.  It is important for us as a contemporary art center to acknowledge that we may not be able to change lives or minds, but it is our hope to change moments.