Producing Public Art

When I interviewed at Rhythmix Cultural Works two big draws for me were the background in world music and the inclusion of both the visual and performing arts. While I love classical music, I grew tired of being one of few (and often only) faces of diversity. Over the last handful of years it’s become more and more important to me that people in my life understand my heritage and I’ve wanted to present and engage people in the arts of countries outside of Europe. As I’ve grown more attached to the visual arts embracing that has become a priority as well and I’ve been shadowing curators and being exposed to more artists through our gallery.

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Photo by Maurice Ramirez, graphic design by Kaitlynne Fuery

Earlier in the year my colleague and I cooked up a scheme to present a cultural arts festival celebrating our roots in world music and encompassing visual arts, music, dance, and hands on crafts. We secured a small grant as the seed funding, picked October 2nd for the day, I booked the artists, then we kept the project simmering on the back burner. What we didn’t anticipate was that he would be head hunted and leave Rhythmix at the end of July. He helped with what he could and we bid a bittersweet farewell, then I turned right around to wrangle in this big festival myself.

 

The first challenge was the visual arts component. My colleague was a curator and planned to put together an exhibition of photography in our gallery. He gave me the names of some artists and handed over the reigns. Having never curated before it was a steep learning curve and I struggled to get it done, and also remain assertive with my vision and what I wanted from the artists and in the show.

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“Embera River Guide” photo by Thea Bellos

Meanwhile, I was also daunted by the tasks of the festival: promotion, staffing, finding a food vendor, partnering with the artists, setup, logistics, it seemed never ending and largely new to me. The most intimidating part was serving as an emcee and I was relieved when Dave Clark from KTVU news agreed to fill that role.

When all the production duties were checked off the list and it was finally show time I was proud and relived to see so many families come together to celebrate world cultures. For both the festival and the gallery opening my visions came to life and I really saw the arts creating community.

This year feels so heavy with bad news, communities suffering, and prejudices diving people who haven’t even had the opportunity to meet. It may have been small in comparison, but it meant the world to me to see all kinds of people coming together to learn, dance, sing and enjoy arts from so many diverse cultures.

 

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