Monday, October 26

Using World’s Art to Craft Silicon Valley Community

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‘Harriet Tubman—Sweet Chariot’ by Bryan Keith Thomas with what he calls ‘heirloom bags’ that are filled with buttons, tobacco, seeds, spices, pieces of jewelry, ‘the kinds of things we put in our pocket when we are traveling as an immigrant by choice or by force,’ the artist says. Unlike humans, things are immortal, he notes, and allow a person to ‘time travel through an object.’ As part of a new ArtWorlds exhibit series, a selection of Thomas’ work is on display at the Mohr Gallery in Mountain View’s Finn Center, home to the Community School of Music and Arts. (Photo by Sharon Simonson)

By Sharon Simonson

A Mountain View community school is embracing art and artists from around the globe to appeal to Silicon Valley’s increasingly foreign-born population and diversity of cultures.

Vickie Scott Grove, executive director of the Mountain View Community School of Music and Arts, said the school, which serves 22,000 children and adults annually, wants to expand its reach. ArtWorlds, the new three-event series, is conceived to offer more than a gallery experience, adding elements such as an artist’s lecture, food, wine and dance for an event to appeal to a broader range of senses and people.

“Silicon Valley is so unique culturally. There is no other place like it in the United States with the tremendous influx from the workforce around the world,” Grove said. “We have an opportunity to be a convener for conversations about multiculturalism.”

“The blending of cultures or bringing them up against each other is not without tension, and it’s very important to create opportunities to have conversations and to recognize each other as neighbors,” she said.

The nearly 50-year-old school is housed in the award-winning Finn Center, designed by San Francisco architects Mark Cavagnero Associates. It has a $5 million annual operating budget and 160 faculty and staff. The location at 230 San Antonio Circle is part of an emerging, more urban Silicon Valley neighborhood that includes a new Google campus adjacent to a Caltrain station and a rapidly redeveloping retail and commercial area, The Village at San Antonio Center, which incorporates a new LinkedIn campus and more than 300 new homes. The school offers nearly all of its events free to everyone.

Baby Jesus' by Oakland multi-media artist Bryan Keith Thomas. The showing at the Finn Center in Mountain View is part of a new exhibit series emphasizing art and artists from around the world. (Photo by Sharon Simonson)
‘Christ, 2015’ by Oakland multi-media artist Bryan Keith Thomas. The showing at the Finn Center in Mountain View is part of a new exhibit series emphasizing art and artists from around the world. (Photo by Sharon Simonson)

In a test of the interest in the global-art theme, this summer the school showcased Cuba, including a showing of work by American photographers who had traveled in Cuba and an event that included Cuban food and music and drew nearly 200 visitors, Grove said. That success persuaded the school to press forward with its global-art plan.

blue-cir (4)The second showing and event in the series, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, features African-American painter and mixed-media artist Bryan Keith Thomas, an Oakland resident with deep family ties to the Southern United States and an associate professor at California College of the Arts. Stanford University’s a cappella Talisman choir, with links to the musical traditions of Africa, will perform, and food and South African wine will be served. The artist will give a 30-minute lecture beginning at 6:30 p.m.

“I’ll talk about what moments in my life made me label myself an artist and the power of visual art and its connection to music and architecture,” Thomas said.

She expects the next culture and artist in the series to be Persian, Grove said. “We want to celebrate and showcase the people that are coming (to Silicon Valley) and how they are transforming us, and we transforming them.”

 

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