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2018 Symposium: Exploring Public Art Practices

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation announces our 2018 “Exploring Public Art Practices” symposium. This event brings together artists from a range of practices who are working in public art. Join us for presentations that will investigate the shifting field of public artistic practice.

Exploring Public Art Practices
Saturday, March 10, 2018, 1–6 PM
Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), James Moore Theater, 1000 Oak Street, Oakland
Free and open to the public. Advance registration is strongly encouraged.
RSVP on Eventbrite

Presenting artists will discuss the unique ways they engage and work in communities, and how they challenge the concept of place. Our goal is to inspire conversations while facilitating meaningful discussions about the opportunities and challenges of working in public space in the Bay Area.


1:00 PM – Welcome & Introduction

1:15 PM – Space + Time
Exploring place not only as a physical geography for site-specific projects, but a relationship with people, institutions, histories and resources. Presentations by: Ellen Sebastian Chang and Amara Tabor Smith, House Full of Black Women; Tomie Arai, ManSee Kong and Betty Yu, Chinatown Art Brigade; and Imani Jacqueline Brown, Blights Out. Discussion moderated by: Michele Carlson.

3:00 PM – Break

3:30 PM – Conversations, Counterpoints, Crossroads
Focusing on artists who have explored relationships and created imaginative connections between places through ideas about migration, immigration and citizenship. Presentations by: Chitra Ganesh; Ala Ebtekar; Dawn Weleski, Conflict Kitchen; and Chris Johnson. Discussion moderated by Deena Chalabi.

5:30 PM – Event Close

Artist Speakers

Tomie Arai

Artist Bio Tomie Arai is a visual artist and a co-founder of the Chinatown Art Brigade, a cultural collective of artists and activists who have been mobilizing against gentrification and displacement in New York City’s Chinatown.

Imani Jacqueline Brown

Artist Bio Imani Jacqueline Brown is a New Orleans native, artist, activist and researcher. She is director of programs at Antenna, co-founder of Blights Out, a core member of Occupy Museums, and artistic director of Fossil Free Fest.

Ellen Sebastian Chang

Artist Bio Ellen Sebastian Chang is a teaching artist and creative consultant, and the co-director of the ritual-based site specific dance/theater project entitled House/Full of BlackWomen in collaboration with Amara Tabor Smith’s Deep Waters Dance Theater.

Ala Ebtekar

Artist Bio Ala Ebtekar is an artist, researcher, and educator who works between his native San Francisco Bay Area and Tehran, Iran. Born in Berkeley, California to Iranian activist/artist parents, his work currently disquiets dominant notions of identity and complicates cultural difference.

Chitra Ganesh

Artist Bio Chitra Ganesh has a drawing-based practice and explores narratives of sexuality and power typically absent from literature and art. Since 2004, she has collaborated with Mariam Ghani on Index of the Disappeared, an experimental archive of detentions, deportations and human erasures, and a public platform for dialogue on related issues.

Chris Johnson

Artist Bio Chris Johnson is a photographic and video artist, curator and writer. His project Question Bridge: Black Males,  co-produced with Hank Willis Thomas, investigates class issues within the Black community and won the 2015 International Center of Photography Infinity Award. He teaches photography at the California College of the Arts.

ManSee Kong

Artist Bio ManSee Kong creates films and videos inspired by social movements and grassroots organizing efforts. In 2015, along with Tomie Arai and Betty Yu, she co-founded Chinatown Art Brigade, a cultural social justice collective based in New York City’s Chinatown.

Amara Tabor Smith

Artist Bio Amara Tabor-Smith is an Oakland-based afro futurist conjure artist and the aristic director of Deep Waters Dance Theater. Her dance making practice utilizes Yoruba spiritual ritual to address issues of social and environmental justice, gender identity and belonging.

Dawn Weleski

Artist Bio Dawn Weleski co-founded and co-directs Conflict Kitchen, a takeout restaurant that serves cuisine from countries with which the US government is in conflict. Her newest project, The Black Draft, is a policy lobbying organization and annual live mock sports draft event during which ten Black former Pittsburghers from all professions are drafted by neighborhood coaches, industry boards and city officials to return home.

Betty Yu

Artist Bio Betty Yu is a multimedia artist, filmmaker, educator and activist born and raised in New York City. Betty is a co-founder of Chinatown Art Brigade. Her multi-media installation The Garment Worker was featured at Tribeca Film Institute’s Interactive.

Session Organizers

Deena Chelabi

Bio Deena Chelabi is the Barbara and Stephan Vermut Associate Curator of Public Dialogue at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She works with artists and communities to develop projects that explore the impact of contemporary art in public life, and that build connections between contexts through research and collaboration.

Weston Teruya

Bio Weston Teruya is an Oakland-based artist. He is currently working on Means of Exchange, a collaborative project with Kimberley Arteche and Kearny Street Workshop. He produces (un)making, a podcast through Art Practical, and is a co-founder of the collective, Related Tactics.

“Exploring Public Art Practices” is part of the Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Program, which supports temporary place-based public art projects in Oakland and San Francisco that engage communities, support artistic experimentation and energize public spaces. In addition to grantmaking, the program provides capacity building opportunities for artists working in the public realm. Watch our 2016 symposium presentations here.

Can’t attend the event? This event will be videotaped. Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates.

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