Come closer. Try not to look away. Be confronted, be comforted, hold the question that has arisen between two bodies.

Artists are revered for their emotional vulnerability. Solorio takes it a step further as her chapters evolve from form to form: the outpour of feeling into a journal instigates a ceramic that holds its weight; the finished ceramic asks to be casted into a story; the performance ties all the messages together. By working in different dimensions, Solorio layers the weaknesses of one medium under the strengths of another.

In 2020, Solorio published a performance titled Fruit of Knowledge. In the video, she stands alone in a cage. Naked and blindfolded by choice, she has invited her own body to join her mind in exploring a question together: What if Eve’s choice to eat the fruit was favorable? Above the cage hangs an apple—the symbol of freedom, awareness. At the sixth hour of performance, Solorio reaches up and eats of the forbidden fruit.

What an audience perceives can spark a beautiful exchange of prompt and perception. And yet, what the audience rarely sees is the labor for the art to exist. For her seven-minute video, Solorio received three days of migraines from dehydration and exhaustion. Yet, when the time comes to channel another question through performance, Solorio will gladly do it again. “I don’t feel protected while doing my work,” she shares. “I get stronger from doing it.”

She is driven by the intrigue of self-discovery. Strength grows through the pain of shedding the social constructs pressed upon us since birth. In another performance created during the pandemic, Perpetual Cycle, Solorio filmed herself again. The video shows her running—which, true to life, is a practice she keeps six days of the week. The following scene shows her eating, but chewing away at excessive amounts of food. Then, a toilet: Jackelin heaves and vomits orange liquid into the bowl. At long last, she stands, sucks in her stomach and smiles at the mirror.

The idea for this performance came during a run: “I asked myself, ‘Why am I running so much? Am I addicted to it?’ ” After all, when she started running at 13, her goal had been to lose weight, pressured by unrealistic expectations. Though her daily run evolved into a life-giving ritual, she continues to hold herself accountable through her art. “This came from a real space,” Solorio emphasizes. “I really did binge. It was hard, but necessary.”

Solorio challenges the male gaze and the patriarchal arm of religion in her physical art forms as well. The body, bare under the gaze of other eyes, speaks of attraction as much as it does repulsion. Sculptures of clay and human hair, such as Solorio’s ceramic vagina collection, are as wondrous as they are shocking. In a recent series, a photo documentation of The Last Supper creates an alternate history: The female body, recast as the pope or as Jesus Christ herself, reminds us all to ask why. Why are things the way they are, and what keeps them that way? “I researched,” Solorio says. “I found that a woman could be pope, but the current pope needs to declare it. And no one will go against tradition.”

What once protected now provokes. Solorio was about six or seven, living with her grandmother in Mexico, when she was first punished by gender tradition. Her grandmother chastised her for playing on the soccer field—a place for boys and men, not girls—and sent her to her room. There, she kneeled and prayed to the Virgin Mary and Jesus while her grandmother disciplined her. “She left some welts. Then I had to go to catechism school.” Solorio went, but she purposefully donned a pair of booty shorts that revealed the marks.

Before arriving fully in her role as artist, Solorio taught preschool for 10 years and served as a preschool director for five. Currently, she is a caregiver of three girls under five years old. “I give it my all. Being around children so much, you can become like them,” she laughs. “I lack a social filter sometimes; I don’t want to be contained. I want to be childlike and free.” 

The common threads of playfulness and honesty are woven through all her endeavors, especially her artmaking. Solorio rejects a strictly linear approach to self-reflection. “I’m always connecting to my old self,” she says. “We’re all intertwined.” The first version of herself, the dreamer, holds hands with the pessimist born in hindsight. “My very first love was murdered, and I was trying to find this lost love,” she shares. “Looking into the past…I grew up very poor. With not a lot of great male figures in my life. You start thinking about all the bad things, you know?” 

But she has also opened herself to hope, which frames her defiant spirit. “I’m in a good state of life where I know myself,” she smiles, “And I will not stay quiet now.”

Instagram: clay_mundo

Article originally appeared in Issue 13.3 Perform  (Print SOLD OUT)

René Lorraine Schilling-Sears, a graduate of San Jose State with a BFA in Pictorial Arts, has moved from oils to watercolor and pen, giving a voice to what she sees.

Was there a time when you had that “aha moment,” when you released your voice?

Yeah, absolutely. I had an instructor when I was at San Jose State who really got through to me. It was one of those things where you’re working on a painting and you finally see something that you hadn’t felt for decades. It finally just happened on the canvas.

Do you remember what that painting was? 

Yes, I still have it too. I was working on my BFA show. My whole series was about body art, tattoos, piercings, things like that. That’s what I had been working on for the last two years at that point. It was a single fingernail. I was working on painting a hand. It was a single fingernail, and it was like, “Oh, this is what I want to do forever.” 

When you look back at that piece, what’s your feeling about it?

I am in love with that piece so much that I feel like I’ll never be able to top it for myself. I’ve been offered a lot of money for it. There’s no way. It feels like my firstborn child, because I had such a connecting moment to it. It’s going to stay with me forever. 

What was that about? Was it the type of technique that you used? 

That’s hard. That’s a hard thing to put into words. At that moment, I felt I finally believed in myself with the title of “artist.” I was satisfied with the work that I’d done to the point where I felt like I could finally own the title artist, because that is always a struggle.

When you grow up in the Bay Area with a lot of amazing artists, you see so many paintings and artworks and people really making it happen. You think, “How am I ever going to compete with them?” 

You have three different styles in your portfolio: oil, pencil, and watercolor. Which is your favorite?

I prefer watercolor and ink, which is crazy, because when I started painting, I never thought that I would do watercolor or watercolor portraits. It was the furthest thing that I thought I would ever be interested in. I was always just an oil lover and a canvas lover, but I think there’s something very intimate about sitting down with watercolor and ink, something that seems more personal. I like that. Oil is fun, too, but at this point to me…I’m just not personally as connected to it anymore.

Your watercolor ink portraits have a very unique aspect, with the subjects’ faces missing. I hear it is because of a degenerative eye disorder, is that right?

I have neurological issues. I have a cyst in my brain that causes balance issues and visual disturbances. The left side of my temporal lobe fires at half the rate that the right side does. There’s some disconnect there. Also, I have holes in my vision.

Some days, it’s like I’m looking through a wheel of Swiss cheese. It started in 2011. The doctors still are not really sure what it is. The holes in my vision, they’re not really sure where it stems from. They think it’s related to the other things that are happening. It’s really difficult to explain to people and hard to convey what I am going through, so I really wanted to put that on paper.

Why are you choosing this particular medium—pen and watercolor—for these portraits?

One of the reasons I do pen and watercolor in the same piece is because I feel a lot of times when I can’t see very well, it’s hard to feel grounded. I use the watercolor to show and convey that whole feeling that things are happening. When you work with watercolor, things will just happen that you can’t pick up off that paper. You can’t wipe it off. That’s how I feel with these spots in my eyes. They’re not going away. I can’t wipe them away. The hard lines that I use, that are more pencil or Micron pen, are my way of conveying those moments that are calm, that say “Everything is in place.” That’s how I’m trying to meld both of those together.

How does it feel then, when people are attracted to your work and find out your story? Is there a little bit of insecurity or concern? Are you wanting to share it? 

Personally, I feel that things are less scary when you talk about them. On the one hand, I wouldn’t put the story out there, but on the other, when I did the show here, I titled it with the condition that I have. It gave me the chance to talk to 30 people—strangers—about it.

Putting it out there is easier because when I talk about things, I feel like they’re less scary. They don’t seem as crazy. At the same time, I don’t want my work to be all about my condition. I don’t want people to only pay attention to it because the story has a really personal health issue involved.

I imagine you don’t want your health issue to be the reason people notice your work, but it is part of your story. I was very attracted to your work, knowing that you had neurological issues.

It’s hard. It’s a hard balance. I think, for the most part, people…like you just said, you liked it before you knew the story. I hope that continues, but at the same time, it’s also really cool. I’ve met some cool people who have similar conditions. They can see that within the art. They can relate to it.

You’ve had this current series. What are you working on now? What’s next for you?

I’m still expanding this series, but I want to bring more medical devices and machinery into it. I have a show coming up in the fall in San Francisco, so I’ve got about eight months or so to finish this body of work, or at least a couple new pieces. That’s what I really want to do. I want to bring the medical equipment side to it, just to evoke more of those feelings, and get more people to be able to connect with the pieces. A lot of times a portrait is a portrait, and you need something else in there to show or help along the thought process. I think the juxtaposition might be just right.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in life through your painting?

What I always come back to is a moment in college, where a professor told me to eliminate something from a painting, and I did it without even thinking. I hated that painting from that moment on. I could never get that piece back to what I wanted it to look like.

I always go back to that moment, in all sorts of experiences, and remember to always stop and think and not take somebody else’s opinion without really figuring out if it’s right for you. It’s interesting that I learned that through painting. 


See more of René’s work on here wbesite

And, on here Instagram @renelorraine

This article originally appeared in Issue 10.4 “Profiles”

Matt Kelsey, Printers’ Guild Member & Jim Gard, Chairman of the Printers’ Guild

For twenty-two years, volunteers at the San Jose Printers’ Guild have kept the art of printing alive.

In a world where books can be downloaded in digital format and sending messages is as easy as tapping on a phone screen, Jim Gard, chairman of the Printers’ Guild, and guild member Matt Kelsey, shed light on how the printing press serves as a reminder of the days when communication required a concentrated effort and skilled craftsmanship.

Jim, you have been with the Printers’ Guild since the beginning. Could you share a little history on how the Printers’ Guild came about?

Jim: The Print Shop exhibit opened in the ’70s, and although the San Jose Historical Museum had some volunteers, they worked independently and lacked organization. In 1992, the museum staff, as well as some of the printers, met and formed the Printers’ Guild to provide consistent printing demonstrations to the visiting public. From then on, the group has met monthly, maintaining a shop volunteer schedule, creating, printing exhibits, and repairing and acquiring equipment.

What types of equipment are used in the Print Shop?

Jim: Letterpress. We have small, table-top Kelsey presses, a Chandler & Price Pilot press, and some cylinder proof presses. But our main attraction is the F.M. Weiler Liberty press, circa 1884. This heavy floor model press gives visitors a close-up look at the workings of a treadle-powered “jobber.”

What are demonstrations at the Print Shop like?

Matt: Members of the San Jose Printers’ Guild continue to practice the skills mastered by printers of old, using some 200 cases of metal and wood type, including many rare and antique designs. The best experience, though, is when we put the Pilot press right up to the railing and let visitors operate it themselves.

Matt, you are the lead organizer for this year’s Bay Area Printers’ Fair, an event that celebrates letterpress printing and related arts. Does this event bring us back to the roots of graphic design?

Matt: Yes, the Printers’ Fair takes us back to the time when the printer was the graphic designer. The printer knew what sizes and styles of type were available in the shop and knew how to combine them to create the right look for the customer. A lot of graphic designers today really enjoy getting away from the computer and getting back to the roots of handling handset type and impressing ink into paper instead of manipulating pixels on a screen.

For visitors and Guild members alike, I am sure there is a bit of nostalgia that one feels when observing and participating in the printing process. What do Guild members and visitors take away from this shared historical experience?

Jim: The Guild brings together these enthusiasts with a purpose, which they can share with each other and the public.

Matt: Guild members enjoy keeping alive the “black art” using the same basic technology pioneered by Gutenberg over 500 years ago. I have taught a number of workshops at the Print Shop, and I am always energized by the enthusiasm and creativity of the students. In one day, they learn to handset type and arrange a short poem or quotation into an attractive layout. Everyone goes home with a feeling of creativity and accomplishment.

With technology constantly advancing, what does the art of printing serve as a reminder of?

Matt: The museum Print Shop replicates a typical print shop of the early 1900s, where local businesses would go when they needed flyers, stationery, business cards, labels, and myriad other forms of ink on paper. Now we think of a “printer” as a machine connected to the computer, that quickly produces copies on command; a hundred years ago, a “printer” was a skilled craftsman who consulted with the customer about their printing needs, found the right sizes and styles of type to design and compose the text from handset metal type, printed a proof for the customer’s approval, and then carefully prepared the job for press.

Jim: The art of printing serves as a reminder of the labor that was once involved in communication. With all this handset type, there used to be a lot more people involved: specialists in typesetting, press operation, proofreading.

Matt: It is a reminder that, back then, printing was an act of freedom. In the words of journalist A. J. Liebling, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

instagram: sjprintersguild
facebook: sjprintersguild
twitter: printersguild

Article originally appeared in Issue 6.2 “Device”
Print Version SOLD OUT

Wisper’s life resembles an uncanny stack of page-turners. Conversations with him dredge up metaphors, tuned specifically to the relationship between identity and outcome. Subjective as art and truth may be, the sublime coincidences within his experiences hint at more.

As teenagers, Wisper and his best friends—Sno, Poe, Shen Shen, and Bizr—formed the intersection of two arts groups: Together We Create, a collective of muralists (est. 1985), and LORDS Crew (Legends of Rare Designs, est. 1986), a graffiti crew whose members grew out of San Jose and drew international attention. For this tight group of young, talented artists, the potential for fame was palpable. But certain threads split the chapters of their lives into unraveled dichotomies. For Wisper, a path of criminality handed him a prison sentence of 26 to life—ultimately, an unknowable length of time for truth, beauty, justice, and their rivals to battle through his mind like
restless gods.

He vividly remembers the first time he caught injustice red-handed. As the middle sibling in his mother’s home at the time, it baffled him that after his father’s death, social security payments owed to his mother—$300 per child—couldn’t bring the family clothes, food, or rent installments. He and his brothers were eating rice every day that summer. Then one night, as he performed his usual chore of cleaning his stepfather’s car, he found Burger King wrappers. Claims didn’t match the evidence. 


“If you can learn how to operate from a place of peace while creating art, you can learn how to operate from a place of peace in all aspects of
your life.” _Wisper

There was little he could do about it, other than rebel. As a creative kid with a knack for detail, Wisper looked for his identity in spaces where originality shined. In the world of hip-hop, among b-boys, DJs, and rappers, Wisper was hooked by the wave of graffiti that made its way over from the East Coast, bringing with it a culture that admired innovation. As the LORDS Crew formed and grew its membership, some of his friends and fellow founding members went to vocational school to pursue
graphic design.

But for Wisper, gang membership stood out as the most attractive option. “Everything I was seeking—unconditional love, loyalty, recognition, notoriety, reputation, education—they were giving it.” His gift for teaching was cultivated by their discipline. He could come up with illustrations and analogies to help someone else learn and memorize the codes of membership, without having to write a single word.

The last year Wisper did graffiti was 1988. The following year he was arrested. Once inside prison, faced with a life sentence, he found no reason to change. To survive, he leveraged his street education and climbed the ranks until he was running the yard. The attention and his gang affiliation eventually sent him to solitary confinement in 1994, with other men in solitary confinement “deemed incorrigible.” 

In the monotony, Wisper contemplated the value of his life. His path into crime had been a gradual progression of “becoming more and more empty.” As he explains today, “People who commit crimes don’t understand value. If I steal from you, if I vandalize your house…I don’t value you as a person. If my life doesn’t mean something, no one else’s does either.” Even a cup, he reasoned, had worth. It was created for a purpose. Yet like a cup left on the shelf, here he was, a human being locked away in sensory deprivation. If his life had purpose, it couldn’t come from this environment, not from his upbringing, his heritage, or ideologies—which he had been willing to die for. And which he was still affiliated with.

He knew he wanted to change, but change only began when he mustered the courage to revoke his prison gang status, fully aware of the punishment to follow. 

Wisper credits supernatural intervention in the events that actually occurred once he lost his status. By the code, he should have died in prison—killed by his own cellmate to protect the rest of the gang. But his life was spared. By the law, he should have been rejected for parole. Involvement with prison gangs was deemed a greater offense than the crime that sentenced him in the first place. But the inmates who would have reported him had been removed from the yard weeks before his arrival.

By the time Wisper came home in 2013, nearly 24 years had passed. His former collaborator, Bizr, had written “FREE WISPER TOUR” on every art piece until Bizr’s passing in 2013, eight months before Wisper’s release. Of the friends who had kept in touch with him, Mesngr was the only one still in San Jose, doing art shows. As he slowly readjusted to life back in society, Wisper decided his goal was to “get my art out, make some money, provide for myself and my family.” 

Wisper began looking for opportunities, at times initiating them by reaching out to connections and bringing plywood for the artists to live paint on. As he formed the groundwork to revitalize Together We Create, he also accepted opportunities to speak at high schools and colleges. There were youth who wanted to learn graffiti, and Wisper saw the chance to share about his mistakes so they could make better decisions. 

“That’s where I developed a curriculum of teaching peace,” he explains. Acting from a place of courage is revered, but in that state, fear is still present—“you’re acting in spite of fear.” He teaches his mentees to accept responsibility for where they’re at and to apply a faith-based practice until they can believe in themselves. “If you don’t know who you are, you can’t create unique art.” 

There are still threads to unravel. To this day, he fights to control the blaze of anger that slices through at injustice. Just like in his youth, he feels the pressure to stay on guard, to secure himself and his safety. “After 24 years of living like that, you don’t just come home and start expressing emotions.” But he knows himself, and he values his life. That deep sense of peace is unshakeable. Hanging around Wisper, friends might not notice how calm and collected he is until he laughs—then, they’re caught by the irreversible, unforgettable belly laugh flying out of him.

This year marks nine years since his release—nine years of using his freedom to help youth secure their self-identity. Often called on to speak and share his story, he is in the final stages of publishing three books that he hopes will aid their discernment. Wisper believes that all people hold a sense of justice, beauty, and truth—but an absence of self-identity spawns a perilous emptiness. “If you’re empty your whole life,” he says, “you don’t know what full is.” 

His mission now is to inspire others to create art from a secure sense of identity, free of the pressure to fit a label or hide under a mask. “If you can learn how to operate from a place of peace while creating art,” he promises, “you can learn how to operate from a place of peace in all aspects of your life.” 

As is the case with many a music fanatic, Kia Fay’s intimate relationship with sound stretches past the point of tangible memory. She remembers learning rhythm (and math) from beating on pieces of cardboard as a child, of singing practically her whole life, and the music of Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, and Beastie Boys being her first musical totems.

Coincidentally, it was her love for the immortal MJ that first got her on stage with Ash Maynor and Ghost & the City (GATC). They needed a singer for a Halloween show, and with “Thriller” on the set list, Fay jumped at the chance to sing her idol’s music. “I was like, ‘I get to wear a costume, I get to sing MJ. This is all golden,’ ” she fondly recalls. “I didn’t realize that was an audition of sorts.” That guest spot was the first collaboration in what’s now been a six-year journey with the group, whose sound features a brooding musical stew of soulful, jazzy, and electronic components.

The Time EP—which earned the band accolades from Afropunk and Bust magazines and slots opening for Hiatus Kaiyote and the Internet, has brought the brightest attention yet to GATC, whose latest album is the result of, in Fay’s words, an “executive decision to do only what we wanted in its pure form.” It’s their first work to feature Fay’s full creative input and the most direct outgrowth of her “mind-fi” with Maynor, the term for their near-telepathic musical connection. “I don’t fit specifically into one box or another in a lot of respects, so it’s cool to finally be able to make music where I don’t need to try to anymore,” notes Fay with a laugh.

Accepting authenticity rather than fighting it is a huge theme in Fay’s story. Despite years in choirs, she noticed that she never got to solo until she was at UC Berkeley singing with the female a cappella group the California Golden Overtones. It was a refreshing change for her voice—full-bodied, emotive, and powerful—to take the spotlight. Her voice feels like GATC’s secret ingredient, with the music seemingly shaped around her distinct delivery.

Yet music hasn’t been her only outlet for authenticity. Since relocating to San Jose, she’s also established herself as the Curl Consultant, advocating for clients to celebrate their hair in its natural state rather than modifying it to conform to societal standards. “I joke that it’s driven by stubbornness, but it seemed unacceptable to me that in a space as diverse as San Jose, with as many different permutations and beautiful combinations of humans that we have, there weren’t more folks dedicated to encouraging people to exist in their natural state as it relates to their hair,” says Fay.

“I don’t fit specifically into one box or another in a lot of respects, so it’s cool to finally be able to make music where I don’t need to try to anymore.”

She first started working with hair out of necessity. Fay spent time doing theater, where she became the de facto stylist because no one could properly style her hair. However, she never saw the trade as a viable career option until her move to San Jose propelled her to be the change and to establish a space the city desperately needed. “The bulk of the feedback I’ve received has been that the work I do is liberating,” admits Fay. “That’s the best-case scenario for me: freeing anybody from a restriction they thought they had that was only an artificial restriction. Hopefully I can plant that seed for other folks, and they in turn will stand as beacons wherever they are.”

As a person of mixed descent who struggled over the years with where she fit in, Fay’s now using her two creative pursuits to help others recognize and celebrate their own unique tastes and identities through communion and connection. “We have to stop being so wedded to [the idea that] ‘This is what beauty looks like. This is what music looks like,’ and just accept beauty when we see it and hopefully foster what comes naturally to people and stop encouraging them to resist their more authentic selves, in any capacity,” she says.

Ghost and the City
Facebook: gatcmusic
Instagram: ghost_andthecity
Twitter: ghostandthecity

Curl Consultant
Facebook: kiafaystyles
Instagram: kiafaystyles

This article originally appeared in Issue 11.1 “Sight and Sound”

Check out Ghost & the Ctiy’s Music on Spotify

San Jose Taiko
Roy and PJ Hirabayashi

Not many folks can say they have evolved—if not created—a new type of art. But starting in 1973 when Roy Hirabayashi cofounded San Jose Taiko, a professional performing company, Roy and PJ Hirabayashi have cultivated a new Asian-American art form. Taking the traditional rhythms of the taiko—a type of Japanese barrelshaped drum—and infusing Western and other musical influences, San Jose Taiko pioneered the American taiko sound, which has since been met with traditional Japanese approval. The Hirabayashis have performed around the world, receiving countless commendations both for their efforts in cultivating and showcasing a new art form and for consistently advocating for San Jose’s Japantown. These awards include arguably the highest arts honor awarded in the United States—the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship in Folk and Traditional Arts, in 2011—as well as the highly prestigious City of San Jose Cornerstone of the Arts Award, in 2016, for enduring and effective leadership in the arts.

“In the early ’70s we worked with the Buddhist temple in San Jose, and the minister there was really interested in doing something to bring more youth back to his temple. He suggested we look at using the taiko—the Japanese drum—as perhaps a way to do that. So we started with the intention of involving the youth, but it rapidly became more of a community group because people in the area heard about what we were doing and wanted to come check it out and participate. We use the taiko as a tool to organize people, but it has also given us a chance to learn more about our heritage.”

instagram: sanjosetaiko

Episode #103 Carman Gaines, Associate Director of Local Color

When asked to describe the San José art scene, Carman Gaines uses words like ‘passionate, diverse, obsessive, and community oriented.’ One could argue that those words also best describe Carman’s life view and journey to the present. Born and raised in San José, Carman tries to squeeze the most out of life for herself and in honor of her ancestors. Carman has an intentional approach to spending her time and the opportunities she pursues but balances those things by focusing only on what she can control.

Carman studied art history and photography in college, learning its potential to impact lives and document history. However, she accepted early on that photography was not how she wanted to survive in a capitalist world, opting to use it as a form of catharsis and personal growth. That realization did not stop her from popping into different art spaces, dropping off resumes, taking unpaid internships, and commuting to a gallery job in San Francisco for a few years before tenaciously pursuing a position at Local Color that would bring her career in arts administration closer to home. 

In the years since Carman began working for Local Color, she has taken on the role of associate director. Although her work often requires trips to what she calls ‘Grantland,’ a destination of administrative paperwork and potential funding, she relishes the opportunity to provide artists and organizations a platform to impact the community through art.

While Carman supports the art community through her career, she is also working towards a future that involves a farm, airstream, dismantling capitalism, and mutual aid. In her new podcast, ‘Plan and Story,’ Carman sits down with folks in the community to discuss their visions for the future and the sometimes unforeseen road that will take them there.

In our conversation, we discuss Carman’s journey to working for Local Color, her experiences as an artist and arts administrator, and her inspiration and approach to life.

Join Carman this Friday, October 27th, for Local Color’s annual 31 Skulls fundraiser. This fundraiser supports local artists and helps fund this woman-powered organization, fostering connections between artists, people, and places.

Episode #102 Connie Martinez, C.E.O. of SVCreates

It is a bittersweet moment for SVCreates as we celebrate the legacy and retirement of our fearless leader, Connie Martinez.

Connie Martinez has courageously led SVCreates for the ten years since its formation when 1stACT San Jose & Arts Council Silicon Valley merged.

Before then, she had held several leadership positions in various industries. While her introduction and education in business came out of necessity in providing for her children as a young single mother, her development as a leader has been an intentional process of learning and letting go.

Connie believes excellent leadership comes from providing the right people with a framework and resources for success. As CEO of SVCreates, she has provided resources and direction to countless arts organizations, working as a culture capitalist, investing in the potential of a multicultural Silicon Valley that can work harmoniously with big tech.

As Connie moves on from SVCreates to spend more time with friends and family, we honor her legacy and impact on Silicon Valley’s creative culture. In our conversation, Connie shares the experiences that led her to SVCreates, her thoughts on leadership, advice for budding entrepreneurs and cultural influencers, the fundamental intentions she lives by, and even touches on the foundation and business of arts and culture in Silicon Valley.

Connie Martinez has been named the recipient of this year’s Cornerstone of the Arts Award.

The award will be presented at the Cornerstone of the Arts Award event at the Hammer Theatre Center on October 19, 2023, at 6 p.m.

Connie was previously featured in episode #64 of the Content Magazine Podcast discussing The Business of Arts and Culture. And, featured in issue 5.3 in 2013.

Brandon “BQ” Quintanilla is a San Jose-born entrepreneur of Nicaraguan descent who founded media company EMLN (Early Morning Late Nights) to produce projects such as Any Given Bars YouTube Channel, San José’s Culture Night Market, and FeastMode. BQ has created a business and brand around his vision for San José.

In this conversation, BQ and introducing Content guest host Troy Ewers, @trizzyebaby, discuss BQ’s rise as an entrepreneur, the development of EMLN, organizing events, and personal growth. Listeners gain insight into what it takes to start and scale a business, difficulties with organizing events, and how to hustle through adversity.

Follow BQ, @bqallin, and EMLN, @emlnexclusive , on Instagram to keep up to date with what he has cooking for Silicon Valley. 

Look for Culture Night Market, Feat Mode, render application, and other events at

Coming Feast Mode events – 10/13/23, 10/26/23, 11/04/23

Featured in issue 14.2 (SOLD OUT)

Episode #100 Andrew Espino, Owner of 1Culture Art Gallery


Growing up in Eastside San José, Andrew Espino loved both Hip-Hop and oldies, graffiti and lowrider culture, and football. He carried all of these inspirations through college as a St. Mary’s football linebacker and into his post-college career in real estate. Andrew frequented art galleries during business travels but found the art that spoke to him was in galleries off Main Street and on back streets. He started buying art representing the streets that told stories about an urban environment.

Andrew, a businessman by nature, realized that the mainstream market for the artwork he appreciated was limited and considered assisting artists he met at street markets to sell their work. He began a journey as a traveling art vendor, popping up and selling work he curated on commission. He quickly realized that he needed a brick-and-mortar gallery to elevate the experience of purchasing art that represented his experience as a Chicano kid from the city.

Andrew opened 1culture Art Gallery & Collective in May of 2022. The gallery rotates shows every six to eight weeks. Andrew is working more with guest curators to increase his impact on the scene. This year, he coordinates trips for San Jose Artists to display at the Bedstuy Walls Mural Festival and Art Basel Week in Miami. Rooted in originality, creativity, and unity, 1culture hopes to provide a platform for artists and add to San Jose’s artistic culture, making it a destination for experiencing art.
136 & 144 E. Santa Clara St
San Jose, Ca 95113

Andrew Espino was also featured in Issue 15.1 of Content Magazine Issue 15.1 “Discover”

Experiencing Angela Johal in person—hearing her talk, watching her paint—is like experiencing her work. She seems, as her work does, to conjure up and harness energies that have been waiting for just that moment. Order and intensity, color fill and negative space, control and free flow, all emanate from and embody her and her work.

“Restrictions give you freedom, organization empowers creativity…Negative spaces are important because they create an opening,” explained Johal. “There aren’t very many exits in my paintings,” she said of how she always aims for a continuum of color, line, and thought in each of her works, welcoming the viewer on an endless journey.

Johal’s relationship with color started early at the age of five, when her mother gave her Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color, by Mary O’Neill. Her penchant for hot pink and yellow is nostalgic, from a similarly colored bedspread. She also remembers pushing nasturtium seeds into the moist soil with her finger and watching them sprout, grow, and blossom into bright orange flowers with a light peppery smell. The color orange appears in many of her paintings.

Fear is the artist’s worst enemy…I also have learned that the more mistakes you make, the better artist you become. This in turn makes you a master at problem solving.

The most unexpected of the several surprising aspects of Johal’s work is that she anticipates people will hear her paintings or experience sound. “Everything has sound, but you don’t always hear it…You don’t hear the refrigerator unless it’s broken,” she said. While many listen to music while creating, Johal works with it. When working on a series using dots, for example, she saw them each as having a specific size and sound. The artist statement for her work The Stars Collide No. 2, on exhibit at the de Young Museum in 2020, states that her “chromesthetic paintings may evoke a visual sound, where new and unpredictable colors emerge intuitively.” 

The most immediate aspect of her work is the geometry, which is intended to be accessible. Johal has followers among women, men, and even children. Johal believes that geometric shapes are universal archetypes that communicate a visual language without referencing any one particular culture. She explained further, “Colors are loved by all. I see geometry and design in everything and how it impacts your life. I see how when people sit at a round table, they rarely have a good time, but when people sit around oval or rectangular, shallow tables, they feel closer, can hear, and often have a better time. How you move about spaces and the furniture and art has a profound effect on one’s well-being.” 

She continued: “Color and shapes have a direct effect on your mood, and I have found that I am most satisfied when I see a whole rainbow of colors, but with the calming qualities of the black, white, and grays. I think that geometric and colorful art may have a similar effect on the brain as psychedelics.”

Johal is not kidding when she says she sees geometry everywhere—a word puzzle book was her inspiration for a time. Indeed, she always looks for lights and shadows first. And the same way a letter reveals more in a word puzzle, she believes that a single color has the power to change the entire work.

Johal’s purposeful approach has a backstory, starting from when she used to be a photorealist painter. However, those “illusions of reality” seemed false to her, while the geometric, flat color shapes felt more honest. For five years, as fascinating proof of how she inhabits the paradoxical realm of restraint and movement, she stopped painting but allowed herself to craft using only reclaimed, found materials. It was during this time that she found geometry and abstraction as her medium. Paint slowly started creeping into the collages and then she decided to go back to painting, using only flat planes of color to achieve three-dimensional effects. City Trees and Intersections were her first real geometric paintings with flat color planes, and she loved the way they gave an illusion of transparency.

When asked about her process and how she determines what her next work is going to be, Johal shared that it’s important for her to wait to see how the painting will emerge. She explained that when she creates art, she is actually spending time playing, like a child. “Fear is the artist’s worst enemy. Children are fearless when they create, where adults are always battling fear, which hinders the creative process. I also have learned that the more mistakes you make, the better artist you become. This in turn makes you a master at problem solving.”

Ultimately, Johal believes that “the artist actually becomes what they paint.”
Instagram: johal_geometrics

I f you truly want to get to know someone, ask them about their favorite music. 

Take a stroll through their Spotify playlists, listen to the burned CDs from their teenage years or have them share about their most memorable concert experience. Nothing bottles up our memories, then vividly retells our joys and fears and loves and losses, quite like the sounds that lived through those moments with us.

With Digging Sound Collect, photographer Abraham Menor honors that very idea, utilizing his masterful eye for the moment to elevate the seemingly mundane exercise of collecting records into a celebration of culture and heritage. The series, which now spans two volumes, welcomes viewers into the passionate world (and, in most cases, homes) ofvinyl collectors.

“I’m there to listen to them,” shares Menor when describing his process. “What I’m trying to do is get them to feel comfortable, not only with sharing their story but with being in the moment where I can capture it through photography.”

What started as casual snaps of close friends extended to documenting collectors from Hawaii, St. Louis, and even South Africa, where Menor captured a man named Solomon who appears ready to be swallowed up by the stacks of records looming directly behind him in a six-story vintage shop in Johannesburg.

As for his craft, Menor shares that his journey with film began on San Jose’s East Side, where his love for graffiti served as his entry point to shooting.

“If you’re familiar with graffiti culture, when you did pieces or if you were going around looking at other pieces, pictures were the way you collected [them],” he shares. “It was like collecting baseball cards.”

Though he began shooting purely to document, he fell in love with the process, thanks to a film photography course at De Anza College. The street photography zine Hamburger Eyes proved a revelation when he found a copy at the now-defunct Alameda Archives, its raw black and white photos much more relatable than the landscape books he was finding at the library. Yet even as he continued to document and refine his approach, he admits that he was still hesitant to call himself a photographer.

A 2003 trip to London changed that. His time in the UK happened to coincide with a series of worldwide protests in opposition to the pending Iraq War. He captured the massive demonstration, shooting so much film that he had to ask strangers for more cash to buy extra rolls. When he showed his friends the results, they
were amazed. 

“I come from an old school background,” he explains. “You’ve got to put in the work and gain the notoriety and respect from those who came before.” Armed with the validation he’d long been looking for, he finally stamped himself a photographer.

His studies in sociology first educated him about issues of social justice. It’s a topic that continues to be a through-line for much of his visual work. Last year, he released “San Jose Uprising,” which provided an up-close look at San Jose’s summer 2020 protests in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and
Breonna Taylor.

Compared to his work documenting protest, Digging Sound Collect is much more subtle, with his subjects proudly displaying their most treasured finds. The series also works to show the diversity of the record digging community. While San Jose’s native son Peanut Butter Wolf may be casually looking back at the camera in front of a wall full of vinyl, Melissa Dueñas, co-founder of the weekly radio show Lowrider Sundays, is seen sorting through a small collection of prized LPs in record cubes near her bed while a 45 sets the mid-day soundtrack.

“I was intentional not to say I want the biggest record collectors,” he points out, stressing that the series is more about capturing a passion for music than displaying the breadth of someone’s collection. “I don’t care if you’ve only got a crate or if you’ve got ten thousand [records].” To him, a respect for the tradition and an appreciation for the music they collect is all someone needs to qualify. 

While COVID paused his initial volume two timeline, forcing him to scrap planned trips to Washington DC, Chicago, and the Philippines, he was able to keep shooting in a limited capacity with those who were okay with him filming as he took all proper precautions. He was finally able to release his follow-up in early 2021.

As he writes in the foreword to his latest volume, “I don’t know how many records I listened to and how many new discoveries have been added to my own collection or that are permanently engrained in the playlist in my head, but I do know that I did my best to share what I was able to capture through my camera.”
Instagram: diggingsoundcollectkeptabsorbed

Article originally appeared in Issue 13.3 “Perform”

Nationally acclaimed poet and public speaker Yosimar Reyes is no stranger to San Jose’s spotlight. Born in Guerrero, Mexico, and raised in Eastside San Jose, Reyes draws much of his inspiration from his experiences as an undocumented immigrant and member of the LGBTQ+ community. Between his rich, illustrative language, sharp wit, and thought-provoking messages, Reyes leaves a lasting impression as he navigates subjects like migration, sexuality, and socio-economic struggle.

As a performer, Reyes has a playful, charismatic personality combined with a dynamic stage presence; he performs with exuberance, drawing in the audience with the steady rhythm of his spoken word style and clever use of Spanglish. The stories he shares are full of vibrancy and dimension at their core, celebrating the resilience of marginalized communities.

Now Reyes finds himself starting a new chapter as MACLA’s first-ever Performance Artist in Residency (PAIR). With this new role, Reyes will curate performance programs, workshop material, and showcase featured artists—actively shaping the San Jose art scene while cultivating an inclusive creative space designed for Chicanx/Latinx narratives. But most importantly, it’s a “full-circle moment” for both him and his artform.

Reyes himself started performing poetry at MACLA when he was just 16 years old. Back then, his work was rooted in survival. “I grew up in this rich community with all these immigrants that would just hustle,” he shares. “I started writing poetry because I [needed] to make money to help my family, and it so happened that people found out [about it] and it took off.”

In school, Reyes was a self-proclaimed nerd who excelled academically, in part because of his love for books and reading, but also to compensate for the insecurity he felt as a closeted gay teen. With some encouragement from his teacher, Reyes started using poetry as an outlet, then dove into doing live performances with institutions like MACLA and San Francisco’s Youth Speaks nonprofits. 

When the May Day marches took San Jose by storm in 2006 as the largest political demonstration in the city’s history, Reyes saw it all firsthand. “A lot was happening in the country,” he says, recounting his high school years. “This [was] the beginning [of when] a lot of people were coming out as undocumented…they [would] go on TV, tell their stories, then they get pixelated, or they alter their voices.” He was particularly compelled by the younger people galvanizing the movement, coming together to amplify their stories in solidarity. 

Reyes’s first collection of poetry, For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly, published in 2009 with the support of musical legend Carlos Santana, serves as an archive of this emotionally charged period in Reyes’s life. And while he admits the collection would be received differently now due to its outdated language, publishing it ultimately convinced him to pursue his passion as a storyteller.

In the beginning, Reyes didn’t mind being called an “undocumented writer,” but as he got older, he felt the need for distinction. “My work, yes, deals with that theme but it’s more about a human element,” he states. “I always tell people, I’m a writer that happens to be undocumented. That informs the work, but it does not define how I view myself.”

When Reyes was confronted with the pandemic, he chose to pivot from his career in LA and move back home to San Jose to be with his grandmother. Among his many projects since then, Reyes takes extra pride in the creation of the Yosi Book Club in 2020, promoting a variety of Latinx authors and the premiere of his renowned one-man show Prieto in 2022—an adaptation of Reyes’s own coming-of-age story in the Bay. For him, the writing process for all his work, including Prieto, is intimate and cathartic. “What I’m living is what I’m writing,” he says. “It forces me to be a little more honest and confront things that I don’t want to.”

When he leads his creative writing workshops, it can be especially nuanced for Reyes. “I work with a lot of college engagement, first generation college students. Most of the students have left their families [so] I think that’s why we connect,” Reyes explains. He recognizes a familiar resilience in his students—a desire for economic stability that could potentially trickle down and help their family, which Reyes knows all too well. “They know this [part’s] temporary and it’s gonna pay off in the long run. We want to thrive, we don’t want to [just] survive.”

Wherever Reyes is involved, it is guaranteed that he will be outspoken and authentic, willing to share the spotlight with anyone with a story to tell. Undoubtedly, Reyes will bring this and more as he sets the stage as MACLA’s newest addition. He additionally anticipates Prieto on tour this fall, premiering in Chicago and Miami.

Instagram: yosirey



alk into the room like the presence of God when they see me.

Walking through life with a committed purpose, 23-year-old, San Jose–raised singer and rapper Ervin Wilson displays the self-confidence and conviction of someone much older. He sums up this purpose with the motto, “The Authentic Speaks,” which represents all facets of his life, from his music to his spiritual conviction, to the way he walks into a room. It also connects him to his name, meaning “friend to many,” which drives his outlook on daily life. As he explains, “I try to live my life emulating my name’s meanings and try to represent God the best ways I can.” Ervin presents his best possible self to others through his interactions, his relationships, and most importantly, through his music. He relates, “I’ve committed to spark emotion and connection through music. Whenever I walk into the room, I’m taller and vibrant. I want to convey hype [and] fun, but with honest lyrics from my life experience in an attempt to relate to the people that hear it.”

Ervin’s life has been centered around and driven by the Church, but his musical trajectory wasn’t immediate. Ervin actually pushed back when asked to sing by his worship team, instead opting to play drums. Finally, he gave in. His first time singing on stage in 2019 made him feel like he was home. He never went back to the drums and has since hustled to release over twenty singles.

It’s not religion, I am telling you it’s relational.

While he admits his church upbringing made him sheltered musically, it provided him with a strong foundation of support and inspiration from his family, mentors, and his relationship with Christ. This carries him as he traverses new musical territory and slowly lets in secular influences such as YONAS, Travis Scott, and Post Malone, in addition to Christian hip-hop artists Aaron Cole and nobigdyl. Ervin even had the chance to release “Rings (Remix)” with Cole in 2022. While it may be easy to simply apply the label “Christian hip-hop” to his music, Ervin’s lyrical prowess puts him just outside that box. As he puts it, “I am not the typical ‘Christian hip-hop artist.’ I am a rapper/singer who has a relationship with Jesus.” At first listen, you wouldn’t know he was considered a Christian hip-hop artist until you listened very intently and also knew his personal approach to music making.

I am a teacher and doctor, every day I be testing their patience.

Ervin’s lyrics put his relationship with God in perspective, as he experiences the vicissitudes of life. He strives to be real with his words without compromising his morals, which means being able to rap about the hard things in life, even if it may make him sound more secular to his Christian listening fans. “I don’t want to be boxed into the Christian hip-hop box, where I can’t really say what’s on my mind,” he says. His song “My World” explains to those questioning his faith and intention that it is his world the listener is stepping into. Even when he addresses his naysayers, however, he still displays humility and the acceptance that he is still learning.

 He raps:

“Never traded all the truth for a lie

Ask the day of, I’ll meet you there tonight

Always ask The Lord to tell me which way 

Knowing damn well I’m never doing right”

Ervin puts a great emphasis on his experiences in life and connecting with those around him. He says, “I’m here to relate to real people going through real situations, people that want to be real with themselves.” You could say that people are what keep him going and inspire him to do what he does. If he can lift up others around him with his presence and his music, then they in turn can lift him up. For Ervin, however, the beauty of life is appreciating the present that God has given him and having faith that, as he says, “It will all make sense soon.”

With only roughly five years of music making under his belt, Ervin has managed to independently release a healthy catalog, showing off his range, lyrical artistry, and musical growth. He straddles both R&B and hip-hop, giving us singles like “Dream” and “Out of Luck” on the melodic side and then coming in hard with infectious, unbroken flows on tracks like “My World” and “The City Don’t Care.”

What is striking about Ervin as an artist is how much his music and approach to life are one and the same. He lives for moments of inspiration in his everyday life, which means he is content releasing singles as he is inspired. He has faith in God’s timing, releasing music when the timing and resources come together. “I lean on God’s promises, and I trust that He’s going to lead me and work everything out in His timing. I don’t know what my future holds at this point in time, honestly, but I know that everything will work out if I just keep strengthening my relationship with God and focus on serving others.”

There is no doubt that Ervin’s talent and fortitude in his beliefs will bring some great accomplishments in the future. For Ervin, however, the beauty of life is appreciating the present that God has given him and having faith that “it will all make sense soon.”

Instagram: iamervinwilson

Episode #99 – Athenna Crosby, TV Host/Journalist, Actress, and Model

Athenna Crosby devotes her time to inspiring young women and positively impacting the world through modeling, acting, and entertainment journalism. Her San Jose roots keep her grounded in her mission. She recalls, “[San Jose] is just a bunch of hard-working people who go to their nine to five and put food on the table for their families.”Pageantry called to Crosby after she discovered the significance of pageant competitions in her mother’s native Venezuelan culture. Venezuelan women often utilize pageants to guide their families out of poverty. Crosby began participating in pageants at 14 and later won Miss California Teen, Miss Teen San Jose, and Miss Congeniality. Her experience in pageantry enabled her to create long-lasting friendships and connections.

Currently, Crosby is the spokesperson for San Jose’s Cinequest Film Festival. Her initial encounter with Cinequest was through a summer camp in high school hosted by the company, which resulted in one of her proudest successes. As Cinequest spokesperson, she spreads the word about the festival and the importance of film.Get your tickets and passes on and enjoy food, drinks, and entertainment at Cinequest’s summertime film festival.


TV Host/Journalist @hotinhollywoodtv @cinequestorg @heartstringsstories

Actress @kitinternationaltalent

Model @therossagencyincHappening

â The Cinequest Film & Creativity Festivalâ  August 15-30



#Contentpicks #contentmag #film #cinematography #theater #actress #model #journalist #cinequest #siliconvalley 

The Cilker School of Art and Design 2023

For those considering continued education, whether for career or personal development, the return to instruction and registering for classes is upon us. At the Cilker School of Art & Design, classes return on August 26th, 2023. In this blog, we are looking back at the students at the top of their course in photography, fashion design, and architecture who shares the impact West Valley College has had on their growth as creatives.


Psychology/Studio Arts
Iris Zimmerman

Iris Zimmerman is no stranger to adversity. Born in El Salvador, she watched her family struggle to immigrate to the US and start life in the Bay Area with literally nothing. Hard work allowed them to stay, and Iris became a wife, mother, and successful businesswoman in one of the most affluent areas of the world. Iris has always been drawn to the creative. She became a hairstylist and recently retired from an impressive 25-plus year career, learning, teaching, and creating modern looks. Now as a returning student, she is working on her psychology and studio arts degree. Her work with portraits complements her psychology major by teaching her to see all sides of a person and help them and the world see their true beauty. She hopes her work will teach people how vital it is to love themselves and how challenging it can be.

Instagram: zimmersnaps


Fashion Design
Nyr Acuavera

Nyr Acuavera, born on April 17, 2002, is a Filipino fashion student at West Valley College. Immigrating to the United States at a young age, Acuavera experienced social isolation from his peers as a result of his personal identity. To flee from the troubles of reality, he turned to escapism in the form of clothing, a theme woven into the breadth of his work.

“I’ve found relief in using fashion as my armor,” Nyr states, “impenetrable by judgment, and unchangeable by others. It’s the truest form of my inner self.” His work contains a broad scope of references, ranging from ancient Roman literature to early 2010s internet culture. Still early in his career, Nyr Acuavera will be part of West Valley’s graduating class of 2023, aiming to transfer into a menswear design program. He hopes to open a menswear label one day, showcasing Filipino talent on the world stage.

Instagram: notnyr 


Architecture/Landscape Architecture  
Onna Keller 

Onna Keller moved to California from Thailand after finishing her PhD in demography from Chulalongkorn University. Prior to this, she earned a master of public administration and a bachelor of education degrees. In fall of 2020, she enrolled in landscape architecture courses at West Valley College, which captivated her interest as a new pursuit. Her first classes were architecturally focused, though, and she fell in love with this fascinating field, deciding to double major in architecture and landscape architecture. This natural fusion is embodied in her holistic designs, which have rich connections between indoor and outdoor spaces and constructs while also fueling her passion for sustainable design. Onna has taken classes in other fields also and continues to do so, since she believes that inspiring ideas are all around us. She will be graduating this spring and plans to apply for internships and a master of architecture program. 

Instagram: onna.keller 

Each year, the San José Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) recognizes the need for art on a day-to-day basis. Through public art, programming, and grants, San Jose’s OCA aims to give back to the community in heartfelt, intentional ways. This year they have brought back the Creative Ambassadors program, recognizing a range of artistic disciplines practiced by locals who share a deep commitment to San Jose’s cultural community. The 2023 Creative Ambassadors are Yoon Chung Han, Patron Paule, Suhita Shirodkar, and the artist collective Together We Create.

Creative Ambassadors are selected through a competitive panel review process that considers the applicant’s artistic track record and their history of community engagement. Emphasis is also placed on artists deeply rooted within the San Jose community. Practicing artists of all disciplines are invited to apply. The role of the Creative Ambassadors is to champion the power of creative expression and engage residents in finding their own creative voice. Ambassadors serve a one-year term, during which they produce an innovative project that invites active participation from residents and celebrates the diversity of the city’s cultural communities.

This year’s Creative Ambassadors are producing a series of events where locals can participate in their city’s history, experiencing the arts as a vital means of connection to themselves and others. Participants will elevate their creativity and celebrate its role in their everyday lives. Through these projects, each Creative Ambassador will demonstrate their love and passion for the city and its community. Support for the 2023 Creative Ambassadors is provided in part by grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Yoon Chung Han brings together two building blocks of San Jose—art and technology. Her project allows residents to record their stories verbally and then use that recording to create a 3D-printed artwork using recycled materials. Yoon aims to raise awareness about sustainability and cultural heritage by interviewing under-served, multi-ethnic community members in San Jose and the region. “San Jose is a really cool, interesting city. With San Jose being the heart of Silicon Valley and having a multicultural community, I thought it was important to highlight the sounds of the city and its community. The sculptures are like a time capsule,” she says.

“I hope people will better understand how art and technology can live symbiotically.”

“We should take a moment to listen to one another, listen to our surroundings, and understand one another on a deeper level.” As an attendee of Yoon’s workshop, residents can participate by verbally sharing their stories or a meaningful memory of San Jose. She will then convert the sound into a 3D-rendered sculpture. The San Jose community will have a physical record of these audio memories. “I hope people will better understand how art and technology can live symbiotically. Public art workshops are essential to give local residents access to technology and gain inspiration for their future careers and to challenge themselves,” Yoon explains.

Yoon is an interaction designer, multimedia artist, and researcher. Her research includes data visualization, biometric data visualization, and sonification—a new interface for musical expression—and mobile user experience design.

instagram: artofyoonhan


Episode #98 
Rhonda Holberton @rhondaholberton – Interdisciplinary artist and Professor of Digital Media @cadre_sjsu | @SJSU

Oakland-based artist and SJSU digital media professor Rhonda Holberton grew up in the Dulles Corridor, referred to as “The Silicon Valley of The East.” Holberton saw technology’s impact on society at an early age. She recalls, “I watched farmlands get steamrolled over, and subdivisions pop up.” Holberton’s work investigates technology, history, and modernity through research-based digital media and interdisciplinary art.

In a piece entitled ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ currently on display at The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Rhonda created 3D scans of her body practicing yoga framed by a digitized desert. The piece contrasts peaceful yoga practice with 3D technology developed by the military while presenting the human form in a cyborgian context to expose a world where humans and technology are fundamentally intertwined.

In our conversation, Holberton talks about her interest in engineering and its influence on her work, what it means to be a steward of creation and the digital world, and her moral obligation to ‘leave this place better than it was when she arrived.

Catch Holberton’s show at ICA San Jose until August 13th, and prepare to ponder the modern world and your role in it. @icasanjose


#Content #contentmag #art #technology #engineering #atrificialintelligence #Sanjose #stanford #siliconvalley 


With every show Derrick played with his band Sine Wave, he transformed tension into a story for justice.

Whether you met Derrick Sanderlin at an open mic four or five years ago or saw one of his bands performing onstage or met him as a barista at Roy’s Station Coffee and Teas or read about him in the news last summer, this post-COVID season finds him in coalescence with all parts of his identity—art, Black culture, and his calling.

Heading to his hometown of Phelan, off the I-15 exit, you can’t miss the house displaying a Confederate flag underneath the American one. When he was young, Derrick learned to assimilate to make friends.

“When I started seriously playing music, I was not super aware of my own Blackness.”

Throughout his teenage years, a tension fluttered in his chest. He had a yearning to resolve something unnamed. With his father a pastor, Derrick had grown up singing hymns and spirituals with his siblings. Here he forged his own creative space. Listening to hardcore metal and playing in punk bands ultimately brought him his first guitar, gifted to him by his group’s lead guitarist.

Derrick became obsessed. Any fingerstyle, any scale, “I wanted to learn everything there was to learn,” he said. He played it till it broke. After moving to Riverside, where he lived in communes for a few years, he began to write his own music. Widely inspired by “ridiculous writers and feelers” such as Iron & Wine and Bon Iver, he entered Riverside’s tightknit open mic scene. One day, Derrick sat with his friends discussing the sparsity of venues for musicians to play at for free. He voiced an idea to boost Riverside’s creative ecosystem: “What if we just, like, throw a show…and make a documentary?”

So he organized it. Leveraging a personal connection to a movie theater located inside an art gallery his girlfriend worked at, they packed out the theater. Their documentary illustrated the value of elevating relationships for any music scene.

“Oftentimes musicians can think of the scene as the industry, so it becomes a very competitive space,” Derrick explains. “The only reason I had friends for the documentary is because…we would invite each other to play at our shows.”

Cayla, his girlfriend, had moved up to San Jose for an internship. Every time he visited, he caught a glimpse of the work she did with her organization, such as fighting the building of charter schools in the Washington neighborhood and visiting the Jungle homeless encampment before it was shut down. Back in Riverside, Derrick struggled through his daily grind. He had “No real good job. Was barely paying rent. Not eating every day,” he remembers. He was taking college classes for the opportunity to dance. Then, through a sociology course, he read statistics that showed how educated Black males make 50 percent less (sometimes 80 percent less) than their white counterparts having the same amount of education.

“I looked at those statistics, like, ‘Whoa, that’s me. I’m in those statistics.’ It put words to something I already knew.” He realized Cayla was going to stay in San Jose to continue her work as a youth mentor— and that work resonated with him.

In 2014, Derrick moved to the Bay Area. His first job in the Bay placed him in downtown Oakland during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Pretty much every day I was working, there was a protest at the end of the night…I

started slowly dipping my toes into some action.” In San Jose, he began volunteering with People Acting in Community Together to boost police accountability and lessen the involvement between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the county. Derrick also started working part-time at Roy’s and married Cayla in November of 2015.

“Riverside was a place where I fell in love with the idea of organizing,” he says, “but San Jose is the place where I learned what it means.”

The next few years were a blur for him: He had begun attending open mics, and his performances impressed scene connectors like Mighty Mike McGee and with Grizzly Rob, who invited him to play more shows. In the summer of 2019, he landed an artist residency at Forager Tasting Room & Eatery, where he formed his band, Sine Wave. Just like in Riverside, he brought other musicians and poets onstage with him to tell the stories he wanted to tell.

Sine Wave allowed him to express the latest progression of his internal journey. Despite half his family heritage coming from Louisiana, his social mold had consisted of mostly white, Republican, desert towns.

“When I started seriously playing music, I was not super aware of my own Blackness,” he reflects, but the ever-present tension of racial identity—crossed with uncertainty in his personal life—reveals itself in his lyrics. An early recording of “Drapes,” buried nine years back on Derrick’s SoundCloud page, dresses the same raw lyrical poetry in a very different sonic atmosphere than on his 2018 Ghetto EP. Over fingerpicked guitars, Derrick’s voice fills the sonic space with mournful confession. As layers of vocals build towards the song’s climax, the blues overwhelm whatever lightness filtered through his delivery of the first lines. With the newer recording, punctuated with syncopated claps and shakers, “I think I was feeling the sadness in a different way,” Derrick reflects. “It just felt like the pain was the pentatonic scale—bending and snapping more than it was floating or sounding like a harp.” With every show Derrick played with Sine Wave, or with his other project, Rhythm & Folk, he transformed this old tension into a story for justice.

Then, in June 2020, he faced an even greater pain to transmute. During the height of last summer’s protests for Black lives, Derrick was shot by an officer while defending a group of young protesters from close-range rubber bullets. He was alone in the hospital when he was informed his injury could prevent him from having children. When he heard that, he only wanted to go home, rest, and “just stay off on the sidelines.”

But instead, Derrick was uplifted by the relationships he had forged—teaching implicit bias training, serving coffee at Roy’s, and elevating other musicians and poets. A mural was painted in his honor, along with the message “Don’t Hurt Our Friends: Demand Accountability.” A resolution to defund police presence in schools cited Derrick’s story and name and publicized the proposals in an open letter to San Jose Unified School District.

He felt overwhelmed, but it was a feeling of love. “It has, in some ways, made me more fierce. And honest. Because it’s easy to edit yourself when you’re a Black person in America and you don’t wanna be labeled as angry. But I was tired of being afraid of that, and it feels really good not to be afraid of that. That’s a part of, I think, the Black tradition—which is being able to channel my rage.”

Now, as a community organizer for Sacred Heart, Derrick helps others who feel unsafe to strategize their demands for permanent housing, alternative responses to police calls, and better funding for programs that center their livelihoods.

He has found himself deep within his calling, where the hunger of this world and the gladness of his heart coalesce.
Instagram: derrick_andstuff

Kung Fu Vampire is a genre-bending rapper and performer born and raised in San Jose, California. He has spent the last 20 years curating a sound and image that has gained international interest among fandoms, including horror and hip-hop. His interests in Gothic style, music, and rap converged around a film concept conceived in conversation with friends. This concept has since led him on a career path that includes national tours, high-profile performances, and, most recently, a feature at the 2023 Gathering of the Juggalos in Thornville, Ohio, where he performed for a crowd of 8,000.

In our conversation, Kung Fu Vampire shares his origin story, the development of his image, and his relationship with San Jose.

Be sure to catch Kung Fu Vampire Live at the Ritz on July 14th, as he returns to his hometown for the first time in four years to perform with Chow Mane, Cola!, & Yo.Izz.

Ritz San Jose

(Additional images by PARIS of Billion Dreams  @OfficialBillionDreams)


Following is our 2018 feature from issue 10.4.


San Jose’s preeminent horrorcore rapper—who rightfully thinks the horrorcore label is inaccurate—Kung Fu Vampire is a legend in the Bay Area hip-hop scene. Born and raised in San Jose, he first came up with the name in 2001, then spent the next decade building up his rap reputation, playing shows around the Bay and then the state. In 2009, Kung Fu Vampire took his unique brand of rapid-fire delivery and dramatic personage all over the world, touring with such legendary acts as Tech N9ne, Dirtbag Dan, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Originally, he was known for his dark material and even spookier look—pale face paint and glaring white eyes. As he’s matured, Kung Fu Vampire has toned down the look while building up the positivity transmitted through his lyrics, with many of his songs focusing on living a healthy life with a healthy mindset. Going forward, Vampire plans to remain an independent artist, while fully exploring his music as the man, the myth, and rap legend—Kung Fu Vampire.

“Back in 2001, some friends and I were messing around and talking about making a low-budget vampire movie. And then it kind of came out, mixing kung fu and vampires. But all my friends were like, ‘Yo, you’re the Kung Fu Vampire.’ I just loved Asian culture as well as vampires. It’s like a yin and yang, with kung fu and vampirism as that dynamic. You hear it in my music, which can be bright and cheery, but also really dark and edgy. Ultimately, I’ve always been inspired to bring live instrumentation to hip-hop without it sounding like rock-rap or sloppy. I want to create liveband-backed hip-hop that still sounds like hip-hop.”

Instagram: kungfuvampire

Article originally appeared in Issue 10.4 “Profiles”

Some places have such big personalities that they almost seem alive. Take, for instance, stories such as Alice in Wonderland or Howl’s Moving Castle with settings so colorful that they become their own character. On rare occasions, you may find a location like those in real life. San Jose’s K-Café is absolutely one of them.

If K-Café Patisserie and Tea House were a person, it would be a hardcore girly girl—dressed to the nines with a fierce devotion to all things sparkly and pink. When a first-timer encounters it, there’s a noticeable doubletake. Almost reflexively, patrons’ phones pop out to document every last inch of the room’s blush pink furniture, glittery wall art, and, most importantly, the ceiling—a Sistine Chapel of ornamentation awash with silk flowers, gilded birdcages, golden branches, and no less than ten crystal chandeliers.

“When people walk in, they need to be wowed,” says owner Kayla Dinh, adding that the décor contrasts drastically with the aesthetic of the previous owners. “When we got this space, it was empty. Everything was gray colored so we painted the whole interior and exterior pink… I always wanted to have a really happy place.”

You might not guess it by looking at it, but despite the café’s charm and substantial female following, the shop was not an overnight success. K-Café has undergone significant obstacles in order to keep its doors open and become the thriving business you see today.

The Shop’s Early Days
Seeking to bring a taste of Vietnam’s outdoor café culture to the Bay Area, Kayla opened K-Café’s doors back in December 2019. When the 2020 shelter-in-place mandate brought the world to a screeching halt just months after her café’s grand opening, Kayla found that her shop hadn’t been open long enough to qualify for government aid. After temporarily closing the café’s doors for six months, she reopened—only to close again when the smoke from the 2020 wildfires made Santa Clara County’s outdoor dining requirements unappealing to customers.

“We only had three people working here,” Kayla recalls. “All our employees left because they could see the business going down.” Fortuitously, K-Café’s owner has tenacity in spades (after all, she launched four successful businesses by the age of 30…and she did it without the support of her family, who thought she should find a more secure job). Determined to keep her new shop alive, she worked for free, eating tens of thousands of dollars in costs without any revenue potential.

On top of everything else, the storefront has been broken into on more than one occasion, with ransackers cutting the electricity and destroying equipment. “Not going to lie, we almost had to declare bankruptcy two years ago,” she says. “But we passed through. When we reopened at the beginning of 2021, people supported us.”

To make her comeback, Kayla worked tirelessly to expand the menu, doubling their list of offerings—from beverages like the brown sugar latte and honeydew milk tea, to fusion brunch items like the bacon benedict and almond amaretto cake.

She also introduced three-tiered trays, and guests jumped at the chance to layer them with petit desserts (alongside cherry blossom tea in delicate teapots). Complete high tea service is now available for private events.

Today’s Little Patch of Paradise
Today, Kayla watches over her patch of paradise with an air of satisfaction, savoring the lively atmosphere. Flocks of friends in floral dresses and lacey tank tops flow in and out. From time to time, their number is joined by a young couple, a dad with his little princess, or a cosplayer in a frilly Lolita costume.

In feast or famine, K-Café’s silk flowers keep this space effortlessly springtime. “It’s going to be happy all year,” Kayla says of her design choice, but adds that her arriving guests don’t necessarily have to be. “If you’re not happy, it doesn’t matter—you should come here too!” she invites.

Take her up on the offer. Come as you are and find a window seat underneath the floral canopy, or opt for a patio table out in the garden courtyard with the Greek statues. Because if San Jose’s girliest café could withstand its gritty underdog beginnings, all guests are more than welcome, no matter their season.

923 South Bascom Avenue San Jose, California. 95128

Instagram: kcafeteahouse

Congratulations to the K Fam, Inc for the opening of their laetst location, K on THe Go in Milpitas, 261 W Calaveras Blvd! 

(Side images from the Grand Opening. Shot by Zea Huizar @monetinspring)


For singer-songwriter Jess Sylvester, growing up in the Bay Area and discovering Mexico has allowed him to create music that brings together diverse and seemingly disparate influences that reflect on chicanx realities. Jess grew up listening to artists such as Malo, Santana, and Trio Los Panchos, yet his musical world expanded into artists like the Beach Boys and the Beatles. He began playing in local punk and hardcore bands like Tiger Uppercut!, Violet Change, and Crisis Man. Then, Jess co-founded Francisco y Madero after meeting new friends on a destined trip to Guadalajara, which gave him new ways to articulate his own experiences, exploring chicanx and pochx perspectives with the group’s “cholo-fi” sound. His newest record, Tròpico de Càncer (on San Jose’s own Needle to the Groove Records), recorded under the solo handle, Marinero, is a further composite of all his musical influences and experiences, including a love for Brazil’s Tropicalia movement. More so, however, he says this is the first record where he turned more inward and is his first honest cry for what is going on with him.

“Before I even picked up a guitar I wanted to be a songwriter. I don’t know why, as I didn’t have [role] models or friends that were songwriters. Spending time in México really helped me grasp my own concept of identity, both musically and personally. It allowed me to make latinx music and pull from influences that I grew up hearing in my home.” 


ared Kauk is a classically trained violinist, and his sister Shiloh learned to sing listening to the radio. Together this brother-sister folk-rock duo creates poignant, delicate melodies braced by lush orchestral soundscapes. To pay the bills, both brother and sister work day jobs: Jared is a violin and viola teacher, and Shiloh works at a coffeeshop. In the last year, Bird and Willow have made their presence known through internet releases and copious live shows around the area. This summer, they released their first extended play, Place to Land, which features brothers Bryan and Kevin Valko on bass and drums. As for the future, the brother-sister duo hope to embark on a West Coast tour and are currently writing songs for what will be their first full-length release in mid-2017.

“We started recording songs before we had a name or a plan or anything. We figured we’ve been playing these songs for awhile, so let’s try to make them into something bigger. And then when we named ourselves, we decided on Bird and Willow. Those are the cross streets in Willow Glen where we were both born. We could have used just our names or whatever, but I think Bird and Willow is significant because a lot of our songs tell stories about our lives and reflect the place where we come from.”the brother-sister folk-rock duo known as @birdandwillow creates poignant, delicate melodies braced by lush orchestral soundscapes. 

Beware of the Monkey
Release date: December 21, 2022
Written by Demone Carter

I am not ashamed to admit that sometimes I’m a slow learner. The best new rap records don’t always catch my ear immediately. Such was the case with Michael Jordan Bonema, better known to rap fans as MIKE! Despite the critical acclaim of releases like Weight of the World and Disco! I had filed MIKE! away with a glut of rappers working in the shadows of Earl Sweatshirt’s genius. I am somewhat ashamed to admit it was a Tommy Hilfiger advertisement that changed my mind. The fashion brand commissioned a four-song mixtape which features MIKE! spitting alongside the New Jersey sidewinder Wiki on tracks produced by the Alchemist. 

Perhaps Alchemist production brings out the best in everyone, but all of sudden I was locked in on MIKE! and his unorthodox approach. His style is both drunken and precise. He doesn’t flow so much as sway, entrancing the listener with a pendulum-like cadence. As a recent MIKE! convert, I went into his latest album, Beware of the Monkey, with somewhat high expectations. And this record delivers. 

The thing about MIKE! that jumps off the track, is his tone of voice—low and penetrating. There is a sadness in his voice, but it also seems like he is rapping with a smile. The production is handled by DJ Blackpower, whose beats seem to form and disintegrate at will. MIKE weaves in and out of each track with melancholic ease. Songs like “nuthin I can do is wrng” and “Light” (rivers of love) showcase MIKE’s talent for evoking nuanced emotions that exist between joy and sadness. Subjects like grief, sibling bonds, or fear of failure are dealt with in a way that feels heartfelt and authentic without being overly sentimental. The standout track is the song “Wake Up,” which is a collaboration with reggae legend Sister Nancy whose 1982 rendition of the song “What A Bam Bam” continues to echo through pop culture. Beyond the sticker shock of the Sister Nancy feature, the song “Wake Up” really works as MIKE! is somehow perfect for this ’80s-inflected reggae tune. Overall it’s a great album and hopefully a harbinger of great things for one of my new favorites.  

Favorite Track: “Wake Up”




(XL Recordings)
Release date: August 31, 2022
Written by Brandon Roos

Since 2018, Kenny Beats has proven himself a relentless creative and pliable producer with a list of collaborators that includes rappers Rico Nasty, Vince Staples, and Freddie Gibbs as well as rock groups Trash Talk and IDLES. Despite keeping busy behind the boards, he had yet to officially craft a solo project. 

Kenny contends that he had nothing to say. That changed when he discovered in late 2021 that his father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Louie is his creative response to a trying time.

The beats begin in earnest with “Parenthesis,” where crisp snare hits merge with soulful, pitched vocals. Understated horn stabs, string section samples, and quick weaving synth leads add lushness without weighing down the composition. “Hold My Head” is a clear standout, dealing in the currency of current rap sonics while utilizing a rhythmic framework indebted to golden era greats.

Knowing the inspiration behind this album, the sampled lyrics on “Eternal,” taken from Shira Small’s “Eternal Life,” feel poignant: “Eternal life is the intersection of the line of time and the plane of now. We live forever.” Coupled with contemplative keys, the song feels like a meditation on existence and mortality.

“Still” may just be the most soulful beat of the bunch. Kenny sends the song into the stratosphere by adding moody supporting vocals atop simple, punchy drum programming, all in service to a tasteful flip of Linda Kemp’s gospel tune “I Can’t Stop.” JPEGMAFIA’s energetic, amended verse somehow adds another emotive ingredient to the musical stew, an obvious instance of Kenny’s magic touch in action. 

There’s no established style or sonic touch point that reigns supreme. Instead, what shines through is Kenny’s keen ability to stitch together the old and new, the sampled and supplemented, the humorous and heartfelt, in thoughtful, organic ways. Though Louie never feels like it’s drawing too much attention to itself, when the notes finally die down at the end of the slow burn intensity of “Hot Hand,” it becomes quite clear why Kenny is so in demand. 

Favorite Track: “Still”




Homeboy Sandman 
12 Days of Christmas and Dia De Los Reyes 
(Dirty Looks)
Release date: January 6, 2023
Written by Demone Carter 

Homeboy Sandman is one of underground rap’s true eccentrics. A master craftsman with words, he has released a deluge of albums over the past decade. What separates Homeboy Sandman from his contemporaries is his uncompromising weirdness. A contrarian’s contrarian, the New York rapper has made a point of going against the grain in a way that feels true to himself. 

Case in point is the title of his latest album, 12 Days of Christmas and Dia De Los Reyes. Released on January 6, 2023, via Dirty Looks Records, the album name references the “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol and the Dia De Los Reyes (Day of the three kings) which is observed in much of Latin America and Spain on January sixth. Given the album’s release date, the title kind of makes sense. But also making an album named after Christmas, weeks after the holidays, and having nothing to do with Christmas or Dia De Los Reyes content-wise is just the type of head scratcher one would expect from Homeboy Sandman. 

Each track is named after a different day of Christmas (and of course Dia De Los Reyes) but the track titles are merely place holders for the Sandman’s handy work. Each beat feels like an experiment in rhythmic cadence, the boy Sand (as he often refers to himself) proving his mettle on different tempos and syncopated samples. Seemingly mundane everyday observations are mixed in with motivational self-help themes and of course emcee braggadocio. One of the standout tracks is “Third Day of Christmas” where Homeboy Sandman makes the following observations: “Made it to the farmers market / From the days of the farting armpit.”

The production duties are handled by a collection of beat makers, including Peanut Butter Wolf, Illingsworth, and Mono En Stereo (to name a few). The beat palette is sufficiently quirky. The song “Dia De Los Reyes,” in particular, demonstrates how Homeboy Sandman bars really sound great over almost anything, including an up-tempo Salsa sample. 

The only thing this album leaves me wanting for is cohesion. Despite the title and theme/non-theme, there isn’t much to make this feel like an album as opposed to a collection of tracks. All that said, the album is enjoyable, and the song titles may allow me to put it on some Christmas playlists next year. Maybe that was Homeboy Sandman’s plan all along.  

Favorite Track: “Third Day of Christmas”



Makaya McCraven
In These Times
(International Anthem Records)
Release date: September 23, 2022
Written by Taran Escobar-Ausman

In a way, drummer Makaya McCraven’s new LP, In These Times, completes a cycle. Always a bedroom beatmaker, McCraven started taking recordings of live performances of his band in Chicago, chopping them up, stitching different snippets together, and adding some magical post-production flourishes to create a new sound that he calls “organic beat music.” This resulted in his first aptly-titled release, 2016’s In the Moment. With his second LP, Universal Beings, he played live studio sessions with various collections of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, similarly rearranged the recordings with his own brand of hip-hop production, but took it a step further by going on tour to play the new rearranged versions live. In These Times is his first release with deliberate compositions, which are now, however, infused with the techniques, slightly off-beat time signatures, and head-nodding complexity developed from those past live shows. 

The magic of finding new rhythmic patterns within the sea of improvised music changed McCraven’s drumming style as he now seamlessly and subtly shifts between off-kilter hip-hop beats and polyrhythmic jazz flourishes. He straddles so many musical worlds that it would almost be sacrilege to simply call his music “jazz,” a term which he states is “offensive at worst and insufficient at best.” Instead, his organic beat music lives in its own musical multiverse, pulling from different genres and eras without garnering any trite labels such as “hybrid” or “fusion.”

“Dream Another’’ sounds like a lost track from Donald Byrd’s Street Lady. A flute, harp, and baby sitar flutter in and out of the melody over a soul-inspired bass line and hypnotic 7/4 hip-hop–like beat. Somehow the track “This Place That Place” simultaneously plays as a funk-jazz piece and hip-hop influenced chamber music. A personal favorite, “So Ubuji,” lulls you in with a gentle, meandering harp and marimba before breaking way for a rare 4/4 head-nodder. You’ll undoubtedly be making your best stank face. The highlight of “The Knew Untitled” is Matt Gold’s guitar work that pulls from the Bill Frisell school of tonality and angular phrasing. 

As McCraven develops and refines his approach to making music he has become an alchemist and enchanter of sorts. There will always be magic to be found in his creations. 

Favorite Track: “So Ubuji”

Content Pick-Up Party and West Valley College’s Cilker School of Art & Design Graduation EXPO

The second annual collaboration between West Valley College, Content Magazine, and SVCreates brought together students, career artists, and art enthusiasts with three attractions; The Cilker Graduation EXPO and Annual Fashion Show, the Content Magazine Pick-Up Party, and the SVCreates Content Emerging Artist Award ceremony.

The evening started with a pre-party for those instrumental in supporting the missions of each organization and a private celebration of the three Content Emerging Artist Award recipients. Guests were served Portuguese cuisine from San Jose’s Petiscos Adega restaurant. The party began when students, community members, and artists streamed into the college, accompanied by music from DJ Velmalicious. Guests viewed the graduating student showcase exhibition that lined the walls and interacted with artists featured in Content Magazine 15.3, “Perform,” including Carlos Pérez, Dan Fenstermacher, Renée Hamilton-McNealy, and Rubén Darío Villa – Mr. Fuchila, who displayed their work for an in-person magazine experience. Beverages were supplied by Sunnyvale’s ShaKa Brewing and Downtown San Jose’s first natural wine bar, Goodtime Bar, and served by Filco Events.

The exchange of inspiration between students, emerging & established artists, and the broader creative community was palpable. Something about gathering in an educational environment encourages students to look forward with promise and former students to look back with nostalgic inspiration. That feeling culminated in Cilker’s annual fashion design showcase, a fashion show hosted on the college’s lawn with over 300 guests surrounding the catwalk.

The show opened with the Content emerging artists award ceremony that recognized Dan Fenstermacher, Davied Morales, and Keana Aguila Labra for their commitment to their practice, working intentionally to share their vision, and rigor in their approach to creation and production. Once the fashion show ended, guests flowed back into the building for a final look at the exhibition and to enjoy a musical performance by the chancellor of the West Valley-Mission Community College District.

Thank you to all those who attended and helped support local South Bay creatives and Cilker Art & Design students’ boundless inspiration as they progress in their careers. We plan to continue this collaboration among creative community members and hope events like this inspire continued learning and support of the arts.

The West Valley College’s Cilker School of Art & Design Graduation EXPO is a maze of creativity – classrooms filled with sculpture, photography, fashion design, architecture, or digital design projects and students making final adjustments to their pieces. The college’s emphasis on arts education is apparent in its wide range of offerings, disciplines, and talented educators. The development of West Valley’s new art complex, scheduled to open this Spring, hopes to draw the community onto campus while providing more resources for art and design students. This keystone event motivates us and demonstrates that the future of South Bay art and collaboration is bright. 

Thank you, Event Partners & Collaborators! The Cilker School of Art & Design, Filco Events, Goodtime Bar, Petiscos Adega, ShaKa Brewing, SVCreates, and West Valley College.

Hypnotized by the dark shapes tattooed just above the knee of his grandfather, a four- or five year-old Sefa Samatua sat discreetly with a brown paper bag and crayon. He and his cousins had spent the day picking fruit in the orchards of the Valley of the Heart’s Delight. As they always did at the end of those days, they had just finished massaging Grandfather’s legs. It was the only time Samatua could clearly see the subject of his childhood obsession: his grandfather’s Pe’a. Consisting of small dots, dark lines, and stark geometric shapes, the Pe’a tattoo traditionally spans from the mid-back to the knees. Receiving a Pe’a is an ancient rite of passage in Samoan culture, and it typically remains hidden out of respect.

Samatua could hear the television droning in the background as his cousins played and grandfather rested. But play and rest were the last things on his mind, as the Pe’a sat audaciously exposed below the ruffled hem of Grandfather’s lavalava. Samatua slid the tip of the crayon across the paper bag and began to copy the mesmerizing figures.

Now, nearly 50 years later, Samatua puts a modern spin on those same shapes and has made a name for himself as a prolific tattooist in the process. “There’s maybe five patterns that you see that everyone has on their body that does tribal,” Samatua says. “I would see [those] patterns and then I would see the flames on these guys in the gym. I wanted to put our patterns into that,” he explains.

Following one of the key tenets of tribal tattooing, Samatua believes strongly in the importance of following his subject’s muscle structure. To achieve this, little to no design work is done before the client’s arrival. Samatua free hands every tattoo with a marker directly onto each client’s skin. He explains, “It’s like Tetris. You don’t know what’s coming until you see it. Well, I don’t know until you sit down and the block is right in front of me.”

Samatua differentiates his style by constructing his own “blocks” with unique twists on traditional tribal patterns. “You look at the spear,” he says, referring to the term for a triangular shape. He continues, “Zoom in on it, and ask ‘How do I change this in 10 different ways?’ ” 

The result is what Samatua has coined as “Kava Flow,” or unique variations of traditional tribal shapes following the form of each client’s body. Samatua claims he cannot replicate his tattoo designs on paper. “I can’t draw it. It just comes naturally. It’s one line at a time for me and it’s got to have flow.”

When Samatua began elementary school, he barely spoke any English. A rambunctious and talkative kid, his teachers often disciplined him by telling him to sit in the corner. To Samatua’s delight, there were often paper and crayons in those corners. He recalls, “I thank the teachers that sent me there, which was probably every teacher that I had from first to fourth grade. I was drawing tribal the whole time.”

Fast forward about 30 years; Samatua is married and a father. Humble Beginnings Tattoo, a tattoo shop on San Jose’s Alameda, began to make a name for itself in the world of tribal tattooing. Orly Locquiao, the shop’s owner, encouraged Samatua to pursue the craft he was passionate about.

“He gave me a machine. He gave me a few pointers. And I just went from there,” Samatua recalls. He began tattooing people where so many other artists get their start, in his garage. His clients would lay on cinder blocks with a pillow as he tattooed them with his daughter by his side. Soon, Samatua quit his nine-to-five and joined Locquiao at Humble Beginnings.

The root of Samatua’s inspiration traces back to that fateful summer examining his grandfather’s Pe’a. The first time his grandfather noticed Samatua eyeing the body art, he covered it to prevent Samatua from seeing it. But that didn’t stop Samatua.

“When he’d sleep, I would lift his shirt up a little bit so I could see his stomach,” he shares. “Then he would turn sometimes on the side or on his stomach and I would see the back. The inside is the best part,” Samatua says, recalling the insides of Grandfather’s thighs. He continues, “It’s where the teeth are. It’s all black and all you see are these spikes. That’s what I love. That’s where I got all the elements, from his body.”

Eventually, Grandfather empathized with his grandson’s curiosity and began to deliberately pull up his lavalava and allow Samatua to draw. “It was like suffocating …and then finally, you could breathe,” Samatua explains. “That’s what it felt like. All this weight came off my shoulders trying to draw this,” he describes.

In 2016, the artist moved from Humble Beginnings to Japantown’s State of Grace. Fifteen years into his career, Samatua has never looked back. 


#96 – Jonathan Gomez, Cofounder of Asiel Design and the Midtown Immersive Night Parties

Owners of Asiel Design, Jonathan Gomez and Linnae Asiel, have gone through many iterative seasons over the past two decades. Founded in 2003 as a floral design business, the company developed to include event design with intricately themed experiences. Their recent endeavor to renovate the James Grain Warehouse in Midtown San Jose, originally home to a mid-century grain wholesaler, provides a vessel for uplifting, connecting, and serving the community.

Initially used to store their antique event rentals, Jonathan and Linnae converted the warehouse into an event space during Covid lockdowns. Jonathan shares, “If we were going to have a warehouse just storing stuff and not serving the community, we would not be around forever. But if we could transition into a place that brought artists together and created a place for connection, I believed we could be a service to the city and the community.” That vision of serving others and fostering connection is tied deeply to the faith and spirituality that guides Asiel Design. Jonathan describes that guidance as a ‘heavenly blueprint’ that allows the business to stay nimble and ultimately leads to their upcoming event series, Midtown Immersive, from April 28th through June 16th on eight consecutive Fridays from 5-9 pm at the James Grain Warehouse.

In our conversation, Jonathan details the evolution of Asiel Design, the importance of spirituality and faith in his work, the rippling effects of Covid 19, and an invitation to Midtown Immersive.Visit James Grain Warehouse any Friday from April 28th to June 16th and experience Midtown Immersive. The series will celebrate the historic location, close the street to cars, and feature artists, vendors, food, drinks, and music.


The James Grain Warehouse for their MIDTOWN IMMERSIVE ART PARTY happening for eight consecutive weeks.

The event series brings the community together to eat, drink, dance, shop & hang out with local artists.San Jose’s art scene will be on full display.

Brought to you by the James Grain Warehouse Event Productions.


San Jose Made

Moveable Feast

Black & Brown Vintage Clothing

Gypsy Soul

Location: 245 McEvoy St. SJ CA 95126

Time: 5-9

Dates: April 28th – June 16th every FRIDAY

Pets: Welcome

Smoking: Yes

Family Friendly


James Grain Warehouse & Asiel Design

IG: thejamesgrainwarehouse | asieldesign



This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic (



Daniel Garcia is the founder, Cultivator, and creative visionary behind Content Magazine, a photographer, and San Jose Native, who has an upcoming photo exhibition at Art Ark Gallery, opening on May 5th, 2023. This exhibition will be his first solo show and display a body of work documenting 30+ years of photography.

Garcia’s interest in photography began while taking yearbook photos in Silver Creek High School. It led him to study the art form at the Academy of Art University before dropping out and becoming a freelance photographer shooting model portfolios. His flexible freelance schedule allowed Daniel to shoot street photography around San Jose and San Francisco, refining his craft, experimenting with format, and documenting a range of subjects. The energy Daniel receives from interacting with others has been foundational in his life and eventually led him to begin Content Magazine in 2008 to give honor and respect to local creatives in a way that would feel international. His work provides a glimpse into the lives of others, stealing moments from everyday life to give viewers a sense of the diversity and scope of his subjects. 

In our conversation, Daniel shares his motivation, development as a photographer, and a sneak peek at what guests can expect from his upcoming solo show. 

Visit Art Ark Gallery on May 5th, part of South First Friday San Jose Art Walk, to view a retrospective collection of Daniel Garcia’s photography. The show will display 100+ pieces and mark a transition into new long-term projects that Daniel is planning.

IG: TheCultivator & Contentmag


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic (



Alyssarhaye Graciano is a San Jose Native, practicing fiber artist, and current visual arts curator at MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. Having learned to crochet and knit in her teens, Graciano founded BlackSheepMade with plans to fund a college internship abroad by selling beanies, scarves, and woven garments. She later moved to Portland, Oregon, to pursue a post-college tech career before deciding to make BlackSheepMade her full-time job. During that time, Alyssarhaye grew the business to include teaching workshops, public art installations, and writing a book called ‘Chunky Knits.’

The publication of her book in 2020 proved to be a turning point in Graciano’s career. Having moved back to San Jose at the start of pandemic lockdowns, the grind of producing inventory began to weigh heavy on her aching wrists and sense of creative exploration. Over the following years, Graciano found work at local arts nonprofits and made time to experiment with fiber-craft, sculpture, and assemblage. Alyssarhaye’s experience as a business owner, creative, and nonprofit community curator led her to a role as visual arts curator of MACLA. She is currently preparing for MACLAS’s upcoming Latinx Art Now! Exhibition and auction.

In our conversation, Alyssarhaye shares her development as an artist and business owner and her experience as MACLA’s visual arts curator.

Come to MACLA on 4-07-2023 for the exhibition opening of 2023 Latinx Art Now!, part of South First Fridays, and return on 5-20-2023 for the live auction and a chance to take home a piece from the exhibition.

Instagram: macla_sanjose


Instagram: alyssarhaye & blacksheepmade 



As far back as she can remember, Sarah Williams has been fascinated by art, both making and experiencing it. Born and raised in Vallejo, California, Williams had always drawn, but it wasn’t until a high school art class opened her eyes that she really started pursuing art. She also credits the class with giving her social cachet, if not a way to sidestep her otherwise bookish and teacher’spet personality and discover an otherwise hidden world. “I was very academic and a bit of a goodygoody in school,” Williams recalls. “But through art, I was able to gain the respect and friendship of a few graffiti artists in my class. I was exposed to this whole creative community.” Soon she was going on graffiti missions with the boys, learning about the etiquette, hierarchy, and canon of the street art/graffiti world, as well as making her own mark. Williams credits the experience with supercharging her ideas about art, saying, “This was the first time I felt community, as well as competition, through art, and it was all wrapped up in this adrenaline rush.”

As high school transitioned into college, Williams followed the art that had enthralled her as a teenager, albeit in a bit more formal, structured environment. She attended the University of California Santa Cruz, where she earned a bachelor of arts, specializing in printmaking, as well as english literature. “I changed my major too many times trying to convince myself to do something more practical than graduate with a degree in art. But I couldn’t resist,” Williams remembers. It was then she realized that she wanted to take a shot at surviving in a creative industry.

College also gave Williams her first professional art gig. During her senior year, she won a competition to design a wine label for Bonny Doon Vineyard. “Designing wine labels or labels for microbrews had always been a goal of mine,” she says, adding, “I showed up with about a dozen hand-illustrated designs, determined to win, which I did.” The reward? Three months of work with the vineyard’s creative team and her first experience with the digital medium.

After graduation, Williams stayed in Santa Cruz and Bonny Doon Vineyard took her on as a design intern. This, along with a gig at Broprints, a printmaking shop in Santa Cruz, gave Williams outlets for refining her style and aesthetic. Williams’ current work finds a subtle spot between cartoons and impressionism. Rendering objects she sees around her—like buildings, streets, and trees—with a structured but equally loose linework, she evokes a vivid but hard-to-place nostalgia for the simple harmony found in the forms that make up the everyday. 

Composing things like Victorian houses or city streets, Williams expresses the familiar with an illustrative style that is both elegant and casual. Her work is divided into different themes, like “California” or “Black-andWhite,” each with a unique but cohesive style. To create her work, Williams often sketches by hand, usually in her kitchen next to a “fluff-ball dog” or in bed, then cleans the drawing up in Illustrator. Later, she runs to Kinkos, where she gets a high-res scan to “digitally develop the piece with color using Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.”


“It feels like I’m finally starting to carve out a niche for myself. This is rewarding even in my tiny little beach community.”

– Sarah Williams

As for what she’s trying to say with her work, Williams points to the little things, the physical mundanity that makes up all of our lives. A front yard with a car, a random street with an apartment complex, a fading Victorian; Williams takes all of these otherwise ignored dynamics and infuses them with the beauty they’ve always had. On a deeper level, Williams says, “The work attempts to discuss the sacrifices we make in order to live in this paradise [of California].”

Currently, Williams works three jobs, including her art practice, which only allows her to squeeze in art at night or on days off; but she’s not discouraged. “It feels like I’m finally starting to carve out a niche for myself,” she says. “This is rewarding even in my tiny little beach community.”

As for the future, Williams shows no sign of slowing her creative output. Her dream is to design for beverage or alcohol companies, but she shares, “Regardless of success or failure, I’ll never stop creating.” | Instagram: axewoundsally



# 93- Bree Karpavage – Collage Artist and Director of Santa Cruz First Fridays, and Downtown Santa Cruz Makers Market

Born and raised in an island community off the coast of Maryland, Bree Karpavage sought to experience the world outside her small town. Taking a break from college, she took to the road crafting jewelry, starting a family, and ultimately setting roots in Santa Cruz, where she has lived for 15 years. When the grind of sustaining her family by crafting jewelry became tedious, she sought ways to implement her experience selling at makers’ markets in supporting the creative community of Santa Cruz and began creating a new body of collage artwork. Bree received a degree in advertising design and began coordinating events at The Santa Cruz Mountains Makers Market to bring more regularly scheduled programming to the area. The connections she made through the makers’ market led her to a role as director of First Friday Santa Cruz in early 2020, the beginning of Pandemic lockdowns. Bree stood fast despite turbulence and worked to maintain a platform for artists to share their work. As the world recovers from the pandemic, Bree has created a new website, artist directory, and trip planning map for First Friday Santa Cruz to encourage folks to come out and support local art.

In our conversation, Bree shares her experiences creating art of her own, producing events, and the evolution she has gone through in various phases of her life.

Follow Bree’s artwork at and @bree.karpavage

Be sure to mark your calendars for the First Friday Santa Cruz and subscribe to The Santa Cruz Mountains Makers Market Newsletter.


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic (



Haley Cardamon first connected with the South Bay art scene in her teens when her family moved to Cannery Park in San José Japantown. Local purveyors such as Shorty Fatz Bicycles and Breezy Excursion exposed Haley to the vein of creativity that runs through San José. While taking courses at De Anza College, she found ways to combine class assignments with her interest in art. Those projects inspired her to start a magazine that could serve as a platform for underground art in the Bay Area. The publication was called B.A.C.K. (Bay Area Creative Klub). The connections Haley made through local art and curating the magazine led her to Local Color, a woman-powered arts nonprofit with a mission to build equitable opportunities for San José artists. Beginning as a volunteer, Haley would later earn a position on Local Color’s staff that deepened her connection with the community. Energized by the impact of San José’s creative culture, Haley launched an event named after the city. Initially called ‘408 day’, now called ‘San José Day,’ the event fosters community by curating an authentic representation of San José’s creative culture.

In our conversation, Haley shares her experiences curating B.A.C.K. magazine, connecting with the arts community, and finding her own path in the art world, her city, and her life.Make sure to come out on 4-08-2023 for San José Day, hosted by the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza from 12-6 pm.

San José Day 

IG: sanjoseday 

Haley was featured in issue 10.2. 


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic (



In the world of graffiti, elements of typography give way to the movement of calligraphy, which are elaborated on within the lettering of a simple tag or the abstract styling that adorns large mural pieces. The fundamental rules of typography and calligraphy may be adhered to in graffiti, but they are also broken, creating a more intimate expression of experience and existence. Author Robert Bringhurst says, at the heart of typography is the “dance, on a tiny stage, of the living, speaking hand.” While Bringhurst was in no way referring to graffiti, he inadvertently summed up the ethos of graffiti with the phrase “speaking hand.” Tracy 168, pioneer of wildstyle graffiti, bridges this connection between typography and lettering in graffiti when he succinctly, yet enigmatically, states, “You don’t want to lose the basis of the letter, but you want to lose the letter.” The very fabric of graffiti is a dichotomy between established form, practice,
and rebellion.

This is where we find Mesngr, who, as an adolescent, began spraying the names of punk bands behind an Alpha Beta grocery store in San Jose. He viewed the city as a living canvas: seeing art in cars, buildings, signs, and the people within the community. Like so many at that age, Mesngr’s rebellion consisted of the need to be seen, and he made art and graffiti his vehicles of choice. “When I discovered graffiti, I could say, ‘fuck you,’ or I could say, ‘Look at me—I exist!’ ”

A San Jose native, Mesngr is a self-taught illustrator, street artist, mentor, and teacher. The rebellious start to his journey blossomed into his work becoming part of the visual landscape of San Jose. Large mural works in Japantown, a high school mascot mural for the Yerba Buena Warriors, and his large bus and character piece in the Alameda Artworks parking lot are just a few works bearing the Mesgnr handle. In addition to seeing his many murals, characters, and tags, typical San Jose residents going about their day may not realize how many times they observe Mesngr’s work. The Ike’s Sandwiches logo or the Diamond Cleaning Services billboard are examples of Mesngr’s love of letters and design in a commercial setting. The quality of the crisp, clean lines apparent in all his work, something he has always strived for since watching his father use a fountain pen to pull perfect lines for his lettering and calligraphy, makes it hard to believe he pulls lines with spray paint. The range of Mesngr’s influences can be seen in his graffiti work, especially in his lettering where the Bay Area ‘funk’ style mixes with the wildstyle of New York and is highlighted by the playfulness of bubble-style lettering, seen most often on throw-ups (a style of quick graffiti lettering). In his pieces, he integrates the cartoon stylings of his early influences, Don Martin and R. Crumb, the free-form movement of Mode2, and the controlled pop art lines of Patrick Nagel. The result is his own vibrant style depicting the personalities that make up San Jose and creations from his own mind. Mesngr gravitates toward the female form to adorn his pieces, it being “simple [yet] beautiful and unique, expressing all my feelings [of] peace, love, darkness, pain, good and evil, mystery, sex, life, hope, and passion.” While at the heart of graffiti is an independent and personal intent to establish a presence among many, the concept of community plays a major role as all those personal voices, or “speaking hands” come together to paint a visual representation of a city’s soul. “Graffiti is an art form that is needed in our community, just like murals, because when you have a high-paid out-of-towner or even an established local artist painting a mural, it reminds us there’s a voice, a talent and passion in the people from these streets.”

Mesngr is very humble and would rather throw the spotlight on those that continually inspire him, like fellow artists Sean Griffin and John Dozier of the art collective TWC (Together We Create), which he is a member of. Even in the capacity of educator and mentor, he gathers more inspiration from the at-risk youth he teaches. “I hope and believe that art teaches them patience, the ability to see things through, and to stay creative. Those things apply to all parts of life and a young person’s future.” Mesgnr has surely shown he exists to help bring out the soul of San Jose and care for its future.
Instagram: mesngr86

Article originally appeared in Issue 13.21 “Sight and Sound”

Pedro Perez prefers to go by his native Nahuatl moniker, Aquihua, a name deeply rooted in Aztec culture which loosely translates to “the essence of water.” For the last 13 years, Aquihua has danced with Calpulli Tonalehqueh, an Aztec dance group based in San Jose. He teaches beginning dance classes and is what Calpulli calls the Second Palabra, or second voice. As Second Palabra, he supports the executive director and furthers the organization’s cultural work with community members and partners. Calpulli Tonalehqueh is grounded in wisdom, harmony, and culture—values they share through weekly community spiritual ceremonies at the School of Arts and Culture. 

Calpulli Tonalehqueh was established in 2004 and has grown to become the state’s largest Aztec dance group. During that time, the organization became a nonprofit and began applying for grants. Access to grants brought community partners such as SOAC, SVCreates, and Veggielution. Grants also brought a need for administration and bookkeeping. “My relationship with danza began as a spiritual thirst for knowledge of our culture. I wanted to reunite with my heritage, but I am a worker and like identifying areas where we need help,” shares Aquihua. “I noticed one area that needed support was the administrative and logistics role, so I jumped in.”

Over the last two years, Aquihua has participated in SVCreates’ Folk and Traditional Roundtables, convening with other culturally
rooted organizations within the county. In these meetings, he found community through everyday hardships and gained new perspectives on how to solve organizational and institutional issues. “It was helpful to know that organizations of all sizes were struggling. We no longer felt alone during this very isolated period in history,” he shares. 

“My relationship with danza began as a spiritual thirst for knowledge of our culture. I wanted to reunite
with my heritage.” _Pedro “Aquihua” Perez

Aquihua recalls the roundtable structure: “The format of each meeting was discussing a topic at large, breaking into smaller groups to get deeper, and then regrouping to share our thoughts, [which] was beneficial. While I had experienced roundtables before, they were not nearly as impactful as these,” he shares. “It inspired me to bring the format back to Calpulli’s leadership and implement it in our weekly gatherings. This change was very constructive for us.”

As Aquihua’s spirit continues to grow as a dancer, he is sure to create space within the organization for its members to grow as they need and want. “Dance is a doorway into something greater,” he shares. 

Calpulli Tonalehqueh

facebook: CalpulliTonalehqueh
instagram: calpulli_tonalehqueh

Article originally appeared in Issue 15.1 “Discover”

Ann Ostermann, Open Studios & Events Director

Ann manages the complex production of our annual Open Studios Art Tour with a joyful attitude. She is the liaison for several hundred Open Studios artists, event sponsors, and volunteers.

A third-generation Californian who has lived in Santa Cruz since 1981, Ann has a degree in History from UCLA. Ann worked as a production coordinator in the tech world for 14 years, served as a Girl Scout leader & trainer for seven years, and volunteered on the SPECTRA Steering Committee in the 1990s before joining the Arts Council in 2002.

Ann shares about her love and work with the artists of Open Studios and the changes she has seen in the art culture of Santa Cuz during her 20 years with the Art Council.

Apply to Become an Open Studios Artist

Applications for the 2023 tour will be available March 1, 2023. The tour is limited to adults [18 or older] who are residents of Santa Cruz County. Email Ann Ostermann, to be notified when applications open and receive guidelines and guidance.

Learn more about Santa Cruz County’s Open Studio and the other programs and grant opportunities at

IG: @artscouncilsc 



This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic (



How has San Jose influenced the artistic endeavors in your life and career?

Born and raised in the city of San Jose, Girafa has been writing graffiti across many Bay Area neighborhoods. It wasn’t until his conviction three years ago that he was forced to take time off for self evaluation. Since then, he has been exploring different mediums and coming to terms with himself on a personal level. Born and raised in the city of San Jose, Girafa has been writing graffiti across many Bay Area neighborhoods. It wasn’t until his conviction three years ago that he was forced to take time off for self evaluation. Since then, he has been exploring different mediums and coming to terms with himself on a personal level. 

How has San Jose influenced the artistic endeavors in your life and career?

San Jose is home base. I was raised here and influenced by local graffiti crews that run this city. Times have changed and with the relentless buff (term used to describe the attempts of city workers to paint over graffiti) and strict laws and punishments for graffiti artists, San Jose pushes you to work harder and take on more risks. I’ve taken what I’ve learned on the streets and applied it to my indoor work ethic. 

To some, you are the most infamous and most beloved graffiti artist of the Bay Area. Do you feel a certain responsibility to the kids and your fanbase?

I feel honored that people enjoy my work. Being an artist, I spend a lot of time in solitude and don’t notice how it affects others since I’m so focused on what I’m doing. If anything, I would want them to follow their heart in whatever they feel passionate about and overcome any obstacles that stand in their way. 

Who were your role models when you were growing up?

First off, my parents. My father taught me never to give up and to apply yourself. My mother took care of a lot of strays and pets, showing me and animals unconditional love. I watched a lot of cartoons growing up, so…definitely William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and John Kricfalusi, Mestre Waguinho and, last but not least, my old friend Buckethead.

Would you say your parents were supportive of your artistic endeavors?

My parents have always been supportive, now more so than ever. (laughs) I kept it a secret as much as I could when I was painting on the streets, but when the news broke about my arrest I remember them saying “We knew you painted graffiti, but not to this extent.” Now my mom says “You found a way to turn lemons into lemonade.” 

I believe my parents always knew I’d do something creative with my life. I was always playing [with my] imagination, locking myself away in my room drawing and I was definitely the black sheep of
the family. I’m really thankful they let
me be me.

Do you think that your work on the streets limited your full artistic vision, or was it just a different part of it?

Yes, working illegally on the streets can be very limiting; that’s where I became very fond of repetition. You want to get in and out before anyone notices or the police show up. I got bored with painting the same icon and started to migrate into other areas, still remaining within the giraffe theme and never veering away from it. 

Some graffiti writers are about style, where I was more about a theme. I made it a point to primarily use the colors black and yellow which is the strongest color combination used for street signs to get your attention. Now that I work inside my studio, not feeling rushed or having to look over my shoulder allows me to explore what I did in the streets and grow from that. So yeah, it’s different. There are things that I’d rather do in the streets and not in my studio, and vice versa. 

Why the giraffe?

I was given the nickname Girafa which means giraffe in Brazilian Portuguese because of my height. It stuck amongst my friends. I’ve always been fascinated with alter-identities so when I was given the nickname, I took it seriously and later developed a character to go along with the name.

Before the giraffe, I was all over the place with my art. But once I discovered the character, it felt right. Giraffes are such unique creatures. Also, it’s fun to pretend to be something or someone else. I’m able to get back in touch with my inner child, which some of us tend to lose sight of as we grow older.


On a deeper level, what do you think it is about alter-identities that fascinates you so much?

I was adopted at a very early age, which leaves a lot of questions about who I am and where I came from unanswered. I needed a way to fill in the blanks so creating alter-identities gave me the ability to create my own story—which became my personal way of dealing with my past. The thing that fascinates me the most is the mystery that surrounds the person. Graffiti is all about that, which is part of why I was attracted to it.


Do you think you’ve learned more about who you are with your experiences and through art?

Yes, but I’m always a work in progress. I don’t regret any of my choices. I’d say in the last few years, especially my time spent on house arrest, I did a lot of reflecting, searching, and reading as to what’s my purpose for being here. I strongly feel each of us has a purpose to fulfill whatever it may be. 


I don’t believe in bad circumstances, only lessons to learn and grow from. It’s crazy how you can trace all the steps that led you to where you are today, and the signs the universe will present to you so know you’re on the right path. When I’m in my studio alone creating work, it’s definitely therapy. Even though my work is fun and colorful on the surface, I spend the whole time working shit out in my head.

Ultimately, how do you want to be remembered?

What an awkward question for me to answer. Honestly it’s really not up to me. I’m only responsible for myself and I have my own expectations to live up to. It’s hard to already come up with how I want to be remembered when I’ve just begun.


Originally Appeared in Issue 5.0 Underground

Print version is SOLD OUT

I t’s a sell-out inside the Continental, with stylish folks from around the Bay Area crowded around a stage to see acclaimed LA trio KING. A handycam captures the groovy bass lines and delicate keyboard comps on a flat-screen television on the back wall, and the crowd shows love from start to finish, enough to earn an encore from the thankful group.

The performance is a watershed moment for the Changing Same (TCS), producers who host a weekly party at the Continental, showcasing musical minds interested in novel approaches to soulful music. On this night, Tommy Aguilar, well-known for bringing acts of this kind to San Jose under the Universal Grammar umbrella, is particularly proud. While a New York Times review may have just brought KING’s name into the mainstream, he’s been eagerly waiting to present the group since hearing their debut EP in 2011.

 “We’re like knives. We sharpen each other. That’s what good friends do. It deepens the sound spectrum, and that’s what makes the unit what it is. You need that.” – Cory Randolph

In a musical world increasingly obsessed with classification, TCS stands out. The night they host is more about a feeling than a certain sound, and the eclectic roster of talent they have presented over the past year is a testament to the night’s diversity. Internationally respected selectors like DJ Neil Armstrong, DJ Proof, and Shortkut have all headlined, as have underground production duo Christian Rich and red-hot Soulection crew mainstays, like J-Louis and SoSuperSam. Live acts have included jazz/electronic innovator Taylor McFerrin, house band Tortured Soul, and vocalist SPZRKT.

On any given week, any or all of the producing group’s four residents maintain the TCS heartbeat: ringleader Tommy Aguilar (Chale Brown, formerly Chatos1013), futurist Mark Gamab (MarkPLSTK), the eclectic Shea Modiri (DJ Shea Butter), and the innately talented Cory Randolph (the CME). DJ Bluz and DJ ThatGirl are regular contributors. So is the night’s spiritual forefather, DJ Sake One, whose weekly San Francisco party Pacific Standard Time (PST) provided a blueprint for TCS’s future success.

When Sake’s party was running in the mid to late 2000s, he remembers PST regulars would occasionally ask if he was familiar with Aguilar’s work in the South Bay. Though Sake can’t quite pin down when they first met, just as with the other TCS residents, Aguilar’s reputation preceded him.

“The Changing Same [production] was a concept that literally came from a conversation me and Tommy had about music and society, the idea that ‘roots’ and urban music forms can [be] and often are the most progressive, quickly evolving, and influential genres,” shares Sake. The name came from the essay, “The Changing Same (R&B and New Black Music),” written in 1966 by African American writer and music critic Amiri Baraka.

“I wanted to bring a live element to a nighttime party—not just DJs,” Aguilar adds. “The Changing Same [concept] was a platform for this modern take on where R&B, soul, and hip-hop were kind of going,” Aguilar points out. “It had electronic elements. There was jazz in there, funk…. It was speaking to all those genres.”

With Pacific Standard Time and Universal Grammar as copresenters, the Changing Same debuted at Mighty in San Francisco in 2007. That night, the party presented LA duo J*Davey. Platinum Pied Pipers soon followed.

Randolph entered the TCS picture around this time, though he started as just an ardent PST attendee. “I was going [to PST] religiously because I was looking for something that catered to my musical tastes,” he says. One night, he finally decided to approach Sake to tell him he was going to be his shadow. Sake laughed, and Randolph insisted he was serious. Thus began a mentorship that helped Randolph finally pursue the art of DJing, a dream he’d had since first attempting to scratch on his Big Bird 45 record player at age four.

After a short hiatus, the Changing Same returned as a monthly series in 2010, this time migrating to the South Bay. With partner Michael Grammar, Aguilar and Universal Grammar presented LA beat scene luminaries like Flying Lotus and Gaslamp Killer in addition to Bilal and Theophilus London. However, Aguilar felt the party was moving away from its original intent, and placed the name on hiatus for a second time in 2011, opting to program under the banner Live at the Pagoda.

Then, in 2014, the Continental opened on South First Street—a new bar and performance space featuring craft cocktails, a hip ambiance, and—most importantly—an incredibly well-tuned sound system.

“It was the perfect room for what I wanted the Changing Same to be, in terms of how it was going to influence [the music scene],” says Aguilar. He soon took over the Thursday night spot, launching TCS as a weekly in January 2015.

Aguilar began assembling his roster of residents. He brought Randolph into the fold, as well as Mark Gamab and Modiri. Just as Randolph was, the two were aware of Aguilar from his work as a promoter. Both considered themselves fans.

“Tommy was bringing people that I wanted to go see, and I just wanted to be involved,” recalls Gamab. He and Modiri had become supporting fixtures for Aguilar’s shows inside the Pagoda, a makeshift performance space that was formerly an Asian fusion restaurant inside the Fairmont.

There’s an undeniable camaraderie among the four in person. Aguilar is in awe of Randolph’s wide-open musical palette, adding, “His ear is just deeper than the rest of us.” Modiri describes Randolph as “the yin to my yang.” It’s a feeling Randolph shares “without question,” adding, “We are kindred spirits. I’m always hearing something I’ve never heard before, and I DJ with him at least once a week.” The other three credit Gamab’s ability to stress the electronic component of the night.

“Everybody’s pushing each other,” notes Randolph. “We’re like knives. We sharpen each other. That’s what good friends do.”

Essentially, the format is not to follow one, giving the residents as much creative space as possible to share the sounds they, and their audience, love. The intent is to educate as much as it is to simply rock a crowd. That freedom remains a pleasant surprise for featured acts, even veterans like Shortkut. As Gamab remembers, “[Shortkut] said it’s one of the only parties where he’s been able to play whatever he wants and the crowd responds to it.”

“The crowds we produce in San Jose, whether they’re coming from the East Bay or San Francisco to join us for those special nights, the energy’s there, man,” adds Aguilar.

The cultivation of TCS as a home for hearing innovative, soulful sounds isn’t simply an outgrowth of Aguilar’s many years of programming locally. As he points out, the attendees from a decade back have largely moved on and started families. TCS has found a new crowd, and that makes Aguilar hopeful for what can be accomplished in his hometown.

“Due to Tommy’s and other people’s work in San Jose, it is arguably a more music-friendly city now than San Francisco is, and equal to Oakland,” says Sake. “The work they put in opens doors for all music lovers in Northern California. They deserve our appreciation and gratitude for that.”

 In time, the crew hopes to export the night to other cities. For now, they’re content to keep playing what will soon be your new favorite song.

“I see cell phones Shazaming, trying to figure out what [song] that was,” says Randolph. “That’s how I know I’m doing a good job—that’s when you know you’re in the right space.”

Tommy Aguilar

instagram: thereal_chalebrown

Cory Randolph

instagram: the_cme

Shea Modiri

instagram: djsheabutter


Mark Gamab

instagram: markplstk

Sake One (Featured in issue 9.2)

(not pictured)

instagram: sake1derful

A series of locally owned shops line the sidewalk down Santa Clara Street in San Jose: a plant store, a record shop, and eateries. The latest addition to this neighborhood is a boutique art gallery called 1Culture. This gallery started as a traveling pop-up and moved into a storefront across the street from San Jose City Hall. The shop, as it’s referred to by the small team that runs it, is owned by local real estate agent and art supporter, Andrew Espino. He has a story to tell–just not his story.

Right before the pandemic lockdown in March 2020, Espino was driving his seven-year-old son to karate practice when his son posed a question: “Dad, what do you do to help people?” Baffled, and a little offended, Espino asked his son what he meant. “I know you sell real estate, but what do you do to help people? To help the world?” Espino recalls, “That really dug at me. It’s how your kids see you.”

Espino studied business at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, not entirely sure what he wanted to do with the degree. Sometime in college, he met and started helping a local real estate agent with administrative tasks. His very first real estate investment was a multi-family home located downtown on Reed Street. Espino collaborated with graffiti artist Scape Martinez to create a one-of-a-kind mural that would live on the building. The painting process and unveiling of the piece turned into a community event, coordinated by Espino. He learned that he loved creating a space for both local art and the community. While the building has been sold since then, the mural lives on today. It continues to read, “culture.”

Espino continued to work with local artists, helping them organize pop-up galleries. In the process, he learned the artists’ stories and promoted their art with folks who stopped by. “I wanted to understand the hustle that an artist goes through, from having to set up shop to selling their work. Some days we would leave with everything we came with, but to see an artist go right back out there the next weekend inspired me.” Espino’s time traveling to far off cities in search of art got his mind turning. He wondered, “How can we help change some of these artists’ lives? What tools do I have that can help? Giving them a platform? That’s when it hit me—that’s how we’re going to make change. We’re going to help artists.”

From then on, Espino started his arts-focused business. Once he knew the story or meaning behind a piece, he loved it even more. He wanted others to experience that same feeling. “I realized I wanted to find a way to continue sharing artists’ stories far and wide. The meaning behind a piece makes it much more important.”

After a year of coordinating pop-ups, Espino opened 1Culture as a permanent space to uplift artists and bring community together. The gallery’s name, 1Culture, is rooted in originality, creativity, and unity. “If you believe in those three things, then you are part of one culture. We are a Chicano-owned gallery, but we are open to everybody and want to uplift all artists and communities.”

“We like to ask each artist to tell a story—what is their art about? That’s a huge part of our mission. We encourage them to give us the full body, the details of what they’re trying to say.” – Andrew Espino

The gallery plans to rotate shows every six to eight weeks, curating a mixture of hand-selected artists and announcing calls for art. “Right now, there is a long list of artists we would like to highlight.” Espino runs 1Culture and coordinates art events around town while continuing his career in real estate. His first large event, KixCon, brought together sneaker heads, visual artists, musicians, and dancers at Eastridge Mall.

“We like to ask each artist to tell a story—what is their art about? That’s a huge part of our mission. We encourage them to give us the full body, the details of what they’re trying to say. We believe that behind the artwork is a mission, a purpose. We want to tell those stories.”

Espino has continued to incorporate art into his real estate career. He has procured a large art collection over the last 20 years. Occasionally, he will use his private collection to dress up the houses and apartments that he is selling, giving the space a local and welcoming feel. Today, Espino has an answer to his son’s questions. “When I opened the shop, I thought about what I wanted people to see or how they would feel—and with everything going on in the world, I really wanted people to feel present. When you walk in here, you can take a time out from the world and really get lost in these stories that haven’t been told, and you’ll be in a place where you can feel at home.”
136 East Santa Clara Street
San Jose, Ca 95113


While other children played at house or hospital, Anjelah Johnson stacked books onto an imaginary desk, scattered papers everywhere, and fantasized that she was a stressed-out white-collar worker. “That was my dream growing up,” Anjelah reminisces. “When I become an adult, I’m going to have a messy desk and a phone and be stressed out from a long day at work.” Young Anjelah resolved to be a lawyer—mainly because they worked at desks. But that’s not quite how things turned out. Today, Anjelah works in front of a camera as a standup comic and actress rather than behind a desk.


I think my natural gift is the ability to take people on a journey through a story—the ups and downs of the story, the rhythm of the story, the pauses of the story.

Like her unconventional childhood dream job, Anjelah probably doesn’t fit your expectations of a standard comic. For one thing, she prefers watching crime dramas (or as she puts it, “something murder-y”) to sitcoms. If Forensic Files isn’t on, then she’ll settle for Friends. But on a more profound level, Anjelah can’t be reduced to simply her stage presence. When she’s not entertaining under the spotlight, she’s still warm and friendly. She’s still humorous. But her vibe understandably shifts when she isn’t the focal point for a crowd of thousands. Her energy dips an octave into an easygoing assuredness, and her jokes highlight the color of her conversation rather than infuse each and every line. This dynamic is even more evident during a photoshoot, when Anjelah cracks a joke and pulls a silly face at a curious passerby before composing her features into model-serious expressions for the camera.

This entertainer’s delightful sense of humor is an indisputable part of her personality. There are many flavors of comedy, and Anjelah prefers anecdotes over one-liners. “I think my natural gift is the ability to take people on a journey through a story—the ups and downs of the story, the rhythm of the story, the pauses of the story,” she explains. She also possesses quite the arsenal of impersonations and accents.

In fact, one particular accent and her experiences at a nail salon would fuel the launch of her career. It started with a need for material for a free joke-writing class. When Anjelah signed up, she had only recently moved from her Bay Area hometown. She was new to LA, finding her way among the city’s colony of actress hopefuls. For the class, Anjelah wrote about a conversation she’d had with her nail salon lady, Tammy.

The skit was posted on YouTube, and then, all of a sudden, a lot of attention was coming Anjelah’s way. “My messages from people started blowing up,” she recalls. “I had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of messages from people all over the world.” They wanted her to come perform. People in the industry wanted to meet her. At the time, she had all of 12 minutes of material.

“I didn’t know how to be famous. I didn’t know how to have fans,” Anjelah remembers. “I thought I was supposed to respond to every person who messaged me, so I would spend hours upon hours replying to people. It was exhausting.” At one point, Anjelah remembers thinking, “OK. This is either a little phase I’m going through, or this is the beginning of the rest of my life.” It quickly became evident that her career as a comedian was not temporary.

At the beginning of 2007, Anjelah had no bank account, no auditions, no agent, and nothing affirming she was on the right track. By the end of that year, she had an agent, a manager, a spot on MADtv, and a headlining standup act touring the country. Since then, she has appeared in commercials, guest starred in TV shows like The Shield and Ugly Betty, and appeared in films such as Our Family Wedding, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, and The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. Two of her acts are featured on Netflix, and from January to June of this year, she’s booked for 88 standup shows.


“Trust the journey and the process that you’re on, and grow where you’re planted.”

Anjelah is, perhaps, best known for a role she fashioned for MADtv. The character, Bon Qui Qui, is a sassy food-service employee working through an “out-of-the-hood” program. As cashier, Bon Qui Qui Rust velvet blazer, Bonito Silicon Valley; black cami, Scotch & Soda; green glitter shorts, Bonito Silicon Valley Trust the journey and the process that you’re on, and grow where you’re planted welcomes customers with “Welcome to King Burger, where we can do it your way, but don’t get crazy.” Anjelah says the character is fashioned after her “ghetto fabulous” little brother, Kennie. “Pretty much whatever my brother says, I put into Bon Qui Qui’s mouth.” Another source of inspiration was a girl from a drive-through in Memphis, Tennessee. “It was her disregard for other people,” Anjelah remarks. “She was not very self-aware in the way she communicated—but she was very confident. It was almost like I was at her house asking her to make me some food.”

Unsurprisingly, the larger-than-life Bon Qui Qui broke out of her MADtv skit and proceeded to strut her way through a number of music videos, pursing her lips and flourishing her talon-length decals disapprovingly at anyone in close proximity. Her videos portray an alternate reality, where you can persuade kidnappers to let you go by pulling some dance moves and thug life consists of temporary tattoos and threatening people with squirt guns held sideways.

There’s something appealing about the filming environment, Anjelah notes. “If you’ve ever gone to summer camp—that’s what filming a movie is like. You meet all these new friends and you bond, and it’s a cool experience for however long that is.” Her hope is to act in the next breakout TV show, but she recognizes the importance of appreciating where she’s at. “Trust the journey and the process that you’re on,” she advises. “And grow where you’re planted.” Such sage advice is one final reminder that Anjelah is not your cookie-cutter comedian.


Writer: Johanna Harlow|Photographer:Arabela Espinoza| Producer: Kristen Pfund |Art Directior: Elle Mitchell|Stylist: Mariana Kishimoto|Hair Stylist: PJ Ciraulo|Make-Up Artist: Renee Batres|Sister Extraordinaire : Veronica Johnson Location : Winchester Mystery House Wardrobe: Scotch & Soda, Bonito Silicon Valley, Donald Pline

All these comments and likes boosting our self-esteem 

That instant gratification is poisoning our dreams

Social media pulling the plug on real time

I’m just trying to stay above it when it flatlines.

– Amplified, “Lovie”

IIn an age when many bank on virality, Andrew Vicente—“Amplified” to his fans—has been following the old model for building a fan base: touring as much as possible, making fans out of strangers, and selling music and merch hand-to-hand himself, one person at a time. Some might call his approach dated, but it might also help explain how, 10 years deep and still under 30, he’s already had fans tattoo his lyrics to their skin.

Over coffee at Forager in downtown San Jose, Vicente relates the time when his friend Gabe shared some lyrics by rapping over a beat he played through a karaoke machine. That moment in eighth grade was the exchange that inspired Vicente to pick up a pen and start writing his own rhymes. “I knew this is how I can really share who I am and not feel like this depressed little kid that can’t connect with other people. Everything clicked for me when I did that,” he recalls. “I’ve been obsessed. This is all I think about.”

“I knew this is how I can really share who I am and not feel like this depressed little kid that can’t connect with other people. Everything clicked for me.”_Andrew Vicente

Amplified is a two-city rapper in the truest sense, splitting his early years between Santa Cruz and San Jose. Once he transferred over the hill to Gunderson High School, he started sharing his rhymes with a history teacher and rapper named Apocalypse, who hosted a hip-hop open mic at Iguana’s called Lyrical Discipline. He urged the budding lyricist, whose ears were tuned to the complex lyricism of Immortal Technique and Minneapolis’s Rhymesayers crew, to take part; through connections he made on the scene, Vicente hit the road with the Vans Warped Tour in 2013.

That initial Warped Tour experience proved both inspiring and sobering. He and fellow support acts set up and dismantled their stage for every date of the tour. His limited stage time came while larger adjacent stages were doing changeovers, forcing him to immediately engage listeners or risk losing a crowd. In those make-or-break circumstances, Vincente learned how to perform. He headed out again in 2014, making waves as a duo act with singer-songwriter Brandon Scott and grinding out space in 2016 alongside fellow South Bay rapper Andrew Bigs.

In 2017, he encountered an offer he couldn’t refuse: Santa Cruz reggae rock heroes the Expendables asked him to handle work for their upcoming tour, with the chance to be an opening act. It’s a partnership that’s already taken him across the country twice. “I’m probably at the best position in my career I’ve ever been,” he notes, 48 hours removed from a tour stop in Bend, Oregon. “Even though I’ve been doing this for 10 years, I’m really going all out now.”

His recent single “I Am” earned a re-tweet from none other than Boy George. Follow-up “Illusions” provides the soundtrack to his first full-length music video. Both came in advance of his debut EP, Not Quite There Yet. The album’s a surprising listen, one that challenges listener expectations. There’s lyrical rapping, reggae vibes—he says his Santa Cruz roots made him destined to embrace the sound—and even a ballad sung in Spanish. The title alludes to the fact that these were all half-finished ideas he finally completed; it also suggests that, if the songs are a stretch for listeners, they might not be fully aware of the breadth of his talent just yet.

“It all started from me trying to find myself. Now I’m seeing my words and the music I wrote help [listeners] find themselves.”_Andrew Vicente

Adding to that conversation is Catch Lightning, his duo with San Jose stalwart Rey Res. It’s a project that defies listener expectations on both sides. For Res, it’s a showcase of his lush, evocative production ability; for Vicente, it’s been a chance to create freely with a musical partner—a new experience for a man used to piecing songs together in his bedroom.

When talking about what’s next, his restless mind is already scheming how to get back out on tour to retain the fans he just cultivated while touring with the Expendables. There’s a new project in the works. But even if it all stopped today, he knows he’s already made a lasting impact. “It all started from me trying to find myself. Now I’m seeing my words and the music I wrote help [listeners] find themselves,” he says. “If I never make another song again, it’s [still] mission accomplished.”

Social media: stayamplified

David Valdespino Jr. – Content Production Manager

We are excited to introduce Content’s new Production Manager, David Valdespino Jr.

A Singer-Songwriter, vinyl Dj, and bicycle enthusiast, David brings his passion for community and a degree in English education to Content’s mission of connecting the South Bay through the art of storytelling. David will apply his experiences to writing, editing, curation, partnership development, and lifting community voices.

Fellow creative community members, please meet David Valdespiono, Jr. 

Photography by Paul Gallo

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:
Follow Jack at jackpavlinamusic

In high school, Raul Peralez couldn’t have told you what he wanted to do when he grew up. Since that time, he has been a mathematics major, a substitute teacher, an emergency medical technician, a fashion model, a police officer, and (most recently) District 3 Councilmember. He believes this string of experiences has given him a wide range of perspectives. In his current position as councilmember, Peralez encourages community member involvement through participatory budgeting, a process that includes brainstorming ideas, encouraging volunteers and experts to develop project proposals, and voting on and funding projects. As he continues to look out for our city’s interests through his duties as councilmember, Peralez will soon be volunteering as a patrol officer for the Police Reserve Unit.


“The role of being a police officer prepared me the most for this role as a council representative. The main basis of both roles is being a public servant, serving the community members here in San Jose. As a patrol officer, I worked with people on some of the most challenging days of their lives. I also have worked all over San Jose—been able to drive through it, walk through it, see the areas that are more challenging and less, the infrastructure that is older and newer, areas that have investment and those that are lacking investment—so I really had an opportunity to get a good view of the city.”

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Graphic designer Shannon Knepper cut her creative teeth in Seattle and Pittsburgh, but for the past five years, she’s called San Jose home. With a focus on printmaking, Shannon creates greeting cards, T-shirts, and other 2D art through her brand, War Admiral Press. More recently, she’s started a new project called Bike City: San Jose, inspired by the South Bay’s love of all things bicycle. Between her new line of bike art, freelance jobs, and personal projects, Shannon has quickly found her niche in the South Bay community though her eye-catching work.

What brought you to San Jose?

We lived in Pittsburgh for five years while my husband was attending school. We stayed there until he got a job offer from San Jose State University in 2013. Since then, I’ve just been learning what makes San Jose cool. For example, one night I saw the bike party roll past my house, and I said to myself, “What’s this? This seems too weird for San Jose.” On the surface, it doesn’t seem that quirky, but just like with any new city when you move, you just have to look around a little bit, then all of the sudden you see what makes it special.

Where do you get inspiration for your work?

I’ve always done things like silkscreening and letterpress stuff. There’s always some element of printmaking involved; that’s what I like to do best. I love any kind of vintage sports stuff. I get a lot of inspiration from books I find in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, the main branch in San Jose. It’s an amazing place-they have a treasure trove of old books with great illustrations.

How has moving to San Jose influenced your work?

I started doing San Jose-inspired posters and prints since moving here. For example, there’s something of an orange sauce obsession in San Jose. La Victoria Taqueria and Angelou’s Mexican Grill, both local restaurants, have their own versions. So I made a design of a row of orange bottles as a tribute to the sauce. I’m learning what makes San Jose cool and doing some of my art around that; I feel like there’s space for that. When I go to shops

around here, I don’t see San Jose-branded stuff. There doesn’t seem to be a huge sense of pride. When you go to other cities, the airports are full of local art, but San Jose has some growing to do in that way. The artists are here, but we’re still finding our place.

What has inspired some of your bike-themed art?

There’s a lot of weird bike history in San Jose. The first velodrome was built here, and there’s another one in Hellyer County Park. There’s a lot of weird, quirky bike things all over the city. I was also noticing it was such an easy place to bike around since it’s flat and it’s always nice outside. I’m not exactly a “real cyclist.” I don’t have a nice bike or special clothing or anything like that. But the area is ripe for more cyclists, even casual ones.

I’m making more bike-themed art thanks to receiving a small grant from Knight Foundation. They support art and other community projects in San Jose. I had some greeting cards with bikes on them for sale in Japantown, and they saw my work there and asked me to do more bicycle-themed art for the city. Now my War Admiral Press work is stuff that I just enjoy doing, while my new project, Bike City: San Jose, is where I want to make cool art for the city.

War Admiral Press | | Instagram waradmiralpress


Many artists focus on only one type of media for their entire career, but Avery Palmer isn’t like most artists. He has delved deeply into painting, drawing, and ceramic sculpting throughout different phases of his life. Inspired by surrealist painters such as Salvador Dali, his figurative art presents cryptic metaphorical scenarios exploring the complex nature of human existence. In his artist’s statement, he says, “I invent scenarios that can be thought of as puzzles with no right or wrong solutions—and perhaps no solutions for them at all.” His fantastical and often eerie creations can evoke a wide array of reactions, but that is what makes them so compelling.

Palmer was born and raised in Humboldt County. He recalls his first experiences creating art: “For as long as I can remember, I always drew. As a kid, I was really into airplanes, cars, stuff most boys like. I would try to capture the essence of that thing as I saw it.” In addition to drawing, he was also a Lego lover, building new creations constantly. “Related to sculpting, Legos may have started me out,”

Palmer muses. “You can make what the instructions say or let your imagination run wild.”

After graduating from high school, Palmer was accepted to Humboldt State University (HSU), where he pursued his bachelor’s degree in studio art. He drew exclusively until halfway through college, when his work developed into oil painting. At the same time, he enrolled in a ceramics class, which he found he preferred. “I was frustrated [with painting] back then because I couldn’t replicate what was in my head,” Palmer acknowledges. “I found ceramics to be more intuitive. It was easier to take the 3D image in my head and create it out of clay. With painting, it’s more difficult.” His newfound passion for sculpting led him to enroll in a ceramics course every semester afterward.

As graduation approached, Palmer was excelling in ceramics. “My professor was asking me what I planned to do, but I didn’t know exactly yet,” Palmer says. “He recommended that I enroll in honors ceramics.” This class could be taken independently even after graduation, and Palmer ended up taking the class multiple times over the next few years. Without the pressure of his college studies, Palmer spent his day at the campus studio, living and breathing his work.

HSU participates in the California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art (CCACA), and Palmer was asked to represent the university. The CCACA is held at the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, California. Not only was the conference a place to showcase his work; it was also a place to network and sell. “It was my first introduction into a ‘market’ where I could actually sell my work,” Palmer says. “It got me serious about thinking of my art as a career.” After he’d attended the conference multiple times, the John Natsoulas Gallery approached Palmer to offer to officially represent him as an artist. They would showcase his art locally and at various galleries around the United States. Palmer accepted and is incredibly grateful for this partnership: “It was nice to know my work would get out there and be seen by more people.”

Three years after graduating from HSU, Palmer was accepted to the master’s program for spatial art at San Jose State University (SJSU). Palmer was focused solely on sculpting, but because SJSU’s art program encouraged students to explore various media, he picked up his paintbrush again. “I didn’t experiment a lot, but I found my way back to drawing and painting about halfway through my master’s,” Palmer says. “By the time I left, I was focusing solely on painting. My ceramics were feeling a bit repetitive. Somehow, I felt like I had grown as an artist. When I went back to painting, I could paint in a way that I couldn’t before.” His paintings, like his sculptures, capture his fascination with the human condition, each piece a riddle for the viewer to solve. 

Painter, Tyson Johnston, and his paintings—with their bold fantastical images in thick layers of watercolor and other media—reach out powerfully to audiences, in both theme and style. Inspired by influences as diverse as Tibetan Buddhism, skateboarding graphics, and tattoo art, Johnston’s work is steeped in allegory and symbolism. And the former head of the tattoo shop Death Before Dishonor is constantly perfecting new techniques to express his fierce, dynamic visions. Calling him meticulous would be an understatement.

“I’ve been doing art my whole life, but at a certain point I figured out that I liked painting more than tattooing. Tattooing definitely put me in a different direction, but really it just made me feel bad about myself, whereas painting makes me zen out. It’s much more meditative. And since it’s not delicate, I normally like working on wood, being able to really sit into painting. But it’s always cool to get out of your element and do something different. I look to everything for inspiration—I’m always trying to challenge myself. It’s kind of like organized chaos, right?”

If you run into Jai Tanju, he’s either somewhere in San Jose on his bike, camera in hand, or out on a skate or photography trip in some serene and strange landscape, or he could be in Seeing Things Gallery, which he owns and operates. In recent years, Tanju has built the gallery into a constantly revolving showcase of compelling artists, and—other than a really good library—one of the largest zine and art book collections in San Jose. But the sprinklings of the skating world in the gallery offer only a glimpse into Tanju’s long and prolific career as a photographer for top skateboarding publications, his extended relationship with Enjoi Skateboards, and what he credits for giving him an eye for finding and exploring the art in his own photography.


“I really didn’t get into photography until I was in my 20s. After high school, I traveled, finally ending up back in San Jose, and decided to take a photo class at West Valley. At the same time I was living with skater Jason Adams, and I was getting more into photography because my friends were skating. They were just turning professional, so people would come shoot photos of them. I would watch, thinking, okay, this isn’t anything special. What changed was that someone had come to actually do that work— take the photos—and it occurred to me that I could do that too.”

Eva Rorandelli is a fashion designer and founder of Evaro Italia, following in the footsteps of her father Massimo and his father before him, who began manufacturing leather goods in Florence in 1943. Eva grew up helping her father in his stores in the historic San Lorenzo shopping district in Florence, surrounded by Renaissance art and architecture. She later studied painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence before moving to New York City to pursue a career in modeling and, eventually, fashion design. Since her father’s passing in 2007, Eva has built on his legacy of classic Italian style, launching Evaro Italia as an internationally known luxury fashion house recognized for its timeless elegance and refined craftsmanship.

In our discussion, Eva shares her journey from moving to New York without speaking English to starting her fashion line. 
IG: evaroitalia

The highly anticipated Evaro Italia Spring/Summer 2023 collection will be fully revealed on November 13th at the El Prado Fashion Showcase in Palo Alto, California.
Created by Eva Rorandelli, the new collection is titled “Rosa di Cristallo” and features boldly colored reflective, multifaceted textiles and sparkling crystals that clash with architectural and glamorous natural shapes. The atmosphere merges modern sophistication with the brand’s timeless international taste. Reserve your tickets today to join us at the exclusive launch of the new collection. Tickets. (


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021: Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic Spotify:



Jazz Saxophonist

Twitter: oscarpangilinan

Born and raised in San Jose’s Alum Rock neighborhood, saxophonist Oscar Pangilinan began playing in jazz ensembles in middle school, and his passion for music continued as he pursued a degree in jazz studies at San Jose State. In fact, passion is a key concept for Pangilinan as an inspiration and driving force behind his own creativity as well as something he hopes to instill in his students. Along with being co-leader of the jazz, funk, and R&B group the Bad Ones and performing alongside Bay Area musicians whenever the opportunity strikes, he works as a woodwind instructor with the Alum Rock Jazz Band and an educator for SJZ Summer Jazz Camps. He also performs with his trio as part of the SJZ Jazz Jam.

“I count myself fortunate to be surrounded by so many different people from all around the world—and living in Silicon Valley means we get to enjoy the very best that each culture has to offer. Choosing to make a career in a creative field means the desire and push to remain passionate about what you do is very, very real. I’m inspired by people who possess great passion for what they do.

“Teachers inspire me and [that] is probably a huge reason why I became one myself. And teachers aren’t just those in the classroom; they’re everyday people you meet, people in your family, and even your friends. Great teachers…take something you thought was complicated and overwhelming and make those feelings go away by making it relatable and understandable. Working with young students as much as I do, one of the biggest criticisms I have is that we’re loading our kids’ schedules with too much and demanding a level of productivity from them that’s on par with some CEOs. My greatest fear with all of this is that we’re teaching an entire generation of students to only get ankle deep in many subjects, rather than picking one or two that they truly are passionate about.

“We have an amazing cache of creative artists here in San Jose and Silicon Valley. I hope to show others around me a path they could follow, and I want to encourage them to be passionate and take chances.”


THE SVLAUREATES PROGRAM is a prestigious honor given annually to South Bay–based artists in a variety of categories and disciplines. Awardees for 2020 are in two categories: Artist Laureate Award, for established artists working in any discipline and Content Emerging Artist Award, for young artists showing promise for continued growth and excellence. The Laureates are chosen based not only on their individual body of work, but also on their community involvement, educational efforts, volunteerism, and other forms of engagement. As educators, artists, and performers, each of them has devoted time to their own craft while also seeking to mentor others and forge new cultural connections in the diverse Silicon Valley community.


Ricardo Cortez embodies San Jose’s culture at its core, combing his love of art and the lowrider community. He earned his master of fine arts in digital art at San Jose State University. Cortez developed his graphic design and fine art practice within the intersection of technology, sculpture, and culture. It reimagines his Chicanismo, suggesting a new approach in studying our active relationships with technology and longing for nostalgia. He continues to exhibit, teach, and produce culturally significant work that encourages interaction, inviting the audience to become an integral part of the art. By day, Cortez works as a marketing director at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship of Santa Clara University. He is actively cataloging a digital archive of rare lowrider print material and remains dedicated to his pursuit of service to the community.

“I pride myself as a creator and an aficionado of the obsolete – using personal experience and cultural identity as a framework for my artistic expression.”

During Cortez’s term as Creative Ambassador, he will produce a series of workshops for youth that will culminate in a community art exhibition. The project, and Cortez himself, is infused with inspiration from San Jose. “My creative expression project revolves around mixing lowriders, art, and technology to show the San Jose youth how we can create new media art.” In the workshops, participants will produce one-of-a-kind sound-reactive artworks. “What inspires me is knowing that I live in a city that was the foundation of innovation that spread across the country. From computers to the San Jose lowriders that reimagined paint jobs and hydraulics, San Jose has been the epicenter of so many things.”

Instagram: tijuanarickart

This article originally appeared in Issue 14.4 “Profiles”

Walking into the Edward M. Dowd Art Building at Santa Clara University, you may think you have entered the geological history department. However, not all things are as they appear at first glance. The monoliths that welcome students are, in fact, intricate revisions of history, memorializing the destruction of an iconic para-fictional Hello Kitty monument. 

Kathy Aoki’s satirical work lives within the cracked veneer of modern society, driven by concept and executed by any medium necessary. The humor on the surface of her pieces attracts viewers like moths to a flame but quickly gives way to profound introspection. She hopes viewers might examine the pervasiveness of cultural assumptions and corporate fanaticism with a tilted head. Her work, iconoclastic in nature, inflates the absurdity of modern icons until they pop while still treating viewers to intricate and stunning works of art. 

Kathy Aoki is a Silicon Valley artist laureate and Lee and Seymour Graff professor in Santa Clara University’s art and art history department. Her work can be found in major collections across the
United States. 

Growing up on the East Coast, Kathy was exposed to institutions of fine art and feminist issues at a young age. Moving to California in her teens, she experienced new humorous and experimental art genres. She realized, “When work is confrontational, it can be very distancing to a large part of the audience. Not many people will be willing to wade through the anger to get your message.” Earning a master’s degree in printmaking, she later experienced an awakening while visiting the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, known for its anachronistic architecture and exhibits on early technology. She explains, “I realized I was making fake museum work. Sometimes it isn’t easy to think about how I can make things without art history. I am always referencing things.” 

Kathy’s work touches on assumptions about gender, wealth, culture, and history. “Part of my work takes things that seem important now and asks, ‘is this so important that in 400 years we will be visiting museums to learn about it?’ I use institutional presentation styles because those signify value sets from a different time. They were controlled by people with the will or money to make
those selections.” 

Aoki begins with a research topic gleaned from the news or pop culture. By introducing those concepts in a framework, she develops para-fictional narratives based on reality that boil over into a world of fantasy. She adds, “I try to lure viewers in with familiar formats and then slip in my commentary. It is not just conceptual—I want to provide a visual reward. We hold certain expectations, stereotypes, or values as the way things should be, but when you see them shaken up, they become funny. If you are willing to go down the rabbit hole, you get more bang for the buck.”  

Her work leverages traditional styles and ancillary materials to make her fictional narratives seem real. While her original passion for printmaking is still a large portion of her portfolio, she enjoys continuously pushing her technique and allowing the medium to follow her ideas. She adds, “I have done printmaking, sculpture, dioramas, virtual reality, animations, and motion graphics. In that way, my technical skills have expanded far beyond what I was
trained in school.” 

Working as a professor has allowed her to learn through teaching, taking advantage of prior knowledge, and benefiting from a classroom of mistakes and problem-solving. Silicon Valley’s experimental, anything-goes culture has influenced her process. A concept may crystallize in her mind, but she explains, “Everything is always harder than I imagine, but I continue to jump right in, thinking ‘how hard can it be?’ I craft a show based on key pieces that fit exactly into the project. If one piece fails, it creates a hole in the narrative. I am always working on a deadline to bring everything to that level. I don’t have any time for failures.” 

Kathy’s art is filled with questions once a viewer identifies the loopholes within the concept. She believes “artwork has a lasting impact when it brings up questions instead of seeing something and saying, ‘I know that’ and moving on. The imagery is important to me because it allows people to believe. You can’t unsee something.” 

Kathy is taking on a role as Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Santa Clara University, and exhibiting in New Museum Los Gatos beginning in August 2022 and the B. Sakata Garo Gallery in Sacramento in 2023. She is experimenting with new forms of photopolymer intaglio printmaking, with goals of going bigger than ever before, constantly weaving between concept, medium, and approach. Kathy explains, “I hope that people understand the breadth of my work, the ideas behind it and the sense of humor. It is not a hobby. The work is funny, but this is very serious to me.”
Instagram: kathy_aoki_artist


This article originally appeared in Issue 14.4 “Profiles”

In spite of life’s struggles and the adversity she’s overcome, the lyrical has remained a constant and crucial part of LaToya Fernandez’s life. Fernandez’s love of writing dates back to when she was a young girl: at just eight years old she wrote her first book of poetry. She decided early on she wanted her life to revolve around writing and rapping. However, her plans to pursue those dreams took a backseat when she began college and wound up homeless. Fernandez spent her years in school couch surfing and on the cold streets of the East Coast. With no permanent roof over her head, she learned to be strategic in her relationships with people. She got a membership at the YMCA to shower at the facilities the gym provided and spoke to university officials to get free meal passes.

Her time as a homeless student overlapped with her time as a Marine and with an internship with Disney, a time Fernandez describes as “adversity city.” Fernandez was interning at Disney when her identity crisis as a young black woman was reinforced. Fernandez was told she couldn’t be photographed for her ID unless she straightened her hair or wore a wig. Fernandez’s small afro was budding dreadlocks, a look she took pride in and refused to change. Consequently, her time at Disney was cut short, and she went back to Boston where she was studying.

Fernandez also continued on with the Marine Corps, and it was there that she was sexually assaulted by a gunnery sergeant. When she reported the assault, she was questioned and ridiculed. “I was told, ‘You are nothing. You are a young little girl in a man’s world.’ ”

After being sexually assaulted, discriminated against for her hair, and struggling to overcome homelessness, Fernandez decided she needed a clean slate. She found her fresh start in 2009 when she moved to the Bay Area, bringing along the resilience she had gained from past experiences. “I remember when I left, I got out thinking that I’m never going to let anyone silence me again or make me feel like I deserve to be violated or that if I speak up, my voice doesn’t matter,” Fernandez said.

Her love for writing was renewed, and Fernandez found comfort and empowerment in her words—words drawn from the pain she experienced and rose above. That renewal of her love for writing and rap led Fernandez to the dream she once had as a young child. At 21 years old, Fernandez made her way into the music industry with the hip-hop group Ten Worlds. The group was inspired by the Buddhist concept of overcoming or being present in the 10 different states of mind: Hell, hunger, animality, anger, humanity, etc. The group was dedicated to spreading messages of peace and love through hip-hop. “As hip-hop artists, we were making sure we were saying really conscious things and speaking about justice and peace and trying to permeate that into the universe,” Fernandez said.

“A student’s voice is the most important voice in the room. As a young person you can never allow your voice to be silent. Stand up, raise your fist, and protest if you need to.”

Fernandez’s new start in California and with Ten Worlds became a literal rebirth when she and a group member had a daughter together in 2009. Her daughter, now 10 years old, is aptly named “Lyric.” In college, Fernandez wrote a short story titled “Lyric,” the first time she received feedback for her creative writing and received admiration from a professor who encouraged her to share her writing with the world. The story illustrated her love for friends and family as though they were songs in the album of her life. She vowed to name her first child after her story, so that she or he might carry on the legacy of sharing the message of love.

After traveling and performing with Ten Worlds, it dawned on Fernandez that her gift as a lyricist was limited by the music industry. What she really wanted to do with her musical abilities was to empower the next generation. Fernandez began working as a tutor at the YMCA after school and during recess, and when she wasn’t in the classroom, she was working as a crossing guard, working her way up as a tutor until she eventually became a teacher. Fernandez has taught at Rocketship Discovery Prep and Downtown College Prep El Camino where she exposed her students to the history that is often left out of typical school lessons and taught about the harmful effects of systematic racism.

She took her pain, hardships, and lessons learned and turned them into what she calls her gems. Fernandez’s gems are the rap or spoken-word lyrics she shared with her students, spreading empowering messages of self-love. She shared her experiences as a woman of color and connected with them in ways they were familiar with. She took her student’s background into account as she developed her restorative justice approach to teaching. The majority of her students were Latino, specifically Mexican. To connect with them, Fernandez taught what she says is their true history, using Aztec drumming, for example, to bring out their excitement and curiosity.

Her teaching reached a new level when she began Queen Hype, a school club that provided the environment young girls need to develop self-love and empowerment. There, Fernandez emphasized the significance of women in leadership positions, building pride around what others might perceive as a hindrance. An effective exercise Fernandez used to teach this consisted in having participants list the reasons they think they are not powerful. The format starts out as “I’m powerful but…” and is changed to “I’m powerful because…” Fernandez taught students that rather than looking at their hair, skin color, and their cultural background as something that hinders them, they must embrace these features and use them as assets. Queen Hype became Youth Hype, to include both boys and girls. Youth Hype has spread across the country, reaching places like Chicago, and offering students the opportunity to participate in workshops and lead protests.

Fernandez is no longer a teacher but serves as the dean at Downtown College Prep El Camino Middle School and remains active with Youth Hype. As for the future, she has big plans. In the years to come, Fernandez plans to run as the council member for District 3. “I think it’s time to change who’s at the table,” Fernandez said. Her roots in rap remain intact. “It’d be cool to have an education-activist rapper that’s in charge of policy,” she laughed.

On a plane ride back from Connecticut last year, Fernandez wondered to herself, “If I could impart any wisdom on the youth, what are some gems that I could drop on them?” In the span of a seven-hour plane ride, Fernandez wrote out her gems, carving them out with care and realized she had written a book with her rap lyrics serving as the foundation. Fernandez’s gems are woven within her book titled Truth, in which she provides both students and teachers with an interactive way to understand complicated concepts like relationships and systemic racism.

After struggling as a college student to find the power in her voice, Fernandez has grown to understand the journey required to find it and never lose it to silence—a prominent theme in her lyrics and teaching lessons. “A student’s voice is the most important voice in the room,” Fernandez said. “As a young person you can never allow your voice to be silent. Stand up, raise your fist, and protest if you need to.”

Facebook: QueenHypeNonProfit

Instagram: toya_p.y.t

Miguel Machuca likes working in charcoal because it’s like ash—like what his body will one day become. His words, like his work, have a macabre sensibility, but he speaks with a warm smile and an optimistic tone. Of his drawings he says, “They’re poems. You see images. I see words. They tell me their stories and what their titles should be.”


Artist Profile: Miguel Machuca from David Perez on Vimeo.

Machuca lives up to the mythos of the artist as a wellspring of impulses, of discrete risks, only partially calculated. In early August of 2018, he will exhibit at the Triton Museum—a show he is working on so constantly and fluidly, it’s as if his ideas live in his body as much as his mind. Circumstances have compelled him to be uniquely aware of the body and its fragility. He relays the details of his father’s death by car accident and his own bout with cancer. Of the diagnosis he says, “Well, I wanted the darkness. Here it is…I embraced it, and I started seeing life positively. My old self died. My old ideas and beliefs died with it…and I started seeing things that I never saw, that I never paid attention to.”

For him, art and life are bound up and indistinguishable from each other. “Art is life itself,” he says, “and life is constantly expanding. It never stops, and if it stops, it’s about to retract and follow its other motion.” Other motion? What he means by this is unclear, which makes it both ominous and attractive.

Kevin Morby | This Is a Photograph | (Dead Oceans) | Released: May 13, 2022 | Written by Taran Escobar-Ausman

Kevin Morby’s seventh studio album, This Is a Photograph, is a meditation on the bittersweet lessons of the past and the vulnerability of immortality, a theme given weight by old family photographs discovered after his dad had a health scare. Morby fleshes out this concept with his trademark retro folk-rock sound adding new dimensions with string arrangements and some of his strongest lyrical devices to date.

The existential burden of Father Time becomes integral to the proceedings. Morby sings on “Bittersweet, TN,” “Devoted myself to the passing of time… // The living took forever, but the dying went quick.” The mighty Mississippi River further entwines the proceedings with metaphors of time and destiny. Morby purposefully hunkered down in one of the River’s most mythical and alluring cities, Memphis, to draw meaning from a place known for straddling this life and the next. The song “Coat of Butterflies” serves as the album’s thematic core, which gracefully eulogizes the enigmatic Jeff Buckley, whose drowning in the Mississippi on the banks of Memphis added to the town’s eerie and mythic pull. The sprawling piece shimmers with simple, intertwining guitar, piano, and harp, which is all tied down with the surprising collaboration with jazz drummer, Makaya McCraven. Buckley’s own struggles with fame and purpose in life become research notes on Morby’s own vision quest filling the album, “Yeah, the sky can lift the river, and spread it out over the farm / Life’s just one long day, babe, but I’ve been awake all day long.”

The album further solidifies Morby’s staying power as he continues to grow out of the shadows of his influences and refines his simple, yet magnetic, vocal delivery. Rather than his sound being an impressionistic facsimile of artists past, Morby examines snapshots of their lives to honor their influence. He sings on “Goodbye Good Times,” “I miss the good times, Mama, they’ve gone out of style / And I don’t remember how it feels to dance, goodbye to good times.”

Favorite Track: “Coat of Butterflies”
Social media: kevinmorby

Quelle Chris | DEATHFAME | (Mello Music Group) | Released: May 13, 2022 | Written by Demone Carter

I have long felt the world has failed many great artists and musicians. There are way too many examples of artists bestowing great work upon the world only to be ignored and uncompensated in their lifetime. To make matters worse, sometimes we can only give artists their proverbial flowers after they die. It’s part of the cruel joke of creating art. But does it have to be that way? This is one of the questions Quelle Chris asks on his latest album, DEATHFAME. 

Quelle Chris is among the small cadre of rappers whom I consider to be the vanguard of the form. What makes him special, even amongst his most talented peers, is his ability to communicate complex ideas in a way that feels simple and accessible. This existential artistic quandary is worked out over a production pallet that ranges from dark and sludgy to light and hopeful. This is perhaps best captured on the song “So Tired You Can’t Stop Dreaming.” On this track, which has a brilliant feature from Navy Blue, Quelle Chris opines, “If Heaven’s got a ghetto hell’s got a resort.” 

Another track that captures Quelle Chris’s talent for working at the intersection of happy and sad is “How Could They Love Something Like Me,” where Chris isn’t rapping at all but rather singing in a heartfelt way that doesn’t compromise his signature style. This speaks to the breadth of DEATHFAME, which also has several amazing tracks that fall into the category of rap for rap’s sake. Songs like “Feed the Heads,” “King Is Back,” and “CUI Podest” show that as artsy as Quelle Chris is, he is still not above crushing sucka emcees. 

The production duties for DEATHFAME were split between Quelle Chris himself and frequent collaborator Chris Keys. Soul-stirring piano riffs and grungy slowed-down samples collide to make a sound that is undeniably Quelle Chris. Let’s give him his flowers now. 

Favorite Track: “So Tired You Can’t Stop Dreaming”
Instagram: quellechris


ELUCID | I Told Bessie | (Backwoodz Studioz) | Released: June 10, 2022 | Written by David Ma

One of the year’s top standouts, I Told Bessie, comes from Bed-Stuy Brooklyn’s Chaz Hall, better known as ELUCID, one half of indie-rap powerhouse Armand Hammer, whose work has quietly bubbled to the surface in recent years—notably 2021’s Haram, a vaunted album with stalwart producer, the Alchemist.

Originally from Jamaica, Queens, ELUCID’s latest is a reference to his grandmother Bessie who is revealed to have been his earliest supporter. It’s a sentimental album that doesn’t immediately hold itself to be particularly personal, yet it’s peppered with wisdom that covers both complex emotions of the human condition, as well as modern day New York where it was crafted. ELUCID’S breakneck delivery is hurling, typically through clusters of detail that punctures the varied production. His writing gives you fragments of imagery that reveal itself not unlike when a camera slowly pulls back on its subject. On the ominous “Split Tongue,” he says: “Vibrating between flesh and teeth, air escapes. / Calling your name when least expected… / no strays, no mistakes.”

I Told Bessie features a mixed bag of beneath-the-surface producers who construct a bevy of fitting backdrops for ELUCID’s powerful stanzas. Child Actor, August Fanon, and Sebb Bash are just a few names adding stellar contributions. Past collaborators Kenny Segal and the Alchemist also reliably put their mark on the album. Cuts like “Bunny Chow” and “Betamax” are a marriage of avant-garde rap modernism between ELUCID and his cast of chosen beatsmiths. The 13-track release is not background music to be sure. An all-star cast of contemporaries also fasten their name to the victory—Pink Siifu and Quelle Chris, as well as ELUCID’s longtime partner, Backwoodz’s label chief and one of modern rap’s most poignant writers, billy woods, who appears on three cuts. 

The year in rap thus far has been an embarrassment of riches, with mainstreamers like Drake and Kendrick tossing their hat into the ring at the midway mark. However, the indie rap scene proves vital as well, with many standouts offering equally compelling yet contrasting material. This is ELUCID’s third solo album, but it feels more like an arrival.

Favorite Track: “Betamax”
Twitter: elucidwh


Staples Jr. Singers| When Do We Get Paid |(Luaka Bop) | Released: May 6, 2022 | Written by Brandon Roos

Authenticity burns white hot from the opening notes of “Get on Board,” the first song on the Staples Jr. Singers’ nearly lost album, When Do We Get Paid. It’s a fitting primer for the 11 songs that follow: sparse yet soulful, informal yet intimate, searching yet faithful. 

Deeply inspired by the Staple Singers (the group’s name pays homage to their heroes), When Do We Get Paid calls out to God while keeping it funky. This is uplifting music wrought from, and created despite, hard times, a product of growing up in the Deep South post-Jim Crow. It’s also music recorded by teens not defined by tradition. 

Paid is the group’s only full-length effort. Recorded in a long-gone studio in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1975 and released that same year, the album was long confined to the ears of those who happened to pick up a record while the group was touring the region with other gospel acts. 

The shouted group vocals on “I’m Looking For a Man” spill over an untidy joy that feels more suited to a house party or tent revival than a Sunday worship service. There’s an unvarnished quality to the tunes in general that stands in contrast to the ornate, choir-led gospel of Rev. James Cleveland and the subtle harmonic mastery of classic jubilee quartets like the Dixie Hummingbirds. 

There’s also an eeriness that pervades the album you wouldn’t expect from devotional music. “Somebody Save Me” carries a blues edge, the vocals from Annie Brown Caldwell and Edward Brown injecting a life-or-death urgency that grates against the slow stroll of the rhythm section. On “Too Close,” A.R.C. Brown’s contemplative lead guitar serves as the song’s emotional linchpin as lines like “Don’t you know I’m too close?” give the impression that the devil is right on singer Edward’s heels. 

Rough around the edges but brimming with fire and spirit, When Do We Get Paid is not afraid of sharing about the scrapes earned on the road to salvation. 

Favorite Track: “Somebody Save Me”
Instagram: junior.singers

The Cilker School of Art and Design 2022

The Cilker School of Art and Design has developed a world-class community college of art and design that exposes students to cutting-edge technology and critical thinking.

The school offers interdisciplinary opportunities in architecture and drafting technology, engineering, fashion design, interior design, paralegal studies, healthcare, and park management with three departments—Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, and the Performing Arts.

The West Valley College Art Department offers courses in various topics and media, including art history, ceramics, computer arts and animation, design, drawing, painting, photography, and sculpture. Art Department facilities include a bronze foundry, state-of-the-art computer labs and lecture halls, ceramics, painting, and drawing studios. And offer programs in animation and computer art, drawing and painting (including color and design), photography, sculpture and ceramics, and art history.

The Department of Design offers programs that embrace design as both a process and a vehicle to make a positive and meaningful impact on people’s lives and society. With a focus on architecture and landscape, architecture, communications design (digital media, graphic design, UX), fashion design and apparel technology, and interior design.

The Performing Arts Department includes emphasis on two general areas, music and dance and theater and film.  

In this issue, we featured six notable students from the various disciplines of The Cilker School of Art and Design as they move forward in their craft and careers. In addition, we’d like to introduce you to the Dean of the Cilker School, Shannon Price, to hear her journey and the goal of this ambitious West Valley College program.


Anat Baird

Anat Baird has been involved in theater arts since she was in middle school, when she fell in love with performing in community children’s theater. Since then, she has taken voice lessons and participated in school productions. She started attending West Valley College in 2019 and joined the recently formed drama club that, unfortunately, didn’t continue after the pandemic hit. When classes went back to in-person, Anat reached out to the department leader, Laura Lowry, to revive the club. Since then, Anat has been the president of the West Valley Drama Club for the last two semesters. On top of that, Anat performed on mainstage and studio productions at West Valley and, over the summer, directed a children’s musical. On the side, she teaches private voice lessons. Anat plans on graduating this spring and transferring to a four-year university next fall.

Instagram: anatbaird


Fashion Design
Frances Cooke

Frances has been making things since before she can remember, and textiles and clothing have a special place in her heart. When she had the chance to return to making things after a long hiatus, she chose to start with the patternmaking class at Cilker School of Design, and there was no going back. An aspiring technical designer, she enjoys the nitty-gritty of production as much as design and has a passion for repair and repurposing of clothing. After taking classes all over the Bay Area and a stint as an alterations tailor, she came back to Cilker to complete her fashion design degree. Her time at West Valley has given her the foundational skills to go on and co-found the postpartum clothing label Maia Mothers, for which she leads design, product development, and production.

Instagram: franceslcooke 


Kate Kanemura

Kate has always loved creating art, using whatever materials she could get her hands on. She enjoys planning different creative concepts and talking with her friends about her creative ideas. Kate has used numerous artistic mediums, from traditional graphite pencil and charcoal to ceramics and digital media. She strives to achieve the title “Jack of all trades” by experimenting with new styles and ways to express herself. Disney movies and shows were a crucial part of her childhood, and Kate has become interested in animation. Kate aspires to learn as much as she can about different forms of art and to work for a major animation studio in California. Her collection includes multiple experimental pieces to help craft her own unique style and try new things.

Instagram: k.squared_art


Interior Design
Orit Avinoon-Metz

A graduating interior design student from West Valley College, Orit Avinoon-Metz brings her native Israeli roots to her California-inspired designs. She finds inspiration in her memories of her homeland, whether of the unique spring wildflowers or the color schemes that combine the Mediterranean Sea with a desert landscape. She incorporates this inspiration into modern living, creating spaces that are both unique and practical. When her kids got to school age, and the thoughts of getting back to work surfaced, Orit decided to follow her long-time dream and passion and embark on a career in interior design, leaving behind a successful career as a chemical engineer in pharmaceuticals. She looks forward to many years of creating beautiful spaces.


Spatial Artist
Sarah Kissinger

Sarah has always been interested in creating pieces using solid colors and strong shapes to create images with a clear focus. She loves jumping between different media and inspirations to create pieces that are thought provoking and enjoyable to look at. She believes art should not be held down to represent an exact movement or statement, but rather created for enjoyment. Sarah is particularly inspired to repurpose materials such as cardboard, PVC pipe, and scraps of wood. She also loves drawing inspiration from sources that would not traditionally be considered artistic. Sarah hopes to one day use her skills to become a prop maker for film and television.

Instagram: sadnspicy


Digital Media/Animation 
Sienna Hopper

Sienna is a queer artist who found graphic design during a time in her life when she felt isolated from the world. Having dealt with social anxiety for a large portion of her upbringing, Sienna had trouble fully communicating her thoughts and feelings. She knew what she wanted to say, but vocalizing these messages was a struggle. However, in her junior year of high school, she finally found an outlet that did more than just give her a voice; it gave her a mission. Graphic design allowed Sienna to be the author of her dreams—building and telling stories through visual means. Today, she strives to tell the stories of others who struggle to have their voices heard.

Instagram: only_irose
Instagram: wvccilkersoad

Amy Hibbs is a visual artist and environmentalist whose work addresses themes of belonging and empathy through interaction with the urban landscape. With a desire to increase healing for individuals, communities, and ecosystems, Hibbs uses a variety of media and techniques to highlight the dualities of joy and pain, beauty and disgust, slow and fast. Having received her master of fine arts from Mills College and the Graduate Affiliate Award from the Headlands Center for the Arts, Hibbs continues her art practice by way of cyanotype, painting, drawing, and more recently, branching into social practice. “I’ve always been really sensitive to what the observer or the viewer is experiencing when they look at art. I think a lot about what that might be for the other person.”

“I’m inspired by my surroundings in San Jose’s urban streets and gardens to wholeness to what is discarded.” 

The Transformation Station, Amy’s creative expression project as a Creative Ambassador, is a participatory art piece that uses the creative output of visitors to feed hungry composting worms. Participants are invited to contribute a bad thought, deadly secret, or expression of grief in the form of a drawing or words on newsprint paper. The paper is then shredded and fed to the worms. The resulting worm castings are rich fertilizer for nourishing plant life. “This project not only allows people to interact with the piece but by extension to interact with me. I wanted to have that connection with them on a deeper level than just putting something on the wall and observing them from afar while they look at it.”

instagram: instahibbs

Amy Hibbs 14.4 from Content Magazine on Vimeo.

TThe Midtown Arts Mercantile on Lincoln Avenue houses some of the city’s most innovative and creative businesses, while connecting the Willow Glen neighborhood to downtown San Jose. There’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. For lifelong friends Derek Tam and Brian Edwards, along with accomplished beer-brewing figure Peter Burrell, the right place is Hapa’s Brewing Company on the south end of the Mercantile building. The right time is now.

Brian and Derek met in their little league years in Los Gatos and have remained friends ever since. Both returned to the area after college, and Brian laughs as he reminisces about their first go at brewing. “I had no job and no prospects. In that period, I got into homebrewing. Derek was with me the whole way.” It started with some basic supplies and ingredients, along with a recipe from the homebrewing store. Both craftsmen found homebrewed beer was fun to make—and even more fun to drink. They watched their hobby evolve as they started to explore more advanced systems and delve more deeply into the art and science of brewing.

The name Hapa came naturally to them as they brewed for friends and family. It’s a play on the word hops, but it also has another dimension. “It’s a Hawaiian word,” explains Brian. “The literal translation is ‘mixed.’ ” Not only is it reminiscent of the mixing involved in brewing, but it’s also used to describe people of mixed ancestry. “Derek and I are both ‘Hapas,’ ” Brian says. “I’m half Japanese and half Caucasian, and Derek is half Chinese, half Caucasian.”

As Derek found his way into investments and finance, Brian worked in tech, and it was then that their hobby called to them. Brian jumped out of tech and spent a year brewing with Peter Burrell at his Dempsy’s Brewery in Petaluma. A Saratoga native, Peter understands the South Bay area and, with Derek and Brian, saw the potential for success in opening a brewery in this underserved market.

Their quest for the perfect spot had begun. “We wanted to find a space that was unique and special,” Derek explains. After having seen over 50 different spaces, they came across a location that was actually a storage unit. Yet it had all the makings of a distinctive space. “We tried to visualize what it was going to look like and knew it would work,” Derek says. The space is right in the middle of the burgeoning Midtown neighborhood, and they were originally unaware that the area would be going through some redevelopment. “It’s cool to be a part of that and see Willow Glen connect to downtown and the Rose Garden,” Brian adds. “This Midtown neighborhood is becoming a spot to be.”

They are happy to be a part of this evolving location, since the city seems to be backing the development of the neighborhood and the residents are enjoying the changes. Many people have taken to walking and biking to Hapa’s, something they had not done until recently. “Everyone in the neighborhood’s been telling us they’ve been excited for us to open,” Derek says, delighting in the brewery’s reception. “We have been, too! We want to be a destination spot in the community.”

With board games, shuffleboard, cornhole, occasional live music, and food trucks, the dream of Hapa’s becoming a destination is turning into a reality. The vibe and immediate goal of the brewery’s brand focuses on the overall experience of the tap room. “We want to make sure people have a good time,” Derek explains. Currently, the bar has three classic types of beer on tap: IPA, blonde, and a porter—all brewed with style.

Fans of the brewery can take Hapa’s beer home with them or give it as gifts to friends, thanks to the brewery’s crowler (can-sized-growler) program. A one-time-use, filled, and sealed-on-the-spot can is fast becoming the industry standard for takeaway beer. These recyclable vessels keep beer fresh for longer than a traditional growler and just look more fun. “It’s like a big, old-school Foster’s can,” Derek smiles. “It’s nice to know that people can share these with friends—and ultimately share the experience they have when they come here.”

460 Lincoln Ave, Ste 90
San Jose, CA 95126

114 S. Santa Cruz Ave.
Los Gatos, CA 95032

instagram: hapasbrewing
facebook: hapasbrewing
twitter: hapasbrewing

This article originally appeared in Issue 9.2 “Sight and Sound”


By day, Cromwell Schubarth is editor of TechFlash and senior technology reporter at the Silicon Valley Business Journal. By night, Schubarth puts down the digital camera and pursues his passion for instant photography. Using a variety of old and new film types, Schubarth captures the artistic side of the Bay Area through a retro lens.

How did you first get interested in instant photography? My father was a photo engineer and quality controller at Polaroid for 25 years, so I saw every new camera and film that came out before it was released. I started with one model called a Swinger, which I thought was pretty cool. Our Christmas cards and family photos were all done with Polaroid. But while I was exposed to it early on, I moved away from doing anything with instant photography for most of my life. Four years ago I somehow got involved in a shoot using Lomography, the old toy plastic cameras, which reignited my interest. It was also a way to connect with my dad, who died last summer. In these past few years, it was a way for us to talk.

What is it about the medium that draws you to it? What I like about instant photography are the qualities to it that you can’t achieve with digital photography. I shoot digital Monday through Friday: digital is my work life, analog is what I do for pleasure. There’s something about a Polaroid camera that breaks the ice when you’re shooting on the street. If I point an iPhone at someone, they’re not always welcoming. But when I point a Polaroid, people are drawn to it like magnets. They want to know what it is and even ask to have their picture taken.

“There’s something about a Polaroid camera that breaks the ice when you’re shooting on the street.” _Cromwell  Schubarth

I also enjoy really thinking about what I’m going to shoot. You don’t want to waste your film, especially expired film that’s not made anymore. Unlike digital photography where you shoot a thousand pictures and weed through them, you have to spend a lot of time thinking about what it is you’re shooting: how you’re shooting it, the lighting, everything. It becomes much more of an intense event.

Have you ever been frustrated when you didn’t capture the shot you envisioned? I never throw out anything I shoot, no matter how bad it might be. I’ll go through them looking for photos for competitions and photo shows. I’ll find pictures that I thought were horrible but now are beautiful. Sometimes it’s because the photo has aged and naturally become more sepia. As I said before, I spend a lot of time planning a shot in my mind, so I’ll often be disappointed with the photo in my hand. But when I look again months later without that baggage, I’ll realize it was something beautiful.

Your work seems to focus on both people and places… I have a deep fascination with people, particularly artists. Many of the people I photograph are creative types: artists, models, and other photographers. I see them at SubZERO in San Jose, and festivals in San Francisco and Oakland. I get an energy and vibe that makes them fun to shoot. I’ve always been fascinated with shooting abandoned places: if I can get into old buildings for a shot, it’s fantastic.

Are you more influenced by the subject of your work, or the medium? I spend a lot time trying to match the film with the subject. Often I’ll lug three different cameras and multiple film types to see what I’ll use. One project I’ve developed is shooting the San Jose’s Day of the Dead festival in October. This event is special because I shoot with a rare film called Chocolate, a special type of Polaroid film that creates a chocolate brown image, cooler in tone than sepia. Ever since I did the first shoot four years ago, friends who saw my work have given me Chocolate film to use for this project. At some point, I’d like to turn it into a zine or a show.

What are you working on this year? I’m focusing on new projects for the 12:12 Men group, an invitation-only international art collective where twelve men from around the world pick a new theme for each month to shoot. This year, we also have to do something “new” each time we shoot: a new technique, a different approach, etc. So I’m looking forward to that challenge.

flickr: cromwell_schubarth

instagram: cromschu

twitter: svbizcrom

This article originally appeared in Issue 9.2 “Sight and Sound”


Jordan “Gatsby” Melvin was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, by a mother who loved R&B and a father who loved funk, two genres the 23-year-old rapper still loves to this day. But it didn’t stop there. “I was listening to anything that sounded good in my ears,” he says.

When asked about inspirations for his own musical productions, Gatsby quickly listed over one dozen artists and producers, including Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, J Dilla, DJ Premier, and Pimp C—rest in peace. All of these individuals were creating music during what is known as the Golden Age of hip-hop music. “The Golden Age is the Golden Age because, if you ask me, there was no better music being made,” Gatsby says. “There was so much passion, so much energy behind the music.”

When Gatsby first heard the 2006 song “U and Dat,” by Vallejo’s own E-40 in collaboration with T-Pain, it was his first introduction to the Bay Area’s unique style of hip-hop—commonly referred to as “hyphy”—and he loved it. “When I heard that for the first time, it was so different. I realized that it wasn’t just accepted [in the Bay], it was huge,” he says. He admired the acceptance of that difference. Over a decade later in 2018, at the age of 20, he decided to relocate permanently to San Jose.

“It’s a creative wonderland,” he says. “The Bay Area is such a close-knit community when it comes to creativity. Everyone feels welcome.” He wasn’t getting that vibe from the East Coast’s “hustler culture,” and he didn’t feel it in Southern California, either. “The creative community of Southern California doesn’t care about you or what you’re doing unless you’re ‘somebody.’ I think that’s hella wack,” he says. “ ‘Nobodies’ are made into ‘somebodies’ every single day. It’s all about access and opportunity.”

About his lyrics, Gatsby says, “My lyrics are real life. They’re about interactions that I have either seen, learned from, or was involved with.” Being a Black man in the United States, his real-life experiences often lead him to rap about Black oppression and liberation. He aspires to channel that same energy into his music. “I put a lot of myself, what I truly believe, and my heart into my songs. Because I want them to mean something. I want them to provoke people so much that it damn near radicalizes them.

Naturally, his lyrical influences are more than musical artists. “I spend a lot of time educating myself,” he says. “I watch a lot of documentaries and interviews.” The subjects of those documentaries and interviews are often civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, James Baldwin, and Fred Hampton. “I love listening to what all these people have to say. If they were alive today, the world would be completely

Since arriving in San Jose, Gatsby has used that access and opportunity to stay busy in his quest to become a “somebody.” In 2021 alone, he released two albums, Currently Unnamed and Quake Space, and played almost a dozen shows despite not having a car. “I’ve performed in every major city in California, other than Hollywood,” he says. “I’ve been everywhere, and I’ve built a name for myself off
of my grind.” His most recent album, Butter, was released this past July.

Gatsby is confident that grind will eventually lead him to worldwide success. In fact, if optimism and confidence were a disease, Gatsby would be patient zero in the next pandemic. “I think my chances of making it big are so high,” he says. “My music sounds incredible. Even if you don’t like the lyrical content, you cannot say that my music does not sound good. With my passion and my drive, there’s nothing that can stop me from making my dreams come true.”

The topic of oppression is not only a consistent throughline in his musical poetry but also peppered his interview for this piece. He claims that during the Golden Age, record labels—“the bourgeoisie”—didn’t realize how powerful media, and hip-hop in particular, can be. Now, he says, the music industry actively works to promote hip-hop artists that perpetuate negative stereotypes of Black culture. “The labels see to it that only people who are pushing a negative influence to youth are going to make it. Over time, that has built a society that only values artists perpetuating these negative stereotypes.”

That’s something he believes he can help change. “Media is the most powerful weapon in the world. Hip-hop, I believe, is the most popular genre in the world. If you can effectively control what you want to emulate, I genuinely feel that you can control the future. I plan to be something the world has never seen, heard, felt, or experienced. If not my music, what I do outside of music is going to change the whole world.” 

Instagram: jaayy_gatsby
SoundCloud: jaydotgatsby

Priya Das, Co-founder & Chief Programming Officer of Mosaic America

Priya is the creator of Mosaic’s inspired framework for social cohesion using the Arts and drives the creative vision, programming strategy, artist relations, and community outreach.

In this episode, Priya discusses how being an art critic and columnist, her history classical Indian Bharatanatyam performer, and the Hawaiian/Slide Guitar have merged to help form Mosaic America, cofounder with Usha Srinivasan. In addition, Priya shares how coming to America put her on a journey to find her “giant self.”

Mosaic America  (

IG: @mosaicamerica (
   @priyadasmosaic (

Podcast and interview with cofounder Usha Srinivasan


#87 – Angela Ostermeier – VP of Development, Cinequest

Angela joined the Cinequest team as the Events & Development Manager in 2018 and has expanded her role and responsibilities to VP of Development.
Angela works closely with sponsors, venue locations, and VIPs to ensure that Cinequest events such as Maverick Meet-Ups, Nightly VIP Soirees, and Opening & Closing night parties go off without a hitch. She prides herself on her attention to detail and drive to make each year’s CQFF a success.

In our conversation, we learn about Angela’s interests in the film industry, her experiences before coming to Cinequest, and her plans and ambitions in the world of filmmaking. She also gives us some insight into the year’s in-person festival, her favorite film, and announces the new Cinequest Beer/Wine Garden, which ones today (8/16/22) and runs 11:30a to 7p daily through the festival. The Unzipped Pavilion is a great venue to meet visiting artists and each other over affordable kraft drinks, food trucks, and entertainment.

(Located at the stunning new Unzipped Pavilion, across from the California Theatre at 350 S. 1st Street 95113.)
Recorded in the Media Lounge at AC Hotel by Marriott Sunnyvale Moffett Park.

(Sidenote: I mistakenly call the AC at the “Marriott Park.” That is incorrect, is it the AC Hotel by Marriott Sunnyvale Moffett Park)

AC Hotel Signature Cocktail – a refreshing Cucumber Gin and Tonic
Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival Summer 2022 will feature 450 artists arriving to present the world’s finest new films in downtown San Jose and Campbell.
Cinequest In Person, August 16-29

IG: cinequestorg

James G. Leventhal is an enthusiastic art leader and visionary who has worked at top museums throughout the Bay Area and the United States. Now, as of January 2022, he is back in San Jose as the executive director of the Institute of Contemporary Art San José (ICA).

In this episode, James shares about major figures who shaped his path into this work. You’ll hear about the artist who sparked his early pivot from wanting to be an artist to wanting to support other artists, and the hero who inspired his view of museums as inclusive community centers.

With these influences and his professional experience, James comes to the ICA with a down-to-earth and sustainable vision that breaks through barriers and invites people in. Listen in on what this means for the ICA as a place for community to come together through immersive, experimental, and collaborative art.

More info about 

ICA San Jose (

IG @icasanjose (


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic


Sitting along an unassuming suburban strip in South San Jose, at the edge of Los Gatos, Greaseland Studios isn’t exactly a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it recording studio—it’s more like a squint-and-you’ll-stillmiss-it kind of space. After getting close enough, the sound of blues music, muffled in the lowslung three-bedroom house sitting inconspicuously between its neighbors, clues you in.

Perhaps this suburban exterior fits awkwardly with the studio’s name, but once inside, the moniker suddenly feels like the only one. Seemingly every surface inside the crowded house is plastered with photos, records, and memorabilia. Sound absorption panels are haphazardly stuck to the walls and ceiling. A grand piano fits tightly in the kitchen, and guitars of every kind hang from the walls of the living room—where more pianos and a set of drums sit. It’s grungy DIY, and where, for the last 12 years or so, a modern giant of blues music has lived and recorded music.

“I had my own idea of what America was like. I watched every episode of The Simpsons, every episode of Seinfeld. That was, like, my cultural education.” – Christoffer “Kid” Andersen

“There’s a window there but don’t tell my landlord,” says Christoffer “Kid” Andersen, a gregarious bear of a man and perennial nominee at the prestigious annual Blues Music Awards. He’s pointing at a side of the studio’s control room, a tiny converted garage that he’s sitting in the middle of, surrounded by computer monitors, various pieces of recording equipment, and a chaos of wires spilling everywhere in tangles. “When we got this place, a place that was big enough, I had a friend who worked as a janitor for a radio station,” the 38-year-old recalls. “He was in charge of literally disposing of some old equipment they had—an old eight-track tape recorder and mixing boards and a bunch of stuff. So we just went there and took everything that worked, or that we could get to work, and started the studio with that.”

There’s a homey, if scrappy, aura to Greaseland, and bands and artists appear to enjoy the inimitable space. Countless albums have been recorded here, and on this Wednesday afternoon, the band Awek, coming all the way from France, is working through a rollicking blues track, one you can’t help but tap your feet to, if not get up and dance.

Andersen portions his time among Greaseland, recording and producing for blues artists, and touring as the guitar player for the blues band Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, a band he has played with for several years. He bears the visual cues of a bluesy character: his blonde hair is slicked back; he wears a pair of brown-hued, tinted Ray-Bans; his voice rumbles agreeably, like the sound of a motor engine idling; and he carries an almost-Southern drawl when he talks.

And yet Andersen, a man who has won the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award, is from southern Norway. He came to Santa Cruz when he was 21 on a gig to play with blues saxophonist Terry Hanck’s band. It was his first time coming to America. “It was a trip, man,” he says. “It took me about six months to kind of get the hang of it, ’cause I had my own idea of what America was like. I watched every episode of The Simpsons, every episode of Seinfeld. That was, like, my cultural education.” The music, though, he knew well—he was pulled into blues and roots music and started playing at the age of 11.

Since arriving nearly 20 years ago, Andersen has largely remained here in the South Bay, while also touring the world, building a career and prominent reputation as a bluesman. Behind him in the control room, a photograph depicts a slightly younger version of Andersen, bowled over on stage, in the middle of a guitar lick, the image a frenzied blur—Andersen, the Norwegian, in action.

Elsewhere at Greaseland, in between takes of Awek’s recording session, Andersen is looking for a can of adhesive before finally finding it in the laundry room that doubles as the vocal recording booth. “I give up,” he says. “If it falls, it falls.” He’s spraying the surface of the ceiling, trying to force a sound absorption panel to stick. The foam piece won’t give. “Well, at least we get some good fumes in here.”

Instagram kidandersen Twitter kidandersen 



This article originally appeared in Issue 11.1 “Sight and Sound”


“It’s always been an incredible rush for me to do things that make downtown San Jose a better place to be.” -Joe Noonan

Joe Noonan still vividly remembers the day in eighth grade when his father told him the family was moving to California. For a kid growing up outside Chicago, the news was a bona fide dream come true. A Bay Area resident ever since, Noonan proudly claims San Jose as his own and has been a tireless advocate for the city, particularly its downtown core. Stints with Christmas in the Park and the San Jose Downtown Association (a partnership that casually began with volunteer efforts hosting community movie nights and collecting survey information at Music in the Park) paved the way for his latest role as development coordinator with the City of San Jose’s Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services department. As he admits, his undying optimism concerning the city’s potential has helped chart his career path for nearly a decade.

“I’m very fortunate to be connected to some organizations that I truly, sincerely love, and I think those organizations see that because I go all in. I’ve had an opportunity to touch some great things. It’s always been an incredible rush for me to do things that make downtown San Jose a better place to be. It’s been behind almost everything I’ve done in the last 10 years. I feel it’s the city that just keeps trying. I love that about San Jose.”

8/2/2022 -It is with a heavy heart we say goodbye to our fellow San Jose Advocate and friend. We will miss you, Joe!

Kimmy at Black & Brown

Kimmy at Black & Brown

Black and Brown Thrift Store 

Fashion is continuously changing. Although how people dress is largely determined by what is trendy, it’s sometimes overwhelming trying to keep up with the latest trends. As we explore fashion here in Silicon Valley more, let’s focus on what the South Bay has going on. I started this journey by speaking with Kimmy from Black and Brown on San Carlos Street and Araceli from Thrill of the Luxe on North San Pedro Street, whom you may remember from a previous post. If you haven’t visited them, go check them out. The vibe and aesthetic will for sure get you excited about South Bay style. 

“When I think of true San Jose fashion, that true timeless fashion is going to be Dickies, Ben Davis, Pro Club Bigger T, and Pendleton, as well as work wear, which is really popular. This type of style is definitely ingrained in San Jose,” says Kimmy Nguyen, who has been working at the Black and Brown vintage shop for over eleven years. Streetwear and hypebeast are the core of what San Jose attire is all about. Wide leg, relaxed fit, and baggy denim are key characteristics. Chunky platform, high boot, and mid-century retro looks are all making a comeback in San Jose as well. 

Another characteristic of South Bay fashion is the mixing of garment styles. “In the vintage community, it’s still hip/hop and rap influenced with oversized jackets and baggy jeans, which can be mixed with vintage stuff, newer stuff, and designer clothes,” says Araceli, who likes to carry timeless pieces in her vintage shop. Something I’ve seen here in San Jose more and more is the mixing of a hypebeast t-shirt, some vintage denim jeans with a designer shoe, and a new jacket from an H&M-like retail store. I think this is an interesting take on baggy, comfortable garments with a South Bay flare. 

As I was researching what South Bay style is, an interesting term from a reddit article came to my attention. They called it “MFA Uniform”. This isn’t exclusive to the South Bay but has a profound influence on the people who reside here. MFA Uniform, if you haven’t heard of it, could be considered a more hipster look with jeans, a button up, and some type of leather shoe. It’s something you could wear daily if you work in the tech industry, or something you could wear to meet with friends. We have seen this fashion style at our Pick-Up Parties as well. Typically, it’s guys wearing a plaid shirt and denim pants with a dressy shoe. 

Hypebeast/streetwear, thrifted vintage clothes, and MFA Uniform are what San Jose’s fashion consists of. Through the many cultural backgrounds that reside here in the South Bay we get a lot of different influences, resulting in a look that intermixes. Within these intermixes is where we truly discover our distinctive style. “Keep having an open mind with fashion. Every day I get customers that have never been here, and every day I hope that fashion keeps moving forward. Clothes are a great way to express yourself. You can buy and wear nice used pieces of clothing, and that could work for everybody,” says Kimmy. Whenever you feel like wearing that shirt that you may be unsure about wearing, just wear it. Express how you want the world to know you. Wear the clothes that speak to you and make you feel good about yourself. Try new looks out and you will love how it makes you feel. 

On my own personal fashion journey, I like to break the gender barriers. I like to wear baggy clothes and give off a street wear vibe, but I also mix it with vintage garments and Mad Max-like clothing, giving it a post-apocalyptic touch. The more experimental and expressive people are with their fashion, the more they expand the style of the South Bay, because it enables others to feel as though they can express themselves, too. I think this influences others to become more aware of what they’re wearing. “To see a really masc male be okay putting on a more femme item is good. If you like it, you like it. We should not be categorized,” adds Kimmy. 

Elle @elle.lc_atgmail.mp4

Tony Gapastione is a pastor turned filmmaker, actor, director, producer, screenwriter, podcaster, and CEO of BraveMaker.

In this episode, Tony shares how he went from creating in the shadows of his spiritual work as a pastor to the empowering realization that the performing arts can be a spiritual experience itself. Now from the hub of his organization BraveMaker he supports brave storytellers of all kinds through film screenings, panel discussions, and an annual film fest in Redwood City.

In the wake of his own recent loss, Tony’s first feature film Last Chance Charlene invites much-needed conversation about death in our culture that largely keeps it at arm’s length. Get a look into the emotional and real-life inspiration for characters in the film as well as a couple of fun easter eggs to look out for. Hear Tony’s thoughts about normalizing and de-stigmatizing discussions of death and suicide in support of those who are grieving.

View Last Chance Charlene at Cinequest Aug 21 and 27.

More info at

Follow Tony on Instagram tonygapastione

Find his website at

Follow BraveMaker on YouTube

And on Instagram at bravemakerorg

Red more about Tony and BravemMaker on our blog feature.

Did you watch the film and want to process your thoughts, questions and emotions? Download our FILM + GRIEF DISCUSSION GUIDE here:


Photo of Tony by Israel Soler


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic



At first glance, Tank Shop may look like a typical thrift store with rows upon rows of clothes, dolls, and various assorted items; however, what makes this store special is the music. 

Besides selling carefully curated high-end streetwear as well as other products, like exotic flavored sodas and snacks, Tank Shop hosts weekly open-mic sessions encouraging young artists to showcase their talents. It comes as no surprise that this thriving cultural hotspot is quickly becoming an essential for music and thrifting lovers. 

The 29-year-old rapper and founder of Tank Shop, Yonex Jones, said his favorite thing in the store is definitely the music. “My career starts with the music. I’m a local rapper from out here,” said Jones. “I used to be in the parking lot selling mixtapes.” Jones started rapping after he was arrested and sent to juvenile hall following a physical altercation with his stepfather at the time. “Everybody in juvenile hall raps just for fun, just to pass the time,” said Jones. “And I ended up finding a passion for it.” He shared that it was fun because in juvenile hall, there was nothing to do, but he still got to play with words, even with no resources. Jones was intrigued that one could have absolutely nothing but could still have their creativity.

He recounted experiencing a moment of clarity when he turned 22 that his life wasn’t heading in the direction he wanted. Jones thought he was destined to either die or end up back in jail, where he’d been since 18. He tried going to college for a week but soon decided to drop out to pursue making music. “I just treat it like a college student treats college, you know like work 20 hours straight every day, nonstop,” said Jones. “Little to no food, little to no money, just grind, grind, grinding.”

That is when TANKSHIT was unofficially birthed. Jones bought a box truck and started selling his mixtapes in parking lots. Soon after, he quickly realized that just mixtapes weren’t going to be enough to sustain customers’ interest in his music and the business he had going. He then started to branch out to selling merchandise and from there decided to expand the variety of products sold. “You know, people want to support, but they can’t keep buying the same album kind of thing,” said Jones. 

Jones and the team that he found, including close friend and fellow rapper Lil Unda, have really grown the business since then. Collectively, TANKSHIT now operates 4 mobile pop-ups that travel around the Bay Area and a physical store in Alum Rock in San Jose. The name of the physical store was originally going to be TANKSHIT as well, but was changed to Tank Shop to be more appropriate for younger clientele. 

The store also often gives back to the community, donating clothes and food where they can. Jones aims to use the shop as a safe space for people like his younger self to hang out and guide them to not make bad decisions in life, declaring that the music he makes as well as his business is about supporting the underdogs often neglected in Silicon Valley, even with its abundance of wealth. “We’re the other side, the filth, the grime, the neglect, and the poverty. So that’s where TANKSHIT kind of stems from,” said Jones. “It’s just all about the growth.”

Speaking of growth, Jones plans to expand Tank Shop. One of his goals is to bring the store’s mobile pop-up trucks to Los Angeles. The furthest they have brought the trucks so far is Sacramento. They are also working to get the store up and running on DoorDash as well, making Tank Shop even more accessible.

“One of my goals would be like…to make the Bay Area version of what people leave the Bay Area to go to LA for, so like you don’t gotta go out there,” said Jones. He said that in order to achieve that goal, he would like to build a team of his peers and professionals to establish a collective geared toward expanding their careers and TANKSHIT together. Jones aims to provide an environment where young artists in the Bay Area can succeed and make it big without having to leave their homes for opportunities that they may not find. “Opportunities are in the person; it’s not in the place,” said Jones.

With a recording studio set up in the back of Tank Shop, he has already started making that a reality. Jones wants to make Tank Shop an environment where artists in the Bay can come and collaborate with each other, pumping new energy into the community of San Jose. And with the way that the store is covered with autographs from customers, friends, and people who come by the shop, as well as the love they receive on social media, Tank Shop has certainly started to cement itself in the local culture.
1530 Alum Rock Avenue
San Jose, California 95116
Instagram: yonexjones, tankshittankshop, tankshitboxtruck

Article and Photography by:  Peter Salcido 



alking through the halls of the Cilker School of Art and Design at West Valley College, creativity was everywhere. The displays of photography and mixed media pieces left me feeling inspired. Tank Shop parked outside the doors, a thrift store selling streetwear and imported goods. Groups of people walked around to take in the beautiful scenery. So many people came out to support their local fashion designers.

This Pick-Up Party had a flare to it. The attire worn to this event was unique to what I typically see at a Pick-Up Party. The outfits were more personalized and self-expressive. Since this party had a fashion show, the space we shared was aligned with showing off individual fashion taste, and I feel like people dressed riskier because of that. I would categorize the overall genre of the evening as streetwear—stylish yet comfortable. The vibe felt young, playful, and vibrant. Brooke wore a flowy dress and sneakers, which was very vintage feeling. Justin wore denim on denim, giving his look a late 80s, early 90s vibe. Melissa and Melik had on more conventional styles but kept it streetwear with grungy plaid and leather pants. 

There were a few individuals whose outfits stood out to me the most. I loved Steph’s bootcut black bottoms and fitted top, which reminded me of vintage lace lingerie. I felt it was so well-matched to her personality, attitude, and how she presents herself. Isaac’s outfit had such a unique touch with a bulky custom necklace and fun socks that really elevated his look for the evening. My favorite piece he wore were his purple shoes—cozy yet fashionable. He tied it all in with a jersey texture blouse. Natalia and Katherine with their Dolls Kill vibes lit up the night with vibrant and fun silhouettes. Natalie’s pants were a lime green, baggy, and comfortable cargo style. Her futuristic shoulder flares and midsection jewelry band mixed past and present together. Katherine’s pockets of hot pink teased us, giving 80s Pilates class-meets-lingerie as her fishnet stockings peaked from the top of her pants. She also took bell bottoms to a whole new level, creating a different kind of futuristic design.

For the fashion show, each model gave it their all as they walked down the runway showing off their angles. The designs were nothing short of amazing. Each designer had their own unique style, and it was clear which piece belonged to which collection. They were cohesive in their designs and which garments they chose to showcase. I loved the variety. Some were more business-oriented, like something the modern businesswoman could wear into the office. There were also summer vibes with long gowns that flowed and made the wearer look elegant and soft. I loved the edgy garments as well; they gave me the sense of a modern twist on the Victorian era. 

Attending fashion shows here in the South Bay is vital to defining what South Bay fashion style looks and feels like. These are the fashion influencers and trend setters, the ones actively sitting down and designing what the local fashion sense is. I could see the inspiration behind the clothing, from the techie business look to the gilded period influence. All direct reflections of who we are in the South Bay. All in all, I leave you with a question that I’d like you to sit with. What are your clothes saying about who you are? Think about it and see where it takes you on your identity journey. Pay attention to the why and the what so that you, too, can set the trend for the rest of us. 


Isaac Farfan @risaacjfarfan

Justin @d00stb1n

Malik @generic_youth

Melissa @meliissaa_23

Natalia @sn0talia Katherine @squidkiiiddd

Steph @bonesinmygarden

Here are some of the designs from the Cilker School of Art and Design Fashion Show. 




Reyes Muertos Klothing was originally the brainchild of artist and lifelong San Jose resident Carlos Rodriguez, who wanted to create an artistic identify for himself. Drawing artistic inspiration from both music and streetwear, the clothing brand has now grown into a three-man-strong creative force. Rodriguez has enlisted the direct help of his Citadel Art Studios neighbors— tattooist Brandon Ronald and artist Steven Martinez— who bring their specialized skills together to spread the ideals of Reyes Muertos across the globe. The brand celebrates Meso-American identity and tradition with an emphasis on anti-oppression. In the grand scheme, the three artists see their work as encouraging like-minded artists and individuals to engage in an artistically and politically mindful lifestyle.

“In the last couple of years, we have brought together an army of people. Behind the name Reyes Muertos, which means dead kings, we have found an identity of support and love for art and culture. We are all independent artists, but together we have really grown into this movement focused on the evolution of the mind: learning to live your legacy while supporting each other. Each one teaches the other, where I wouldn’t be who I am without them and vice versa. So together, we are a support system that focuses on pushing boundaries, living healthy lifestyles, and helping each other in rough moments. And our message of love, art, and anti-oppression has ignited people around the world.” | instagram: rmklothing

Picture (L to R): Steven Martinez, Carlos Rodriguez, and Brandon Ronald.

Staying inside the lines has never been Pilar Agüero-Esparza’s style. Over her 30 years as a practicing artist, she’s evolved from producing traditional two-dimensional art to creating three-dimensional pieces that address issues of culture, race, and home life.

Pilar draws from her experiences as a Latina woman growing up in a family of shoemakers to create unique shoes from scrap leather, much like her parents did. More recently, Pilar has used melted crayons to pour over paper, producing palettes of various skin tones. The idea was first sparked by seeing a pack of Crayola Multicultural Crayons, provoking her to wonder which color her three-year-old daughter would pick as her own skin color and how her choice could change as she grew up. Pilar has used that same eight-pack to pour, weave, and sculpt pieces that prompt us to examine our own notions of color and the role it plays in our lives.

“The interesting thing to me is how my practice has evolved. I trained as a painter and printer in school, but I found myself painting on the frames and stretcher boards. Drawings have always stayed in my practice, but over the years I’ve transitioned from narrative and realism, which are traditional in painting, to materiality and abstraction. It can be still narrative, but often I do work that’s more about material and sculpture. I’ve just always needed to work with my hands.” | instagram: pilar.aguero.esparza



hine Slender’s dedication to bringing the fashion scene to the South Bay is a journey sure to inspire. Sitting in the crowd of his fashion show ECO Freak last Friday, I was in the splash zone. Fashionable outfits were scattered around the room and the energy was elevated by musical performances from Gatsby, Tb Payback, LuvC4, JOY., KBtheJuug, and DJ Oculus as we waiting for the show to begin. As the first round of designs walked to the front of the room heads turned and cameras flashed. Throughout the show, five designers showcased their unique style and concepts: Dani’s Display, Vile.Honey, There’s Nothing Bolder, Walkway, and Vole Couture. This was a night of streetwear mania.

“Know that the clothes you wear are important. They define who you are, and they tell a story. Clothes are like a time capsule—each piece has a memory associated with it.” -Chine Slender

There’s Nothing Bolder:

There’s Nothing Bolder was the first to enter the runway, and their composite designs of plaid and denim wowed the crowd. This lifestyle brand truly lives up to its name. They have a sustainable model of creating new pieces from older ones, and I’m here for it.

Dani’s Display:

Bringing a whole new version of sportswear, Dani’s Display played ball. Dipping in and out of sports team drip and handmade garments, they gave us just the right amount of grunge and sexy. Their women’s designs showcased miniskirts and front-lace tops, while their men’s garments included sleeveless shirts paired with denim jeans. This made for a dynamic contrast between their different looks. 


Vile.Honey gave gender the finger with their androgynous designs and deeply stylized garments. Telling visual stories of polarity and contrast, their geometric designs created a degree of visual calmness, which was quickly spiced up with their bold accessories and make-up.

Vole Couture:

Vole Couture gave us everything we could wish for. Their designs had an electric energy that was matched on the catwalk. Their unique silhouettes and shapes were captivating and visually stimulating. 


Walkway’s designs embodied splashes of cyberpunk, Valentino, and Balenciaga. Their designs inspired, and their creativity poured onto the crowd. One of their looks incorporated a VR headset, prompting us to create a personalized world by compositing elements from different places into an entirely new one.


Overall, this show was divine, and it represented everything San Jose has been waiting for. Creatives of the South Bay are vital to expanding the culture, making way for the future, and paving a path to greatness. The ECO Freak fashion show is iconic—a one-of-a-kind experience bringing people together from a place of passion, expression, and vulnerability. This supernova of imagination is making history in the South Bay and kickstarting a movement that defines and showcases the impact style has on a community. 

If you couldn’t make it out to see the show, I invite you to look at what’s here and think about how your style shares a piece of who you are. How does it affect you and others around you? In my post about the 8th Lake fashion show, I wrote about why fashion is important. I hope you will use this post to consider finding and sharing your own fashion voice and to generate more conversation among your community. Each designer who showcased their work is contributing to what South Bay style looks like, and so can you, by exploring your unique individual taste for style. 

With his show ECO Freak, Chine has done it again, filling our glasses with water from the fountain of youth. Full video of the event coming soon. 

Chine Slender @chineslender @_malvce

Designers: @danidisplay | @theresnothingbolder | @walkway.u | @vile.honey | @lil_vvs

Performers: @joydawnhackett | @kbthejuug | @jaayy_gatsby | @tb.playback | @luvc4

DJ Oculus: @_quezadabryan 

MUA: @ladybarrymua



This past summer the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles displayed a quilted red, white, and grey American flag stitched from carpenter’s pants, suits, collared shirts, and scraps of red ties. The delightfully unexpected choice of materials is common throughout Ryan Carrington’s work. “I use this idea of medium as message,” the San Jose artist explains. “What something is made out of affects the way that people perceive it and the concepts behind it.” This particular piece—an amalgamation of blue-collar and white-collar uniforms—reflects two recurring themes in Carrington’s body of work: the pay discrepancy between executives and laborers and the often-unachievable American dream.

“It used to be that you could just pull up your bootstraps…but it’s become this false narrative that’s been spun,” Carrington shares. “[Yet] people just sort of put their heads down and keep working.” He hopes to spark a dialogue about economics and distribution of wealth, as well as our society’s way of devaluing labor.

When Carrington creates, he poses the question: What can I do with different mediums to make something cool, but also have it be thoughtful?” This mantra has stayed with him ever since he participated in an artist-in-residence program at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado (not long after earning his bachelor’s at the University of Wisconsin). At the beginning of his residency, Carrington recalls feeling like his sculptures didn’t measure up to the work of the other makers, despite his strong technical skills. “Finally, I realized it was because their pots had content behind them—whether it was the way their pots interacted with the tabletop or paralleled the Kansas plane or had to do with man versus nature…and that was kind of this ‘ah ha’ moment.”

Carrington’s work today is equal parts humor and impact. Take for instance, his colossal apple pie, a plywood shell stuffed with a filling of business ties. Or an oven mitt fashioned from brick and mortar. Or a pitchfork planted in a sizeable pile of ties titled “Middle Management.”

There’s also his performance piece, “Build Them Up; Take Them Down.” To appreciate the peculiarity of it, imagine Carrington, wearing a hardhat, a Christian Dior suit, Prada shoes, and a crimson necktie, wheelbarrowing past you in the gallery with a load of cinderblocks. As he continues to ferry loads of concrete masonry, building a wall mid-gallery, he starts to sweat through his nice suit. Upon completion, he immediately begins deconstructing the wall. This futile act of labor “brings into question the discrepancy of laborers and executives, as well as the shift in perspective of the American dream,” the artist explains. “It was a really slow burning joke…I think a really good way to communicate with people is through humor.”

Another project, this one exploring the intersection between fashion and labor, consists of plaid patterns he made with colored nails (aptly named “Screw Relief”). The idea came from one of his frequent trips to Home Depot. “I have to go alone, my wife won’t go with me. She’s like, ‘You’re just going to stand there and stare at materials,’ ” he laughs. “[But] she’s very supportive! She’s like, ‘You can have your alone time with that. I’m going to go take care of some business.’ ”

While wandering the aisles, Carrington came across bins of screws and realized they were the exact colors of a plaid Burberry design. “This is hilarious, I must make Burberry,” Carrington recalls thinking to himself. “A lot of luxury companies have sort of appropriated plaid,” he goes on to explain. “Plaid is something that’s gone lowbrow (like grunge rock) all the way up through high-end Burberry, like Ralph Lauren.”  It took him a good handful of weeks to develop the right design, a practice he fondly refers to as “failing through the process.” Then he began the arduous task of fixing hundreds of screws into place.

“When people find out I’m an artist, they imagine me up on some bluff with some oils, you know? And it’s like, ‘No, I’m just, like, firing screws or staples into a board,’ and just trying over and over and over and over to make something remotely good-looking,” he laughs.

This sort of labor-intensive detail can be found throughout Carrington’s work. His quilted flags take him 40 to 50 hours to complete. And that’s after all the quilting classes at Eddie’s Quilting Bee alongside a group of venerable ladies (who got quite the kick out of this young man’s interest in their craft). “I make work about work. So, it should take work,” Carrington says, pointing out the parallel between his process and the way laborers perform the same task over and over again.

When Carrington isn’t creating, he’s teaching. “In sixth grade, I joined Future Teachers Club. You know, I just knew that was my calling.” He admits that for the longest time he intended to teach biology but had a change of heart after his college ceramics class. “I was enjoying the studio more than the lab,” he recalls. “I fell in love with artmaking through the potter’s wheel…the repetition and the craftsmanship and homing in on the technical skills.” 

Today, he teaches at Santa Clara University, instructing students on the topics of sculpture, 3D design, site-specific land art, and professional practice. “So I got into this game as an educator and developed an art habit, I suppose,” he chuckles.

Carrington’s exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles has wrapped up, but keep an eye out for his upcoming projects. As he continues to educate others on the blue-and-white-collar divide, the integration of craftsmanship, humor, and depth in his future artwork is sure to be seamless.
Instagram: ryancarringtonart


“I think it’s harder to explain fashion by city now because of the internet.” -Kimmy Nguyen

Fashion is continuously changing. It’s sometimes overwhelming to try to keep up with the latest trends. Although a lot of how people dress is determined by what is trendy. As we explore fashion here in the Silicon Valley more, let’s try to focus on what the South Bay has going on. I started this journey by speaking with Kimmy at Black and Brown on San Carlos street in San Jose and Araceli from Thrill of the Luxe, who you may remember from a previous post. If you haven’t visited them, definitely go and check them out. The vibe and aesthetic will for sure get you excited about South Bay style.

“When I think of true San Jose fashion, that true timeless fashion is going to be Dickies, Ben Davis, Pro Club Bigger T, and Penalton. As well as work wear which is really popular. This type of style is definitely ingrained in San Jose” says Kimmy Nguyen who has been working at Black and Brown Vintage shop for over eleven years. Streetwear and hypebeast are the core of what San Jose attire is all about. The wide leg and more relaxed fit and baggy denim are key characteristics of what San Jose Citizens are wearing. Chunky platform, high boot, and a mid century retro look are all making a comeback in San Jose as well.

One of the South Bay’s fashion characteristics is the mixing of garment styles. “In the vintage community it’s still hip/hop and rap influenced with oversized jackets and baggy jeans. Along with a lot of oversized comfortable clothing which can be mixed with vintage stuff, newer stuff and designer clothes,” says Araceli who likes to carry timeless pieces in her vintage shop. Something I’ve seen here in San Jose more and more is the mixing of a hypebeast t-shirt, some vintage denim jeans with a designer shoe and a new jacket from a H&M like retail store. Which I think is an interesting take on the baggy comfortable garments with a South Bay flare.

As I was researching online what South Bay style is a term came to my attention from a reddit article which I found really interesting. They called it “MFA Uniform”. This isn’t exclusive to the South Bay, but has a profound influence on the people who reside here. MFA Uniform, if you haven’t heard of it, could be considered a more “hipster look”. With its jeans, button up and some type of leather shoe. It’s mostly something you could  wear daily if you work in the tech industry. Or something you could wear to meet with friends. We have seen this fashion style at our Pick up Parties as well. Typically it’s guys wearing a plaid shirt and denim pants with a dressy shoe.

Hypebeast/Streetwear, thrifted vintage clothes, and MFA Uniform are what San Jose’s fashion consists of. Through the integration of many cultural backgrounds that reside here in the South Bay we get a lot of different influences. Resulting in a look that intermixes. Within these intermixes is where we will truly discover our distinctive style. “Keep having an open mind with fashion. Everyday I get customers that have never been here and everyday I hope that fashion keeps moving forward. Clothes are a great way to express yourself. You can buy and wear nice used pieces of clothes and that could work for everybody,” says Kimmy. Whenever you feel like wearing that shirt that you may have felt unsure about wearing, just wear it. Express how you want the world to know you. Wear the clothes that speak to you and make you feel good about yourself. Try new looks out and you will love how it makes you feel.

On my own personal journey I like to break the gender barriers when it comes to my own fashion sense. I like to wear baggy clothes and I give off a street wear vibe. But I also mix it with vintage garments and “Mad Max” like clothing giving it a post apocalyptic touch. The more experimental and expressive people are with their fashion the more they are exploring themselves. Expanding the style of the South Bay because it enables others to feel as though they can express themselves more. I think this influences others to become more aware of what they’re wearing. “To see a really masc male be okay putting on a more femme item is good. If you like it, you like it. We should not be categorized,” adds Kimmy.

It was the end of July 2019—just days after a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Monday morning ICE deportation raids in Chicago were dominating the news—and Teatro Visión was about to present Raíces, a theatrical piece focused on the boundless human journey of immigration.

Artistic Director Rodrigo Garcia and Managing Director Leigh Henderson sat together, talking about what they were going to do. How should they proceed with the event? Could they talk about an art project based on migration and still allow space for people to mourn and to grieve? “It was really powerful because the people who came really connected,” said Garcia. “They wanted to say something, but they just didn’t know what to say.”

That is a core part of Teatro Visión’s purpose: providing opportunities for people to change the traditional narratives that have been imposed upon them. For 35 years, they have been making Chicanx communities visible and conscious of their own power to resist. Garcia maintains that the power resides in individual stories. By changing the perspective, the stories can be retold and reimagined in a fresh way. This approach appealed to Henderson. “It’s very deliberate; every project we undertake and every show we do is very conscious about impacting the world. I think that is really special.”

“This art is meant to do a specific thing in terms of building community, creating connections, and advocating for social justice.” –Leigh Henderson

When she arrived in the Bay Area as an undergrad, Henderson didn’t know what to do with herself. She was living with her sister and started sending out resumes, looking for freelance design work. Dianne Vega, who is still Teatro Visión’s production manager, called her in to paint scenery for The True History of Coca Cola in Mexico in 1999. The first show she designed for them was Kiss of the Spider Woman. Coming back to San Jose after pursuing an MBA and PhD at the University of Wisconsin, she was working on a dissertation and not looking for full-time employment. Henderson wouldn’t have taken a job with any other company. “Teatro Visión has a very clear understanding of why we do what we do—not something I necessarily see in all theater companies. It’s not just about making beautiful art. Although we do make beautiful art, it’s not about that. This art is meant to do a specific thing in terms of building community, creating connections, and advocating for social justice.”

This challenge motivates Garcia, who has been involved in some capacity with Teatro Visión ever since he came on board as an actor. In 2006, he acted in his first show, La Victima, directed by founder Elisa Marina Alvarado. Although acting is his trade, he has been directing since 2013. He came on board as artistic program manager in 2008 through a fellowship with the Theater Communications Group and took on the role of artistic director in March 2017. “Like a lot of us living south of the border,” said Garcia, “there is a great need over there and a perception that you can make it here. And certainly you can make it after a while, but nobody tells you everything you have to do to accomplish that. But I was willing to take the challenge.”

After studying modern dance and theater at the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature in Mexico City, Garcia immigrated to San Jose back in 1996. For 10 years he was undocumented, working a variety of fast-food jobs as he put himself through San Jose State—studying English. “I am still learning, but one of the greater challenges is understanding the culture and the values of Chicanx and Latinx art,” said Garcia. “I had a great mentor who has shaped my artistic vision, and now I am leading from those values.” Garcia took over from his mentor, company founder Elisa Marina Alvarado, as artistic director in 2017.

Following their impactful performance of Raíces, Teatro Visión invited their collaborators La Quinto Teatro to continue the dialogue by facilitating a series of conversation circles. Garcia was worried about attendance but hoped at least five people would come. “My God, we had more people than we thought because of this need, with mostly the same people coming every single day,” said Garcia. “At the end, you could see this big circle of sharing the importance of being together and people being very thankful for having found that space that is not often provided.”

Sharing stories forms the basis of Luz, a new show building on the success of past productions as the next phase. Luz grew out of a playwright working with elders to get their stories out in the form of engaging one minute pieces—an initiative funded by a Silicon Valley Creates Audience Engagement grant. These stories were read out during Evelina Fernández’s Departera, as part of the Day of the Dead. As always when staging a play, Teatro Visión tried to devise something related to its production that allowed theatergoers to participate creatively in the experience. The full text of each piece was displayed in a lobby kiosk, inviting audiences to respond. When staff saw the powerful potential of those stories, they decided to try to expand the project with an XFactor grant.

“We saw the power of the stories themselves and the need to take those stories out.” –Rodrigo Garcia

Because putting together a new show takes lots of resources, Teatro Visión wanted to solve technical and budgetary issues by producing something manageable. So they came up with the idea of using shadow theater—an ancient form of storytelling—and just two actors. They hoped to create a minimalist production, ready to pack into a trunk and easily adapted for a short library presentation or a full-length school assembly. “We saw the power of the stories themselves and the need to take those stories out,” said Garcia. “What better way than to take them out to younger audiences?”

Henderson noted that, in terms of age, Teatro Visión has always served a pretty wide demographic, with audiences skewing a lot younger, overall, than those of most other theater companies. Drawing in school groups and college classes means a wide range of ages and an underlying effort to make sure everything is accessible to families. “The reason we were interested in seniors, initially, is because Departera is about intergenerational sharing of knowledge and passing on of wisdom and experience to the next generation,” said Henderson. “But the stories the seniors told us were so important that we wanted to keep sharing them beyond the people who saw Departera.”

Accessibility is something Teatro Visión continues to value. Their productions are bilingual and Garcia himself does much of the translation. Many of their performances include ASL interpretation. Keenly concerned about affordability, they price their tickets to be radically inclusive—offering 10-dollar introductory tickets that level up to arts-patron pricing at 40 dollars.

Fortunately, noted Henderson, two-thirds of the company income is donated rather than earned. With funders like Hewlett and Applied Materials, Teatro Visión can continue to develop new work. The School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza provides them with office space and performance opportunities for shows like Macario, their annual Day of the Dead musical folktale which now features more young performers than adults.

Facebook: teatrovision

Instagram: teatro-vision

Twitter: teatro_vision

Article originally appeared in Issue 12.0 “Discover”

Ruben Escalante suffered a heart attack as a freshman in high school. But this is only surprising until Ruben reveals the trauma they endured as a child: the father who went out at least once a week and came home drunk, angry, and violent; the early death of the grandfather who was the only one that could subdue his dad’s temper; the constant and vicious attacks at school by bullies who could not accept a sensitive, poetry-loving brown boy.

In our conversation, Ruben tells how art, music, and movies were always a way to cope with life’s challenges, how they came to San Jose, and how discovering South First Art Walk opened their eyes to the creative scene. Now, as the Programs Director at the Best Buy Teen Tech Center powered by Google at MACLA, Ruben can continue to grow as an artist and mentor while helping others find their voice and police in creativity.

We also discuss Ruben’s new film, “danny boy” which will premiere 6/25 & 6/26 at the Tech @thetechinteractive in partnership with @sjmade

“Reclamation” marks the very first time San José based filmmakers will have their work viewed within the IMAX dome–an iconic landmark in our city.


Film Preview:

Follow Ruben at MACLA

And, on Instagram at and

Ruben is featured in issue 11.4 “Profiles”


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic


Kenneth Tan moved back to his home in San Jose from Los Angeles to help care for his grandmother, Crescenciana Tan (“lola” in Tagalog), in 2014. They began painting as an activity to do together. Lola would paint what she felt with watercolor, and then Kenneth would add drawings with markers based on her stories and memories – this led to a series of paintings they called “The Lola x Kenneth Collaboration.”

The time he spent with Lola from 2014 until her death in December 2016 brought out the artist Kenneth always wanted to be.

Recently, Kenneth created and self-published a book to honor Lola’s life story in “Crescenciana: a memoir & art book.” 

In our conversation, we discuss the process of creating the book, a few of the stories of Lola’s life, and his journey in becoming an artist.

Preview and purchase “Crescenciana” at 

Follow the Kenneth at lolaxkenneth 




There’s a difference between your job and your work. Your job pays the bills and ends after eight hours each day. Your work is what lives beyond your lifetime, what bears your mark. Your work is your legacy. This is the credo that San Jose artist Kenneth (Tan) Ronquillo  lives by. “A job is what you leave behind at the end of the day. Work is what you leave behind at the end of a lifetime,” he says. Ronquillo’s work is to tell the story of a lifetime, the story of the work his grandmother Crescenciana left behind.

“I am the living expression of her work,” Ronquillo says. “It’s my responsibility to make sure her work is good.” That expression—and that responsibility— take form in the Lola x Kenneth Collaboration, a series of artworks created by Kenneth and his grandmother, whom he calls Lola. Lola started all the pieces by painting strokes of different lengths and widths and shades using watercolors, and Ronquillo finishes the paintings by filling them in with drawings. The drawings are based on his conversations with Lola, her memories, and sometimes how she felt that particular day. Their source material is quite extensive, as Lola lived to the age of 96. She lived through World War II, raised two family generations, worked countless jobs to support that family, and served as a source of strength for Ronquillo whenever he needed it.

When his source of strength needed support, Ronquillo moved back home from Los Angeles. At the end of a contract at a job he didn’t like, he was asked by his mother to return home to help with the care of his Lola. Ronquillo made the decision to return to San Jose without hesitation. “I don’t feel like I made any kind of sacrifices,” Ronquillo says, reflecting on the career he quit to be with his family. “In an alternate universe I’m in a job I don’t like, not making much money, and I’m certain [my alter ego] is regretting not spending time with his Lola.”

The time he spent with Lola from 2014 until her death in December 2016 brought out in Ronquillo the artist he always wanted to be. “I was getting further and further away from my dreams and goals,” he says. “I had to come home to make my dreams come true.” Those dreams began with a love for the art in comic books and drawing on anything he could find, even the family growth charts. That love went into hiding as Ronquillo grew older, and he didn’t see art as a way to earn a living. “I used to make choices out of fear,” Ronquillo says. That changed when he expressed his fear of failing grad school to Lola. “Why scared? Discover,” Lola replied. “What is fear? You fight it.” Art is his work now. Telling Lola’s story is his work now. He is no longer afraid. He wants to discover.

What Ronquillo discovered is that his work with Lola was appreciated. The duo were asked to serve as judges for art contests, give interviews for Asian American broadcasts, and even make appearances at Filipino community festivals. “We got to meet the news anchors we’d see come on after Jeopardy,” Ronquillo laughs. He also discovered that he needed her to actually do something he loved. The art that started as an alternative to watching television all day developed into a creative flame in them both, producing piece after piece, some of which are still waiting to be completed.

Ronquillo is hesitant to complete those works that Lola left behind, even though his stated goal is to finish everything she started. “There’s going to be a point where I draw on all the paintings she left behind and there’s nothing for me to do,” he says sorrowfully. But Ronquillo is brave now, and completing the paintings is part of his work. “She left her story in my hands,” he says. “We are still a collaboration.” Each new addition to the Lola x Kenneth Collaboration is an homage to his Lola, his greatest inspiration. There’s a difference between your job and your work. Ronquillo’s work is to tell his story through art. And his story is truly that of Crescenciana Carbonel Tan, his beloved Lola.

Stacey is an attorney and program manager by trade and an art lover and community builder by heart. Stacey focuses on strategic partnership development and social impact for San Jose Walls. Born and raised in San Jose, she is passionate about creating a legacy of impactful public art in her hometown. 

In our conversation, we learn how she became a part of the SJWalls team and her desire to help the creativity in San Jose. As well, we discuss the transition from POW! WOW! SJ to SJWall. And we find out about her and her husband’s Scamp – a lightweight fiberglass trailer camper.

Follow Stacey at stacey.kellogg and stellathescamp

For San Jose Walls, and sanjosewalls

Guadalupe River Park Conservancy 

Previous Related features:




ritish artist and photographer Marcus Lyon has been in the South Bay with his team, Camila Pastorelli, and Joe Briggs-Price, working on the next edition of A Human Atlas. The previous project includes Somos Brasil (2016), WE: deutschland (2018), and i.Detroit (2020), with this next version, titled De.Coded (launching 2023). This edition will explore 101 remarkable change-makers of Silicon Valley. Each regionally focused volume is more than the stunning colorful images; there is an interactive mobile app that activates audio recording of the person’s oral histories when hovered over the portraits. In addition, the ancestral DNA of each person to map their history and human history of the city to create a deeper understanding of the city- to mirror society. 

In our conversation with Marcus, we talk about his inspiration for the project, his life, his approach to photography, and how his life’s work to tell more profound stories through photography has led him to our neighborhood. 

Find out more about Marcus, and purchase books through Marcus’ website, Marcus Lyon and Instagram: marcus_lyon  

Human Altas Crew:
Joe Briggs-Price IG:  joebriggsprice 
Camila Pastorelli IG: camila_pastorelli 

View the Human Atlas Project and access all the images and data at and instagram ahumanatlas

Funding for De:Coded is provided by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. Nomination & fiscal support are provided by the American Leadership Forum (ALF). 


Marcus Lyon (b.1965) is a British artist. He was born and raised in rural England and studied Political Science at University. Commissioned and exhibited globally, his works are held in both private and international collections, including the Detroit Institute of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Arts Council Collection (UK) and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Washington DC. The 21st century saw his work move beyond traditional forms as he began to incorporate sound & science into his practice. He has created extensive bodies of work on dance, identity & globalization. Outside the art world, Lyon is a determined social entrepreneur: A TED speaker, he currently serves as a Board Director of Somerset House and Leader’s Quest and supporting BLESMA and Home-Start UK as an Ambassador. 


@packardfdn @alfsiliconvalley #decoded #ahumanatlas #marcuslyon #siliconvalley #studiosutherland #packardfoundation 


3Below – Movie Theater 
A dynamic entertainment destination, 3Below Theaters & Café serves as another jewel in San Jose’s crown for accessible, quality “third place” experiences. By creating a space that is inviting, intriguing, and includes a myriad of programs, GE invigorates this Downtown San Jose gem and gives visitors a unique experience from the moment they walk into the facility. When guests exit the three fully themed theaters and head into the creatively-themed lobby, they are greeted by caring and capable staff and find themselves always impressed by the commitment to ensure quality customer service for every aspect of the venue. | @3belowtheaters
288 S. 2nd St.
San Jose CA, 95113
(408) 404-7711

Broadway San Jose
Broadway San Jose, a Nederlander Presentation, is part of the nationally recognized The Nederlander Organization. Broadway San Jose debuted in 2009 with Spamalot. Since then, Broadway San Jose has brought more than 70 shows to Downtown San Jose, becoming a hallmark of the city where Silicon Valley finds the New York Broadway Theater Experience. Whether you live here or are visiting our city for business; whether you are with someone special for a romantic weekend or here with the whole family, Broadway San Jose has the shows you want to see. | @broadwaysanjose_
408 Almaden Blvd
San Jose CA, 95110-2709
(408) 792-4571

California Theatre
The California Theatre in San Jose, CA is managed and operated by San Jose Theaters, a division of Team San Jose. It regularly hosts performances of Opera San Jose, Symphony Silicon Valley and more. This beautiful theatre, originally built in 1927 and renovated and upgraded from 2001-2004, marries the opulence of its movie palace origins with state-of-the-art attributes. | @sanjosetheaters
345 S 1st St
San Jose CA, 95113
(408) 792-4542

How can I contact San Jose Theaters?

Children’s Musical Theater San Jose
CMT San Jose trains and educates today’s youth through musical theater to set and achieve high artistic and personal goals, and to inspire them to become exemplary artists, patrons and citizens of tomorrow. Inclusiveness and quality are the touchstones of CMT’s vision. As a nationally acclaimed theater organization and the oldest performing arts organization in San Jose, CMT remains dedicated to providing the highest possible caliber of musical and theatrical training to children from ages 4 to 20, spanning all abilities. | @cmtsj
1401 Parkmoor Ave., Ste 100
San Jose CA, 95126-3450
(408) 288-5437

Contact & Email Signup

City Lights Theater Company
City Lights Theater Company creates provocative live productions that engage, inspire, and challenge audiences and artists alike through innovative concepts, intimate staging, and uncompromising storytelling. City Lights is dedicated to genuine philanthropy and goodwill that inspires and influences everyone at all levels of participation: staff, artists, board members, patrons, volunteers, and contributors.  This “Culture of Care” allows everyone at City Lights to forge lasting, authentic connections to each other, to audiences, and to the stories they tell, and to create and sustain a warm and welcoming environment for audiences and artists with friendliness and generosity of spirit. | @citylights
529 S 2nd St.
San Jose CA, 95112-5708
(408) 295-4200

CSz San Jose is one of 23 + cities in CSz Worldwide, an organization dedicated to bringing fun, collaborative, and positive experiences for corporations, groups, students, and entertainment seekers all over the world. Changing the world through collaboration, inspiration, gratitude & fun. Transforming lives since 1984. | @cszsanjose
5440 Thornwood Dr
San Jose CA, 95113-2706
(408) 224-0842

Hammer Theatre Center
The Hammer Theatre, named after former San José Mayor Susan Hammer and her husband Phil Hammer, a San José Rep Board Trustee, was completed in 1997 via a collaboration between the San José Redevelopment Agency and San José Repertory Theatre Company. This distinctive theatre offered theatrical productions for over seven years for San José and Bay Area patrons and to national acclaim. In March 2016, San José State University reopened the Hammer Theatre as a modern performance venue in the heart of downtown San José. The theatre serves San José’s community and the university through programming that features student, local, and international talent. The Hammer’s mission is to serve the community through works that illustrate the unique culture of creativity, diversity, and innovation in Silicon Valley. | @hammertheatrecenter
101 Paseo De San Antonio
San Jose CA, 95113
(408) 924-8501

Montgomery Theater
The Montgomery Theater in San Jose, CA is managed and operated by San Jose Theaters, a division of Team San Jose. It hosts performances from CMTsj and additional organizations. Built in 1936, this venue retains its historic charm and offers audiences an intimate experience for every performance. Combining an elegant appearance with contemporary upgrades, it hosts a wide variety of events.| @sanjosetheaters
271 S Market St
San Jose CA, 95113-2008
(408) 295-9600

How can I contact San Jose Theaters?

San Jose Ballet School
The San Jose Ballet School caters to students of all ages, levels and backgrounds. They offer exemplary classical ballet training where classes are tailored to the needs of the varied student base. Dancers of all backgrounds are invited to take a class.
157 N 4th St
San Jose CA, 95112-5556
(408) 295-5394

San Jose Center For The Performing Arts
The Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose, California is managed and operated by San Jose Theaters, a division of Team San Jose. It hosts major performances from Broadway San Jose and other organizations. Built in 1972 by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, it offers large windows throughout the entryways, providing plenty of natural light and spectacular views of downtown San Jose. | @sanjosetheaters
255 Almaden Blvd
San Jose CA, 95113-2004
(408) 295-9600

How can I contact San Jose Theaters?

San Jose Civic
The San Jose Civic in San Jose, California is managed and operated by San Jose Theaters, a division of Team San Jose. This historic venue has hosted The Who, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand and many other legends. A major, multi-million dollar renovation led to a grand re-opening in October, 2012. | @sanjosetheaters
135 W. San Carlos St.
San Jose CA, 95113
(408) 792-4111

How can I contact San Jose Theaters?

San Jose Dance Theatre
San Jose ballet performing company and ballet academy performing classical favorites and innovative new works from leading choreographers. Performances include “The Nutcracker”, a San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley family tradition since 1964. Their leading San Jose ballet academy offers youth and open drop-in ballet classes for children and adults in San Jose CA, Silicon Valley, and online. Their focus is on bringing classical ballet performances and professional training to the community. | @sanjosedancetheatre
1756 Junction Ave E
San Jose CA, 95112
(408) 286-9905

San Jose Improv
San Jose Improv is your home for all things comedy. Well it’s not really your home, you can’t live here, but we hope you stay awhile! Featuring stand up comics, YouTube comedians and basically funny people in general, if you like to laugh, be sure to check them out! SJI comes from Levity Entertainment, the #1 booker of comedy in the US. | @sanjoseimprov
62 S 2nd St
San Jose CA, 95113-2509
(408) 280-7475

San Jose Playhouse
San Jose Playhouse stands poised to serve those seeking joyful experiences. Our musicals, events, and classes are all designed with a singular mission in mind: to promote joy and give our patrons, cast, crew, and staff a place to belong where they feel the joy permeating everything we do. We invite you to join us in the audience, on stage, or behind the scenes. Wherever you find yourself, you’ll find joy at San Jose Playhouse. | @3belowtheaters
288 S 2nd St
San Jose CA, 95113
(408) 404-7711


San Jose Stage Company
San Jose Stage Company is recognized as the South Bay’s leading professional theatre company. Having earned a reputation for artistic excellence through imaginative and edgy theatrical experiences that spark ideas and dialogue with the audience. The Stage is devoted to new, cutting-edge work and reinterpreting American literature and world classics using innovative stagecraft, multi-media that propels the narrative, and accomplished, local actors in true repertory style. | @sanjosestage
490 S 1st St
San Jose CA, 95113-2815
(408) 283-7142

San Jose Theaters
San Jose Theaters, a division of Team San Jose, is responsible for the management, operations and maintenance of the Montgomery Theater, the California Theatre, San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts and the San Jose Civic. These four historic venues are conveniently located in the heart of downtown San Jose, California within walking distance of one another. | @sanjosetheaters
349 S Market St
San Jose CA, 95113
(408) 792-4107

How can I contact San Jose Theaters?

SAP Center
A Stadium, Arena & Sports Venue. A premiere Sports and Entertainment venue in Northern California. Home to the @SanJoseSharks & @SJBarracuda. The SAP Center hosts sporting events, comedy shows, performances, and concerts year-round. | @sapcenter
525 W Santa Clara St
San Jose CA, 95113-1520
(408) 287-7070

The New Ballet School
New Ballet was founded in 2016 by local dancer, choreographer, and ballet teacher Dalia Rawson. New Ballet is the institution that San Jose and Silicon Valley look to for excellence in the art of ballet. They provide exceptional ballet productions and a positive learning environment in which young dancers can grow and thrive. At the New Ballet, ballet is for everyone. | @newballet.sanjose
196 N 3rd St
San Jose CA, 95112
(408) 352-5616

The Tabard Theatre Company
The Tabard Theatre Company provides live entertainment experiences that are enlightening, appropriate and affordable for audiences of all ages, championing unique works in an inclusive environment, with educational programs and altruistic outreach to the under-served. | @tabardtheatre
29 N San Pedro St., Ste 200
San Jose CA 95110-2447
(408) 979-0231

F ashion style defines and groups people together to form a distinctive culture. Fashion style has the ability to drive social change, represent a community, and deepen the connection and attachment to the land and people residing there. Walking downtown through the wide streets and sounds of construction of the next nine-story high rise. Vans and leather shoes pollute the sidewalks. Skaters in their wide-legged slacks and off-tone t-shirts. What does San Jose style look like? Does it look like anything? We live in a melting pot, “American Culture,” but many American cities have distinctive looks to how their citizens dress, so why not us? 

Defining a fashion style of a specific area can be a challenge. Since the start of the internet, people have been influenced by each other from all parts of the planet. Although this plays a factor, I still believe San Jose has the potential to have its own unique style. So I set out into the community to see what others had to say about it and what I found was fascinating. Let’s begin by thinking about why fashion style is essential. 

“I don’t feel a cohesive fashion community here in San Jose” -Araceli Vizcaino

What we choose to wear every day says something about ourselves to the world. It tells our story in an abstract way that provokes identity. “You don’t have to tell people who you are. Someone could look at you and tell which community you’re part of,” says Araceli Vizcaino, owner of Thrill of the Luxe, a vintage shop here in San Jose. We make quick observations about others around us, and what that person is wearing plays a significant factor if we deem them “okay” to be around or not. Because our fashion tells a lot about who we are. “Throughout history, fashion has been a way to identify people according to class, occupation, region, etc., but today it’s mostly used to define subcultures. Especially since our society is moving towards individuality,” says Fashion Psychologist Carolyn Mair. 


Fashion style has the ability to bring people together. Have you ever been on the street, and someone walks past you, and you have to take a second look and yell out that their outfit is “hella” nice, and it’s a whole interaction? If not, go outside in a kickass fit and see if anyone responds to you. It’s such an inclusive experience. “That’s how the vintage community is. It’s very much about who’s wearing the coolest t-shirt or even the coolest outfit. I think that is the unifying force of the community. Then you start connecting with people, saying that you like someone’s t-shirt and where did you get it? And from that interaction, relationships and communities start to really blossom from that,” exclaims Araceli. 

“Fashion echoes the depth of human self-awareness,” muses Carolyn Mair. Sometimes it’s tough to wear what we want to wear because of the responses we might get from others. I have walked around in a “fit” that was a bit wild, but I was feeling it, even though I had people respond to me negatively. This behavior is partly conducive to why some of us don’t want to authentically express who we are and how we want to dress. This can have a pessimistic effect on whether we choose to wear sparkly orange shoes or dull gray sneakers. Can we declare right now to keep an approachable mindset so that we can create a safe space for our community to express and showcase who they are? Allow others and yourself to feel excited about dressing up and contributing to the vibrant culture we have here in the South Bay Area. 

Defining fashion is a slippery journey. There are so many different outlets that influence our sense of style—delivering a melting pot of ideas and concepts. 

What has stood out over the decades and in the conversations I’ve had with some local fashionistas is baggy clothes with a vintage feel. In my next post, I will define what San Jose’s fashion style looks and feels like. Please respond below and let me know your thoughts about how we can create a safe space to express ourselves through what we wear entirely. 

Share a time when you wore something you felt great in and how it made you feel and how others responded to you.  

Check out the latest posts from @peter_salcido, who is on a mission to bring people together through the power and influence of personal style.

We see what @thrilloftheLuxe has to say about the importance of what we wear.

Chine @_malvce

Elle @elle.lc_atgmail.mp4
Chris @the.creationist
Donny @novas_expansion



IIn the heart of San Jose’s SOFA district, across from the fluorescence of Anno Domini and ambers of Café Stritch, is the unassuming home of Aedis Architecture & Planning in the W. Prussia Building designed by W.H. Weeks. The firm sits atop a growing marketplace, driven by the passion of Senior Principal Thang N. Do.

Thang Do’s respect for San Jose’s architectural history is palpable. The office’s exposed wood ceiling beams, bare cement walls, and energy efficient plenum floors reflect the minimalist and green values that Do adheres to.

I view the office space as something that will always evolve; you don’t build it in one shot and expect to be done with it. We will always tweak it. Certain things work, certain things don’t work. It’s always a work-in-progress. We’re architects and it’s our permanent experiment. -Thang Do

Under Do’s leadership, Aedis has flourished, executing numerous projects that incorporate his passions for modernism, education, and sustainability. Bold colors, swooping curves, and elegant forms can be found all around the South Bay in schools that he has touched. Recently, Do was instrumental in growing downtown San Jose’s retail scene through the fitting partnership with Muji.

Born in 1959, Do grew up impoverished in Äà Lat, a holiday resort town, built by the French during colonial times to escape the heat. Although Do was surrounded by Äà Lat’s French colonial architecture, the unlikely inspiration of a Shell Oil housing development steered him in a different direction. “They built this cluster of housing that was unlike anything in my town…a flat roof, clean line, concrete with exposed aggregate, glass, very clean simple geometry…It’s basically modern architecture.”

When Do was twelve or thirteen years old, his father commissioned the family’s house to be built. Finding the draftsman’s blueprints, Do was enthralled with how the three-dimensional world was rendered flat. Immediately, he started to create his own sectional and elevation drawings.

“As a child, I loved the adventure of exploring through spaces and especially buildings that have a lot of nooks and crannies, different kinds of scale, different kinds of space, different kinds of light, interesting circulation, going up and down, flat…That’s what we try to do with schools. In my own house, I designed it specifically for children because I have four kids. It has two lofts, one of which is a secret loft that only our kids know how to get to. There’s a secret door, a visitor will not know where it is.”

In 1975, when the country was literally collapsing due to the war, Do left aboard an Air Force plane. After staying in Guam and coming to the US, he continued to pursue architecture through drafting classes in high school. He eventually discovered the Bauhaus architects as well as Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater,” a building that heavily influenced his decision to become an architect.

After graduating, Do went on to work with construction companies and architectural firms. He took a position at PJHM Architects, now Aedis, before deciding to go to “real architecture school.” In 1986, Do graduated from the California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and returned to PJHM as a key partner. Though power came quickly, proper leadership and business skills were talents that Do admits he acquired over time. “I lacked the sense of self confidence to really let myself go, let myself design, explore, and so forth. I always approached this profession in a conservative way until the last five or so years.”

A testament to his latest approach is the award-winning work with Union City’s James Logan High School, one of the projects he is the most proud of. Initially, Do was asked to replace the village of prefabricated classrooms, commonly known as portables. He went further by addressing larger functional issues with sustainable solutions, and crowned his achievement with the exquisite Center for Performing Arts. Do not only helped the school receive state funding, but he met and exceeded the school’s goals with his personal vision intact.

In addition to educational building needs, Aedis plays an active role in project-based learning with schools like Evergreen Elementary in San Jose. Do says the benefits go both ways; students learn about design methods and employees learn about school needs and how kids think.

Sitting on the Architectural Review Board, Do has an optimistic view of the city’s future development, particularly downtown. “The term may sound pretentious, but whatever, I’m an urbanist. I would like to see San Jose become more and more a rich urban environment. Our being here and opening the market downstairs is part of that…It’s not just us. I start to see more life on this block. So hopefully, collectively, if people see downtown as a destination, then we’ve got something.”

Aedis Architecture & Planning | 


Article originally appeared inIssue 6.0 Discover (Print SOLD OUT)



#80 Scott Knies – CEO San Jose Downtown Association

Scott has been at the helm of the San Jose Downtown Association since 1988 and has been the foundation’s only executive director.

Starting as founder and owner of the Fencing Center in 1981, Scott’s career changed as he and other business owners looked to represent the needs of downtown businesses and the Downtown community experience. Under his leadership over these last 34 years, Scott has band a prime seat in witnessing changes and directing the City’s urban core vitality. The organization launched the Music in the Park summer concert series in 1989, the Downtown Farmers’ Market, and the Downtown Ice skating rink – to list a few of the accomplishments. 

In 2021 Scott announced his plans to step down in the fall of 2022, and a search for his replacement has already been in process.
In our discussion, we talk about how he came to San Jose, became the CEO of the SJDA, the changes he has seen over the last three decades, and his love for rafting.

Find out more about the San Jose Downtown Association and a San Jose events calendar at and on Instagram sj_downtown

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:
Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic


Bassist and composer Nick Panoutsos’ (who was a Content intern before he went off to NYC in 2016) released his first solo album Monos. The Greek word for “alone” (μÏŒνος), the album is a meditation on the isolation of 2020’s pandemic lockdown. The album reflects on Nick’s Greek heritage and fond memories of growing up in San Jose, CA, and the nearby Santa Cruz mountains.

In our conversation, we talk about his journey as a musician from moving from San Jose to New York and the inspiration behind the compassion on his album.

Find out more about Nick and his album on his website ( 

And his Instagram @vegbass (

Listen and purchase the CD of  μÏŒνος on his Bandcamp page, (


Photography by Ygor Lobo ygornyc (

Album artwork and design by Ash Suh (

Released on Slow and Steady Records ( IG: slowandsteadyrecords (


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic




Randall King is the kind of artistic director that most theater companies dream of having. With a focus on the importance of the midsize theater companies and an ability to work both backstage and front and center, King has transformed San Jose Stage Company into one of the finest theaters in the area. In his 19 years with the company, King has directed nearly 200 plays and musicals, including 39 new works and 9 world premieres. King is also a veteran actor. Although he works mostly on stage, he’s appeared in a number of television series and films, including Mumford and The Rainmaker. Under King’s direction, San Jose Stage’s latest production We Are Proud to Present… is a dark comedy that revolves around the early 20th-century genocide of the Herero and Namaqua peoples in Namibia.

“At our level, if you’re not able to express yourself artistically because you’re stuck in some administrative job—you get frustrated. So I always try to find ways to give everyone in the company creative outlets. Having everyone suggest titles and help formulate the season gets them fired up about the plays we’re going to do. It generates an investment in what we are doing at a whole new level, and I think the audience gets more bang for their buck.” | instagram: sanjosestage


March 30 – April 24, 2022


The Stage’s long-awaited postponed production due to COVID-19.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning play erupts with biting wit. After the disappearance of their alcoholic patriarch, three sisters along with their partners, reunite in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY to console their razor-tongued, drug-addled mother Violet. As the family careens toward a near-apocalyptic meltdown; old grievances are aired, family secrets unearthed, and new wounds are sowed.  This provocative Tony Award-winning play unflinchingly—and uproariously—explores the challenge of escaping the inescapable.

Article originally appeared inIssue 8.4 Profiles (Print SOLD OUT)

Mattie Scariot became Director of PJIFF in 2018 and grew the festival to an 8-day regional festival including Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy, Hollister, and San Juan Bautista. 

In our conversation, Mattie explains her vision for the festival, focusing on diverse, inclusive, and women empowering films and seven educational programs. We talk about her journey to be the director and some of the highlights of this year’s festival, which return to in-person events and screenings.

Find out more about PJIFF programs, events, and purchase tickets at 

This year’s festival begins on April 6th and runs through April 13th.

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:
Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic

El Prado Fashion Showcase Evaro Italia

Tasteful and elegant, this show was a jewel. Flashes of Tuscany inspiration seeps between the seams. Fashionable details. People swarming their seats eager to see Evaro Italia Design director Eva Rorandelli’s latest designs, presenting ten looks of her latest collection set up in a European style showcase. Casual catwalks are separated by two looks at a time. High Society is the name of the show, which took place at the El Prado Hotel in downtown Palo Alto. This exquisite place was drenched in chic furniture and a polished aesthetic. During cocktail hour, the sound of clinks filled the balcony, accompanied by smiles with friendly conversation. Flashes from cameras and jewelry sparkled in the room. 

“Ohs” and “ahs” gracefully crescendoed as Sarah and Vanessa from Scout Model agency in San Francisco walked Eva’s Designs. Evaro’s fashion showcase represented an appreciation for European beauty, architecture, and art. “Today, we feel close to Europe,” says Eva. Catherine Liang, Miss San Francisco 2022, was the hostess for the afternoon and added that she loves, “that each dress is custom-made, making you feel like it’s made just for you. Making it really special.” Her congenial presentation engaged the attendees as she introduced each new look while the models walked. 

Dress 1: Anna Sequin Dress

Structured shoulders and a sensual, open back perfect for a holiday party or a red carpet event. 




Dress 2: Lola Faux Leather Dress

Classic and eclectic take of “The Little Black Dress” with a bit of elevated edge meant to make an impression. Elegance, sophistication, and a statement.. 



Spring summer evening looks. The flavor of the Evaro Italia world where they make mostly couture gowns and have recently been experimenting with day wear and other types of garments. 

Dress 3: Isabella Lace Gown

Scalloped open back and iridescent crystal collar. Hand-sewn, refined Italian lace. 




Dress 4: Gina Silk Gown

Inspired by the rolling hills of Tuscany and the geometric architecture of its cathedrals. Juxtaposed textures with soft and hard lines with rhinestones to give a glamorous silhouette. 



Dress 5: Acqua Denim Top and Capri Pants

A day look from the resort collection perfect for your next vacation. Featuring pearl-embellishments. Inspired by the sea and riviera of Italy. The sand, the water, the beach, and used materials that remind you of that. Bicolor of beige and gray Denim. It’s all about pearls and is the main focus of this season’s collection. 



Dress 6: Perla Cocktail Dress

Hundreds of pearls and rhinestones sewn into the fabric with sheer mesh back. More elegant and perfect for a night out. Or a romantic stroll with the dress dazzling under the moonlight. 



Dress 7: Foresta Lace Gown

Dreamy gown with delicate hand-beaded rhinestones onto the lace of the corset and skirt. Inspired by the natural elements of Italy’s countryside and seaside. 




Dress 8: Foresta Multicolor Sequin Dress

Shimmering sequin and lace dress that is form-fitting. Red carpet piece. 




Dress 9: Toscanella Gown

Created for the Toscanella by Evaro Eau de Parfum advertisement film. Hand sewn. Just like how flowers grow, each with a unique and one-of-a-kind fit. With fantasy and divine feel to it. Accompanied by a headpiece and shoes that surely complete the look. 




Dress 10: Open Back Lace Bridal Gown

Elegant yet simple with a backless silhouette meant to stop others in their tracks while illuminating the room.





The showcase was dazzling. The twists and turns of the models made Eva’s garments flow so nicely – allowing you to envision them on and where you would wear them. Bags and jewelry were available at the show as well. Eva had two pearl necklaces called the Day Pearl Necklace with lapis and baroque pearls and the Night Pearl Necklace with onyx and Akoya pearls. All of which were made by hand by her artisans in Florence. Eva’s couture clothing collections designed to be one-of-a-kind are great heritage pieces, as Catherine mentions at the show’s end. They contributed to the uniqueness and timeless aesthetic of Evaro, which wowed the crowd as the show ended with a roaring round of applause.

IG: evaroitalia


Acqua Dolce by Evaro from Evaro Italia on Vimeo.

Six-year-old Yolanda Guerra sat at the dining room table with a Dick-and-Jane elementary-level reader. The strong, bold print matched her growing confidence as she strung words into sentences. Her father sat next to her and watched her read. “Mija, what is it about? Tell me.” She started saying the sentences out loud. “Which word is that on the page?” he asked. “What’s that word?” he pointed, “and that word?” She looked at him, and he said, “Mija, I don’t know how to read.”

At 18, for a graduation present, Yolanda received money from her father. She spent it all on buying novels. “When he asked what I got, he started crying. My father and I were connected intuitively. He created a space for both of us to learn.”

Gratitude for her father inspired one of Yolanda’s most well-toured pieces, “Love, Strength, Will and Power of Protest (Little Iron Vagina),” an installation work in which a small iron with a glowing, red center sits atop an ironing board. Flanking the brave little machine, two wooden panels with handwritten cursive describe a memory from the early ’80s, when Yolanda was 13 and her older brother demanded she iron his shirt. When her refusal escalated into an argument, and her mother sided with her brother, her father stepped in and freed Yolanda from the outdated expectation that women must cater to men.

“My father and I were connected intuitively. He created a space for both of us to learn.” -Yolanda Guerra 

Much of Yolanda’s art explores the culture she inherited from previous generations. For example, one of her works-in-progress is an untitled textile sculpture about dismantling shame, for herself as much as her mom and dad. “My parents were hit in elementary school for speaking Spanish,” Yolanda explains. “I need to let go of the guilt my parents had.” As a child of assimilation, her English is fluent, but her Spanish is hesitant. “I have students who ask, ‘You’re Mexican–how come you don’t speak Spanish?’ We have to talk about the colonizer!”

A full-time artist with her own studio at the Alameda Artworks, Yolanda has been teaching art for eleven years. Born in San Jose as the youngest of nine, she chose to pursue her BFA in Art while her classmates became engineers or graphic illustrators. She found an affinity for writing, which she sometimes embroiders into her artwork: her own words mix with those of Pablo Neruda and Sandra Cisneros in “She Gave Birth to Joy and Poetry,” a sculpture composed of a zip-up cloth tissue-box with smooth, dried flaps of colorful acrylic paint and butterflies. Its satin lining contains lines of poetry celebrating the beauty, depth, and functions of the vagina.

Many of her recent pieces are woodblock prints about families separated from their children. Yolanda sees these works as healing for herself and possibly for many others as well. “I want to show love and hope and pain, but pain in a way that people can see the beauty of family, of Mexican people,” she says. “I want to be some kind of voice for people who are not always heard.”

“I think that’s why I’m a teacher too,” Yolanda reflects. “Each time I walk into a classroom, I want to honor the teachers I had.” During her time at Evergreen Valley College, which Yolanda attended for junior college before San Jose State, she found creative women professors who were “kind and open to people’s craziness.” The instructor whom she dubs her “first art mama” once told her, “You have to follow your own path. Because if not, what kind of life would that be?”

And so, Yolanda expresses her truth in every way she can. She reminds her city it was once a farming community; it can continue to innovate without exacerbating wage gaps. She sheds tears each summer as another class of students graduates; she makes art about them, wishing them well. And eventually, confirmations arrive at the door. Her students return to their art mama and tell her they still enjoy drawing or painting or printmaking. And Yolanda rests assured she’s at the right place in life. “Whatever pulls me in the direction of where I need to be, I follow that. Despite whatever situations are around. That’s just my way of living.”
Facebook: YolandaguerraArt
Instagram: yolandaguerra23

The Alameda Artworks
1068 The Alameda
San Jose, CA 95124


Article originally appeared inIssue 11.5 Dine (Print SOLD OUT)

#77 – Amanda Rawson- Project Manager and  Researcher Director for Art Builds Community

Amanda Rawson has participated in the cultural art sector for more than eight years. Previously, Amanda worked as the Major Gifts Officer for the San Jose Museum of Art and the Donor and External Relations Manager at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. Rawson’s background in art history, development, and program management enables her to create spaces that bring together the community. She is a founding member of San Jose Arts Advocates. She was the chair of genArts Silicon Valley, a program of Silicon Valley Creates dedicated to empowering creative individuals and emerging arts leaders through professional development, advocacy, and networking.

In our discussion, we talked about Amanda’s path to becoming the project manager and research director of Art Builds Community, her role, and the work they have been doing for the County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy on a project called Womanhood.


People came to slay at the ten-year anniversary Pick-Up party for Content Magazine. Phones were out recording the vibes and rhythms of the performers. The atmosphere of the chilled air invoked the many layers of long sleeves and coats. Ten years of spreading creative content through the imaginative process of art and creativity. Walking around San Pedro Square Market, where the event was held I noticed the brilliance of the creative community. Vendors were displayed their work, featured community members mingled about while Photographers caught every moment as I approached individuals whose outfits I wanted to capture.

The outfits displayed the coming out of the winter season and transitioning into spring. Vests were the noticeable item that many people who attended were wearing. Windbreaker vests, furry vests, and denim vests. Cozy and stylish enough for the occasion. The perfect garment for this time of year. I also noticed that hats were worn all throughout the evening. Mostly beanies with a few dad hats and snapbacks, but the coolest hat type was the fedora. As the South Bay consists of so many different groups of people, the older crowd brought out their best fedoras and sported a “jazz cat” look–to quote Chine Slender. As with the previous Pick-up Party, individuals were wearing the MFA uniform style as well as streetwear. MFA or (jazz cat) had a mixture of styles. The more traditional, like what Kevin Peth was wearing and others with their own personal spin on it like Francisco Graciano and Abe Menor were wearing. Long duster jackets were still worn widely throughout the evening (similar to issue 14.1 Pick-Up Party). Maylea, Shannon, Arely, Joe, Kathryn, and Vincent are all rockin’ this style in their own unique way.

People’s outfits express parts of themselves they want to expose. Engaging conversations were sparked by some individuals wearing the same designer brand. Other friendly chats stemmed from compliments and acknowledgments of some really cool outfits locals wore. I love this because it provides a unique connection purely from the clothes people are wearing, which has the potential to lead to new friendships and connections. They bring out the creative side of people. How they express themselves and how they want to be interpreted by others. Sharing style and taste for fashion are some of the essential things fashion has to offer the community. Many of the attendees were dressed in all-black attire; each one had their own specific way that was different from another on how they styled it. Vincent, Melody, Joe, and David were all in black but David gave the punk vibes; Vincent had that high fashion feel, while Melody and Joe strutted the streetwear looks.

While on this exciting journey of diving deep into what the South Bay style looks and feels like, I’ve gathered that we do have unique styles. There is importance to how we South Bay Areas dress. Even how we accessorize. From Arely’s “Causin Ruckus” bag to Kung Fu Vampire’s blood-red shades. The evening was full of patterns and color and some floral designs, too as we creep closer to spring. I had such a blast interacting with everyone last Thursday at the Pick-Up party. San Jose really showed up and expressed themselves through the aptitude of personal fashion style.

Look for my future post about my conversation with Araceli Vizcaino, the owner, and operator of a thrift store called Thrill of the Luxe. We talk about the importance fashion has in our community. What the power of fashion can do and contribute to the interconnectivity of our community. Feel free to comment on Instagram and share this post with friends. See you at the next Pick-Up party.

When Abby Bettencourt thinks about describing her creative process, she imagines a carousel. She envisions a steady rotation of ideas circling through her mind, like the ornate rides at fairs and amusement parks. The ideas glide by, passing out of view to ruminate in the background, then resurface once more for assessment and reinterpretation. Nothing is ever fixed, but always in motion and guided by the fluidity of change.

Abby’s journey within the art industry has been circuitous, following her development as a spatial artist and contemporary jewelry maker. Now she has come full circle, entering the next phase in her career as volunteer director of the 6th Street Studios and Art Center in downtown Gilroy.

Growing up as a Gilroy native, Abby loved to craft with her mother. “She kind of spurred me working with my hands,” she explains, recalling the days of polymer clay, knitting, and baking Shrinky Dinks. Once she discovered the limitless possibilities of three-dimensional art, there was no turning back.

Abby went on to pursue her BFA in spatial arts at SJSU, where she became immersed in the community as a practicing artist and a conduit for others’ creativity. On campus, she led the Jewelry and Small Metals Guild, cultivating opportunities for members to exhibit and sell their work or to share resources in their craft. She was an art preparator for the Institute of Contemporary Art and simultaneously held the role of creative director and curator at Social Policy in downtown San Jose. There she played a pivotal role choreographing exhibitions with First Friday events showcasing local artists in the SoFA district.

“I couldn’t have done it without embracing the community.” -Abby Bettencourt

When it came time for her BFA project, Abby was well-prepared. She visited each section of spatial arts at SJSU, learning everything from how to plaster silica molds to annealing glass. Everyone in her life got involved in some capacity, including Abby’s father, friends, and roommates. Even the vintage table used for her sculpture’s foundation had been passed down from Abby’s grandparents. The finished piece was exhibited at Social Policy, symbolizing the coalescence of her artistic growth and collaboration with others. “I couldn’t have done it without embracing the community,” she says. 

Two years later, Abby came across 6th Street by pure serendipity. She found a post on Craigslist at the end of 2020 listed by founder Emily.McEwan-Upright—the studio needed an intern and Abby knew its location well. “I severely missed all the art organizing I did in downtown San Jose. So, after I toured the space and met Emily, I offered to help out where I could. The center’s mission is simple: to provide an inclusive and financially accessible creative space for artists of all disciplines,” she says.

The studio building itself has already lived many lives. Originally designed as a Studebaker dealership in the 1940s, it was later used as an auction showroom, then a window and shades shop during the 1990s. At one point it was a branch for Hope Services, a support agency for disability and mental health. It even acted as headquarters for the Gilroy Dispatch. Over the decades, its walls and mid-century façade have changed little, but the operations within have adapted to the community around it. Now the center is gaining momentum once more, this time with Abby adding to its story.

The pandemic poses an exceptional challenge, affecting how the center can engage with the public. “Everyone is apprehensive about going out and about, and rightly so,” she says. It’s also been a matter of tapping into the local creative community—bringing people together.

A variety of artists have already rented studios through the center’s residency program—ranging from illustrators, oil painters, graphic designers, musicians, ceramicists, screen printers, and a soap and candle maker. Some are local, some commute from San Jose, Hollister, or Santa Cruz. The exhibits draw from this rich resource of talent, displaying seasoned and emerging artists alike who work in a symphony of mediums. The center even partners with local schools for group shows to strengthen Gilroy’s arts education.

Then there’s the monthly art walks, designed to explore the arts and culture scene developing in the historic downtown district. Likewise for the center’s art market events, which celebrate small business artists while giving hobbyists and crafters time in the spotlight. 

Abby describes 6th Street’s operations as delicately balanced. She has several projects waiting in the wings between the schedule for exhibits and open studio days. Eventually she would like to integrate her own expertise by instructing workshops on jewelry making or enameling, hoping to ease people past feelings of intimidation, so they can flourish in the craft. The possibilities are endless.

True to her process, Abby brings back all the artistic wisdom and confidence gained from her creative journey thus far, putting a new spin on something familiar.


Article originally appeared in Issue 14.2 “SIght and Sound”


The San José Arts Advocates Nobody was stepping up to just keep [the arts] organized.” –Peter Allen

On January 1, 2020, California Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) went into effect. The goal of the bill is to limit the ability of companies to classify workers as contractors rather than employees. The bill was inspired by the gig economy vital to companies like Uber, Lyft, and Door- Dash, who classify their drivers as contractors, avoiding minimum-wage laws, labor protections, unemployment benefits, and other employee aid. Another sector of the work force that will be hit by the bill are artists and those that hire them to do project-based work. San Jose’s visual artists, dancers, musicians, singers, and actors are being involved with unknown consequences or possible benefits. This bill has been a topic among many in the local arts scene, and one that comes up when talking with the newly formed grassroots group, San José Arts Advocates (SJAA).

The SJAA is a collaborative effort across many involved in the cultural landscape of California. In an area globally known for technological innovation, the role the arts play in San Jose can get lost, voiceless. The group is a central voice for arts advocacy and education in San Jose and is planning ways to address the impact of AB 5 and many other policies and issues permeating the arts. The core team of SJAA has come together from various factions of the arts community—Peter Allen (former San Jose Arts Commission chair), Brendan Rawson (executive director of San Jose Jazz), Julia Canavese (GenARTS Silicon Valley), Eileen Beckley (Santa Clara County Office of Education), “Mighty” Mike McGee (Santa Clara County poet laureate), Ron P. Muriera (board member of California Arts Advocates and Californians for the Arts), Amanda Rawson (public art consultant), Yori Seeger (School of Visual Philosophy), and Eva Smith Glynn (Flash Fiction Forum). With each member working in their separate corners of the political system on behalf of the cultural foundation of San Jose, the SJAA was born over years of discussion in the meeting rooms and hallways of San Jose. As member Peter Allen says, “Nobody was stepping up to just keep [the arts] organized. We certainly would go to city council meetings and commission meetings and lobby, but we were finding we were getting information late. We were having to organize last minute and couldn’t really organize groups of speakers, cohesive talking points, messaging, and getting white papers and letters to council members well in advance of the meeting.”

I don’t want to be your grant writer. I want to teach you how to grant write. –Ron Muriera

As more private development comes to San Jose, so does another issue. Neighboring cities have a percentage of private development costs set aside for public art, but San Jose does not. The SJAA hopes to have a seat at the table as the process of the city’s annual budget moves forward and discussions like these take place. The group will also focus on educating the community about the current state of the arts. As member Ron Muriera explains, “A lot of folks don’t understand that arts education is supposed to be a requirement in all school districts in California, and very few school districts are offering any type of arts education, which means they’re noncompliant; but parents are not educated on the fact that we have one arts class in our school. If we help them understand that they can voice that at their school board, change can happen.”

Education is a major goal of the group. Most artists are not well versed in the opportunities available to them through grants and fellowships and how the application process works. The SJAA wants to fix that by building a hub for those resources. The core team members all have experience writing and reviewing grants and want to teach that language to those it would be most useful to. A host of grant writing workshops around the city, Muriera says, “I don’t want to be your grant writer. I want to teach you how to grant write.”

The San José Arts Advocates officially went live Saturday, February 15 at the School of Visual Philosophy with the team’s inaugural event, Creating Change: Arts and San José Politics, where local artists showcased work inspired by the current political climate and the primary elections.
Social media: sanjosearts

Manifesto Letterpress Artwork by Matt Kelsey

The 10th Anniversary of Content Magazine issue 14.2 Pick-Up Party was an exciting evening of culture and community that celebrated many talented artists and passionate art lovers. Live music, laughter, and happy chatter filled the air of San Pedro Square Market and brought the night alive as new and familiar faces came to celebrate together.

BAUNFIRE’s photo-booth and Content specialty drinks specially prepared by the San Pedro Square Market Bar for the event both left behind fond memories to be treasured for years to come. To date, our largest Pick-Up Party featured artists from around the South Bay Area with hundreds of guests, including California State Representative Ash Kalra, who presented Content Magazine with a Resolution the ten years accomplishment of highlighting local creatives.

Daniel Garcia, Founder and Cultivator of Content Magazine, and Juan Sanchez, Founder and Creative Director of BAUNFIRE, toasted the success of Content Magazine and looked to the future with raised glasses from smiling guests of the South Bay’s key creatives.

We at Content Magazine are grateful to all the artists, partners, members, and community for your support in this project to give visibility to the artist of Santa Clara County.

Thank you all for ten years!
Here’s to (at least) ten more.

Event Musicians: @bennettjazzkeys, @lidiapeacelovesax, @the408collectivemusic.
Featured Artists: @caiakoopman, @alexknowbody, @farrantabrizi, @ezramara1, @nicolastela, @j.duh, @teejay5992, @benjamin_dobbin_art, @mrharada, and @gmrartstudio.
Event Partners: @baunfire, ABIERTO, @spsmarket, @stuarteventrentals, @voyagercraftcoffee, @soskiphotobooth, and @sanjosejazz


Ezra Mara was born in Russia, where she received her MFA before moving to the US more than 20 years ago. Her work has been shown in galleries across the country, as well as in Moscow. Her quarantine oil-on-canvas series, Ana’s Days, shows the same woman posing against a variety of backgrounds, her expression stoic and resigned.

“I, as never before, felt and saw how our ‘raw’ reality turns into what we call ‘life’ only when filled by human presence and human intentions,” explains Mara. “That gave me an idea to make a series of paintings where the same female character in the same outfit appears in each piece, only her poses and background changing. Her figure occupies a large space in the composition, which gives a feeling of a tightly confined space, a nod towards the situation of isolation.

“During the quarantine, we often wake up with the feeling that every new day repeats the previous one. For me personally, this feeling was an impetus to the realization that…we are solely responsible for our own lives. Even restricted by the four walls of our apartments, left without live communication, we must create our days again and again, filling them with meaning and beauty.”

Mara’s time in the crisis began with a transition from one health scare to another.

“In early March, I had a heart operation. The day after I was discharged from the hospital, quarantine was announced.” The first days and weeks were filled with fear and anxiety for Mara. She began making small drawings, one per day. The drawings gave her strength, and the feeling of uncertainty and confusion began to recede.

“The beautiful spring supported this state of my mind. I have never walked so much…never paid so much attention to the beauty around me. The walking route was short, and I watched the bloom of every tree, every bush, and every flower in my path.

“I did not feel the severity of isolation. I am a person who never gets bored staying alone. I had books, movies, video lectures. I had my paints and pencils, canvas and paper. I had social networking. My old friends living abroad became closer to me than my next-door neighbors. It so happened that due to the cancellation of a flight, our family reunited. I got an opportunity to enjoy the time spent with the whole family for a month and half.”

An artist’s role in moments like this, says Mara, is to use their talents to reflect “life on a raw canvas, so we are able through our internal resources to create our unique days, [to] make our days.”
Instagram: @ezramara1

Artist – Ezra Mara (English) from Content Magazine on Vimeo.

Santa Clara County Office of Education‘s Sunol Community Day School has worked in partnership with SV Creates to guide students through collaborative processes to create murals that explore social justice themes. Students have created murals with themes such as racial justice, the COVID-19 pandemic and essential workers, immigrant rights, and the wrongfully incarcerated. These murals not only provide a platform for their voice and expression but also allow for a sense of accomplishment and pride in this visual representation of an important social justice issue they can relate to.

Abolish Ice
This mural was designed by students from South County Community School. Mostly students from Morgan Hill and Gilroy, they have strong ties to migrant workers and families. Migrant workers travel the country to pick fruits and vegetables when in season from California to the East. The artists wanted to honor migrant workers. Migrant workers did not stop working during the COVID-19 pandemic. This challenging work became even more dangerous during the pandemic. In the piece you can see images of the workers, a set of rising fists in many shades and ‘your voice matters’. This piece was used to promote participation in the census and voter registration for youth.

Key Vocabulary
Census: an official count or survey of a population, typically recording various details of individuals.
Migrant Worker:a person who moves to another country or area in order to find employment, in particular seasonal or temporary work.
Pandemic: (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.

Suffrage Centennial 
Women’s suffrage, the legal right of women to vote, was established nationally in the United States with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in August 1920. The artists who designed this piece wanted to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of women having the right to vote. In the same year, they wanted to show, the world was experiencing the challenge of the pandemic and racial tensions. Honored in this mural are women suffragettes, migrant laborers, and African American civil rights heroes.

Key Vocabulary
Centennial: 100 year anniversary.
Suffrage: the right to vote.
Suffragette: women fighting for the right to vote in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

First Responders
The title of this piece honors those who fought for attention to the challenges of their people in many different ways. On the football field players chose to draw attention to inequities by taking a knee during the national anthem. In communities across the country, citizens took to the streets to protest unfair treatment from the police and justice system. In hospitals, nurses continue to put themselves at risk daily to support those in need. This mural captures the tension our nation experienced in 2020 following the death of George Floyd. The COVID-19 pandemic, shelter-in-place, and protests against police violence all contributed to this tense time period.

Key Vocabulary
First Responder: someone designated or trained to respond to an emergency.
Shelter-in-place: the act of seeking safety within the building one already occupies.
Tension:mental or emotional strain.

This piece features a collage of civil rights leaders. Racial healing takes many forms. Some participate in protest. Some leaders fight for justice through direct action. Some create art.
Pictured here is Mahatma Gandhi. He used non-violent protest to win the independence for the people of India from the British Empire. Following in his footstep,Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used non-violence to fight for civil rights for African-Americans in the United States.
During their medal ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City on October 16, 1968, two African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Cesar Chavez worked tirelessly to bring attention and fair pay and working conditions to farm workers. 

Key Vocabulary
Non-Violence: the use of peaceful means, not force, to bring about political or social change.

Frida Kahlo
This piece features a collage of civil rights leaders. Racial healing takes many forms. Some participate in protest. Some leaders fight for justice through direct action. Some create art.
Pictured here is Mahatma Gandhi. He used non-violent protest to win the independence for the people of India from the British Empire. Following in his footstep,Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used non-violence to fight for civil rights for African-Americans in the United States.
During their medal ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City on October 16, 1968, two African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Cesar Chavez worked tirelessly to bring attention and fair pay and working conditions to farm workers. 

Key Vocabulary
Identity: the characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is.
Class: the system of ordering a society in which people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status.


Walking into the Dark Horse Gym into the crowd of fashion influencers bobbing their heads to the catwalk tunes overplaying the chatter and whispers of casual conversation. It’s a full house. Lights spill on the walls and tops of heads with dangling jewelry flashing and lines of contour telling stories of the past. Chine Slender, the show’s architect, speaks on the microphone to notify that the show is about to begin. The lights dim as there’s a shift in music. A crew is gathering at the entrance. Silhouettes of models dance in the dark. The lights come on, and out come the first model as they step onto the runway. The 8th Lake Fashion Show on February 4th, 2022, was a night to remember. 

Chinedu Emeahara, a.k.a Chine Slender, is a San Jose local who broke through the art world with his music back in 2018. (Read more about it in issue 13.3 Perform.) He says he’s always been interested in expressing his style through clothes. As he traveled around the country to conventional fashion hubs like New York, he felt inspired to take his experiences and put them into something he could share with others. Thus he was motivated to connect with local designers to create a fun show that stood for something. “San Jose, even though it’s far from being a fashion hub, has the population and potential to get more into fashion and use fashion to build community and connect with others. The rest of the world already knows of the Bay and how influential we are, but when it comes to fashion, it’s much harder to come by,” says Chine, recognizing the importance and power of fashion. 

Chine looks at clothes like time capsules. They document the times and eras of a generation, social moments, and sometimes an individual staple. They reflect the times and capture what was popular and defining culture. “When it comes to south bay style, since it is such a melting pot, you’re going to get so many different looks and styles, it’s really when people step outside of those limits is when you start to get the outliers who are the ones who actually define the fashion,” says Chine. “How they’re wearing it is just as important as what they’re wearing.” Chine defines the south bay style into five categories. Chollo, hypebeast/streetwear, jazz cat, suburban, and skater. These are observations by Chine and how he and his community relates to them.

Fashion moves and shifts, and how we dress ourselves and interpret others’ attire is an exchange—a story of emotion, experience, and personality. I want to provide a space for us South Bayers to consider and express ourselves through the creative outlet of fashion and dress. We are a melting pot of cultures, which reflects through our style. Every day or week, a new trend can erupt, and the fashion industry can shift. Here in the South Bay, how we wear our clothes paired with how the wearer expresses their outfit defines our unique and specific style. Other factors contribute as well. Like geography, weather, what kind of social events people are attending, and what type of community we have. Fashion expression is a way to tell the world a bit about yourself- it shows us what you’re all about. 

Through my journey of defining what South Bay Style looks like, I’ve encountered creative people who are pushing the fashion scene in San Jose forward. What individuals wear to events sets the tone for what’s in and what isn’t, which is why a fashion show has the impact necessary to stimulate brilliance and bind a neighborhood together. 

Watch the full 8th Lake Fashion Show here and get involved.


Feel inspired to wear something that represents a bit about who you are. Have fun with it. In our next post about defining what South Bay Style looks like, I sat down with Araceli Vizcaino, who is the owner and operator of Thrill of the Luxe. We talked about the importance and influence of expressing your unique style and some of its difficulties. 


Dead By Dawn: @deadbydawnnn

Bloodsport studios: @bloodsportstudios


S.O.S. Clothing:

Show Host Chine Slender: @_malvce (@chineslender)

Location: Dark Horse Gym @darkhorsegymsj


Chollo: Dickies, cut off, high socks, cortezs and a plain white t-shirt. Very narrowed color scheme.

Hypebeast/streetwear: Screen printed pants, shirt, and/or accessory. Including expensive t-shirt brands like Supreme. 

Jazz Cat: Some type of vest blazer, collared shirt or v-neck, black skinny jeans and doc martens. Colors are usually on the darker end. Usually gray or black.

Suburban: an expensive tote bag, usually Gucci, Balenciaga, or Louis Vuitton monogram Louis, with some platform heels and a modern trench coat. And you’ll see them in hubs. Generally around the two big malls, Oakridge and Valley Fair. Where most people shop. 

Skater: a combination of cholo, streetwear/hypebeast and jazz cat style. When they skate they’re comfortable. Cut jeans or dickies, with a supreme t-shirt and the somber and darker colors which all come from the other categories.)

These photos are meant to inspire and express what the fashion influencers of the South Bay are styling and dressing. 


When you first hear “CVNT KALL ME BRO,” the sheer force of the two-minute onslaught feels like the sonic equivalent of running into a brick wall.

There’s so much to process in an instant. If you’re not first floored by the peaking, pounding bass and delicate bells of the jackhammer beat, then the screamed opening lines certainly snatch your full attention. A few seconds later, you realize bewilderment is exactly the reaction rapper Chine Slender (real name Chinedu Emeahara) is hoping for, because four bars into the song, it backspins right back to the top, a built-in re-load.  

“The angst was high,” he recalls of the night that set the tone for recording the song. “My homie was definitely influencing me to just scream my lungs out. I was feeling anxious, energized, and rageful, ready to pretty much attack—not someone, but attack life in a way, I guess.”

Energy is a key part of Chine Slender’s sonic signature. After being mesmerized by the first mosh pit he ever saw at a backyard metal show in his teens, he now urges fans to open their own pit once things hit a fever pitch. His wide range of influences, which draws as much inspiration from the SoundCloud rap of the late XXXTentacion as contemporary metal giants System of a Down, explains why the response he hopes for is rooted more in rock than rap.

While his heavier moments loom large on Worlds Away From Limbo 97, he also presents a new side of himself on the 7-song set, released this past January. The more melodic rapping on his first solo EP seems to draw inspiration from the contemplative lyricism normally found in emo and alternative. On the brooding “Worldz Away,” where he’s accompanied by a spare guitar and a slowly pulsing 808 kick, he raps “Maybe I’m a curse / or a cancer, where my stars is,” his dark contemplation drawing a parallel with the work of Canadian DIY rapper Golden BSP or the late Lil Peep. 

If the project feels oddly eclectic, that’s because Chine’s a good snapshot of hip-hop’s zeitgeist. It’s a genre in transition, where the pop success of Drake has brought melody more fully into lyrical delivery, and the rise of new age stars like Lil Uzi Vert has brought a new emo introspection to a musical style that has never been huge on sharing its feelings.

“I figure that a lot of people—and me especially—deal with the anxiety that uncertainty brings,” explains the 23-year-old when speaking on the title of his album (the number 97 alludes to the year he was born). “[The title is] the fact that you’re worlds away from your uncertainty. I feel like the project itself had a lot to do with me coming into who I [am].” 

That transition was partly aided by psychedelic experiences, a dynamic that plays heavily into the visual of his video for “Down.” Such experiences gave him the space to sit more comfortably with what he labels his “demons,” which led to better recognizing and accepting the balance inherent in life—light existing with darkness, joy sitting alongside pain. “It definitely has influenced a lot of the way I think—the music that I make and the sound I go for as well,” he shares.

Though Chine marks 2016 as the official beginning of his music career, 2018 was the watershed year for his career thus far, with songs like “Get It” and “Lane Switch” racking up tens of thousands of plays on SoundCloud. That notoriety led to shows throughout the Bay Area and even performances in LA and Reno. In 2019, he released Take Off, a collaborative EP with rapper Lo-So and producer JR Beatz. 

His musical momentum was halted in the fall of 2019, when he moved to Virginia to attend Norfolk State University. At the urging of a friend, he auditioned for the school’s homecoming concert, and impressed the judges enough to earn a spot opening for Lil Durk in front of the whole school, a moment that proved to be his East Coast breakthrough. 

That rise didn’t come without a little culture shock. “Some of them didn’t know what to do because they never felt it—they didn’t know what a mosh pit was,” he explains. He didn’t sweat it, chalking up the experience to simply working out kinks in the crowd. “Eventually, after my second show out there, I was getting the mosh pit ready. Now they knew how to rage.”

Since returning to San Jose in the wake of COVID lockdowns, there haven’t been many chances to connect with audiences back in his hometown—with one notable exception. As part of a Martha Street Art Night, he summoned a mosh pit when debuting “CVNT KALL ME BRO +.” In the spirit of social distance and in a nod to his punk spirit, he did so on top of a van.
Instagram: chineslender

Article originally appeared inIssue 13.3 Perform (Print SOLD OUT)


A mixed-media artist and one of the artists selected for City of San Jose’s the first Creative License Ambassador in the program’s pilot year, Corinne Okada Takara composes technology-integrated projects and crafts sculptural work out of elegant yet mundane materials, like silk, food wrappers, newspapers, and plastic produce netting. “The sculptures explore the pulling apart and reassembling of modern-day artifacts,” she explains on her website, Okada Design. “I am fascinated by the resulting textures and colliding and merging stories.” Increasingly, this creative has found her art extending beyond self-expression and toward interactive engagement. Her workshops for museums, libraries, and classrooms act as a bridge ushering others into the realm of creativity. She describes her job as “giving people a canvas to work on,” adding that it equips them with “confidence in their own creative voices.”

“I think it’s important we play together in our public spaces.” -Corinne Okada Takara

Takara’s project, Layers of SJ, revolved around stickers—a medium she finds both “playful and inviting.” Each sticker contained an image of an artifact representing the San Jose community, past and present, and the public was encouraged to incorporate these into collages. Though Takara gathered a number of images from library and museum collections, as well as with her camera, she also enlisted community involvement by welcoming anyone to submit pictures. The Layers of SJ booth sparked conversations between strangers who couldn’t help discussing (or puzzling) over images, swapping stories, or pondering possibilities for symbolic objects from their own neighborhoods. “I think it’s important we play together in our public spaces,” Takara shares.

IG: corinnetakara


Read about Corinne and the other City of San Jose’s Creative Ambassdors on our Issuu page.

The Hollow

Murder most malicious has transpired at the City Lights Theater Company—and we couldn’t be more delighted about it.

The theater is showcasing its first ever murder mystery performance and they’re starting with a bang. The Hollow is a play written by the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie, and takes the audience on a trip to the sunny English countryside… but there’s a storm coming. A body turns up. Detectives come knocking. A number of guns begin popping up in unexpected places. And a messy snarl of romantic relationships are uncovered. Who committed the crime? The movie star? The mistress?… Or did the butler do it?

Here are three reasons why you should consider buying yourself a ticket:

It’s Directed by an Agatha Christie Diehard

One reason The Hollow truly shines at City Lights is because it’s overseen by a self-proclaimed Agatha Christie “hyper-fangirl.” Ever since Director Doll Piccotto acted in one of Christie’s plays, she’s studied the author with the tenacity and thoroughness of a forensic investigator on a crime scene. Actually, she’s read her way through every single one of Christie’s books (no small feat considering the author published over 66 novels, not including all the plays and short stories).

“[Christie] has such an ability to lay out all the clues for you… [and] it’s so satisfying to watch those pieces all come together,” describes Piccotto. In fact, these clever plots and twist-endings earned the early 1900s novelist the Guinness World Records achievement of best-selling novelist of all time (an accolade not even JK Rowling has managed to take from her).

“You see pictures of her, and you see this demure little old lady… [But she] towed the line when it came to convention,” Piccotto laughs. For starters, she was one of the first English women who ever surfed… And then, of course, there was the time she framed her husband for her own murder.

Piccotto explains that Christie went missing right around the time her husband wanted to divorce her. “Her car was found on the edge of a quarry [with] some of her clothes in it. Of course, the husband’s the first one that’s suspected,” she says. “So they start digging into his past and discover his mistress, drag his name through the mud and the papers… And then, all of a sudden, they find [Christie] at this spa, chilling out! And she’s registered under her husband’s mistress’s name—which is just savage.” When the authorities questioned her about the incident, Christie feigned a case of amnesia, and the matter was dropped.

From such a curious mind is it any wonder her stories were one-of-a-kind?

You’ll Meet Some Intriguing Suspects

But out of Christie’s vast range of work, why specifically The Hollow? Piccotto shares that this script is one of Christie’s more psychological ones. “This play is about relationships,” she explains. “This is a play about how people interact with each other, the relationships they have, and how they develop.”

The cast has embodied the characters with enthusiasm. “They’re excited!” she says. “They’re reading extra source material… They’re really getting into the spirit of this murder mystery.”

Expect a particularly exceptional performance from actress Karen DeHart, who plays the flighty Lady Lucy Angkatell. Lucy, an older matron (and a repeat offender of the nonsequitur), chats about murder and sandwiches with the same offhanded air. And DeHart does a fantastic job of keeping you guessing whether she’s harmless or lethal.

Actress Caitlin Lawrence Papp also does a splendid job of playing the less than intelligent Gerda. Her eyebrows have a habitual way of shooting skyward in confusion and her wide-eyed way of gawking in alarm (whenever she can’t understand something) gives the impression of a chicken caught in the headlights.

In fact, the furtive glances, scrunched brows, and pained grimaces communicated by the entire cast add another psychological touch to the performance. Because of the intimate size of the theater, the audience can easily make out and scrutinize these reactions, drawing their own conclusions as to the meaning behind them.

“I hope we get a lot of amateur detectives out there ready to come and solve this mystery.”

You’ll Be Playing Detective

In a way, that intimate performance space also gives the audience the impression of being in the room with the suspects. It won’t take long before your brain starts “assisting” Inspector Colquhoun and Detective Sergeant Penny with your own theories on the investigation.

Piccotto explains classic whodunnits engage viewers in ways other plays don’t. “The audience is playing detective and that is exciting!” she says. “I hope we get a lot of amateur detectives out there ready to come and solve this mystery.”

She especially loves hearing folks swap theories during intermission—as well as their reactions to the Big Reveal. “When the audience gets it, when they finally realized who did it, there’s this wave—you can hear it. Somebody in the front row will just be like, “Ah, oh my gosh,’ and then you just hear it kind of ripple through the audience.”

But pitting your wits against crafty Christie is easier said than done. She had a way of making you second and third guess your assumptions, throwing in enough twists and turns to rival San Francisco’s Lombard Street. “Nothing was off the table for her,” Picotto laughs.

Her advice to all the amateur detectives? “Suspect. Absolutely. Everyone.”

Don your trench coat and step into the world of The Hollow before the show closes on March 6th.

Showtimes are Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets sold online, at the door, and in advance by calling 408-295-4200

Must provide proof of full Covid vaccination. 

BBeing a comic in San Jose is not easy. Between getting on stage in front of a new audience every night, hoping for laughs; competing with other amateur and professional comics for the same slots; and trying to make the best of whatever ad hoc stage the venue put together for the comic’s set, it can be exhausting. Despite this pressure, comics Brian “BMo” Moore and Ruben Escobedo III decided to not only be comics in their own right, but to also take on hosting their own show, where five of the Bay Area’s best comedians compete against each other in a format that’s half improv, half standup, a dash of weirdness, and all laughs.

Pick Your Poison would never have existed if not for beer. Local San Jose breweries are a prime destination for finding comics at all levels of experience, who often hop between multiple venues in the same evening, performing during open-mic nights. BMo, who had never done any form of standup until three years ago, was exposed to comedy mainly from backstage. Having worked in the beer industry for over a decade, with a focus on events and marketing, BMo previously worked with comics to arrange open mic nights and other special events. When he met Ruben in 2018, BMo was working for Santa Clara Valley Brewing (now closed), where he had arranged a recurring local comedy night. “I had just started running shows in Santa Clara Valley Brewing,” said BMo. “I had maybe done three or four shows, and Ruben was at one of them as a performer. [After] the second time he performed, he came to me and said, ‘Hey, I want to do this show, and I got this idea for a prompt show.’” Unbeknownst to BMo, Ruben, an experienced comic in San Jose, had been toying with a new show premise for a while, but hadn’t yet found the right venue. “I’d pitched this show to other places, and they all said I had to talk to Brian at Santa Clara Valley. He’s the brewery comedy guy,” said Ruben. “And I was like, I don’t want to step on any toes, but I wanted to just talk with him.” It was that conversation where the show began to come to life.

Since January of 2019, Pick Your Poison has hosted four seasons, with two seasons taking place each year. Before venues closed down due to COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, the show operated much the same way as Ruben originally pitched it to BMo. “So, usually, we have five comics,” Ruben explained. “Each comic is going to do two separate sets. The first set is completely improvised, based on envelopes they pull that me, BMo, and a couple other people have written prompts for.” The prompts, ranging from slightly vulgar to just plain random, are what set the show apart from others. A few past prompts include “Museum of Divorce,” “Why is Santa Wearing Daddy’s Watch?,” “Baby Yoda Is Overrated,” “Jesus’s Twitter Feed,” and “Accidental Adoption.” How each comic responds, reading the prompts for the first time while on stage, determines if they have a shot at victory.

After the first half, each audience member votes on paper to pick their favorite comic of the five. Ruben recalled: “We’d have a halftime, which was usually just BMo or I just gabbing on stage, killing time while the other person counted.” BMo added, “Then in the second season, we upgraded that…[having] like a very skilled comedian coming to do a set.” After the votes are tallied, the second half of the show begins. “Everyone comes back and does a second set, which is their prepared material, but the winner of the audience vote will ‘headline’ the show,” said Ruben. While the other comics get five to seven minutes for their final sets, the headline winner gets up to twenty minutes for their material to close out the evening. Later on, each season concludes with the winners of that season’s previous shows coming together for a final showdown. Most comedy shows don’t have the concept of seasons, but for Pick Your Poison’s format, it worked out perfectly to have a conclusive ending to a series of shows.

“When there’s somebody who’s on the cusp or someone who’s at maybe what I consider to be my level or a little above, I say, ‘Look, I wouldn’t book myself.’” –BMo

There is no money awarded for winning, although a season champion may get an old sports trophy or other random trinket as a prize. It’s far more important for Ruben and BMo that everyone, from the comics to the audience, and even the venue owners, is genuinely enjoying themselves. With BMo having experience from the management’s side and Ruben having more experience from the comic’s side, they empathize with everyone involved. They are the first people to tell you that improv is not easy for everyone, even experienced comics. Occasionally, they have had to turn comics away, for fear they wouldn’t be ready for the chaos of Pick Your Poison and wouldn’t have a fun experience being on the show. BMo walked through how they explain this. “When there’s somebody who’s on the cusp or someone who’s at maybe what I consider to be my level or a little above, I say, ‘Look, I wouldn’t book myself. I would never book me for this show to do the prompts.’ ” It’s not an easy conversation, but BMo and Ruben are trying to look out for the comics as much as the audience.

Normally, the show is hosted in Clandestine Brewing (featued in issue 10.3), but when COVID-19 sheltering-in-place began, Ruben and BMo thought they’d have to call off the third season. Then they had the idea of trying to use Zoom to host their show, and while they had to make some adjustments to the show’s format, overall, it was a huge success. It also allowed them to book other comics from across the country. Later in 2020, when minor league baseball was shut down, the duo had the idea to use BMo’s connections from his former brewery job with the San Jose Giants to host Pick Your Poison as an outdoor, drive-in comedy show, allowing them to host season four shows with a live audience. Guests drove around the outside edge of the field and parked to watch the performance right on home plate. Voting was all digital. Guests could scan a giant QR code off the stadium screen to cast their vote. Although plans for 2021 shows are still in development, both the Zoom and stadium format have proven to be fun
and successful.

While you’d never know it from the confidence they have on stage and in real life, both BMo and Ruben admit they’ve had a lot of self-doubt as they’ve started out on this adventure. “Because we’re only a couple years in, we suffer from imposter syndrome all the time,” said BMo. “We never think we deserve to be where we are or who we’re with.” Although BMo may be relatively new to standup, and Ruben new to event hosting, there is no question they’ve come together to form the perfect hosting duo the San Jose comedy scene was looking for.  

Instagram: pickyourpoisoncomedy
Facebook: pypcomedyshow

Article originally appeared in Issue 13.2 Sight and Sound  (Print SOLD OUT)

If you turn on the news for thirty seconds, you will find a myriad of things to fear- a recession, high unemployment rates, unstable corporations, uncertain state budgets, and Mother Nature gone berserk. How does one live in an environment of fear and change? If you stay tuned to the commercials, corporations and pharmaceutical companies have several solutions for sale.

Local artist Gianfranco Paolozzi has some interesting ideas about change, failure and the things we buy only to discard.

To Gianfranco, art reflects life. The materials he chooses, his process, and where he exhibits his works finds root in everyday life. He is directed by chance and his compass is his heart.

He uses recycled materials found in his immediate environment, rescuing things that would have been ignored or wasted. Yet his motivation is not to be a trendy “green” artist. Rather he captures in his work what he calls “intentional chances” and welcomes what others see as mistakes or failures.

He takes natural materials and make-up free photography subjects and “puts his imagination on top” in the form of liquid or linear markings. It is an emotional journal of his life that tells the story of a human being touched by chance.

I caught up with Gianfranco to discuss some of his recent bodies of work.

Markings Series

Gianfranco doesn’t write much so he invented a process he calls “markings” to journal his emotions. “I started to make the lines I wanted in the moment, line after line, repetition after repetition. The diary is a repetition of words- repetition of the letter ‘a,’ the letter ‘b,’ who knows how many times.”

He claims no day’s worth of markings is the same and he cannot recall the emotions or stories he writes from the day. It has to be felt in the moment.

“Sometimes people say ‘oh the lasagna was so delicious.’ But I cannot remember flavors, how the lasagna tasted a week ago. I’m pretty sure it was delicious but I cannot remember.”

Collagement Series

Gianfranco captures an environment over a period of time in a non-linear process that embraces chance. He takes a series of progressive photos from the ground to the sky over a period of a few minutes, mixes the photos up like a deck of cards, and then re-assembles them onto works he calls “collagements.”

“I live my art. It’s about chances. When I take a picture of your foot for example, who knows what’s going to happen by the time I get to your face. There’s the possibility no one will be there by the time I go to shoot the head or that a bird will fly over you. So what is interesting to me is when I combine those images, when I was shooting your foot, the bird wasn’t there yet.”

Roundels Series

People in San Francisco were surprised to learn Gianfranco’s series “Roundels” were not ceramics. When Gianfranco discovered discarded label and sticker paper rolls in the dumpsters at his day job, he fell in love and felt compelled to save them.

“I fall in love easy. I don’t know how I’m going to use these things, all I know is its wasted paper and they are round and I don’t know where to put them all.”

How he created the roundel was through necessity and chance.

“There’s a hard cardboard around the outside that compresses it maintains its nice round form. As soon as I took the middle out, the round paper starts to make some decision about how to go into the middle. In a few days they started to bubble and make their own movement. Two or three of them popped and I lost them. There were some with curves and I had to find a way to stop those things. If I don’t do something, I will lose all of them. I had a bucket of Elmer’s glue and I put it all over them. When I came back the next morning, solid! I had a nice Roundel that looked almost ceramic. It’s one of the most delicious experiments I’ve ever had.”

He put his markings on them, first in pen like his journals, and then in liquidized rubber.

Jack-in-the-Box Series

Gianfranco is filling up his studio with boxes from the kitchen to create a series of work based on the idea of the Jack-in-the-box. He takes pictures of a subject in the same method as his collagements, places them at random on the box, and then allows the shape of the box to dictate the shape of the work. He cuts off leftover photo corners and mimics any holes or cutouts in the box. Then he names the work after the subject such as “Kat-in-the-box” or “Lacey-in-the-box.”

Skating has quite the quirky history. The first recorded invention of skates was credited to an 18th century instrument maker and inventor. Wanting to make a memorable entrance to a masquerade, he arrived wobbling on primitive metal-wheeled boots while playing a violin—then promptly crashed into an expensive mirror. Skates gained in popularity, and almost two centuries later, the New York Roller Skating Association (NYRSA) converted a hotel dining room into the very first public roller rink. Over the years, the world has seen roller ballets and roller ballroom dancing, roller discos and roller derby bouts. Carhop waitresses of the ’50s wheeled milkshakes to parked convertibles. And German barmaids of the mid-1800s strapped on skates, too, traversing the length of sizeable taverns to serve beers.

It should come as no surprise, then, that today’s quad skaters continue to comprise a lively, colorful community. Take Chicks in Bowls (CIB), a worldwide collective of skaters (of all levels) with the mantra “shred ’til we’re dead.” This community—founded by a roller derby girl who answers to the alter ego Lady Trample—is dedicated to encouraging and swapping tricks with other quad skaters at meet-ups and making skate parks more inviting for all. To date, CIB boasts over 300 chapters around the globe.

Our local CIB chapter, headed by Lucila Chavez, can be spotted at skate parks across San Jose. One of their hangouts, Lake Cunningham Action Sports Park, is California’s largest skate park, with an array of bowl shapes, rails, and boxes, as well as the world’s longest full pipe. However, Lucila and her crew are particularly fond of Plata Arroyo, a scrappy east side skate park they’ve adopted, with the intention of cleaning away its trash and advocating for upgrades. “It takes all hands to make it beautiful and welcoming for all,” Lucila remarks.

Plata Arroyo’s graffitied bowls certainly differ from the pristine cement slopes at Cunningham, but there’s personality in that paint. Words in complex fonts, cartoon characters, and other tags in bright hues match the splashes of turquoise, canary yellow, and hot pink on laces and helmets sported by CIB skaters.

Besides badass tricks, attire allows skaters another outlet for expression. Skaters have plenty of ways to express identity by personalizing their looks—from Hello Kitty skates to heart toe stops, from stickers applied to helmets to pompoms, bows, and wings attached to laces.

Lucila expresses a preference for vintage dresses (with spandex) and bold red lipstick—along with her helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards, and kneepads, of course. “I let [new skaters] know, ‘Hey, safety is sexy.’ ” She tells them. “ ‘Be sure you tie your shoes. Be sure you’re checking your roller skates. Make sure they spin. This is how you clean them.’ ”

“I let [new skaters] know, ‘Hey, safety is sexy. Be sure you tie your shoes. Be sure you’re checking your roller skates. Make sure they spin. This is how you clean them.’”

CIB San Jose, like other Chicks in Bowls chapters, is not only a great support system for beginners, but also for two of the most underrepresented groups at skate parks: women and quad skaters. Lucila says the number of skateboarders and BMX riders catching air on the bowls greatly outweighs the number of quad skaters; it’s also common to see a single woman for every ten men. “It’s less intimidating for us to go in large numbers,” she notes. “Especially if girls are on roller skates…they’re gonna get eyed.”

When the CIB San Jose chapter isn’t grinding along Plata Arroyo’s edges or kicking up into ho-hos (handstands) on its ramps, they join fellow skaters for San Jose Skate Night. Every first Saturday, streaks of light from participants’ LED wheels zip across streets and sidewalks like urban fireflies. They make quite the memorable sight as they cruise (and sometimes conga) around the city while blasting the Bee Gees and Rick James from a 15-inch speaker on wheels (playfully nicknamed the “music stroller”).

Next time you drive past a skatepark, remember our resident rollers—women who sail and spin across cement as gracefully as ice skaters, women who wear bruises—not with embarrassment, but with the pride of battle scars gained from courageous acts—women who use wheels as a way of welcoming others into community.

Facebook: CIBSanJoseCA
Instagram: cibsanjoseca
Twitter: cibsanjoseca

This article originally appeared in Issue 11.2 “Device”



Cuong Nguyen says that much of his career came to him by luck, but the hours of work he pours into his pieces say otherwise.

Nguyen’s paintings give the sense that if one were to reach out to the painting, one would be able to feel the texture of skin and the life that he imbues onto canvases, a feeling long associated with classical styles of painting. His work demands that viewers stop to study the portraits he paints in  hopes of absorbing every detail into their minds. “It’s realism, but drawing humans doesn’t have to be so realistic,” says Nguyen. “It doesn’t have to be every wrinkle of the skin. I don’t go for that.”

He began his artistic career by participating in public street painting festivals, where he gained notoriety for extremely lifelike pieces made with pastel chalk on asphalt. After that, he started getting invitations to competitions all over the world thanks to his use of verdaccio, where one uses a green foundation to build skin tones from black, white, and yellow pigments.

After experimenting with different styles of painting, Nguyen gravitated back to realism, even when his friends questioned his inclination to use the style, as it was not popular at the time. “I do try different styles, but it goes nowhere,” says Nguyen. “Only thing I can say is you have to listen to your heart.”

His portraits have won him many awards and accolades over the years, but the one that remains the most significant to him is the Best of Show Award in a statewide painting competition at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara. The five-foot-tall oil painting of an impressively frowning friend (as well as the sheer size of it) certainly made judges stop and stare. “You have to play the game,” says Nguyen. “Make it big, make it bold, make a statement.” He says that award opened many doors for him and is what convinced him to quit his job as an icon designer at Yahoo in 2010.

For Nguyen, art has always been a part of life. Even at 10, he knew in his heart that he was going to be an artist. He remarks that he was very lucky to be the youngest child in his family, his parents having loosened up their expectations by then, allowing him to do whatever he wanted. “I think art chose me,” says Nguyen, “because I had no choice.”

However, he explains, growing up in poverty limited his access to resources for learning how to make art. “The only book I had is a very old book,” says Nguyen. “It’s a Vietnamese work talking about Leonardo da Vinci’s life.” He copied the pictures he saw there, learning from da Vinci himself in a way. Nguyen was later accepted into Saigon’s Academy of Arts but was, unfortunately, unable to attend once he emigrated to the US. When he arrived 30 years ago, Nguyen supported himself while studying at San Jose State University, working part-time at a French restaurant and as a graphic designer at The Mercury News. He earned a degree in illustration and soon after, in 2000, began working at Yahoo.

Nguyen also teaches workshops in exciting locations like Italy, Spain, and Mexico. “For me, the teaching is fun, because I think I was born to be a teacher,” says Nguyen. “But learning the different cultures is fun, too. It’s amazing to see people from all over the world.”

One of the most memorable workshops he’s taught was in his home country of Vietnam right before COVID-19 hit. Nguyen never expected to return to his homeland as a teacher or receive the warm welcome of his people. “It’s kind of an odd feeling when you go back to your own country and teach,” said Nguyen. He remarks that it also felt odd to be teaching in his mother tongue. He explains that he was used to speaking English when talking about his artistic process and methods.

“Teaching is a performance. You go on stage, you know what you have to say, and you keep saying that line forever,” says Nguyen. “And suddenly, that line has to be in a different language, and even in my own language, I couldn’t find some words to go with that.” In addition to his workshops around the globe, Nguyen also writes and posts video tutorials about his artistic process and techniques. When he teaches, he tries to share not only the techniques of his craft, but also the philosophy that guides his mind while creating art.

Love, passion, and feeling are three things out of innumerable ingredients that make the details in Nguyen’s work so captivating. To him, the portraits would otherwise feel dead. “If you don’t have the love and the passion, then you can’t get the soul,” says Nguyen. “When I do my work, all I can think of is how can I express the feeling.”
Instagram: icuong

Article originally appeared inIssue 14.1 Discover (Print SOLD OUT)

A 20,000 square-foot abandoned grocery store on State Street, between Third and Fourth Streets in Los Altos, has recently opened as a modern food hall after four years of planning and repurposing. The project was led by Los Altos Community Investments (LACI) founder and principal Anne Wojcicki, also of 23andMe. She envisioned transforming the space into a vibrant community hub and extension to the Los Altos Farmers Market. LACI partnered with Gensler’s San Jose office to bring that vision to reality.

Two of the primary designers on the project were Brian Corbett and Corinda Wong. They drew from their own life and design experiences to lead the charge to reuse and transform a dormant structure into a welcoming, flowing gathering place with hints of Santa Barbara. With Spanish colonnade elements, the space will be the home of various culinary offerings, including Taiwanese-Korean concept Bo Bèi, local Los Altos favorite Tin Pot Creamery, El Alto by Chef Traci Des Jardins, and even a teaching kitchen. With work done by local craftsmen like Terra Amico, Mission Bell, and hand-painted signs by Ben Henderson, the space is sprinkled with an eclectic mix of tiles to create a venue that Corbett and Wong are not only excited to see opening, but enjoying themselves.

How did you get started in interior design?
Corinda Wong: I started by taking a career test in high school. Architecture, engineering, or accounting came up. My father said, “You would bore yourself to death going into accounting, so choose something else.” So, I just took a shot; I actually didn’t know what interior design was; it was closer to home in terms of college, San Jose State, compared to architecture. So, I went for that. 

Brian Corbett: For me, I was always into art as a kid. And, similar to Corinda, I took a test in 11th grade, like career ideas, and it was either an architect, engineer, or psychologist. And I was always into building. So, whenever we had the homecoming parade, I was the one building the floats or leading that team. I was drawn to that. Architecture just always kind of seemed like where I wanted to go with things. And like, instead of going strictly into art, I wanted to kind of take it to the
built environment. 

I went to Buffalo University for my undergrad program, which is a great school. Because the economy dropped out in the 60s, this was kind of like an amazing big city that was, you know, not very populated. So much of the projects that we we’re doing, and the thought, was around revitalizing the city. I really developed a passion for cities at that point in time. Eventually, when I went to grad school at Columbia in New York, I worked for a few internships, doing high-end residential apartments and then got a job with a professor doing schools and community centers, which turned out to be a really great experience, and so much of it I found in New York, even though it’s architecture firms, they do a lot of interiors. And that was something I really hadn’t considered before.

But eventually, I married my wife, who I met in grad school. She’s from San Jose. And she wanted to move out here after we lived in New York for a few years. So we made the trek, and I began looking around for jobs. I found Gensler, a small office right downtown. I went in and interviewed; they were 15 people at the time. And that office, I guess, was really an outpost from when they were working on the airport. But they did mostly interiors. I kind of pivoted my career at that point in time. And over time, I really fell in love with it and making an impact on the spaces that people are in.

Corinda, how did you get to Gensler? 

CW: For years, I worked in San Francisco for one design guy—for maybe eight or nine years. I was then part of that whole slump in terms of work slimmed down in the economy. So, I actually took some time off and explored floristry for a while.

I had a friend who had a friend who worked for Gensler in accounting. I wasn’t actually looking for a job, and she said, “Hey, just give me your resume.” I said, “Okay, here it is.” I got a call maybe eight months later, very randomly, from Kevin Schaefer in San Jose, and he said, “Hey, why don’t you come on in and let’s talk.” We talked for maybe two hours with him and the design director at the time, John Scouffas. And I wanted to come work for them. They were sort of this source of just a familial sense of what design could be. And it brought me back to San Jose, where I started my schooling, and it was great.

Gensler has several tech company clients, which means those projects are not visible to the public; what’s some of the places that you’ve worked on that are public? 

BC: I think the first one we did was HanaHaus (456 University Ave, Palo Alto). That was actually similar to the State Street Market project in some respects. It was the old Varsity Theatre that later became a Borders bookstore and then sat abandoned for many years…That kind of partnership with working space, high-end retail, and coffee really draws people together. So, reactivating that courtyard felt really good as well. And every time we go by there, that place is packed. MiniBoss (52 E Santa Clara St, San Jose) is another one of those enjoyable projects, and those guys are great. 

CW: I’d say Moment in the parking garage by San Pedro Square Market. We were part of the original planning way back years ago. Some projects take a long time to come to fruition. But it’s great when you see people interact. It’s great to see the excitement when you bring life back to a corner, or especially to spaces that have been abandoned. HanaHaus was an empty theater, the corner where MiniBoss is was dormant—so that is
very rewarding.

What are some of the unique aspects of the State Street Market? 

BC: I think a plus is that we’re able to reuse the existing building. Though that’s probably a plus and minus. We can get into that. But, definitely a plus from a sustainability point of view. It might have been cheaper to knock this thing down and rebuild it, but it would be a whole lot less sustainable. We save a ton of carbon by repurposing it.

And, keeping that authentic feel in Los Altos, I think there would have been a lot of hesitation to have something new and modern, or potentially larger here—so, keeping that same authentic vibe, but bringing it back to life in a different way.

CW: There has been a lot of sort of sensitivity on that. I think the location was the first thing. Usually, in architecture and design, when it’s brand new, you’re picking the right spot; this location was already here. They had a vision that it would be an extension to the Farmers Market. And that created those first design triggers of what the storefront and facade could be, how that can invite people in. I think that was the initial sort of pluses. It had the bones, though it had a couple of decades of modification. To lose the story within it would be just a travesty.

BC: The building itself is pretty interesting. It was like a one-story grocery store, like mid-century modern, kind of built in the 50s. And it was covered up, later adding a second story and turned into this kind of mission-style building.

What was nice about it, like when Corinda talked about its bones, there’s a central dome that used to be there that gives you that big grocery feeling. When that was opened up, it just lent itself to this community space. I think that was something that definitely worked out well for the project.

At what point were you brought into the project? Did the developer come to you and say, “Hey, I have this building, what can we
do with it?”

BC: They wanted to do a food hall and probably offices upstairs. So they came in with a pretty good vision around that in terms of, like, operation model and specific program that wasn’t really figured out. But they came to us with that. And then we worked with them for a few months, really developing concepts and, like Corinda said, Anne’s vision (Anne Wojcicki, cofounder of 23andMe and principal and founder of LACI) is that of a local Los Altos resident, and she loves that Farmers Market there. And she really wanted to create a permanent extension of the Farmers Market and have that same vibe. So, a lot of the concepts revolved around that. 

CW: Well, it’s also a multigenerational community, kind of a little township here. So it was really to create a space that would fit three generations—from your newborn babies, your grandmothers, to your after work hangout happy hour, a place that everybody can come to, whether after baseball games or bike rides. I remember Anne was saying that everybody can actually go and have food together. And that was a missing piece to Los Altos.

What you’re talking about is “place making.” Is that concept taught in your training? How did that idea come into the State Street Market?

BC: It’s definitely part of my education, at least within architecture. And what I was doing in Buffalo, so much of the work was trying to make “place” there.

In this project, it was definitely a focus. Robert Hindman (Managing Director, LACI) is very into place making as well. And we had shared values on how this project could come to fruition in that sense.

CW: In my education, that wasn’t part of it. I was in interior design, so it wasn’t about that exterior; it was more inbound. So a lot of this, I think, came from just being in school in San Jose State, watching that city kind of stand still for a long time, and being part of Gensler for 14 to 15 years and watching the city actually start to come alive and the impact that we can have slowly. It took a long time to make minimal steps, but you could see the significant impact that can be made. And we at Gensler were in some kind of forward vantage point; I think that’s the momentum that I’ve gotten from place making. I saw it sort of working from the middle of it and from watching it and being a part of it.

BC: Even before we were awarded the project or competing on it, we developed some sketches and ideas of what might happen. A lot of it is actually what we ended up doing. But it was all about place making. In the end, it was all about slight modifications to the building that created activity. And so, like the idea of widening the breezeway and making that an outdoor dining area or extending the arcade and making that outdoor space, we kind of painted a picture really early on.

But we had these solid ideas all around place making, more so than the design initially. Then, of course, the
design followed.

With State Street Market recently opening, what are you proud of? 

BC: I think some of the ideas that we brought to the table will have a significant impact; we feel very proud of the modifications to the Paseo into the arcade to create that outdoor space. We think it’s going to be really active and create a great street presence.

The widening the pass-through—that connectivity is going to be a big deal. We had a soft opening, and that space was super-well utilized, and it felt really good, felt activated. And then the front arcade, people walking by on the sidewalk, are naturally drawn in there. And they want to be part of it. So those are the two big moves for me.

But also, that central space and opening up that dome—it was all closed in the previous iteration, but it just created this amazing space once it was opened up. So, I think I’m very proud of creating that gathering space, both on the interior and the exterior.

CW: My background is interiors, but I had a hand in this project’s exterior architectural design, and that part is quite fun for me. And the best aspect of that is when you hear from the community, or Robert Hindman tells us that people will walk by and say, “Wasn’t the building always like this?” That fitting into the context and fabric of the community—I think it is the best thing when people peer in and they’re excited to see it. That’s exciting to have this space be part of their world. I think that’s amazing.

Also, the secondary tier—I love the idea of design cues that give people this notion of “Oh, something to do.” So, adding simple things like awnings to the corner, where it signifies, “Hey, it’s retail. Come on in.” Then for the storefronts themselves, the windows, they were short. We elongated them from the top of the ceiling to the floor. That’s again, open it up with a “Come on in” visual cue.

Where do you find inspiration for designing a building like State Street?

BC: A lot of it is experiences, I think—like going and visiting as many places as you can, whether it’s overseas or even locally, and gathering those experiences and keeping an eye out as you’re there for what you like, what feels right, and trying to have a deep memory of those experiences, so you can draw back on those.

CW: I always used to tell people that it’s great when you experience things, and it becomes slightly fuzzy because then you would not ever mimic something. But you would create from that feeling in yourself—like what you remember of it. So, it’s great to be slightly forgetful.

And, we are from a different generation; as much as I love them, we approach inspiration differently than looking at Pinterest and collecting images. Now there is a lot of design starts that way. But when you’re a little older, you’ve gone to a few more places, you can rely on other things—create your own “Rolodex.” And, usually those things are not merely visual; they’re inspired from experiences or literature, even songs. It’s paintings and a picture, or a feeling that you might want to bring into what you are creating.

What are some of the design elements that are here that make this place unique?

BC: The tile. There are 40 different tiles in this space. And that was something that Anne really wanted. It is almost something to be discovered throughout the space. Not that we selected all of it. We had a hand in a lot of it, but so many people had their hands in selecting the tile. So that’s kind of a cool feature. With each of the risers on the stairs to the second floor throughout the exterior, you’ll see that each tile is different.

CW: Yeah, I mean, and [Anne] wanted actually to reuse a lot of tiles that she didn’t use on another project. So, that was also a bit of a sustainability part of this project. I was like, “What are you gonna do? You have one box of this, one box of that. It’s not enough to do all.” But we patched it together, and it’s a great story because of that point, right? Not wasting very much.

They’re hidden in some of the private spaces. So every bathroom is a little different. So if you go on a bathroom hunt, you’ll see that they are different. Maybe that’s a “game” that people can do. There is a lot of tiles.

BC: Yeah, I think the other thing is the arched windows. I think they are really cool. They really brought this building, I think, closer to what they want it to be.

And from a furniture perspective, we paired our client here, Los Altos Community Investment, with Terra Amico. And they brought a lot of unique elements. They built tables from reclaimed bowling alley wood, and made it a feature, with a lot of reclaimed wood, to make interesting installations throughout the space. 

CW: Also, the signage was painted by Ben Henderson, who worked with us at Gensler for a while. We introduced him to the client about two years ago. And Robert Hindman brought him in to do a lot of hand painting of the signs.

BC: I love the work that Ben does. And we definitely had a vision of his style of hand-painting, hand-lettering, how that would fit really well here. And we’re so glad that they hired him because he’s been adding a lot of cool features throughout.

For someone looking for some design principles, for example, if someone is redoing their kitchen, what are some design guidelines?

CW: It should be functional first. Right? I always say that. As for your height of countertops in your home, if you’re super tall, you can actually adjust that. In commercial, you don’t have that luxury. There’s a standard. There are laws. But I think you can always think of where you want your focus to be. What is the first thing you want your eye to go toward, right? Is it the hood? Is it the backsplash? Is it important that the island is central, where everybody gathers? I think making those first initial choices can define what your other selections are.

BC: I was going to say storage, so you can keep it minimal.

CW: Hide everything. [Laughter.]

BC: Exactly. Keep it clean.

What advice would you give to somebody looking to get into a career in architecture or interior design?

BC: We’re hiring. [Laughter.] I think that with automation coming our way, that’s always something I’m worried about with the profession’s future. We’re employing it more but more as a tool for designers. But, ultimately, I think we’re the profession that is going to go more toward the creative outlet and the relationship-building with the clients; that is where the profession is ultimately going to have to go. It’s going to be the design creativity and in that client relationship. I think a lot of the technical aspects and the drafting will become very automated over time. You can have a 10-story-tall building, and it will populate the whole thing for you. And you can change the layouts, and it gives you all the counts automatically. But that’s not design, right?

CW: That’s algorithms. It’s like a quick first pass. It’s iterations, but it’s not design. The missing thing is going back to human experience like that “Rolodex” I was talking about, the experiences you’re trying to create. I don’t think computers will ever be able to do that. And I think that’s what anyone interested in this profession really needs to be thinking about. It’s always going to be about the human experience instead of the more technical aspects in terms of drafting and drawing and computer modeling and things like that.

I’m on the oozy-gooey side because it is about your passion. You want to come in and do something creative. We’re part of a small percentage of fields where things get built; there’s an actual object, a thing, from your brain that comes out. But you actually have to love it, because it is hard work. Your brain is constantly working, and you’re training it all the time. And innovation needs to happen. Creativity has to happen, and that’s not usually on that time schedule. Not normally. But the rewards are what you can create and see. That one moment when you get your first project, and it gets built, and you hear somebody say, “Ah.” That is amazing. 


Article originally appeared in Issue 14.1 Discover  (Print SOLD OUT)


“I take on only the work I need in order to survive or work that truly excites me creatively. When my plate is full, I leave the buffet and eat. And when I’m finished, I don’t fill it up right away.”

I recently took time to catch up with an old friend, David Perez. David has managed the sort of things that few do, including earning the title of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate. His words blend playfulness and insight, both in poetry and interview.

What role do you see technology playing in the lives of writers?

One effect of technology is that it has allowed for greater pluralism in terms of who gets to put their work out there. The common beef with this pluralism is that it creates a lot of junk to sift through, but it seems to me that the Internet has gotten really good at allowing us to sift and to find the things we’re looking for. Before I get too optimistic about it, I will also say that certain companies in control of how we find our information, literature, and art have a way of compelling us to like certain things and of favoring content that is in their interest for us to favor. But at the end of the day, this is a tension I have chosen to live with, albeit cautiously. I think it’s great that writers can self-publish and market themselves to their niche audience.

In the era of TV, memes, GIFs, and like buttons, do you see a way of selling literature to the masses?

I think that “selling literature” is becoming more and more a matter of finding one’s specific readership. This is something the Internet encourages in general. It rewards you for being very specific in your tastes, for taking tangents and running with them, because it allows you to find whole communities that appreciate whatever sub- sub- sub-genre you’re working with. I think the take-home is that writers should feel free to experiment and to challenge themselves. They should take very seriously the economic viability of total surrender to their idiosyncrasies. Of course, it takes some work after the fact to find the right audience, but they’re out there. No matter how strange an animal you create, someone out there is into it.

How have you used technology to promote yourself?

Paying Facebook to promote my posts works, sadly, quite well. Actually engaging with others through social media can also work. What doesn’t work is using social media as a dump for your event info. If all people ever see of you is what time your show starts, they’ll just ignore it. They need to connect with you first. It’s just like any other social interaction. You need to be present with it. You need to really talk to people and participate in the forum. Then people might be interested in what you’re doing outside of it. I’ve found it’s also nice to have content available specifically for an online audience. For me, this is pretty simple: sample poems and videos, that sort of thing. The downside of all this is that in the outside world you’re constantly tapping a little black box while people are trying to talk to you. So they start tapping their black boxes. Before you know it, it looks like we are all engaged in this cultish kind of walking prayer.

What about poetry appeals to you more than other mediums?

Nothing. I adore fiction and drama. When you read a good novel you leave your body and live in someone else’s. Poetry does this for you too, but a novel does it for a looooong time. So long that you forget who you are. And, well, I love to forget myself. I do it as frequently as possible. As for drama, I have a crush on every stage actor I’ve ever seen perform. I am beguiled by the unfolding of live narrative. While I haven’t written novels or plays, I have written short stories and screenplays. But I mostly write poems. Why? Ask the leprechaun that whispers in my ear at night.

What’s your writing ritual?

I find a way to create a full day with no obligations. I politely suggest to my partner that she have a night out. I put on music without lyrics. Then I procrastinate for four hours and become involved with something on the Internet. I decide that the problem is the music, so I turn it off, then continue to procrastinate on the Internet. Then I get really sad. I start wondering if I’m not such a good writer after all. Then I start writing, dejected, guilt-ridden, and skeptical. None of it works. It’s all a mess. I delete it. But because I have a full day with no obligations, I still have about eight hours left. Those are the money hours.

What turns you on creatively?

Stepping off the tracks and quietly watching the rat race like I might watch an episode of Ninja Warrior, without investment or the sense that I’m in the thing as a contestant.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield explains resistance as anything that blocks you from creating. What are some forms of resistance you’ve met, and how do you deal with them?

The constant stream of unresolved logistical challenges that daily adult life demands. That is my most clear-cut resistance. I deal with it by choosing my battles carefully. I take on only the work I need in order to survive or work that truly excites me creatively. When my plate is full, I leave the buffet and eat. And when I’m finished, I don’t fill it up right away. I look at the empty plate with love and I let it be empty for as long as possible. This means I let opportunities go by. People ask me to do things, and I often say no. I love the word “no.” Sometimes I sit alone and say it softly to myself…no.

What role, if any, does pain play in the creative process?

Pain is the reason poetry is necessary. Pain has us all walking around broken. We don’t know we’re broken because we’re not allowed to show it, so we get too good at acting. When you make art, you take off a mask. The point is not to find some according-to-Hoyle genuine essence. The point is to try to stop pretending like you know what’s going on, and with a modicum of style and grace, report what you see. Not the names for what you see, what you actually see.

How has your writing changed with age?

HA! Yes…yes. Now I write about Ensure and Matlock. In all seriousness, as I get older I find myself looking less towards big showstopping events and more towards the everyday. I feel so confined by the day-to-day. When I first started writing, I escaped from it. Now, I look closer at it in the hope that I’ll find out that what’s happening actually isn’t as mundane as it seems. I wonder if life only seems repetitive because I’m not paying enough attention.

Is there a creative place that you are trying to get to?

I want to make a movie. There, I said it. I have always gravitated to poetry. But in school, I studied and developed a deep appreciation for film. Once life gets less busy and more…um…funded, I’m looking to do some shooting.

Who are your biggest influences?

Emily Dickinson deserves every bit of her popularity. Also on the list: Charles Simic, Jeffrey McDaniel…Kubrick. I know everyone says it, but Kubrick.

What book would you give someone to inspire greatness?

White Noise by Don DeLillo.

JFK said, “When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” What role do you think that poetry plays in society?

Progress, as we think of it, is forward motion. Developing more products, better services, increased efficiency, higher yields, greater market value… Poetry reminds us why we should care about the business of staying alive. It is sideways progress. The more sideways progress you make, the more you’re able to enjoy, evaluate, understand, criticize, and reimagine forward progress. If we are not able to do these things, we stand to back ourselves into a corner, acting and thinking robotically, without knowing why we are doing anything. Productivity will exist for its own sake. It won’t be there to benefit the lives of the people making it happen. It’ll be something that uses them up in order to perpetuate itself, something they are powerless to control. If it sounds like I’m describing the way things are already…well…sideways progress becomes pretty urgent, I think.

One of my favorite Dylan lyrics is, “And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot/Fighting in the captain’s tower/While calypso singers laugh at them” from Desolation Row. Who would win that fight?

Eliot, because I would be his tag team partner. I would hit Pound with a chair when the ref wasn’t looking.

instagram: dperezer
twitter: dperezer

Article originally appeared in Issue 6.4 “Retro”


S itting in the loft of Café Trieste in downtown San Jose, I had the opportunity to become acquainted with Sally Ashton, our county’s newest appointee to the post of poet laureate. Since it has only been a few months, she is still working out what all this will look like during her two-year tenure. Not sure about the details, Sally is sure that she wants to make the most of our multi-cultural heritage that permeates the fifteen cities and nearly two million people that make up Santa Clara County.

While still quite the prestigious honor, the poet laureate of Santa Clara County has distinctly different duties from its royal courtly beginnings. The poet laureate’s focus is to elevate poetry in awareness of Santa Clara County residents and to help celebrate the literary arts. The poet laureate also serves as an advocate for poetry, literature and the arts and leads a community project that makes poetry more accessible to the public. This awareness of and accessibility to poetry contributes to Santa Clara County’s literary legacy.

Sally believes that she is well suited to be sensitive to a broad variety of communities. She comes from modest beginnings – being one of four children in an agrarian family, originally from Oregon. Her parents had the means to attend college, but due to post-war times, they, like many others of their generation, had to forego higher education and, as Sally said, “just get busy.” Her family was able to move to Santa Clara County when she was five years old. Both her parents worked – Mom in real estate and Dad as an employee for Lockheed.

Though her family prized education, she would not describe her upbringing as one that was heavily enriched by literature. With almost a whisper, Sally let it be known that she didn’t read as much as she would have liked, but she always had afondness for writing. She wrote her first poem while in grade school.Some years later Sally met and married Frank Ashton, a local wine maker and businessman. They have three children whom Sally describes as “the joy of my life and my three best poems.”

Ms. Ashton recounts that her passion for poetry was stoked as she began “following the energy.” She started out taking classes at West Valley College and then transferred to San Jose State University where she is now a faculty member. What started out as a path toward creating non-fiction “pretty quickly circled around to poetry. As soon as I realized there was such a thing as an MFA degree, that was exactly what I wanted to get.” Sally went on to get that Master of Fine Arts degree from Bennington. She persevered, taking the number of classes that would allow for the pursuit of dreams, while still allowing her to be available to her family.

Now an editor of DMQ, an online literary journal, Sally has the distinct privilege of being exposed to the voice of national and international poets who compose in various genres of poetry. These are the poets who inspire her. Rather than any one particular poet, it is a brand of poetry: those of the post-modern generation who use words like a designer uses fabric. They are manipulating words to bring forth many shades of meaning while continuing to ask the question, “Can you depend on [language]; can it really mean anything?”

And though Sally is impressed with the current breadth of poetry, she made it a point to mention the voices that call to her from the past. Like her, many of these women poets started out composing their works of art amid their domestic duties: Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth B. Browning, and even Virginia Wolfe (though not a poet, she produced works that also empowered women). Though these women were never acknowledged and certainly never published during their day, “they persevered in a very private manner that has become significant.”

Here’s what Sally had to say about the significance of poetry in our day and time, and particularly in our culture of Santa Clara County: “Poetry all seems very apt, particularly in the contemporary moment, in our area because it’s brief. And there is such a movement in all forms of communication towards brevity with twitter… text messages… Of course not all poems are going to be 140 characters…nor would we want them to be. …They are accessible like a little moment in time. It’s a distilled moment… you can pick it up with your cup of coffee and read a poem or two and enter a reflective or an energized place.

Poetry, when it’s working at its best, distills a moment and takes you there, and it can be all the many different kinds of moments. You can find that of course in a novel or short story, you enter a different world for a longer period… A poem is working hard to employ symbol and resonance of an image… [It] makes a difference since you have so fewer words to create your world and make an impact.”

In her brief tenure as Poet Laureate, how does Sally Ashton plan to make an impact? With nearly two million people in Santa Clara County, Ashton is aware of the enormity of the task and so she makes the most of opportunities like this and other natural channels of publicity to get her message out to the people. Poets are known to write about the life and times in which they live. One opportunity Sally hopes will allow for the most impact is to partner with the tech community of Silicon Valley. Much of the technology in our Valley is just a different form of art and expression. What better connection than for our poet laureate to connect with our tech community and allow the art that is technology to inform the art of poetry.

Unlike the poet laureates of old who were commissioned to write for the pleasure of the royals, Sally has been asked “to contribute to the literary legacy of Santa Clara County. I think as poet laureate… at this point I am just trying to reconnect folks with the idea that there is cultural value in the art form, that there really is a reason to value it, so when the conversation comes up, the response isn’t, ‘I don’t get poetry.’ That’s kind of the majority response. Well, I’d rather people kind of get it.”

Jumping in headfirst. That’s how Haley Cardamon would describe her explosive entry into the magazine industry. Born and raised in East San Jose, Cardamon harbors a deep love for not only the city of San Jose as a whole, but more specifically, the creativity and diversity she sees all around her—creativity that she believes is often overshadowed by San Jose’s notoriety in the tech industry.

Cardamon has always been drawn to the creative world—particularly to the graffiti and underground art scene, which is featured prominently in her work. As she looks back on her journey, she laughs: “I’ve always been really into graffiti, but I kind of learned to keep that quiet. In middle school, I got suspended for it and had to do an anti-graffiti program and everything.” Today, Cardamon works to capture street art and more through her own artistic medium—photography. Gifted a camera while in high school, she began taking photos of the world around her, starting with architecture before moving into art. As her personal portfolio expanded, Cardamon knew that she wanted to compile and share her own work and initially set her sights on creating a lookbook. Upon further reflection, she realized that she could combine her lifelong propensity toward meeting new people with her love of art and could act as a conduit between artist and audience. In this way, the magazine Bay Area Creatives Klub, also referred to as BACK, was born.

The first issue of BACK features an in-depth interview with San Francisco rapper, Equipto. “That’s kind of how it started,” Cardamon explains. “I never even thought that he would answer my message. It took him awhile, but he did, and we did this super extensive interview. At that point, I just went with it and decided I was going to make a magazine.” Prior to the release of issue 1, Cardamon had no experience in magazine production, but she didn’t let that stop her. Looking back at the first and second issues of BACK, Cardamon notes the changes not just to the magazine itself, but also to her level of comfort and assurance. As she flips through the pages now, she points out the more streamlined look of issue 2. At just 20 years old, Cardamon often has to work hard to prove her drive and professionalism, but she doesn’t let that impede her goals.

For Cardamon, 2017 was a transformative year. Once she knew that she wanted to seriously pursue publication, she decided to take a year off from school and completely dedicate herself to becoming acquainted with San Jose’s art scene. “I’d take my camera and just walk around downtown and go to art shows. A lot of the time, I’d go alone so that I could meet new people and just hand out my business cards to everyone.” For Cardamon, creating BACK has not only changed her timeline and career trajectory, but also her daily life. “I feel really proud,” she says, “and I’m always on the hunt for that hidden talent.”She has learned that the magazine industry is difficult in terms of profit, but money is not her main focus. Rather, she wants to be a mouthpiece for San Jose’s up-and-coming talent. “I want to get jobs for artists and show that San Jose is an art hub. Not just a tech city.”

The positive feedback Cardamon receives is what is most important to her. “I want people to see me as someone who makes connections. You know, linking an artist with someone looking for a certain type of art. Or even just exposing audiences to artists that they don’t already know.” In addition to her magazine publication, Cardamon occasionally organizes giveaways and art shows, including her event, San Jose Day, which is held on April 8 and showcases local art. Currently, Haley is back in school at De Anza College and is on her way to finishing her degree in communications and media. She also works part-time at a custom display manufacturing company called Commercial Art Manufacturing and hopes to publish two issues of BACK per year. “Ideally, I do want this to open up to artists around the world, to travel for it, too, but right now I’m doing it for San Jose.”

instagram: bayareacreativesklub

personal instagram: haleyonthemoon

Article originally appeared in Issue 10.2 Sight and Sound  (Print SOLD OUT)

Speaking of Magick Blues Band’s eponymous debut, drummer and vocalist Zack Sauer seems to breathe a sigh of relief. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says of the album, now available on Bandcamp. That might seem like a strange sentiment to those who only know of the band as a recent group on the Silicon Valley circuit. In truth, the project’s the tangible realization of a dream Sauer and bassist Nick Verdi have clung to since they were both 16, well before they had enough people to execute their vision of creating a rock band.

“We used to just play back and forth, bass and drums. That’s how we learned,” recalls Verdi, noting the fun would last until his furious neighbor would show up and scream at them to turn it down. “It all started with a passion for playing together. That’s what we try to bring when we’re on stage. Our motto is ‘we’re here for you’ because that’s why we play: we’re here for the audience to enjoy what we do.”

Sauer recalls falling in love with classic rock when he first heard “Stairway to Heaven” in full on the radio. Similarly, Verdi was entranced by the live energy of Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury in videos. He saw a dedication to performance he felt was missing in current music. In an age increasingly reliant upon digital wizardry to gloss over musical moments, the members of Magick Blues Band are steadfast in their reliance on human touch and the visceral energy of live interaction with their audience.

A December 2017 performance at Caravan Lounge served as the group’s true live debut. The date proved pivotal. “It gave us this confidence—what we’re doing is noticeable, and people actually like it,” says Verdi. They were immediately invited back to play the lounge’s New Year’s show, and within their first year together, they performed as part of the 2018 Fountain Blues and Brews Festival. This past August, they played San Jose Jazz Summer Fest thanks to a co-sign from local blues mainstay JC Smith.

“This is the live, studio feel we’re trying to develop,” says Verdi of the recordings, captured in Sauer’s grandmother’s garage back when Magick Blues Band was just a quartet, with Justin Morton on lead guitar and Tyler Sargent on Rhodes piano. Sargent has since left, but the group’s been supplemented by rhythm guitarist Joseph Cañas and Sean Biggar on percussion.

Magick’s indebtedness to classic rock is clear, especially the country-tinged, elastic jams of the Grateful Dead. It makes sense, then, when the two quickly share that “Jerry’s Tune,” an ode to Jerry Garcia, remains their favorite on the project. The tune’s been in the works for close to four years.

“It was the first bass lick I came up with that I felt embodied that feeling of the Grateful Dead that I really enjoyed,” Verdi says. The nearly nine-minute album closer strolls and morphs, always maintaining a slow burn energy reminiscent of the Dead and the Allman Brothers Band. Energy builds then dissipates, but the center is always held together through the well-established chemistry of Verdi and Sauer.

The music’s even been good enough to fool others about its origins. “To have people like my parents or friends go ‘What Dead Song is that?’—that’s the connection where you think, wow, we did it,” Verdi emphatically shares. 

That notion speaks to the strength of the Magick Blues Band’s sound. It’s more throwback than replica, a studied analog analogue rather than a digital facsimile of a bygone era and sound. That earned wisdom even shines through in their name. Though they started as just Magick, they added “blues band” to reflect the trajectory of groups like Santana, who used the same suffix at the start of their musical career.

Is the name then meant to serve as a marker of the group being just at the beginning of their journey? “That’s exactly how I look at it,” replies Verdi with a mischievous laugh. “That’s what life’s about, at least in my eyes. It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.” 

For the group’s founding members, building community and connection are at the heart of what that journey will entail. “As long as we’re doing music every night,” says Sauer, “I’m happy.”
Instagram: magickbluesband

Article originally appeared in Issue 11.5 Dine  (Print SOLD OUT)

For ten years I have heard booming thunder during springtime in downtown San Jose. It wakes me up and makes the windows hum. The sound motivates me to slip on some sandals and hustle down to Japantown. That thunder means San Jose Taiko, every bit as powerful and exciting as the first day I heard them.

But what makes it possible to shake the windows from three blocks away? How do you get so much sound from a drum? Is it the drum or the drummer that generates the power to rattle windows and make dogs bark?

To find the answers to these questions, I headed to San Jose Taiko’s rehearsal space in an old warehouse on Montgomery Street. It was cold in the empty studio and the cloudy skies made the room dark. As company member Meg Suzuki emerged from the towering racks of wooden drums, she detailed the effect that rapid variations in temperature can have on the instruments. The sound will vary greatly especially if exposed to high humidity, something to consider as they haul 3500 pounds of drums to a local festival or halfway across the world.

Taiko is the Japanese name for two-headed drums, mounted on upright stands, ranging in diameter from 12 inches to 12 feet. They have an iron ring for lifting and carrying in processions. Traditionally in Japanese theatre, they provided sound effects with special strokes to portray (rather than imitate) rain, snow and wind. The story goes that jazz drummer Daihachi Oguchi invented modern taiko style by arranging the instruments in the temple like a western drum set and creating a dramatic folk-jazz crossover. 

Unlike the customary instruments carved from a trunk of Japanese oak, the drums Meg hauled out onto the warehouse floor had a wine-barrel construction. Typical of North American taiko, staves of wood are bound together to make the body of the drum. Developed by Kinnara Taiko in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, this drum was lighter and much less costly to ship. This revolutionary design made it easier for groups to form, allowing taiko to spread across North America. San Jose Taiko began in 1973.

Since it uses fewer trees, the barrel design has caught on back in Japan and San Jose Taiko is now collaborating with top percussion manufacturer Pearl on a prototype taiko drum. Artistic director Franco Imperial explained that although the group once made their own drums, they now purchase from master craftsmen like Mark Miyoshi in Mount Shasta and Kato Drums from Concord. San Jose Taiko hopes that their drums will last forever, and indeed by caring for their instruments, they still have drums nearly as old as the group itself.

It is hard to imagine that an old cowhide could produce such a mighty reverberation. The leather skins that cover both ends of the drums are the key to tuning the drums. It once took five men to stretch the cowhide over the barrels to create the taut surface and nail the heads down, but today dowels and a series of car jacks accomplish the job. The skins are replaced every one to two years depending on wear and tear. 

And how do you make the drums thunder? Each size of taiko has special-sized wooden bachi (drumsticks) and each player has their own pair for each type of drum. The left-hand plays a lighter “female” stroke while the right makes a heavy “male” stroke in the center of the drumhead.

Becoming a taiko member is no easy committment, both in strength and time. The audition process alone takes one year, leading to a further 12-month apprenticeship. The 18 company members also compose much of the original music that they perform. Each group is different, but Franco stressed that for San Jose Taiko, “it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are as long as you have the proper attitude and skill.” Members range in age from 20 to 40 and perform nationally as well as in Japan, Mexico, Canada, Italy, and the UK. 

Back home, that power extends into the community with outreach programs. First of its kind in the country, San Jose Taiko Conservatory is expanding upon the company mission to enrich the human spirit and connect people beyond cultural and demographic boundaries. All ages can participate via a Junior Taiko workshop, an adult class or a free performance at festivals like Nikkei Matsuri in Japantown.

Stepping out of the warehouse to the echo of the drums, I looked forward to the day when I will again hear them rattling my windows. In the words of Daihachi Oguchi, “In taiko, man becomes the sound. In taiko, you can hear the sound through your skin.”


San Jose Taiko

Article originally appeared in Issue 4.1 Power 2012

(Print SOLD OUT)


This episode of the Content magazine podcast is a little bit different. I conducted the full audio interview with Corinda Wang and Brian Corbett of Gensler about the Los Altos State Street Market project. Corinda is the design director and senior associate, and Brian is the studio director. 

Los Altos community investments led the Los Altos State Street Market project with founder and principal Anne Jaworski (also of 23 and Me); she envisioned transforming space into a vibrant community has been the extension of the Los Altos farmers market Brian and Corinda. 

Their work led designers to draw from their own experience to transform the dormant structure into a welcome flowing gathering place, which is now the modern food hall known as Los Altos State Street Market. 

Special thanks to the managing director of Los Altos community investments, Robert Hindman, for putting this interview together.

Los Altos State Street Market 
170 State St, Los Altos, CA 94022
IG: statestreetmarket 

Gensler – San Jose (
IG: genslerdesign (

Corinda Wong – corindawong 

Brian Corbett – bcorb0

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021
Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic

Entering the studio, I sensed the weightlessness and wonder of a new, yet familiar, galaxy. I felt like an honored guest in a marvelous artistic environment. My first experience traveling the Druniverse was in downtown San Jose at South First Billiards. I was blown away with the performance energy and unique mixes by this electronic music artist from San José. Dru, not entirely his real name, is a young, humble graphic designer with a musical alter ego called the “Druniverse”. Recently, Dru invited me to his home to visit the nexus of his digital universe. His home studio is a custom-built electronic music laboratory where keyboards, laptops and synthesizers stand ready for the day’s experiments. One wall houses neatly framed vintage DC Comics,  a movie reel of “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and a stack of classic Disney VHS tapes. A mountain of video games, drawings from a beloved uncle, and various instruments cover another wall and flow into every corner of the room. Above the bed hangs an enormous, surreal landscape print by Salvatore Dali – its presence a reminder of the strange universe enveloping me. And on the nightstand, the slightly oversized white helmet mask, reminiscent of Nintendo’s popular Megaman character, sits neatly on the nightstand waiting for our hero to become Dru and begin the journey into his beautiful, bass-drumthumping, electronic dance Druniverse.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in San Jose, the Evergreen area. I was actually voted ‘Most Musical’ my senior year. Musically, I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t here in San Jose. San Jose is awesome in that there are just good people here. People are friendly. Growing up with all those instruments and doing Mariachi, you don’t want to just play one instrument, you want to learn them all.

I see quite a few insturments here. How many do you play?

Guitar, bass, ukulele, drums, synthesizers/ pianos (they are one and the same). I used to try the trumpet, and flugelhorn.

Wow. How did you learn to play so many instruments?

I started with the guitar and then the bass, because it was natural. Once I started transferring chords from the guitar to the piano, I started to figure out how to make cords. It takes time. It takes loneliness. Now I make my own instruments. That’s what synthesizers do. You have to take your time and program every setting; you can make any sound you want. Each synthesizer is built around isolators, and they send out different wave forms. You can modify the isolators and glide and bend the waves, balance the sound and play with the resonance. You can have different synthesizers: one that’s a computer program or one that inputs the sounds.


There are so many things here that don’t look like instruments. What are all of these gadgets?

Well this one (little red box with a black screen) is my filter. When I mix, it lets me control my frequencies with my fingers. I can control my high and low notes with this touchpad. The vocal robot noises come from my synthesizer Yamaha DX7, go into my talk box which, is basically a speaker. It vibrates those tones that I hit on the keys, into this tube in my mouth. You just move your mouth and it makes these crazy noises. Daft Punk and Peter Frampton have used these kinds of things. It’s old school.

I see you have quite a few keyboards. How many do you have?

Oh well, I have a few, and this one is my favorite. It’s a sampler that my uncle gave me. He’s a musician and he gave me that bass cab and a lot of other things. He was in the music biz in the 80s, so, he gives me some cool stuff. It looks like a keyboard, but it actually connects to this old hard drive and when you play it, the sounds are sent into the computer.

What do you think about technology, living in Silicon Valley and being in the epicenter of it all?

Technology, old and new, is awesome. I made this piano part on one of my songs done with this 1982 mini keyboard that has a little headphone jack. Any type of noise can be amplified in different programs, and you can make sure that different frequencies don’t leak through if there are things that you don’t want. Besides the robot vocals, I also record people when they don’t know it– like when I’m out with friends or when people spend the night and they’re looking back at the night. I record some of them when they are talking. I just take those little clips and snippets of words, and right before a drop, when I have a bass come in, I’ll throw those words in. I just live life, and if I can make Druniverse happen during it, then it’s going to happen. I don’t plan it.

Tell me something no one would expect from Dru?

I have a Mariachi outfit. I do Mariachi with my grandpa. I’m down here in San Jose alone. I have been living alone since sophomore year, and I had to find ways to make money to be able to pay for school and to take care of myself. It was also a way to build up courage. It’s those experiences, looking over at my grandpa playing around a fire pit, with people drinking and singing around us– to have this moment with my grandpa where I know he is proud of me, and I am happy to be with him. It’s cool to have that experience; and who knows how long that will last.

Do you incorporate the Mariachi style into your Druniverse?

Yeah, the chord progressions are so classic. Hearing them translated into the software program and then into these electronic bleeps and bloops, it’s not the same song anymore at all.

How did you get interested in electronic music?

My band broke up in high school and after high school, everyone spreads out. You think to yourself, ‘Well, what do I do now?’ But, I actually was the one who wrote all the music that my band performed, and a lot of times, I was the one who would suggest that they play certain things. I don’t know why, but they looked to me for things like that. Now we are all doing our own things and they are still really supportive and are really excited about the new music, new sounds, new instruments that I have been playing around with. I started to record everything by myself, balancing a full time graphic design job. Music isn’t easy, but since I play all the instruments and record everything by myself, it’s all good.

And the idea for Druniverse? Did you always know you wanted your own universe?

Druniverse? Dru was a good representation for the music. When I would show people my earlier stuff, they would all say that it sounded like video game music, genesis-style stuff. I wanted to create a character, and these characters have their own background and style. Druniverse is also inspired by some dreams that I’ve had, and this idea that I didn’t want to be seen or judged for the music I’m making. It’s about the music that Dru makes, not who I am. People don’t know what race or age I am under the mask, under the guise of the character. The mask lets people develop their own interpretation of who Dru is. I like that people can have their own personal experience with the music.

IG: the_druniverse

Spotify: Dru


Featured in issues 4.0 “Tech” 


Donny Foley is currently the gallery manager for the Pacific Arts League in Palo Alto. Donny has also created his own illustrated characters, Donbon, Bert the cat, and Skunk-Truck, who live and make mischief in the Donbon Universe. Though he has slowed the creation of these comics during the pandemic, Donny looks to return and further explore their world in the months to come.

In our conversation, Donny explains the creation and transformation of his artwork as well as exploration in “Word Painting.” (

Follow Donny at uglydonbon
Donbon’s Universe 

Pacific Art League Palo Alto 

Below is article abour Donny’s journey in our 2012 article from issue 4.3, “Branding”


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:
Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic

Welcome to the wonderfully whimsical, twisted, and delightfully inappropriate world of Donny Foley, aka Donbon. This Donny does it all, comics, painting, children’s books, vintage resale, cartoons and more. He is not out to change the world with his art, he just wants to make people laugh and brighten their day.

What do you do?
I mainly work in digital art, it’s much more forgiving. I do a lot of things like clocks, calendars, stationary, but I’m mostly known for my comics. Recently I finished my first children’s book titled “Khristina and the Lost Imagination;” it’s a very cute story about a little girl and her cat. My buddy and I started a cartoon called “Vitamin D.” I’m very excited about this because I’ve always wanted to make cartoons since I was a child. I also help run a vintage resale business with my girlfriend and her best friend called, Out of Print Vintage.

Where can we find your work?
I’m featured all over the place currently, for instance: KALEID Gallery and… actually that’s about it. My website is full of goodies though

What inspires you to create and how do you keep motivated when things get tough?
I’ve met a ton of people in my life who do what I do, just hella better. But, they’re content just throwing it all away for some crap job that makes them unhappy. I don’t want to be like them so that usually gets me motivated.

What do you think is more important content/finished product or technique/process?
Personally I think the content is the most important part. If your content sucks then your technique and finished products will do nothing but just look good.

Who are some people who influence and/or inspire you?
Mike Patton, Jhonen Vasquez, my girlfriend’s cat, Spot, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, the people of Pixar, Winsor McCay (Little Nemo), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Shigeru Miyamoto & Takashi Tezuka (Legend of Zelda), a lot of my old bosses (because they’re something I strive not to be), and a bunch of my friends who I won’t name because if they read this, I’m sure it will go to their heads and their heads are just fine the way they are.

If you could be any fictional character who would you be?
Little Nemo, that kid had some sweet adventures.

When do you get your best ideas?
Ha ha randomly my most genius ideas come to me while I’m in the shower. Then I get exited (not too excited) about this new idea and can’t wait to work on it. I think it’s because I have nothing to do in there but think. Oh and clean.

What materials/tools do you use most to create your work?
My good old reliably unreliable computer, mouse, and wacom tablet. (All of which are falling apart.)

Are you self-taught or formally educated? How do you think that has influenced or affected your work?
For the most part I’m self-taught. I’d be lying if I said I never had anyone give me a bunch of pointers. I even took a photoshop class once to sharpen my skills. But the teacher was never there so I didn’t really learn a whole lot. I think not having formal training is nice, I’m able to form my own style that wasn’t some teacher’s that cost me a lot of money and time to mimic.

If your creative work was edible what would it taste like?
I would like it to taste like rocky road cereal from the ‘80s followed up with an amazing high five. But it would most likely taste like snail urine.

When you are not creating what do you like to do?
I usually go to hospitals and punch babies in the face, maybe drop an atomic elbow or two.

How did you learn to access your creative talents and gain the confidence to put it out there for everyone to experience?
I used to make all these over the top and stupid comic strips in high school that everyone loved. The more positive reactions I got, the more confident I’d get. Negative reactions are great too, sometimes they’re even better. They show you what you didn’t see and can help you improve.

What advice would you give others just beginning their creative adventures?
Go to a nice a quiet graveyard all by yourself, find a peaceful shady spot and make yourself comfy. Look around and tell yourself, “I can draw better than everyone here.”

Article originally appeared in Issue 10.0 Seek (Print SOLD OUT)

B are bulb string lights hung above as Sound Wave did their “thang” on stage. A wave of people flooded the third floor of Urban Blanco. At the same time, smiling individuals sipped on Prosecco and nodded their heads to the music’s beat at last Thursday’s Content Magazine release party for issue 14.1 – the 57th issue to conclude the 9th year of print. As is anticipated and expected, the night contained exclusive local performers and artists displaying their work from right here in our community. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about the South Bay fashion scene. We are a melting pot of cultures, and with that comes worldwide influences. At the Dec. 9th Content Magazine Pick-Up Party, I walked around and talked to individuals whose outfits stood out to me. I met terrific creative people with a variety of fashion styles. Although everyone expressed their unique selves, I noticed a few patterns. 

Many were on long jackets with some type of pattern. These long patterned jackets seemed like the signature look of the night. Julia, Tina, Nguyen, and Kathleen were all wearing beautifully patterned duster jackets. Two of them were wearing I.B. Bayo’s designs. While Kathleen got hers from Penelope Boutique at Santana Row. 

There were a lot of MFA uniform styles at the party as well. Mike wore a yellow button-up plaid shirt with blue jeans and brown leather shoes. A signature look of the South Bay. As well as a lot of streetwear/hypebeast attire. Thobeka, Erik and Vivian, Erik Burke (with the beanie), and Stikmon are all sporting the streetwear styles of San Jose. 

Towards the end of the party, I spotted Almanac Goods and Apparel. A streetwear company based here in San Jose. Ac, the shop owner, was there along with Cam, who did modeling for Almanac and wore their Cork Almanac Hoodie. 

Age had a lot to do with people’s outfit choices as well. The younger crowd wore more denim and vintage clothing. The older group wore more designer and artsy wear. This is an interesting difference because it demonstrates how and why the South Bay fashion style forms and changes. 

When someone in our community reinvents a garment, they contribute to South Bay fashion. When someone styles garments with intention and narrative, that also contributes to South Bay fashion. The things we wear and how we wear them are direct lines to who we are individually and who we are to the community and this land. 

If you attended this event, what fashion styles did you notice? What do you think you would have worn if you couldn’t make the event? 

Follow me and leave a comment on my Instagram @peter_salcido


Peter Salcido

Peter is a Silicon Valley native who influences the space around him through his expression of style and ambiance. He is a fashion editorial photographer, blogger, and content creator.  Peter wili be contirbuting to the Content Blog about fashion trends and fad in the South Bay.

It the age of 12, Marissa Martinez started writing fan fiction about her favorite show, Avatar: The Last Airbender (still her favorite show to this day). Greatly invested in the storytelling and character development, especially those of her favorite characters, Toph and Katara, she joined an online community that gave her a platform to share fan fiction for books she was reading as well.

Then someone pointed her to the International Thespian Society at Evergreen Valley High. Marissa signed up on club day and attended her first meetings straightaway. “One friend joined with me, and we started doing backstage things—sound and lights,” Marissa says. As she befriended upperclassmen, who comprised most of the club’s actors, she integrated her creative writing and explored acting. By senior year, she became the club’s president and wrote her first play.

Like the premise of John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, Marissa’s first play features four high school students who meet in the lobby of a community college. Through their one-on-one exchanges, each student’s reason for taking classes is revealed: one needs to make up classes, one wants to get ahead, one is an overachiever, and one is unsure of the future.

“I realized, in conjunction with the community work I was doing on campus, I wanted my art and writing to impact my community in San Jose where I’m from.” -Marissa Martinez

Completely student written, directed, and acted, Marissa’s debut play launched her future playwriting endeavors. At Santa Clara University, where she majored in theater and English, Marissa developed short one-act plays and focused her intentions as a playwright. “I realized, in conjunction with the community work I was doing on campus, I wanted my art and writing to impact my community in San Jose where I’m from,” Marissa says. “After that, I wasn’t even interested in going anywhere. I just wanted to be here.”

As a younger writer she had dreamed of starting a theater company. Her passion and skill were affirmed when she received four grants from the university to put on her biggest play yet, Hapa Cup of Sugar. Marissa received funding from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, SCU Presents, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Office for Multicultural Learning to cover media purchases, workshop fees, props, sets, costumes, and production-team compensation. 

After graduation, Marissa continued to write and collaborate with theater companies who resonated with her themes of identity and social justice. Bindlestiff Studio, the only Filipino American–centered theater in the nation, showed two of her plays in 2017 and 2019; yet the theater was located in San Francisco, far from home.

Early in 2019, Marissa stumbled upon the perfect opportunity at a genARTS workshop. “My now-friend Matt introduced himself as trying to start his own theater company, and he was looking for playwrights,” Marissa says. “So during lunch period I went to find him and asked, ‘What do I need to do to work with you?’ ”

More Más Marami Arts 

More Más Marami Arts launched in January 2019, with original founders Matt Casey, Kimberly Piet, Angela Sarabia, Andy Sandoval, and Daniel Lerma-Hill. Its name derives from the founders’ Mexican, Filipino, and American cultures, translating to “more more more arts” in English, Spanish, and Tagalog.

“More Más Marami is about creating inclusion in theater, but it’s also here to create a space for us in the South Bay,” Marissa emphasizes. “One of our biggest goals is to develop more writers so we can have more original content in the South Bay.”

Works in Progress

MMMA’s program Works in Progress accepts submissions from writers of any background. Even if a script is a work in progress, the team reads it and then casts people from the community to read those characters at an informal table read. Here, the writer hears their play out loud for the first time and receives feedback from actors.

Trespass Theatre

The founders get creative with not only their meeting rooms (community coffee shops) but also their performance spaces. “Part of our mission to make theater accessible, Trespass Theatre is about bringing theater to the streets in unconventional, untraditional locations,” Marissa shares proudly. “One of my pieces became the first Trespass performance in September.” 

Alongside a creek near her grandmother’s house in Evergreen, Marissa led a “devised” theater ensemble piece: As the writer, she established the structure and story; as a cast, the founders developed the content and blocking. As Matt introduced them on the evening of the show, the rest of the cast began swarming the audience. The topic was environment and climate change, elaborated through three separate stories as the cast moved around the audience, giving them a different story to follow as they passed.

The second Trespass Theatre production featured two shows, funded by Awesome Foundation, and was performed at the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center. One play, Queercenera, illuminated LGBTQ+ experience in San Jose—ultimately showing “how family can support you and love you and make you do crazy things you don’t understand too…It’s a powerful experience for an audience member to recognize themselves in the play,” Marissa notes.

24-Hour Theatre

More Más Marami’s collaboration with Center Stage Productions, the drama club at SJSU, gives access to the black box theater in the Stone Performing Arts Center. Here, magic and chaos unfold: youth, college students, and friends of friends gather to write from Friday, 8pm to 2am or 4am. At 7am, everyone gets up to cast the script, rehearse throughout the afternoon, and perform at 8pm. “It’s for people who are dipping their toes into theater, who want to try writing or acting, and also for those who know what they like and want to do something wacky,” Marissa explains. “Anything can happen.”


Growing up in East San Jose and Evergreen, Marissa remembers the pressures she faced as a student. “As an adult I know there’s resources out there, but when you’re a kid going to a school overflowing with students and there’s only two counselors to meet with, it’s scary.” When she’s not brainstorming, coordinating, and running programs with More Más Marami, she’s working with middle and high school youth at a program called Amplify. “These students have ideas and opinions. We try to give them a platform to use their voice and to practice their arts and leadership abilities,” she sums up. The students get to work alongside other artists. “We help them in photography, creative writing, and

After three years, Marissa has seen changes all across the board: “Even from the beginning of a project to the end, you can see how comfortable they become talking with others, and the friendships they make. Some of them outgrow some of our projects and processes, and they’re ready to do more outside of Amplify.”

LEAD Filipino

Marissa is also the program director of Fly Pinays, a sisterhood and mentorship program of LEAD Filipino that provides educational programs focused on increasing Filipina representation in civic leadership (Leadership, Education Advocacy, Dialogue). In her third year of involvement with LEAD, Marissa aims to bring high school students to the 2020 Fly Pinays Leadership Summit, exposing them to these resources and discussions.

Ultimately, Marissa finds her motivation in the people she works for, whether through artistic programs or mentorship—from including neighbors who rarely see theater, to finding others who love the arts, who love to write, who are Pinay like herself. “We’re all stronger in communities together as one,” she says. “We
have to stick together.”


Article originally appeared in Issue 12.1 “Device” 

Purchase Print Issue.

PODCAST With Marissa Marteniz and Matt Casey, Cofounders of More Más Marami Arts


Episode #73 More Más Marami Arts – Cofounders Marissa Martinez and Matt Casey

In this episode, we speak with Marissa Martinez and Matt Casey, cofounders of More Más Marami Arts. Marissa is a playwright and a creative writer, and Matt is a theatre producer and organizer.

More Más Marami Arts formed in 2019 as a collective of artists united by our faith in the power of theatre to bring people together. Their program produces innovative productions, script readings, open mics, educational workshops, and opportunities for and with underserved communities of San Jose and the South Bay Area.
In our conversation, we hear about Marissa’s and Matt’s journeys in the theatrical arts and the purpose and mission of More Más Marami Arts.

Please find out more about More Más Marami Arts on their website

Read more about Marissa’s journey in issue 12.1, “Device.”

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2021 
Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic


As Brian Boitano skates onto the ice, the psychological weight is colossal. “It’s like the microwave gets turned on,” he describes, “and you’re cooking from the inside out, ready to explode.” The roar of 20,000 throats tidal waves over him and washes across the Saddledome. The almost palpably solid feeling of 20,000 pairs of eyes latch onto the back of his neck like a grappling hook. He strikes an erect pose, made all the more commanding in a blue military uniform. Silence falls like an ax. The music swells. And Boitano’s skates stir to life.

That was 1988, and three decades later journalists continue to ask Boitano about the subsequent four minutes and thirty seconds of his life. After all, Calgary ’88 earned him an Olympic gold medal in men’s singles figure skating. Only one other American has achieved that status for the same event since. The media also senses—as they did in the days leading up to Boitano’s triumph—a noteworthy narrative. For starters, America was predicted to come in second. Brian Orser, flag carrier for that year’s host country, Canada, was favored for the win. However, both skaters had similar skill levels as well as matching military-themed song and costume choices. Reporters were soon championing the slogan “The Battle of the Brians.” Add to all this Boitano’s invention of a move called the “Tano Triple Lutz” (extending one arm overhead during jump and rotation), and you have an underdog, a rivalry, new advances to the sport—ingredients guaranteeing a recipe for success.

Boitano isn’t bothered by the constant requests to relive the routine that landed him top of the podium. “It was the culmination of everything,” he explains, “the culmination of all your childhood dreams and aspirations, the passion you have for it, the work that you put into it, all the people that had expectations for you, and the pressure you’re able to deal with.”

At 24, Boitano experienced a surreal moment of glory. “You know, at that moment, that nothing’s going to compare to that,” Boitano says. “That’s why it’s ingrained in my brain, so much that I remember every single emotion.” The unadulterated delight and overwhelming emotion that crossed his face after his flawless finish is proof enough the memory will never lose its potency. But that doesn’t mean life after Olympic gold is destined to be anticlimactic. Boitano feels incredibly fortunate for Calgary, and he credits it for the blessings that followed.

Whereas Orser’s decision to become a skating coach is a conventional one, Boitano’s chosen route has been a little less predictable. He’s gone from lacing up skates to tying on apron strings as a Food Network star and host. Though these fields are dissimilar in many ways, they do carry commonalities. “You layer the elements and you come up with a great recipe,” Boitano notes of both. “With cooking, it’s how a plate looks, how it smells, what the ingredients are, how they taste. With skating, the layers are choreography, music, costume.” Food is also a performance, he observes, appraised by friends
and family.

But there are also benefits to cooking that skating doesn’t offer. Renowned for his exacting technical accuracy on the ice, Boitano is surprisingly lenient with ingredients in the kitchen. “Skater Brian is literally precise and thinks of everything: every moment, every foot, every place,” he remarks. “Cooking Brian, is…I sort of made this pact with myself to not get too in my head about cooking. There’s not much difference between a handful of parsley and a handful and a half of parsley—so let’s not measure.” He enjoys going by instinct, imagining flavor combinations while brainstorming new recipes. “I like the freedom,” he confides with a smile.

Boitano’s playful synergy with food earned him his culinary debut with the Food Network. The title of the series—What Would Brian Boitano Make?—tips its hat to the song, “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” played during the cartoon South Park. It was informational, but it was also intimate (unique from the professional tone of the Network’s other shows at the time). In each episode, Boitano hosted events for his friends. These ranged from a sausage shindig for the Secret Society Scooter Club to a bacon-themed dinner for a women’s roller derby team. “It was a little bit irreverent, a little bit funny. I could show my goofy side, which was different from what everybody knew me as on the ice.”

Indisputably, skating will always be the passion ingrained deepest in Boitano’s heart. Until recently, he’s performed in shows and continues to swoop across the ice for recreation. “It’s the ultimate feeling of abandon,” he enthuses. “You’re traveling across the ice at 25 miles an hour, and then you’re throwing yourself in the air, and you’re landing on a thin blade with complete control. There’s this command of the energy in the air that you feel when you’re doing it. And when things are exactly how you want it, it’s this entire picture of, in your mind, perfection of the moment.” He’s held that fervor ever since he witnessed an Ice Follies show at eight and began pretending his roller skates were ice skates, his kidney bean-shaped patio a rink.

Nevertheless, Boitano doesn’t miss the excruciating pressure of competition. He identifies it as 95 percent a mental game. That critical inner voice is so palpable he nicknamed it “Murphy” after Murphy’s Law. “He’s saying ‘If anything bad can happen, it will happen.’ And you’re trying to punch Murphy down.” In contrast, Boitano takes his own pace with cooking and enjoys therapeutic late nights in the kitchen, testing new recipes and cocktails.

He also wasn’t very healthy as an athlete. At 16, he began regulating his diet with monastic devotion, quarantining himself from ice cream and his mom’s sandwiches. “I was always starving myself when I was training,” he acknowledges. Most meals consisted of baked potatoes with plain yogurt, salads with cooked pasta and diet dressing, and crackers with jam. He remembers wistfully watching food commercials on TV and writing them down in a “someday” list.

Perhaps most telling is one of Boitano’s fondest food memories. While training in an Alpine village one summer, he was submerged in a number of food firsts: buttery croissants, fluffy quiches, creamy fondue, and gooey raclette. “They eat what they eat,” he chuckles. “They don’t have diet jam and crackers.” He recalls with amusement his coach’s consternation when he returned to the States, stepping off the plane with a few extra pounds—and not the kind in his suitcase.

To Boitano, cooking is a memory maker, a love language expressed to friends and family. “You remember the food, and you remember the stories, and you remember the time you had,” he says before reminiscing about pizza parties hosted for relatives in Italy. (Try not to smile picturing 35 loud Boitanos all helping out in the kitchen.)

Undoubtedly, Boitano continues to embrace life after Olympic gold. But skating will always be an integral part of who he is. It’s in the straight-backed way he holds himself—ever the effortless poise of a skater. It’s in the 24-year-old gleam in his eyes as he talks about Calgary. It’s easy to picture him out there—his blades slicing across the rink in a crisp, satisfying whisper, the air favoring him a little more than the rest of us mortals as he spreads his arms and soars into jumps. But the playful chef is in there, too. You can imagine him surprising a dear friend with paella, or learning to make pasta from his Aunt Maria. In the end, he continues to mix and blend his energetic and spontaneous passions for life into new concoctions as he shifts off the ice and into the kitchen.

Social Media: brianboitano

Article originally appeared inIssue 10.5 Dine (Print SOLD OUT)

Sammy Koh’s landscape paintings are an invitation. Though photorealistic in detail—each frond of a palm tree drawn with a tiny brush—they present as open-ended offerings more than a precise, predetermined point of view. Like the way Sammy views her life, moments of beauty in nature are fleeting. But they can be evoked, regifted, to facilitate peace and healing.

“I wish that people who see my paintings sense the peace and quiet I feel in painting.” She doesn’t draw in human figures so that viewers can “put themselves in the place they want to be…to have a moment to think about their own life.” While pointing to a landscape of California Avenue in Palo Alto, where a street lamp shines its brilliant sphere of luminescence into an overarching tree, she says, “They can stand under the lights. I want them to have time to think.”

Attending school for graphic design in Korea, Sammy did not anticipate becoming a painter. She always held an art dream of her own and worked as an illustrator before immigrating to the US with her family. Once they arrived, her focus was on her son and daughter, who were three and five years old at the time.

Eleven years have since passed, and Sammy has created a community around her in Palo Alto. Just a year ago, she began teaching art classes in her home, focusing on still life and portraiture. Many of her students are also immigrants, mothers of grown children rediscovering the joy of making art for themselves. As they draw and paint, they chat and listen to music. Their finished pieces, many of which feature their children, pets, and plants, can still be found on Sammy’s Instagram.

“I wish that people who see my paintings sense the peace and quiet I feel in painting.” -Sammy Koh

When she transitioned the art class to landscape (painting), the rush of positive feedback stoked her own appreciation for her artwork. In March, as the pandemic canceled her classes, she started to paint more landscapes. As she took more scenic drives and walked around her Palo Alto neighborhood, the ephemeral spirit of sunsets and sunrises stuck with her. “I never miss this moment on a trip,” she smiles. “They are beautiful, but disappear quickly.”

Sammy’s process centers around these precious moments. She prints her photos out, puts them on a wall, and gazes at each to recall the emotion they carried. Much of her time is spent editing images to create a magical effect—a lone bench at Capitola Beach might rise to new heights to overlook a sunrise; a garage door might carry an ocean; and windows, in many of Sammy’s paintings, reflect the warmth of her favorite natural phenomenon.

Within these pieces of art, suburban environments react with romance: street pavements glow in pinkish hues; mailboxes and fire hydrants pop from the sidewalk like ornaments; doorways are always open, revealing worlds of imagination, the sweetness of hindsight. Yet any natural entity—be it tree, bush, or crawling ivy—is portrayed in painstaking hyperrealism. “It can take five hours to draw one tree,” Sammy explains. The contrast should be jarring, but the result is serene.

Yet if the dreamlike elements in these otherwise photorealistic illustrations hint at the shivery, spell-cast atmosphere of the half-light before dawn, perhaps the viewer has caught a rare vibe from the creation process. Sammy’s painting occurs between 2 and 6am. In the quiet, as her family sleeps, she paints. Sometimes, at the break of dawn, she goes out to take pictures. But she returns home soon after, because the “kids and husband ask for food.” After breakfast, she naps before heading to her computer for Photoshop work. Evenings are for family time, walks before dinner, and a second nap before midnight, when she wakes up for more nocturnal art-making.

Sometimes, though, her children join in. On occasions when her daughter accompanies her on photo shoots, Sammy likes to use the photos taken by her daughter. “Whenever I remember the scene, it warms my heart because of her.” And those feelings, in turn, enhance the painting. Other photos are selected by her son. “He kindly explains to me why he picked them,” she shares proudly. 

In addition to teaching others to paint, Sammy invests in the community that supported her journey as an immigrant woman. Simple Steps, a 510(c)3 organization founded in 2017 by a Korean immigrant, empowers immigrant mothers to stay in the workplace and further their careers against the odds of limited support networks, language, and cultural barriers. In June, Sammy led a workshop on Instagram marketing for her fellow Simple Steps artists. Sped-up process videos, she shares, are popular right now. Though editing these videos takes time, she aspires to continue posting them for her followers.

Finally living her own dream, she recognizes the different dreams of her children and cherishes their enthusiasm for hers. “I think about when I am an 80-year-old grandma,” she laughs. “I would be happy painting. So, this is my dream.” And if there was ever a proud moment in her life, “I think it’s now.”
Instagram: colorstory_sammy

Originally appeared in issue 13.2 “Sight and Sound” (SOLD OUT)

#72 – Suzanne St. John-Crane – ALF

Suzanne St. John-Crane joined the American Leadership Forum (ALF) in March of 2016. She has worked in community media for the last 24 years, serving as the founding executive director for two community television stations in the Bay Area, including CreaTV San José. In addition to her leadership and influence in local media, Suzanne is also a talented blues singer and performs with her and her husband Dave’s band, Pearl Alley.

In our conversation, Suzanne shares her passion for music and ALF’s mission to join and strengthen diverse leaders in our community, to create and support networks for good.
To find out more about ALF, visit their website at

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina.

Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:
Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic

Though artist and craftsman Nicholas “Knoffy” Knopf has been immersed in creating art since a third grade writing project entitled “Attack of the Melting Zombies,” it wasn’t until this past year that he found the courage to share his work with others. Those admiring his work today, however, are given a look into his journey through a palette of creative experiences and influences that still inform his bold and surreal yet
relatable work. 

Without formal art education or training, Nicholas has become a man of many talents and has built his skillset over the years through his own dedication to evolving his craft. All these skills have played their part in developing the artist Nicholas is today—from realizing his love for creating surreal and unconventional drawings at a young age to studying pottery as a teenager, which taught him to be patient with the process; from working under his dad, a painting contractor, where he learned the art of making a smooth, clean line with a brush to learning the art of shaping surfboards. Each experience has granted Nicholas more freedom to create his own vision and share his imagination.

Nicholas’s recent pieces are vivid, dynamic meditations on the Monterey Bay surfing culture that he has been a part of for the last 18 years. His clean line work and simple color palettes give way to wavy, bendy characters with oversized appendages that echo both expressionist and surrealist styles. The most prominent and signature element of his pieces, however, are the dynamic facial expressions of his subjects, who are predominantly surfers in wetsuits. They are the primary element that dictates the subjective interpretation of the piece. Interestingly, the expressions are not posed; rather, they capture a fleeting moment of thought, either deep contemplation or a slight, minuscule transition of a moment—a mere flicker of a thought or a nuance of a passing feeling.

It is Nicholas’s knack for noticing these moments that gives him his inspiration. “Surfing is very dynamic, and a lot of the time people aren’t paying attention to what is happening around them. But if you pay close attention, you can find glimpses of emotion ranging from euphoria to rage.” These emotions are characterized and changed by the simplest of lines. Nicholas approaches these lines as he does when shaping and building surfboards, slowly refining them over time to retain meaning in the simplest
of forms.

Surfing culture is the central visual motif found in Nicholas’s current work, yet its thematic gestures transcend typical coastal beach art. Surfing serves as an entry point into something deeper, surreal, and imaginative. In one piece, in front of a red sky, a languid, angry looking white shark rests upon a reef like a walrus and balances a surfboard upon its nose while glaring mockingly at a surfer wading in the water. In another, a young surfer enters an Escheresque staircase to come out the other side aged, walking out upon a cloud with surfboard in hand. 

“Surfing is very dynamic…if you pay close attention, you can find glimpses of emotion ranging from euphoria to rage.” – Nicholas Knopf

Nicholas moved to Santa Cruz as a teenager and became part of the surf scene, which obviously had a great influence on his artistic vision and aesthetic. Growing up as an artist and surf enthusiast in Santa Cruz, he naturally felt the influence of legend Jim Phillips, the artistic mastermind behind the Santa Cruz skate brand. Nicholas soaked up the work of Phillips, who himself added elements of surrealism and abstractionism to his work. Nicholas extends these local traditions from Santa Cruz’s past into new, untamed paths where his methodical process dictates a less-is-more graphic style. 

Nicholas is currently taking elements he discovered in recent graphic design classes and experiments with mixed media to further elevate his style and bring new meaning to his fluid, clean lines. He relates, “Mixed media feels the most rewarding at the end because the resulting product is more interesting. The process can be tedious and involves a lot of problem solving, and the pieces certainly don’t always come out as planned, but it is always fun to experience the result. Art is a lifelong journey for me—like making surfboards. It is always evolving, and I’m always trying to make it better.”
Instagram: kn0ffy


Article originally appeared inIssue 12.0 Discover (Print SOLD OUT)

Promoting literacy as a pathway to dreams

When Kristi Yamaguchi saw the ice show at the Hayward Southland Mall as a little girl, she was in awe. “Just seeing the lights and the costumes…the performances were just really magical the way they all came together,” she remembers. “As a six-year-old, it’s like wow.”

As a child, Yamaguchi began skating in Hayward and continued in Fremont, California, where she grew up. While a career in figure skating might have struck some parents as impractical, Yamaguchi’s parents never discouraged her from pursuing that path. “Luckily, they didn’t have a clue about what they were getting into,” she says. “Or what I was getting into.”

But figure skating was Yamaguchi’s dream. She was drawn to the intersection of physical technique and artistic performance. “It’s a precision sport,” she says. “To be a good skater, you have to make it look easy even when it’s not, [and that] artistry makes it unique.”

With the artistry comes the more personal, subjective side of figure skating. “Your favorite skater could be some random person who’s 25th in the world,” Yamaguchi explains, “but maybe you like the way they move or the way they interpret the movement. It’s an emotional connection that audiences get with skaters—from their style and their personality. I think it’s important to have both. Some people think, ‘Oh, you got to have jumps,’ but when you look back at the history of our sport…the top [athletes] always had the combination of athleticism and artistry that put them above the rest.”

Yamaguchi’s performance at the ’92 Winter Olympics took the gold, and she used her visibility to give back. “It’s definitely helped open doors being an Olympian,” she says. “People are more receptive to hearing your story, your cause.”

Yamaguchi established the Always Dream Foundation in 1996. The charitable organization has worked to provide opportunities to underprivileged and differently abled children. In the last five years, Yamaguchi and her husband, hockey Olympian and San Jose Sharks commentator Bret Hedican, have targeted early childhood literacy as the foundation’s primary focus. “It really came down to ‘if a kid can’t read, they’re not going to have a successful academic career,’ ” Yamaguchi says. “So, we wanted to try to hit that underserved area.”

While Yamaguchi loved reading from a young age, it was the experience of reading to her two daughters, Keara and Emma, that led her to consider writing a children’s book herself and begin thinking about how her foundation could help foster young readers. Yamaguchi has now authored two bestselling children’s books—Dream Big, Little Pig! and It’s a Big World, Little Pig! And Always Dream partners with the national literacy organization Raising a Reader to provide reading material to schools and to increase parent engagement in learning activities at home. “We bring in the digital technology side and provide tablets that are preloaded with ebooks for classrooms,” explains Yamaguchi.

Yamaguchi is also busy creating pieces for Tsu.ya, her line of activewear for women. The endeavor unites her career, love of style, and philanthropy. “I’m a girl,” she laughs. “I love shopping. I’ve always been interested in fashion, and…the costume plays a big role [in skating]… Activewear was a natural segue because—not being a formal designer—it’s something I know and grew up in.” Inspired by Newman’s Own and TOMS Shoes, the Tsu.ya brand donates a portion of the proceeds to Always Dream.

While childhood literacy may be her focal point, Yamaguchi has not left skating behind. She continues to skate alongside other luminaries in shows that support childhood reading, and for the past six years, she’s partnered with Hawaiian Airlines to bring community ice skating to San Jose with Downtown Ice. Every year during the holidays, visitors can enjoy skating there under the twinkling palms, perhaps getting a sense of that same magic that drew Yamaguchi to the ice as a little girl.

instagram: kristiyamaguchi
facebook: kristiyamaguchi
twitter: kristiyamaguchi

Article originally appeared in Issue 7.5 Serve SOLD OUT

Annmariz Milagros is the illustrator behind the luscious, juicy, body-positive femme characters brightening these pages right now. And she does it all in the name of self-love—a journey we all could use a little push through.

She comes from a big, artistic family. They all lived in one house, where the TV was always on and usually showing cartoons. Her favorites included Power Puff Girls, Total Drama Island and lots of anime. She surrounded herself with Sanrio stationery and in her free time she would google “anime girls” to trace the eyes of Sailor Moon and the like.

Imagining new characters was the hobby she took everywhere. In elementary school, she started a comic with two of her cousins. They cast themselves in random storylines which, looking back now, she can’t make sense of. “Did we really think this is how the world works?” she laughs, but the joy of creating characters based off herself and those around her stuck. In high school, she would tear off half sheets of paper, write the date, and draw out what happened to her that day. Her friends knew about it, so “I’d draw my crushes without their faces,”
she giggles.

In college, Annmariz pursued early childhood education before switching to art. She transferred from Mission College in Santa Clara to Long Beach State, where she joined a community of artists with interests similar to her own—illustration, character design, and storyboarding. Her goal at the time was to be picked up by a company. But gradually she realized: “I loved my style.” Freelancing freed her to “transform it as I go.”

Another awareness was coming into focus—why her characters looked like her. “I didn’t see anything that represents me,” she says. “I’m brown and big. I wanted to create things I’ve always wanted to see for myself.” She knew among her artist community on Twitter that there were others who wanted to see themselves related in cute, erotic art too.

These sweet and naughty, sexy and peachy girls do it all: thighs and plump asses galore, they reflect inner dialogues you just might relate to. Annmariz’s 2017 zine series Peach Gorl was inspired by all the blessings and curses of major life transitions: a break-up and adjusting to life on her own in the Long Beach area.

“It was scary being vulnerable with people, but also very cathartic,” she says. “I felt like I needed to purge out.” And if the purging didn’t change up her style some, well, what’s the point of being an artist? Most of her illustrations used to be in black and white, but “during that time, I saw more color popping out…then all the color popping out!” Her characters started to end up with pink hair—“I’ve always wanted pink hair!”—and her new color palette was guided by bright joy.

“I wanted to create things I’ve always wanted to see for myself.” -Annmariz Milagros

On the weekends through school, Annmariz worked as a caricature artist at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. For two years, she finessed her skills as an artist and as a retailer. “Especially on slow days, a lot of my day was trying to reel people in,” she explains. Once a family agreed to have their portrait done, “you had to draw as quick as you can.” She learned to finish a drawing in under three minutes; with color, under five. All the while, she interacted with the clients, asking about their day and making them laugh. 

After graduation, the effects of the pandemic drew her back to family for a year. She stayed in her hometown of Milpitas, taking space during quarantine to grow her presence on social media. She also began taking commissions. “I’m still striving to diversify my characters,” she says. As she evolves, she believes her style will too. Eventually, a search for more freelancing opportunities drew her back south. 

Now back in Long Beach, where she lives with her partner and a couple of their friends, you’ll find her crafting her dream day by day. She hopes to have her own studio space and meet more fellow artists working in her niche. “I’m a more introverted person, so I’m very thankful for Instagram,” she says. Online, she’s able to spark some of these relationships through mutual follows and story reactions. “I didn’t think I’d be in contact with other artists making big girl art.”

As a true morning bird, her perfect day begins with a few hours at the gym (followed by her breakfast of choice—milk and cereal), but “then it’s commissions and requests till early evening.” While she’s working, the highs and lows of her mood cycle her through playlists featuring badass female artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Ari Lennox, H.E.R., and Jhené Aiko. 

Reflecting on herself five years ago, she states, “I would’ve been shocked I’m putting myself out there like that!” Yet, looking back shows her the power she’s carried all along.
Tiktok: honeysoakedpeaches

Spend an hour talking about whiskey with Virag Saksena, and it will feel like you’ve taken a master class on the subject. A longtime fan of the versatile spirit, Saksena is the cofounder—along with Vishal Gauri —of the 10th Street Distillery, one of San Jose’s first hard alcohol producers since prohibition.

Originally an engineer who dabbled in home brewing, Saksena’s passion for whiskey truly began when he tasted a limited edition Laphroaig that had been aged in sherry casks. It became his drink of choice, but when supplies of it ran out, he realized there truly was no getting it back. “It feels like a sense of loss—something you really enjoy and you cannot find it anymore. You grow to love a certain expression and then it disappears.”

Being naturally curious, Saksena dove deep into the world of whiskeys, exploring the flavors and nuances that gave them depth and character: honey-noted bourbons, spicy ryes, smokey Japanese whiskeys. His favorite was single malt Scotch, peated but not too heavily. “I got to thinking, why don’t we have a great single malt coming from here?” he explains. “California is known for great microbrews; it is known for amazing wines that challenge the French wines. So, why can’t we do something in the whiskey world? That was kind of puzzling. I didn’t believe what a lot of people said, that you need a certain climate to make whiskey.”

He began looking into how to take the next step in his home brewing hobby, moving into the hard stuff. But distilling is a lot more complicated than brewing, requiring a strong knowledge of the “cuts”—different alcohols, their flavor profiles, and their evaporation points. Understanding the process wasn’t something that could be done through reading and Google searches. It required hands-on learning, and Saksena was ready to take the plunge. He stepped away from his software career to focus on learning to make whiskey. “I wanted to do something that was not bits and bytes but nuts and bolts,” he says.

“The first step in making whiskey is making beer,” he explains. “I’d been making beer for a while, so I was like, okay, I know I can do that. But when you research, there’s a whole bunch of stuff floating around, and you don’t know what’s right. So I ended up going to Scotland and spending some time there working at this apprentice program. You go there and spend a week working for the distillery, from malting the grain, drying it, running the mash…the first part I understood fairly well, but the second part I had no idea.”

After his apprenticeship, Saksena started distilling in his back yard, and his confidence that this project could truly become a viable enterprise began to grow. He also built some of his own prototypes to improve the process. At the distillery, he explains how the TechShop in San Jose was an incubator for these prototypes. “I like building stuff,” he says, “whether it’s software or electronics and hardware. Let me give you an example.” From behind a desk, he pulls out a hefty, complex-looking object made of metal and glass. It’s a shell and tube condenser, a device used to liquify alcohol vapors, and Saksena created it by hand at the now-defunct maker space.

When he and his business partner began to explore the business side of things, searching for a space that would accommodate the equipment and technical processes required of a distillery, they found an encouraging partner in the City of San Jose. “We talked to cities all over the Bay Area,” Saksena recalls. “Some said, ‘We want big software firms here, we don’t need this.’ But San Jose was very supportive; they were very open. They worked with us on the regulations. There are fire and zoning requirements…you can’t just go into an empty shell. Starting a software company is fairly easy: you rent space in an office park, and you can just do it. This was a complex project. It took us about a year just to find a place.”

The location they found (on South 10th Street) is in the warehouse district north of downtown that is also home to several of the new crop of craft breweries. These spaces are perfect for alcohol production, as they can store the large fermenters required in the process. The 10th Street space is huge but is already filling up, housing the vats of mash and wort, custom made copper stills, and, of course, stacks of barrels with whiskey aging inside.

Speaking of the aging process, any whiskey drinker must ask about the age of the bottle in question. Some take eight, ten, twelve years or more before they are bottled and shipped out to the public. But Saksena wanted something they could bring to market in a short timeframe. Although additional products are forthcoming, their currently available single malt (the only product on the market at the moment) only ages for about 14-18 months. And they have eschewed the workaround common in small-batch distilleries of using tiny barrels to extract the flavor more quickly. Instead, they focus on making a clean, flavorful product from the outset that doesn’t require extensive aging.

“People ask how long we age the whiskey,” Saksena says. “My response is, ‘As long as it takes.’ ” He offers a taste of another product, not yet ready for consumption. It’s delicious, but with more bite than the single malt and no earthy peat flavor. His nuanced palette says it needs to wait. “This will stay in the barrel until it’s ready.” They have as many as five different varieties that are in various stages of the aging process.

They use a number of methods to produce the clean but flavorful effect they were looking for in their signature single malt, including fermenting the wort in open air for a period of time to allow local wild yeasts to do their work. This creates an initial beer that has a distinctly “San Francisco sourdough” flavor to it, which they carefully retain throughout the distilling. They also import specialty peated malts from Scotland, and the custom stills imbue the whiskey with maximum taste while still cutting out the harsh alcohols.

“We knew what we wanted to do—we wanted to create a world-class single malt. There are global single malts coming out, but what is happening here in America is that most of the single malts taste more like a bourbon than a single malt; the complex nuances don’t shine through. But we wanted to bring those out. We wanted to create a smooth, complex, and
clean product.”

Their single malt whiskey is currently available at several South Bay bars and restaurants, including Paper Plane, Haberdasher, and Alexander’s Steakhouse—and bottles can be found at some markets and liquor shops that carry local products. And while the distillery does not yet have a permit for a tasting room, private tours are available for groups by appointment. 

Saksena is clearly proud of and passionate about his whiskey, and the fact that he could make it in his home city of San Jose means even more to him. He makes efforts to involve the community, recycling the grain for use by local farmers and working with small local businesses to distribute. “I wanted to do something which allowed me to work with my local community. It’s something which was missing [in software], and I wanted to get back to—not working across four time zones, but something grounded in the community.”

So, next time you get a chance, take a seat at your local bar, order a shot of 10th Street whiskey, and enjoy a uniquely San Jose flavor. It’s worth savoring. 

10th Street Distillery
2131 South Tenth Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Instagram: 10thstreetdistillery

Article originally appeared inIssue 11.5 Dine (Print SOLD OUT)

Flowers are intertwined with feelings—and Jose Ibarra and Efrain Escalante of Apis Floral get that. Though they never went to school to learn the art of flower arranging, Ibarra and Escalante (who playfully call themselves “The Flower Guys”) describe a deep connection with, a deep understanding of, the natural world. The name these partners chose for their boutique—Apis, the genus of the honeybee—seems particularly fitting.

Apis specializes in natural, rustic-chic arrangements for corporate events, weddings, holiday parties, and window displays. Though Ibarra and Escalante are of Mexican heritage, they’ve been told their designs have a Parisian flourish. They go the extra mile for quality—visiting the flower market twice a week and tracking down flowers in other cities. Escalante takes on a supporting role, nurturing the moss and succulent walls and botanical designs, handling marketing, and memorializing their creations through social media. Ibarra is the lead floral designer, feeding roses, carnations, and dahlias into vases until they’ve matured into bouquets.

“It’s always an emotion that moves Jose to start working on the bridal bouquet,” says Efrain. “It’s a process. Every time he’s going to start working on bouquets, he’s thinking about the bride. How does she look? What was she wearing for our last appointment? What was her vision for the wedding? How is she going to be carrying that bouquet? It’s like art.”

instagram: apisfloral

Apis Floral
460 Lincoln Avenue, Suite 30
San Jose, California 95126

Article originally appeared in Issue 9.5 Profiles  (Print SOLD OUT)

#71- Rebecca Herman & Mark Shoffner

Rebecca Herman and Mark Shoffner have been artistic collaborators since 1999, creating sculptures and installations incorporating textiles, wood, bamboo, paper, and reclaimed materials. Their recent work draws on art and architecture from different cultures to create new interaction sites and refuge in contemporary society, and can be seen at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles as part of the Artists in Residence program until the end of the year.

We spoke with them about their artistic voice and some of their recent projects, including hats and masks made of fabrics dyed to reflect the Air Quality Index, and creating covers for a collection of political books found in Rebecca’s grandfather’s library using a process called ice dyeing.


This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021:

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic (


Imagine you’re stepping through the cerulean and sapphire entry of the Iceberg Skating Palace at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. By the time you’ve wandered the massive arena long enough to locate your seat, a Latin song floods the air and a willowy American’s skates have stirred to life. As she flits across the rink with a triple Lutz/triple toe loop combination and a double Axel, you can’t help but admire her airy affinity with the ice.

You’ve just met the Iron Butterfly, the ninth-placed Olympian and two-time US national silver medalist, Polina Edmunds. And while Edmunds’ nickname fits the weightless way she maneuvers across ice, there’s more to it than that.

Did you know that behind the cloak of the cocoon, caterpillars dissolve their bodies into a soup before reorganizing and reassembling themselves into a new creature? Though Edmunds’ transformation might not have called for such drastic measures, she’s overcome her own fair share of uncomfortable transitions and growing pains over the years.

Take for example the crippling mental block she faced in middle school, which left her incapable of performing jumps. “My coaches were at such a loss,” Edmunds recalls of her six-month burnout. “They tried yelling at me. They tried crying with me. They tried so many different tactics to get me to do it. And I just couldn’t.” Part of the problem was Edmunds’ longing for even a taste of normalcy. The 5am practices, after-school practices, and early bedtimes didn’t allow for much of that. But when Edmunds’ friends planned a Jamba Juice and salon trip on the last day of seventh grade, Edmunds’ mom (also one of her coaches) had an idea. She promised her daughter the day off if she could nail her jumps.

“Every time I got butterflies in my stomach, I thought about Jamba Juice,” Edmunds smiles. “That was the one word that kept replaying and replaying in my mind.” After her special girls’ day, Edmunds felt once again ready to face the rink. “It was my favorite day ever, but I came home, and I kind of had that reset where I was like, ‘That was fun. But skating makes me special—I’m going to go back.’ ”

Puberty was another rocky transition. Edmunds’ new physique meant she had to adjust to a different body balance, readjusting her poise to new proportions and relearning the muscle memory of moves. Her metabolism changed too. As a youngster, Edmunds’s big appetite was a source of pride. While other skaters religiously watched what they ate, she could polish off a big meal right before taking on the rink (something that always gained her more than a few odd looks from her competitors).

She laughs, recalling her indignation when coach David Glynn and her mom suggested she cut back on the milkshakes and pizza slices. “Eating everything you want and still being a toothpick—that was the best!” she asserts. “And all of a sudden, knowing that that’s not the case anymore and that I need to pay attention, I struggled with fully identifying with that.” It took her a whole two years to finally respect her body’s new limits.

Most recently, Edmunds has faced another pivotal transition. After rinks closed for months during the pandemic and consistent practice was no longer an option, she made the decision to retire from competitive skating. It can’t be easy to step away from the only way of life you’ve ever known. 

“They tried yelling at me. They tried crying with me. They tried so many different tactics to get me to do it. And I just couldn’t.” -Polina Edmunds

It was at 20 months of age that Edmunds’ mom first plopped her into skates. It was at four she began lessons. By the ripe age of five, she earned the lead role in a skating performance as the audacious Pippi Longstocking. “My mom put pipe cleaners in my hair, braided them, spray-painted them orange,” she recalls. Edmunds has fond memories of her dad encouraging her with gifts. “Whenever I won first place when I was growing up, my dad would take me to Toys R Us, and I would get to pick out a doll…I ended up having like 20 Cabbage Patch kids!”

For Edmunds, the rink echoes with countless memories and thousands of hours of hard work. It has been the site of adrenaline-charged performances, new friends, and daring feats. To say it contains a large chunk of her identity is an understatement. “It was really emotional,” Edmunds told a reporter at NBC Sports about deciding whether or not to retire. “Every time I talked about it, I would start to cry, just because I couldn’t fathom the idea of stopping.”

But here’s the thing about stories—one chapter must end before the next can start.

One of the first transitions Edmunds made in retirement was taking the sudden lack of structure and finding a new rhythm. In less than a week of her big announcement, she started her own podcast, Bleav in Figure Skating. After gaining confidence and credibility by sharing her own journey across several episodes, she began interviewing big names like gold medal Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano. With hopes of one day becoming a sportscaster, it’s a fantastic first step for her future.

As she switches from interviewee to interviewer, Edmunds hopes she can enrich the interactions between media and athletes. “[As a skater,] I found that whenever I did the typical interview with NBC or wherever, the questions were pretty much the same and there wasn’t a whole lot of depth to the conversation…as athletes, we kind of all get the same questions.”

To counteract this, she creates a safe space for her guests by letting them know she can relate. “I try to include my own personal experiences and make it conversational,” she says. “And it ends up honestly feeling a lot like a therapy session…I need to start calling it Therapy With Polina!”

She also gets specific, focusing on niche angles rather than overarching careers, like discussing Gracie Gold’s struggle to regain skills and consistency in the rink after her hiatus. Or reflecting on eating disorders with Rachael Flatt, who studied the subject at Stanford after watching many athletic peers fall victim. Beyond the podcast, Edmunds has started hosting seminars for young skaters about mental training, nutrition, and other key topics regarding the sport. 

Edmunds’ graceful shift from one sphere to the next carries the same fluidity as her movements across ice. It’s been a year since her retirement, and this new season looks good on her. She’s done away with her long locks for a stylish, new haircut. She’s shed the braces of her youth and gained a few healthy pounds that compliment her face and figure. The winged pendent of her necklace clinches it—the Iron Butterfly is alive and well. 

Follow Polina at:

Podcast: @Bleav in Figure Skating

IG: @polinaedmunds

Article originally appeared inIssue 13.3 Sight and Sound (Print SOLD OUT)

#70 – Brandon Roos – Arts Journalist, DJ, and Content Magazine Contributing Writer

Brandon has been a contributing writer for Content Magazine since our second year of publishing in 2013.
In addition to Content, Brandon has written for Metro Silicon Valley and San José Jazz.

In our conversation, we talk about his love of words and music and how they have come together in his career, as well as his approach to writing and his journey as a local writer.

“I’ll still do this thing where I get a legal pad and start writing the story off the top of my head, and if I don’t know the quote, I put some brackets there. I realized that often, inspiration comes naturally in the process. You’re able to kind of craft this thing by just trusting your intuition and catching those finer points. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. I can trust my instincts and believe that I know a thing or two about a narrative.” – Brandon Roos

Follow Brandon at:
IG: @brandiathan and

Hear Brandon DJing at Camino Brewing First Sundays with @firstearmusic!

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in Issue 14.1 Winter 2022 — release date: Dec. 9, 2021: 
Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic

SVCreates Content Emerging Artist Awards

SVCREATES recognizes the region’s finest artists who have demonstrated a commitment to developing their art forms and to enriching the greater Santa Clara County region with exhibitions, performances, presentations, and service. The SVArts Award Program, including the SVLaureates and the Content Emerging Artist Award, awards unrestricted cash prizes to support artists while they pursue their creative work.

The purpose of the SVArts Award Program is to:
Recognize the artistic vibrancy and impact of our local artists
Provide monetary support to encourage continuing development of the artist’s work
Spotlight the important role individual artists play in contributing to a vital and creative community

Awards and Categories
The 2022 SVArts Program will award two Content Emerging Artist Awards of $5,000 each. The award program for other Artist Laureates is on hiatus and is anticipated to return in 2023.

To preview the application in advance, you may review a downloadable copy of the application on the SVCreates website,

Awards will be presented at a public SVArts celebration in May 2022. In addition, all awardees will be featured in the May issue of Content Magazine.

Content Emerging Artist Award:
Recognizing early career artists in all genres – visual, performing, and literary arts:

Visual Arts:
Including two and three-dimensional work that is created in the studio or in community spaces; including drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture in all media, photography, video, mixed/multiple media, installation, new or alternative media and social practice art.

Performing Arts:
Including art that is presented for an audience on a formal or informal stage. Applicants would include artists creating work that is developed offstage, backstage, or pre-performance (choreographers, composers, stage directors, stage/set/costume designers). Or performers themselves (dancers, actors, spoken word artists, instrumental/vocal musicians).

Literary Arts:
All written literary art forms.

Note: This program does not include architecture, landscaping, industrial/graphic/computer systems design, journalism/photojournalism, or other commercial activities.

An Emerging Artist is defined as:
+ An artist in the early stages of their career (not defined by age)
+ Demonstrating a commitment to their practice, working intentionally over the last 3-5 years to develop and promote a career as a professional artist
+ Having some evidence of professional achievement through exhibitions or performances in public settings
+ Being rigorous in their approach to creation and production
+ Having developed an original body of work with a clear identity
+ Taking risks and embracing challenges

Applicant must:
+ Be at least 18 years of age at the time of the application deadline.
+ Spend at least five-ten hours a week on and may derive income from the practice/creation of art.
+ Have exhibited, performed, presented and/or published artistic work in a public context within the last three years.
+ Be the principal creator/performer or the sole author of work(s) submitted.
+ Be a resident of Santa Clara County or one of several bordering counties (Alameda, San Mateo, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties) for at least one year prior to the application deadline, AND can demonstrate through professional history that artistic activity has had an impact on residents of Santa Clara County.

Applicant must not:
+ Be enrolled as an undergraduate student.
+ Be a prior recipient of an Artist Fellowship or Laureate from SVCREATES or Arts Council Silicon Valley.
+ Be a current employee or board member of SVCREATES/ or have been employed by or served on the board of SVCREATES/Arts Council Silicon Valley/1stACT Silicon Valley within the past 10 years.

Review Criteria
SVArts Award applications are reviewed by independent review panels, comprised of distinguished professional artists and community arts leaders, representing a spectrum of disciplines. Awardees will be selected on a competitive basis, based on artistic merit, artististic development and community impact.

How to Apply
All application materials will be submitted through SVCREATES online application portal. If submitting your application online creates an obstacle for you, please contact Alyssa Erickson to make other arrangements (see contact info below).

To preview the application in advance, you may review a downloadable copy of the application on the SVCreates website,

Application requirements include: narrative questions, links to work samples hosted online, resume, and a letter of recommendation.

Letter of Recommendation: submit one letter of recommendation from someone who works in the arts and knows your work well. It is the applicant’s responsibility to upload the letter. Letters should be no more than one page, signed by the recommender and address the following questions:

What is your relationship to the artist? How do you know their work?
In what way is the artist an asset to the arts community in Santa Clara County?
Why should this artist be recognized as a 2022 Emerging Artist Awardee?

Email your questions to staff or contact us to schedule a phone call. Please contact: Alyssa Erickson, Program Manager alyssae(at) | 408-998-2787 ext. 204

To preview the application in advance, you may review a downloadable copy of the application on the SVCreates website,

#69 – Conrad Egyir
Conrad is a Ghanaian artist based in Detroit, working in figurative narratives of the African Diaspora. His work blends religious and West African folk iconography within domestic scenes, portraying  a deep understanding of the history of portraiture. He utilizes shaped canvases and relief elements to reference stamps and postcards as metaphors for migration; journals, books, binder tabs, and chapters as metaphors for time and the archiving of ideas.

In our conversation, Conrad discusses his process, the inspiration to this current series as well as his guiding life philosophy.

His exhibition will be on view in the ICA San Jose’s Main Gallery in conjunction with Conrad Egyir: A Chapter of Love, a Facade Project at the ICA San José through February 20, 2022.

Conrad Egyir: A Chapter of Love and Conrad Egyir: Chapters of Light are generously supported by program partner Facebook Open Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Pamela and David Hornik, Tad Freese and Brook Hartzell, and Applied Materials.
Follow Conrad at @conrad_egyir and
On view at Institute of Contemporary Art San Jose (

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. read more about Jack in issue 14.1 Winter 2022, released Date Dec. 9, 2021
Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic

W hen Alexa Arena commutes to San Jose from her home in San Francisco, she often takes Caltrain.

“The good news is when you’re sitting on a train, you’re not gonna do a phone call or a video call,” said Arena, Google’s senior director of real estate development, in an interview with San José Spotlight. “So you have, frankly, the time to read and to make sure that you digest information.”

For the past three years, Arena was a central leader in negotiating the tech giant’s Downtown West project for San Jose, an 80-acre office and housing complex that’s been called a city within a city. The complex will be located near Diridon Station, a transit hub that San Jose leaders hope will become the Grand Central Station of the West, particularly following the arrival of California’s long-awaited high-speed rail.

But for now, the station mostly serves VTA’s bus and light rail, as well as Caltrain, which runs from San Jose to San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood. The commute provides the tech-real estate exec with a quiet time that’s often missing from Silicon Valley’s fast-paced rat race lifestyle. “In our meeting culture—that I think has taken over the world—it’s hard to find those times,” Arena said. “You also end up in an experience on trains, in particular, where you see so much outside the window. So it does give you that mental space just to reflect.”

Arena, 44, was born in Dallas but moved with her family every few years during childhood. She has also lived in Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, and New York City.

“I think that versatility of locations and experiences definitely did a lot to give me a sense of how each culture and community is unique,” she said, adding that she moved to San Francisco 13 years ago following advice from a mentor at the Harvard Housing Institute. “He had recommended the West Coast because it was just so much more open to some of the thinking around community building and how we think of the physical environment not as a set of buildings, but as a composition of how you bring neighborhoods to life,” Arena said.

“It was really about community and neighborhood-making versus buildings, and that intrigued me.” -Alexa Arena

The executive was working in Lendlease’s California development arm when she got connected with Google. She said the company exemplifies the type of building that first inspired her to enter the real estate industry. “It was really about community and neighborhood-making versus buildings, and that intrigued me,” she said. Arena was attracted to the tech giant’s team-oriented approach to
project planning.

Arena has reflected on the work it’s taken to push the massive Google project past the finish line—Downtown West was approved by the San Jose City Council in May—and the work that remains. It’s been three years since the council passed an agreement and sold several parcels of public land to the tech company for its new megacampus. Arena said she’s excited to see the project’s next stage of evolution.

“The openness of the dialogue after the MOU [memorandum of understanding] vote was really immensely appreciated,” Arena said. 

Prior to the project approval, activists worked strenuously to prevent the sale of land to Google, with some chaining themselves to the chairs inside San Jose City Hall in protest. 

The proposed tech campus includes 7.3 million square feet of office space, 4,000 housing units, 15 acres of parks, and a 30,000- to 50,000-square-foot community center. The project also features 500,000 square feet for retail, cultural, arts, and education uses. A quarter of the project’s housing units will be affordable.

The most challenging aspect of planning, Arena said, was figuring out how to wrap the complexity of the project around the needs of the community. “We could not have achieved this project and its goals without deep, lasting partnerships with people in the equity community, with people in the arts community, with people in the environmental community,” she explained. “You can’t do a project of this complexity, with the myriad of goals that we really want to achieve, without a partnership mentality and a
co-creation mentality.”

The pandemic, too, introduced challenges that Arena said residents faced with surprising aplomb. “It shows people in the community, their dedication to the outcomes and the objectives, that we all rolled up our sleeves and sorted through how to work through that together,” she said.

Many residents wonder how the project will blend with the rest of downtown. Arena said the key to answering that question lies 40 feet above the sidewalk. “We often talk about the first 40 feet in real estate, because that’s what you actually experience,” Arena said, adding that the developers aim to create a ground-level experience where someone is steeped in San Jose’s distinct cultures. “It is a pretty incredible culture around festivals, around pockets of San Jose, but it’s spread out. And so if we’ve gotten it right, we can bring that community together around that first 40 feet and be like, ‘This is only gonna happen in San Jose. I know I’m in San Jose, I’m not in a generic city’s downtown,’ ” Arena added. “It’s going to take a lot of partnership to get there.”

Central to that partnership is the fate of the area’s artists, many of whom gravitate around downtown through hubs like Local Color. Arts groups like SVCreates met with Google executives prior to the City Council’s approval of the development, and Arena said that meeting informed many of the project’s design guidelines. 

“Our worst-case scenario is that the ground plane becomes too expensive to invite artists in…we absolutely don’t want that to happen,” she said. “We’re thinking [about] how to optimize the whole of the place into the right type of ecosystem that defines an authentic city…the importance of public art is a component of the project, so it’s accessible to everyone who comes
o the site.”

The project’s design guidelines include prohibiting art that causes environmental disruption within the riparian setback along Los Gatos Creek or the Guadalupe River. The guidelines also call for creating art that evokes “a sense of destination to areas of high traffic and high visibility, to help shape gathering places and to be a part of the place making of destinations such as a cafe, an event venue, or programmed activities.” Arena said a committee of arts advocates and residents from all over San Jose helped inform the design guidelines and requirements for public
art displays. 

“There’s a dedicated budget to free programming; oftentimes that will be art: performance art, other things going on, music, in those open spaces,” the Google executive said. “The entire goal of the free programming is to invite in [the] community and to make it feel like it’s a place where you don’t have to come and buy something to be a part of.”

Local Color had planned to host an artist studio in one of the buildings on the project site. However, the facility never opened, due to Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 health guidelines, according to Carman Gaines, Local Color’s member relationship manager. Arena said Google wants to keep artists and other cultural leaders working in the downtown area. “There’ll be some movement, but it is absolutely about the stability and the growth of networks like them who are really important to helping our arts and cultural community thrive,” she said.

Sculpture and theater are Arena’s favorite art media. The three-dimensional aspect of sculpture allows the public to experience the work and each other in a unique way.

“Art is a way to really connect Googlers and Google and society…to make us feel like we are part of something larger, to get us in conversation, to give us a shot at alternative ways of thinking,” Arena said. “Google needs art in the same way our culture needs art.” Google wants to capture the culture of San Jose in its public spaces, Arena said, and art is central to its vision of a vibrant downtown.

“San Jose has got this incredible spirit of entrepreneurship, celebration, creativity, diversity,” she said. “The goal of the downtown is to bring that all together, to access it with frequency, to feel like every weekend you can come and discover
something new.”
Twitter: GoogleInCA


Article originally appeared inIssue 13.4 Profiles (Print SOLD OUT)

T here’s a significant amount of abstraction in flying by plane—after all, you’re hurtling through the air in a metal tub at 30,000-plus feet, but the most surreal moment of your flight is that first glance through the plastic cabin window at the terrain far below. From an aerial angle, the landscape is broken down in a patchwork of shapes and condensed colors like a massive, earthy quilt. Linda Gass captures that feeling through her map-like “stitched paintings,” art that addresses water and land-use issues in California and the American West.

Although she also works with glass, Gass has an obvious soft spot for textiles. “With textiles, they tend to have a comforting feeling to them,” she describes. “We’re used to wrapping ourselves in them. We sleep under them.” Her intricate designs are fashioned by drawing with the sewing machine, guiding the fabric with her hands while controlling the speed and movement of the needle. Averaging a mile’s worth of thread per year, she coalesces teeny tiny stitches into textured patterns that reflect their environment—rolling grasslands curve and loop, rows of crops form neat lines, rivers and oceans coil and ripple.

The highlight is certainly the water, not just in texture but in color. Through silk painting, this artist commingles an ever-changing blend of aquamarine and turquoise, cyan and seafoam. Her H20 interest was initially fostered by her mother. Gass recalls her mom frequently warning her that if she didn’t finish her salad, it would rain the next day (a superstition carried over from her own childhood in the particularly rainy country of Luxemburg). But the threat didn’t carry the same heft, considering LA’s stubborn lack of rain. “We have all these lush green lawns and swimming pools,” Gass remembers pondering. “If it doesn’t rain here, where does our water come from? I had no idea. You know…it comes from the tap!” Later, she was shocked to learn that none of LA’s water came from local sources.

“I use the lure of beauty to look at the hard environmental issues we face.” – Linda Gass

Gass’s enthusiasm for maps also started at a young age. The artist’s face softens with nostalgia when she speaks of hours spent whirling her Rand McNally globe. “I’d play this game where I’d spin the globe, and I’d close my eyes and put my finger on it, just to see where it landed,” she smiles. “Mostly it landed in the ocean because it’s mostly water. Which also left this big impression on me of how much of our planet is water. It was this process
of discovery.”

A few years later, Gass’s time at Stanford continued to cultivate her valuing of sustainable living. “I lived in a co-op house where we ate vegetarian,” she notes. “We did recycling, we didn’t use paper napkins with our dinners, we baked our own bread and granola…all those good hippie things!” Today, her advocacy-fueled artwork features in a number of magazines and books, including a National Geographic publication on unusual maps and the cover of an environmental
science textbook.

One of her favorite pieces to date will be included in a solo show addressing climate change at the Museum of Craft and Design (featured until May 3rd). The stitched painting, Severely Burned, reveals the crippling damage of the Rim Fire in the Tuolumne River Watershed area through an artistically rendered vegetation burn map. It’s a personal piece. Gass has regularly visited and backpacked Yosemite National Park ever since a week-long class trip in 8th grade taught her an appreciation of the area’s ecosystem (from its plants and animals, to the glaciers that
carved its valley).

And she witnessed the fire in person. “There was this cloud, like one I’d never seen before,” Gass recalls of an intense moment staring out the bus window at the horizon. “It was this cauliflower in the sky. It was not a rain cloud. And the underside of it…the whole cloud was grey. There was no white.” The fire burned so hot it had created its own weather, condensing the moisture from the atmosphere into an unnerving pyrocumulus cloud. Gass vividly recollects the flurry of ash later falling like snowflakes, some crusting on the zoom lens of her camera.

Although her work wades through some harsh realities, Gass takes a surprisingly gentle approach. “I use the lure of beauty to look at the hard environmental issues we face—rather than make artwork that may be more ugly like the subject matter that I’m dealing with that people might not want to look at. Or live with.” Visually pleasing images make unappetizing truths a little more palatable. “Otherwise they might want to stick their head in the sand because it’s overwhelming,” she observes. 

Moreover, this artistic choice reveals an optimism in the restoration of natural beauty. Catching a bird’s eye view with Gass reminds us we can aim higher. Rather than settle for a flawed standard, we can choose to be better stewards of the
planet we inhabit.
Social Media: lindagassart


Article originally appeared in issue 12.0 “Discover.”

The Art of Disability Culture — Working Towards Access and Inclusion at the Palo Alto Art Center

SV CREATES’ The Business of Arts and Culture provided an important reminder about the cultural diversity of our community, the unique organizational ecosystem that has built upon it, and continued urgency for social justice, access, and equity in our work. At the Palo Alto Art Center’s recent staff retreat this summer, we used the Museums & Race Report Card tool to assess our progress in supporting equity in governance, funding, representation, responsiveness, resources, and transparency. On average, staff gave us a “C” grade, identifying some gains in the area of representation in programming and transparency, but acknowledging significant work to do in diversifying our staff and in creating a sustainable funding source for equity efforts.

I reflect upon this work as we get ready to launch our fall exhibition, The Art of Disability Culture. As a staff, we have been committed to exploring the “A” for “access” and the “I” for inclusion in our ongoing DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusivity) work. We saw this exhibition as a chance for us to enhance our organizational capacity for access and inclusion, while bringing creative perspectives from the disability community to the public.

The exhibition will feature the work of 20 artists, all of whom identify as having a disability, in a broad range of media. The show celebrates intersectionality and community, showcasing everything from Anthony Tusler’s documentary photography of the 26-day occupation of the San Francisco Federal Building in 1977 that led to the ADA to the Black Disabled Lives Matter logo designed by Jennifer White-Johnson.

Our goals for the exhibition are lofty:

To achieve these goals, we have relied upon institutional partnerships, with organizations such as AbilityPath, Magical Bridge, Ada’s Cafe in Palo Alto, Creative Growth in Oakland, Creativity Explored in San Francisco, and NIAD Art Center in Richmond. Our outstanding guest curator, Fran Osborne, has created extensive labels for the exhibition that will be available in large-print and Braille. Audio visual descriptions for all the artworks will be available by QR code and on our website. Programs for the exhibition, including Friday Night at the Art Center on September 17 and a Community Day Celebration on October 10, will include live captioning and ASL interpretation, thanks to the assistance of the Midpen Media Center.

This show has demanded that we do more than ever before to support access and inclusion. Funding was necessary to support these activities and we are grateful for the generosity of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, California Humanities, Pamela and David Hornik, and Magical Bridge.

I am also mindful that this exhibition has come at a time when our staff is the smallest it’s been in organizational history. The impact of COVID-19 hit the Palo Alto Art Center dramatically, and like many of our colleagues, we are working to rebuild and recover. While the preparations for this show stretched our team, we have found continued inspiration in the work of the artists, who have been so appreciative for the opportunity to show their work in this community and context.

Circling back to the Museums & Race Report Card, I am also reflecting deeply about how we sustain momentum from this exhibition for deeper institutional change — such as sustainable funding to allow us to provide access features for all of our exhibitions moving forward. I am continually reminded that access and inclusion work is a process. We continue to work toward it, striving to make progress toward a future that we hope to shape, but that remains in many ways uncertain.

Originally published at on September 22, 2021.

Palo Alto Art Center

Images in order of appearance:

Katherine Sherwood. “After Ingres.” 2014. Acrylic and mixed media on recycled linen. 84 x 105 in.

Second- Michaela Oteri, “Self Portrait”, digital print, 26 x 38 in.

Use by permission from Palo Alto Art Center

Danny Thien Le, known by many in downtown San José as “Dandiggity,” has been a key figure in the local art and cultural scene where he is known for his poetry, event planning, arts and music advocacy, and fashion entrepreneurship. He has collaborated with Universal Grammar, Cukui Clothing, The APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit, and POW! WOW! San José, and most recently has taken on a librarian position with the City of Santa Clara.

Join our conversation with Danny on the Content Podcast to hear about his journey from a late-night club-goer to a San José State University graduate with a Master of Library and Information Science degree. 


Follow Danny at @dandiggity

This episode’s music is “408” by Jack Pavlina. Read more about Jack in issue 14.1 Winter 2022, released Date Dec. 9, 2021

Follow Jack at @jackpavlinamusic


Read more about Danny from our 2012 article in issue 4.3, “Branding”

AAt a typical fashion show you might see grandiose or elegant runways that models strut down, dressed in the latest pieces by prominent designers in the fashion industry. But stripped of all the glitz and glamour are garments that only serve the purpose of meeting current fashion trends or setting the status quo of the fashion world. Pivot: The Art of Fashion puts on events that are not your typical fashion show. Founders and producers Tina Brown and Rose Sellery have set out to blur the lines between fashion and art while engaging their community and setting themselves apart from the norms of the fashion industry.

The visionaries for Pivot originally met while working together at FashionART Santa Cruz and found themselves wanting to support designers and artists outside the mere bounds of Santa Cruz and with events scheduled throughout the whole year, not just on an annual basis. Their background in fashion and art allow them, and Pivot, to flourish in their mission of bringing fashion and art together. Brown holds a degree in environmental design and gained experience in the fashion world by working her way up from making millinery hats to eventually working on runway events and photo shoots for Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Giorgio Armani. On the other side of the spectrum, Sellery works closely with different mediums in the visual arts. Sellery encapsulates gender norms and her own personal struggles through conceptual garments and sculptures. With a goal and vision set in mind and the skills and knowledge they possess, Brown and Sellery provide artists and designers who collaborate with Pivot with opportunities to further advance their place in the art and fashion scene.

The process begins with artists submitting an online application with examples of their work and a detailed overview of the performance aspect that would be incorporated into their clothing line modeled at the fashion show. Applications are reviewed by board members who decide if the submitted work fits with a certain venue. Though Brown and Sellery are always looking for new talent, often attending events for West Valley College, the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and City College of San Francisco for potential talent, they have worked with the same artists and designers for many years.

At its core, Pivot is a platform for local artists and fashion designers to showcase their work through photo shoots and runway events, to find the help to sell their work, as well as to foster a sense of community. Blurring the lines between fashion and art at Pivot translates into coiled mattress springs swirled around the lower frame of a model, peanut butter jar labels used to adorn a dress centered around a pun, and flowing designs hand painted on silk scarves, dresses, and skirts. Brown and Sellery work closely with artists and designers to modify pieces that are featured in the runway events, providing constructive criticism to ensure the pieces are cohesive collections. “Really what it’s about is creating an artistic community and supporting artists and designers,” Brown says.

Pivot is a learning process. Brown and Sellery brainstorm ideas with designers and artists and provide them with feedback to incorporate into their designs and eventually the finished product. In that learning process, however, unlearning is necessary.

The thin frames of the models who grace the runways are an issue Brown and Sellery can’t look past. To them, these models do not represent inclusivity or the body positivity they strive to include at Pivot. While the fashion industry does receive some criticism for its size-specific standards, it has become just that—the standard. Brown finds herself telling designers at Pivot to make clothing for all shapes and sizes. “A lot of times designers, especially in New York and in Paris, they’re only cutting for models that basically have no shape and figure; they’re a clothes hanger. That doesn’t really translate to the real world,” says Brown. Aside from Pivot, Brown is the founder of her company, Ilkastyle. The name derives from the ancient Scottish word “ilka,” which means each and every. She applies the philosophy of ilka to style to reflect the need for wearing something people feel comfortable and happy in.

As for Sellery, she expresses her views on the fashion industry’s beauty standards through her art. While watching fashion shows online a few years ago, Sellery found herself struck by how thin the models were. “The women were so emaciated, it was appalling. You could see the bones that ran across their chest and their clavicle poking out, I was just thinking these women were just skin and bone, and it was horrific to look at and not beautiful, in my mind,” Sellery says. Her immediate thoughts led her to create the wearable art piece titled, “Skin and Bones” which symbolizes the normalization and glorification of thin and petite bodies. With sliced bones scattered across the body of the model wearing it, the piece mimics a corset in the way that it tightly clings to her body. “We’re bombarded with a certain look and told, ‘This is what beauty is,’ “ Sellery continues.

Body image is only one of the issues Brown and Sellery work to address through Pivot. Overall inclusivity of people across all walks of life is essential, which can be seen through the people who design and model the clothing at Pivot’s fashion shows. People of different ages, sexualities, and gender identities play a role in Pivot, whether they’re the designers or models, whether older women strutting down the runway or young boys and girls being the brains behind detailed and thought-provoking pieces.

Brown and Sellery work closely with their production of FashionTeens Santa Cruz, a program open to middle and high school students in Santa Cruz County to design and model clothing—usually with recycled material—for its annual fashion show. The duo have enjoyed their time working with teens. It’s allowed them to see how the teens have grown as young people and developed as designers and artists. “There’s a struggle to fit in in a world where they don’t see anyone like themselves in magazines or on television. There’s very few that represent who they can look at and say, ‘That’s beautiful; she’s beautiful,’ ” Sellery says. While Brown and Sellery have seen impressive work from the teens, one of the most memorable designs came from a place of torment and rising above harsh bullying. A young indigenous Mexican girl living in Watsonville became the target of verbal abuse by her classmates for being distinctly different from the rest of the Latino community. Written largely on the girl’s garment were the hurtful words said to her by her classmates. As she walked the runway at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Cruz, her outfit lifted to reveal positive words about her that replaced the negative ones. The whole scene played out in a manner Sellery describes as hauntingly beautiful. “I think it changes how they experience themselves and the confidence they build, not only creating something but wearing it out on stage and getting this riotous applause,” Sellery says regarding the significance of events like FashionTeens and Pivot.

Defying the norms of the fashion industry has proven to be much more than resisting the standards of beauty. Pivot has grown as a space for creative minds to collaborate and create quirky, whimsical, and inspiring pieces in a way that captivates its audience and engages community members beyond just clothing for the sake of pure fashion.
Facebook: pivotartfashion
Instagram: pivot.artfashion

Article originally appeared in Issue 12.3 Perform (Limited issue available)

Danny Le – Dandiggity

Google: “Blind I for the Kids,” “Treatment Sound System,” “Substance,” “Cukui,” “PLSTK,” or “South East Beast” and you will just scratch the surface of Dandiggity.  Get involved in San Jose and eventually you’ll meet him. Declared by his friends to be the Mayor of the San Jose scene, Dandiggity is a key player in what many consider to be the city’s cultural renaissance.

Elements of art, music, writing, philosophy and community come together in his laundry list of mainstays and bylines. Blogs, music collaborations, stores, galleries, design houses, dance crews, poetry, and activism are portions of his multifaceted persona. Try to label or define Dandiggity and you will quickly realize there may be no definition for what he does. Creator, organizer, and director all seem to fall short of capturing the energy and initiative that have made him one of the most diverse people you will meet.

Born in Oklahoma City, Danny Le, aka Dandiggity, or Diggity for short, moved to San Jose at age 10 and spent his formative years in the large Vietnamese community here. Diggity was strongly influenced by his entrepreneurial father; through observation, he learned the value of defining your own career. “To be fully happy you have to be your own boss,” he says. “To be able to take control of your dreams and not have somebody take control for you is the hardest path, but also the most fulfilling.”

Throughout his childhood Diggity kept this philosophy in the forefront and began writing poetry. Immersing himself in spoken word and eventually travel, Diggity was exposed to ideas and cultures beyond the close-knit Vietnamese community. Through local events and church functions he quickly discovered his penchant for organizing and his enthusiasm made him a natural talent.

Flash forward to the Diggity most people know today and it is hard to believe he once considered himself an “observer” or that he ever had a shell to come out of. Upon meeting him you quickly realize his enthusiasm is contagious and his positive energy almost tangible. If San Jose is in the midst of a cultural renaissance, Diggity is the city’s Da Vinci. “It’s about creating community through culture,” he says. “Everything I think about telling the world—I have to share myself, as much as I can share myself.”

From his involvement with Japantown’s Cukui Clothing & Gallery to his unique approach to social justice through South East Beast, Diggity’s presence can be felt in person and through the online sphere. He easily navigates the worlds of fashion, music, and art and manages to blend them into a seamless experience. With a click and a follow on any major social media network, San Joseans can quickly enter his world.

His willingness to share and collaborate has made him the figure he is today. “I am enthusiastic about helping people develop their dreams and encouraging them to pursue them,” he says. Diggity also has some advice for fellow thinkers:“First rule of anything, it’s not because you thought of it first, it’s what’s put out there first. If you’re an ideas guy, you have tons of them, ship it out, let somebody refine it for you.” And that is just what he has done; redefining what many would consider the traditional model of success: owning and running one company. Instead, Diggity has collaborated to create a diverse portfolio of talents and pursuits.

“The forces of the world tell us that you have to be in a cush job with security, you have to pay off this debt. I say this: be healthy, be aware, be out there, be involved. You will always be happy and you will always have enough.” –  Danny Le

So what is next in his journey? “Lately, I have been learning to take on less; as someone who loves to be involved, you can wear yourself thin,” he says. “In 2012 I told myself: teach yourself to say no.” Dandiggity isn’t taking a break. Rather, he is taking the time to gain focus and turn his attention to the projects he is the most passionate about.

“San Jose is experiencing a renaissance,” Diggity says. “We are on this threshold. Most people don’t see it, because usually they see it after the fact, but we’re not at the end, we are still at the beginning.”

“I am excited because people are a catalyst for other people, it’s like a virus. People see things they want to do and be involved in.” On his friends and fans dubbing him the “Mayor of San Jose,” Diggity laughs. “I believe everyone can be mayor of San Jose, or mayor of their town,” he says. “You just have to support one another. Don’t make excuses. Just go. You’ll have much more fun, and you’ll run into people everywhere.”


Article originally appeared in issue 4.3, “Branding,” 2012.


It’s one of those slow afternoons, and a few lowriders from the Low Conspiracy Car Club have gathered at the garage of current head Sergio Martinez. Surrounded by vintage car prints, show trophies, and shelf upon shelf of model cars, members reminisce over slices of pizza on the organization’s 40-plus years of history.

These memories are bittersweet, reflections trigged by the recent loss of José “All Nighter” Martinez, president during the club’s first decade, and later in life, a regular judge in Lowrider Magazine’s car shows. Last week, the club honored him with a memorial cruise down Santa Clara Street. Now, as they pass around old photos and magazine clippings, a few of the older auto aficionados reflect on the club’s deep impact on their lives.

“It starts out as a hobby and turns into a lifestyle,” muses Abel Hernandez (a retired member of the club, but one of the 10 original high schoolers who first brought it to life back in the ’70s). Sergio smiles his agreement, the Impala symbol tattooed on his arm proof to his friend’s statement. That same mindset holds true across the club. It’s evidenced in the matter-of-fact way club members can rattle off the painters and modifiers behind their cars with the level of pride art collectors reserve for listing the masters framed on their walls.

There’s no argument that these cars are drivable art. “You’re not going to take a family vacation with those,” Abel comments with a chuckle. Sergio nods, “I kinda made mine a trailer queen and chromed everything.” If you’ve witnessed members’ painstaking attention to detail, you’ll understand why. For starters, there’s the handmade Zenith wire wheels with plated spokes in chrome and gold. There’s the big-bodied builds (practically with a couch in the backseat). There’s the hydraulic suspension (some with the power to raise up on three wheels or jump). Occasionally, there’s hidden murals tucked inside the door jams (ready to flash whenever the driver enters or exits
the vehicle).

“It starts out as a hobby and turns into a lifestyle.” – Abel Hernandez

And of course, don’t forget the wild paint jobs—a factor which happened to be José’s specialty. “Anybody can paint,” José’s wife Lisa Martinez says. “But you have to be an artist for it to really come out. They used to call them rolling canvases.” It’s not an exaggeration. If you want to win a car show, you play for keeps. Flashy flourishes of sparkles, patterns, and pin-striping get you on the podium. Or as Lisa puts it, “Go big or go home…Make it so that when it drives down the street, it gives people a headache it’s so bright.”

At times, lowrider painters have been known to take a little creative license. “Sometimes you tell them what you want, and they know that’s not going to look good,” Sergio explains, gesturing at his ’78 Grand Prix’s sunset-style two-tone fade from tangerine to scarlet, a coat accented with crisp yellow pinstripes. “I didn’t want orange on there—but he put it on there. When he told me, I wasn’t happy. And then I saw it…and I went back to him and said ‘Put more on.’ ”

“Carlos [Lima] did that to me, too, with my truck,” Sergio adds. “I wanted different colored flames—and he put a kind of magenta. And first thing I thought was ‘Pink. You painted pink flames on my truck?!’ But every truck show I went to with that truck, I won best flames.”

Judges not only look at the paint but scrutinize all the hidden little details, Sergio explains, describing the spotlights and turntables used to reveal every last facet and angle. And for rides with engraved undercarriages, you better believe their owners bring out the mirrors to capture those beautiful underbellies.

Fittingly, these cars with their loud personalities have an equally memorable origin story. It all started with young Chicano lowriders in post-World War II
Los Angeles.

Tired of whitewashed cultural norms in the States, Mexican Americans expressed pride in their heritage with their own counterculture. So, in response to the nation’s obsession with speedy hot rods and raised trucks, Chicanos embodied their new motto, “Low and Slow,” by cutting coils, lowering blocks, and even adding sandbags or bricks to their trunks.

Unfortunately, apprehension of minorities ran rampant in the ’50s and the media stoked irrational fears of gangster ties. The result was police harassment as well as a 1958 California law that banned lowered cars. Rather than conform, lowriders met this with a cheeky response: hydraulics. Repurposing aircraft landing gear, they could now elevate their ride height to “appropriate levels” at the flip
of a switch.

East San Jose was arguably the hub of the lowrider golden age during the late ’70s and through the ’80s, despite its LA roots—a period Abel refers to as the “King and Story Days.” From Friday to Sunday, Low Conspiracy (which was 80-members strong at its peak) cruised the boulevard with dozens of other clubs late into the night. Thousands of car enthusiasts milled around on the sidewalks and daydreamed themselves into many a driver’s seat.

Cruising acted as a night club on wheels, as much a social staple of the time as spending your nights at the roller rink or the bowling alley. “Once you saw another car flying your plaque [in the rear windshield] you would follow him. Before you knew it, you had a dozen club members cruising together,” Sergio explained in an interview with Lowrider Network. “That was how we met up back when no one had cell phones.”

It was the place to see and be seen. Drivers would showboat by hitting their hydraulics. They’d roll down the windows and blast Latin rock. “Good days when we were out there, huh?” Lisa says to the friend sitting beside her. “That’s when we were young. The guys were out there with their beautiful cars—looking at the girls—who were looking at the guys.”

Unfortunately, the assumption that lowriding and gangsters were somehow linked was still being made by public and police. “They always thought we were up to no good,” Abel recalls. Sergio nods in agreement, “They started fining people, and they were going after the nicest cars because they’re the ones that stood out.”

José, however, was determined to overcome that stigma. “He would approach the chief of police and say, ‘Yo, this is an event we want to do,’ ” Lisa recalls. “He didn’t want them to be hassled.” José and the club also collaborated with local firefighters on toy drives. The message was clear: we’re not here to cause trouble. “You have to give back to your community and show that you’re part of the community,” Lisa states. “You’re not the problem.” These gestures earned them respect among law enforcement.

“Some people are scared of [lowriders], but, nah, it’s all families nowadays,” Sergio verifies. “I’ve been doing it my whole life. I’m older and I got a couple of little grandkids too…the whole family gets into it!” In fact, on more than one occasion, the club has chauffeured young ladies and their quinceañera courts to party venues. “They get a kick out of it,” Abel smiles.

At the end of the day, the club is one big family. Again and again, the Low Conspiracy guys refer to the special brotherly bond shared by members. “When I first started going with them, we happened to park all of the Martinez’s together, just coincidentally,” Sergio recalls, “and somebody noticed and said, ‘Hey, are you guys all brothers?’ And José pops up right away. ‘Oh yeah, we’re
all brothers.’ ”

“And he loved being the big brother,” Lisa shares. “He was always referring to Abel as ‘my little brother.’ With everybody. Even the younger guys that were starting, he’d say ‘Oh that’s my son.’ And people thought he had all these kids!” She chuckles at that. Though José retired from the club for a time, it was Lisa who encouraged him to rejoin a few years at the end of his life.

As the group returns to the present from this trip down memory lane, conversation steers toward the upcoming car show at History Park. It’s going to be in July, just in time for the club’s 45th anniversary and will reward a scholarship to a kid who wants to go into auto painting (in memory of José, of course).

Sergio sits back and watches his friends refill their plates with pizza. He gives a contented glance around at his patch of paradise, brightened with tools and trophies. “I’ll be in the club forever,” he declares. “You’ve seen my garage. I’m not going nowhere.” 

Article originally appeared in Issue 13.4 Profiles (Print SOLD OUT)

Sawyer Rose is a sculptor and installation artist who has been working on a project called the Carrying Stones that is currently on display at the NUMU through January 23, 2022.

The Ca­­rr­­­ying Stones Project is about inequities that women suffer from in the workplace, society, and home. So what was the impetus to begin the Carrying Stone project?
When I started the carrying stones project, I had a toddler and an infant at home. And I was drowning under the weight of both my paid work and my unpaid domestic labor. And I tend to be a researcher. So, I thought, you know, if I’m having this much trouble with the advantages that I have, this must be a story that goes a lot deeper. So I started researching and found that Yeah, it is. And that’s how the carrying stones project began. When did that begin? That was in 2014 when I started the research, and the first piece was in 2015. And what was the first piece? The first piece is not here; it was a 20 foot long 1000 piece sculpture that recorded the working hours of 47 different women in the workforce who also had children. Not all my work is about women with children, but that one was 1000 out of 1000 tiles representing 1000 women’s work hours.

And so the idea of stone or the weightiness, what are you communicating with that?
The title carrying stones comes from a Portuguese expression that I heard in Brazil. And sometimes, when you ask a woman what she’s been doing, she’ll say, oh, I’ve just been carrying stones. And that means she’s been at work at our paid job all day. And then she comes home and is the pillar that holds up her family. So, I thought, oh, wow, that’s really fitting for this topic. That was very much in my mind at the time. And so, when I did begin this project, it seemed the perfect name.

So, then your own personal journey and period stone were when you were working at a professional life and domestic responsibilities and stuff like that.
What some of the different kinds of stories and research that you found that were similar, but then other stones that other people were carrying the two, were surprised at or say, overwhelmed you? 
As I started looking for different women’s worth stories, I learned how many similarities there are and how many vast differences there are both at the same time. And so, the topic began to feel really juicy to me because it is very multi-layered. So, what I learned was that women who have caring responsibilities either for children or for elders are affected, across the board, by many different age groups. But I also learned that women of color disproportionately affected women in low-paying jobs are significantly affected by women’s labor inequity.

And, and I started learning about just, you know, out of my interest, like, what could be done about that, you know, once we knew these facts, and we told these stories and put a face to these facts.

What can be done? You know, what can be done to kind of, like, take some of those stones away, right? So, certainly, within your household, redistributing the labor, that’s, you know, seems the obvious first step. Still, on a broader level, engaging girls from the time they’re young in leadership programs is essential. You know, if you can see it, you can be it. And in the workplace, true allyship is really important. And when I say true allyship, it means paid maternal leave, paid paternal leave – that is just as important if you’re asking people to divide the work. It also means rearranging things for women in low-paying jobs, like, you providing health care for less than 40 hours a week jobs, providing childcare, or, you know, help with elder care for people who need that, you know when you’re making very little. Then you have to miss because of family responsibility, that you’re making less still. So.

Talk about your work as an artist. Do you see yourself as a catalyst for change in society or a mirror? How would you even describe “Carrying Stones”? A commentary?  You know, yes, it’s a commentary. Yes, it’s a mirror. But my particular interest is in education because when I started this, I was only dealing with one audience member, and that was my husband. And really, myself, and I thought, well, these are all fascinating statistics. But statistics are numbers, and they don’t have names and faces and stories. How can I humanize these numbers and really build bridges to people who don’t know anything about the topic yet? So for me, it’s bringing awareness.

When I build my pieces, I purposely build them to be aesthetically pleasing, and they attract you visually because I want you to come up close. And then I want you to look at the wall text and go, Oh, wow, I had no idea that that’s what this was about. And now I’ve learned something, and I do get that reaction all the time. And that, to me, is winning.

Would you say that your art practice is driven to educate? Would you say that’s kind of like your personal voice and mission?  It always has been. I can’t stop giving people my opinion on things, it seems. Before I started the scaring stones project, the series of work was about California native plants. And when endemic plants, you know, there were only found in California, we’re going extinct. And that all started because, you know, I had this amazing plant in my front yard, and I looked it up, so again, it led from research to Hey, I found out something, too. Oh, y’all gotta know this.

Let’s talk about a couple pieces in particular.  Yeah. Okay. So, the way the sculptures in the show work is, I first find a woman with an interesting work story. And mainly a story that has some sort of angle that I’d like to share with people. So, this woman, Lauren, is a professor of African American and US history, but she’s also the mother of an elementary school-aged child. And the thing that I find interesting is that women in academia are very, are typically undervalued; they’re promoted less often, they’re paid much less. And she feels that. So, what I do once I find the woman whose story I want to tell, I developed a timekeeping app that they can just have on their phone. And, over two weeks or so, they tell me hour by hour, how much paid labor they’ve done, how much unpaid work they’ve done, and when they’ve done anything else, other than sleep. So I translate that then into one of these large-scale sculptures. And in the case of Lauren’s piece, I made it look kind of like books because you know, she’s in academia, and that really worked with her personality.

In this particular piece, the brown books are her paid labor, and the white books are her unpaid labor. And the very few spaces that you see in the matrix are the hours where she was doing anything other than work. And so, you got to remember that anything other than work means you see your friends, but it also means getting your exercise going to the dentist. It’s anything, so the whole rest of her life is in those very few spaces.

So, that personal work is like brushing your teeth? And exercise isn’t considered as personal work; that’s just other survival.

Describe what the categories of personal work are there? Well, so there are really only three categories. There’s working for pay, working for no pay, and then everything else, including brushing your teeth taking your shower.

This is Darlene. She’s a educate. She works like six jobs. Darlene is an absolute powerhouse. She is a teaching artist. In addition to her own studio work, she has taught in the Oakland schools. She teaches at a nonprofit she teaches to adults with disabilities. She you know, at the time when I made this piece, she was working six different gigs.

Just to both follow her passion and to make ends meet. And one of the things that interested me in this piece was taking a deep dive at volunteerism because volunteerism statistically falls disproportionately to women. You know, it’s work. It’s caretaking work for the larger community. It’s work that has to get done. And Darlene is one person who takes it on. And doesn’t get paid. And so, her sculpture works the same way that they all do.

The gold sacks represent her paid labor, and you can see that there’s a rock inside each one like she’s collected that piece of money. The Silver sacks that looked like the bottoms have ripped out are her unpaid labor, and you can see the stones on the ground underneath. Like she hasn’t collected that money. And the spaces in the matrix are the hours when she was not working.

This piece is called Tracy, and she works full time as an attorney and mother to an eight-year-old daughter at the time, who is a budding martial arts star. So, you know, she has that responsibility to get her to all the practices, training schedules, and tournaments. And I thought that was a really interesting work story, not one you hear every day.

The reason I chose the forms in this Tracy, her personality is very hard to say. She’s rather stage she’s very calm, her Demeter demeanor is grounded. I chose the mortar forums for her work because she is a fairly serious, grounded person, and that seemed to fit, and then the metal wireframes are her unpaid labor. But again, geometric, regular. She is the steady hand on the wheel. So, her piece reflects that in the aesthetics I’ve chosen, the way I think about it is I can choose anything. So, you know, how do I justify it against the personality of the person?

Each piece has little easter eggs in it about the woman that’s about. So, it’s nothing that you would know, maybe unless I told you, but I put little details in that reflect each woman’s personality. She told me her favorite color was this beautiful, bright blue. And I said, Alright, I can work with that.

In the Lauren piece that I was talking about before, I made the sizes of the books. The brown books are the sizes of academic publishing standards. And the white books are the size of children’s books, publishing standards. So, there’s each piece has little things that, you know, besides the larger things like the materials and the colors that I use, you know that every choice that I make, I try to make it reflect the personality of the woman that the piece is about. ­

Carrying Stones Project

IG: ksawyerroses

Stacy Frank is a printmaker based in Santa Cruz. She has been working on paper since 1994. What Stacy loves about printmaking is the process and the technique involved. She did some darkroom photography in college, but after graduating, Stacy learned about printmaking which seemed like a perfect combination of her scientific illustration and photography processing.

“One thing I love the most about printmaking is the big reveal.” -Stacy Frank

Over the last three years, Stacy developed an entirely non-toxic techniques that are fast and get quick results—using a process of cutting out stencil boards and using those stencil boards as masking and printing elements. Stacy then runs them through the press several different times. Using various combinations of inks and layers, she achieves beautiful ghosting and offsetting patterns from the stencils. Though the results can be unexpected, that enhances her love of the “reveal. But that is what gives Stacy joy in her process. “You never know exactly what you’re going to get sometimes; it’s fantastic, sometimes it needs a little work, but it’s always so satisfying.”

See more of Stacy’s work and her workshop at

Instagram: @stacyfrank

Each October, Stacy participates in Santa Cruz Open Studios, where visitors experience artist workspaces, watch art demonstrations, view and purchase original art.


Ever been so drawn to a piece at an art museum that you’ve wanted to submerge yourself in it? Dive through the canvas and swim around in the paint? At Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, you can.

Beyond Van Gogh takes 300+ masterpieces by Netherlands’ most famous painter, then renders them into a 35-minute multimedia experience that traverses the artist’s career. It’s certainly surreal, seeing Vincent van Gogh’s paintings pour off the canvas and wash across the expansive floor and walls of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. As the projected performance unfurls and the artwork fills the entirety of visitors’ visions, it soaks them in the feeling of the colors. It allows them to appreciate all the details, down to the individual brushstrokes (which often stretch longer and wider than guests themselves).

“We want to show a contemporary audience that van Gogh is still relevant today,” says Fanny Curtat, the art historian consulting on the project and a vital part of the exhibit’s creative team. She points out that the painter’s life of hardships resonates with those who have suffered their own difficulties during the pandemic. After all, “van Gogh painted Starry Night while he was in the asylum!” she points out—and yet, despite the pain, he created something exquisite.

“So you have somebody that can show you that even though you’re struggling, you can transcend all of your struggles into works of art,” she says. “He helps us look at things in a beautiful way and focus on the colors, the power that they have, the joy that the world can bring.”

Recently, a few high-tech Van Gogh experiences have been making the circuit across the nation and the world (NOTE: This exhibit is different than the one that came to San Francisco this summer, called “Immersive Van Gogh”), but each and every exhibit showcases their own angle, highlighting different facets of this complicated man. San Jose’s exhibit chooses to honor the bond between brothers, presenting a series of letters van Gogh wrote to his beloved brother Theo. The show also highlights the progression of the painter’s palette—from the dark shades of van Gogh’s early work to the addition of color after his move to Paris and his introduction to the impressionists, to the golden yellow hues after his consequent move to the South of France, to the intensely vivid colors of his most recognizable pieces during the final years of his life.

Curtat says that Beyond Van Gogh also leans into the remarkable movement of the artist’s brushstrokes by causing his portraits to blink, his flowers to bloom, and his landscapes to swirl into shape. “You don’t have to do much to animate his work—it’s already moving,” she notes. “We remember Starry Night’s twirling sky more than anything.”

Of course, the question everyone will ask is, “Is it worth it?”

We think so. Especially if you slow your pass to not only grab a few nice “grams”—if you pay attention and let yourself be fully immersed. You will be tempted to bypass the three switchback hallways of letters and quotes, but that section gives van Gogh’s work a greater context. And we encourage you to take it in rather than hurry through to the main immersive hall.

When asked if projection-mapped exhibits are the art museum of tomorrow, Curtat is adamant that digital experiences by no means replace a trip to the Musée d’Orsay. “To me, it’s complementary to a museum experience. Scale is one of the most important things in art. So when it’s something huge and immense, you feel overpowered. But when you have art on the wall, you have the aura of the original, and you have a more intimate feel about it,” she explains. “I encourage everybody who has a chance to go see a true van Gogh on the walls to do so because that’s magical.”

In the meantime? Come stroll among van Gogh’s brushstrokes.

Beyond Van Gogh opens on September 24th and concludes November 14th. Complimentary beverages from the exhibits’ partner, Keurig, are included with entry.

When Cynthia Cao was a young girl, her mother liked to reward her with trips to Michaels. There, she would buy stamps for her collection. It was an inexpensive way to encourage creativity—drawing and painting were her childhood hobbies when she wasn’t reading or playing outside, happily entertained with the family pets.

Though Cynthia fell in love with the freedom of artistic play, she planned her career for a different trajectory. Exposed to few professions in the art world growing up, she chose careers that were “art-adjacent” to support herself. For seven years, she worked as a school photographer. As she took drawing classes at night, the art of photography faded into the humdrum of her work.

When she told her family she was leaving her job to study painting, no one supported this pivot. “They didn’t think about art in the ways I’ve learned,” Cynthia explained. “They didn’t know its history from visiting museums and galleries…they’d think of lacquer paintings in restaurants or flea markets where artists try to sell souvenir-type paintings.”

“The art world is so much bigger than most people think…there are many roles to be had.” – Cynthia Cao

But when Cynthia took her first intaglio class and pulled her first print, “it felt like Christmas morning.” As the sun shone through the print studio and leapt off the metal plate, “I had an overwhelming feeling that this was what I was supposed to be doing.” Printmaking combined her loves—paper and ink—with a soothing process of repetition and variation; she could create books. Her choice to leave now made sense.

As Cynthia worked through her degree in pictorial arts at SJSU, she pursued internships and volunteered in spaces that expanded her curiosity. As an artist assistant at the Institute of Contemporary Art San Jose (ICA), she discovered that the real party took place behind the scenes, during installation. “Seeing how art is being made in the gallery, how other installers were getting to use power tools and ride scissors lifts, was so interesting.” Five months before graduation, she approached the facilities manager and asked him, “Can I work for you?”

They worked together for six years, with Cynthia being the first woman to be hired to the installations team. As an art handler and preparator at ICA, she enjoyed being a conduit for other artists’ visions in gallery spaces. “It’s very collaborative, even though art technicians aren’t really out there,” she says. “The work requires artistic skill and craftsmanship, but we’re helping others showcase their work.”

The visionary work of gallery technicians animates her, as it invigorates her personal goal. In the foreseeably pandemic-free future, Cynthia hopes to set up her new studio at Citadel Art Studios so that other printmaking artists can use her press and indulge in the joy of shared process. The press, gifted to her by a professor, is a conduit for community outside the art school bubble. “Come make a print with me!” she smiles and winks, “Just clean up your mess!”

Years have passed since Cynthia has established herself in the art world. She has found joy in its multiple branches—as technician, educator, and most recently, a Creative Ambassador for the city of San Jose.

As a facilitator for creativity, Cynthia is deep in the process of planning two major projects: Taste of Home and Community Table. The two projects run parallel to each other, addressing food insecurity from different perspectives.

Taste of Home, a multi-workshop series launching with Chopsticks Alley Art, will address the cultural gaps in food pantries through art: a printmaking class will spotlight food-centered stories and memories; local artists will present hands-on projects; art supplies will be distributed to elementary schools and libraries; and local chefs paired with students in the SJSU cooking and nutrition program will develop recipes for food pantries—culminating in Cynthia’s goal to inspire changes in food donations. Community Table will be a collaboration with SJSU and involve students across disciplines.

These Creative Ambassador projects are a convergence of all her experiences thus far. Now that she’s managing SJSU’s student art galleries where she first discovered fine art handling, she gratefully brings back the “real world” experiences her professors prepared her for. “What I want to show students here goes beyond technical things like putting a show together,” she shares. Many art students are apprehensive before graduation, but “the art world is so much bigger than most people think…there are many roles to be had.”

Cynthia’s ambition to expand the possibilities of artistic professions in young people’s imaginations goes right back to her family. When Cynthia brought her mother to Chopsticks Alley Art’s 2018 opening ceremony for Salt Stained: Home, her mother moved between the exhibits and live demonstrations, eyes wide. “She loved this fashion designer there who used a traditional Vietnamese basket technique to weave old telephone wires,” Cynthia remembers. “She had so much fun!”

Looking back, Cynthia wonders whether those behavior-rewarding stamps from years ago might have sparked her zeal for printmaking today. Either way, she has blazed her own path through the arts. With a freelance art consulting business and her own studio to call her happy place, “I’ve proven this is what I’m going to do.”

Instagram: hownowbrowncao_

Article originally appeared inIssue 13.3 Perform (Print SOLD OUT)

My-Linh Le now describes herself as a Multidisciplinary Storyteller as she has moved from being an environmental lawyer to freestyle dancer, choreographer, and director of a forthcoming film, Mudwater. The film is an adaptation of the turf dance project she started and developed known as Mud Water Theatre.

In our conversation, we discuss how My-Linh’s artist’s expression and leanings have moved her through several phases in her life. From secretly learning how to “pop” and joining San Jose-based world-renown dance crew Playboyz, Inc (Est. 1981) to directing. And, still, My-Linh’s own story is being written has she finds herself writing, with the theme of “myth” shaping her storytelling, which she does not limit to mere words.

My-Linh will be performing with Playboyz, Inc. Oct 2, 2021, at the Mosaic Festival “A Space for Belonging” at the School of Arts and Culture (

Follow My-Linh at:





This episode’s music in “Tang” by Chris Emond. Follow Chris on Spotify, Featured in issue 13.2 “Sight and Sound” 2021

SVCreates 2019 SVLaureate — On Stage

The SVLaureate program recognizes our region’s finest artists through a competitive process, using independent expert panels, and honor these artists with unrestricted cash prizes, promotion, and recognition with an award at the annual SVArts Awards. Ray Furuta was awarded the 2019 On Stage SVLaureate Award.

A San Jose native, Ray Furuta has devoted his career to the flute. As a prodigious high school student, he was invited to take private lessons with renowned flutist Carol Wincenc and continued to study under her private instruction through college. In 2011, Furuta returned on a break from his studies at Stony Brook University in New York and had a revelation that there simply wasn’t enough opportunity available in his own home town for classical musicians to thrive. So, he founded Chamber Music Silicon Valley (CMSV) to fill the void, an organization for which he still serves as Artistic Director. Initially conceived as an outlet for traditional classical performances, today CMSV attempts to push the boundaries of what chamber music can be in the hopes of making it more relevant to the diverse Silicon Valley community. Furuta, meanwhile, continues to tour worldwide as a soloist, chamber musician, teacher, and cultural ambassador.

“Being able to give musicians the tools they need to go out and be successful is a very important mission for me. I also have a passion for using my talents to ignite social change — to enable my students to go out and be advocates for music and social justice. Working hard to better the lives of my family and make them proud of me is a constant inspiration (not pressure, at all). They sacrificed so much for me to achieve the career that I currently have — so giving back to them is an important inspiration for me. Otherwise, breaking social and cultural barriers and creating a better world through music is overall what I strive to accomplish; even if the impact is only a little, that little matters very much to me and keeps me working hard.”

Instagrams: rayfuruta, chambermusic_sv, musicatnoon, commonsoundsmusic

Self Care in a Cup

With how well they get along, you’d have no idea that Be’Anka Ashaolu and Jeronica Macey were sisters, let alone flourishing business partners. Together, they built Nirvana Soul.

Replacing the beloved Caffe Frascati after one of its owners retired, Nirvana Soul reflects the warmth of the sisters’ relationship. The duo, sometimes known as “Jeranka,” has transformed the coffee shop from a vintage Italian ambiance to an open space brightened with plants and evolving walls of art. The cherry on top? A bright pink ceiling.

Since she was 22, CEO and cofounder Jeronica has dreamt of building an inclusive coffee shop. “I do believe that everyone has a purpose,” Jeronica encouraged. “And I feel like that every time I’m in a coffee shop; I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be,” she continued.

Jeronica first fell in love with the coffee business while working at Peet’s Coffee in Willow Glen. Over the years and between “real” office jobs, she’s always found herself back at the cafes. Before opening Nirvana Soul, her final stops were at Bon Appétit and the nearby Voyager Craft Coffee—both of which left her with strong friendships and partnerships.

“I do believe that everyone has a purpose. And I feel like that every time I’m in a coffee shop; I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.” –Jeronica Macey

Meanwhile, cofounder Be’Anka’s career took her into marketing and sales operations, which is why she became the CMO of San Jose’s first Black-owned coffee shop. The people-centered leader explained that because she grew up surrounded by technology in Silicon Valley, she doesn’t think anything is impossible. Her mentality has been essential for the shop’s success.

Jeronica described her sister as “the type of person that is a pusher, in a good way, but…”

“I like to ‘encourage’ her,” Be’Anka cut in.

“ ‘Encourager. Your word!” Jeronica laughed. “She definitely has a ‘can-do-it’ [mentality].” The CEO continued, “I don’t trust anyone more than I trust my sister.”

When Jeronica approached Be’Anka about opening a coffee shop, the CMO’s response was, “Let’s just try! The worst thing that can happen is that we fail. And then we just don’t want to be like old ladies thinking back to like, ‘Why didn’t we just try to open Nirvana Soul?’ ”

When the sisters started their search in 2019 for what would become their second home, Caffe Frascati owners Roger and Caroline Springall were serendipitously looking for new owners. The four hit it off right away. “They really liked us and felt like we were the right people to take over this place, so they wanted to work with us. And they did,” Be’Anka said as she described the various obstacles the first-time owners had to overcome.

For most of their planning process, they relied on Google, starting with typing, “How to open a coffee shop in downtown San Jose?” into the search bar. “Seriously! That’s how we did it,” Be’Anka confirmed.

Since opening in the summer of 2020, they have supported dozens of artists, from SJSU students to an 82-year-old painter. For many creators, it’s their first chance to publicly share their stories and display their work. When choosing what to display in Nirvana Soul’s free, mini gallery, Jeronica explained that “the truth is, it honestly is a vibe. Like we feel if the energy matches Nirvana Soul. It’s such an instinctual thing.”

The only permanent paintings are their two murals: a word collage by Emilio Cortez and an image of the owners’ faces with coffee beans in their hair by first-time muralist Ricardo González Kurszewski.

Be’Anka went on to share that she and Jeronica have built their business with the community and with the artists. She firmly believes that “this business is not what it is without the artists,” who are all people of color. These mutually beneficial relationships have solidified the coffee shop’s spot in the vibrant SoFA District and in countless people’s hearts.

In early August, Jeronica and Be’Anka added comedians, poets, DJs, and musicians to their community. Their Thursday-night-live addition arrived in tandem with their extended hours, which now go until 7pm most days. Their barista and rapper Jordan Melvin (aka “Gatsby”) hosted the debut event on August 6th.

Jordan taking the stage is a quintessential example of the supportive, growth-oriented culture Jeronica and Be’Anka have taken from their childhoods and instilled into the baristas. More than just coffee experts, the owners push their team to explore their passions and take ownership over other parts of the business. “It’s nice to be around people who care about something as much as we do, which is often not the case,” explained Be’Anka.

To name a few examples of these more-than-barista game changers, we have sound engineer Joy Hackett and baking guru Eli Schwartz, who run their music and open mic programs. Leti Castellano is their animator and illustrator, Kevin Crisafulli writes their monthly newsletter, associate manager Mariseth Abat is a featured photographer, and Daniel Rios is their trained opera singer.

“I don’t know if I just was really lucky or blessed,” Jeronica boasted about her close-knit team that hangs out after hours to get food and go thrift shopping. “Our team really gets along, you know what I’m saying? But that’s how it’s always been at every coffee shop I’ve ever been at. I feel like there’s nothing like that,” said the owner, who meets one-on-one with her team on a biweekly basis to check in on their goals and mental health. “They’re doing so much for me to help me live my dream. I want to be able to pour back into them and their dreams,” the coffee queen shared.

The challenges of owning a coffee shop or restaurant are no secret. Few survive their first year. And yet by Nirvana Soul’s 10th month in business, the founders were already scouting out places for their second location.

The team’s drive and community’s support are directly correlated with the success of the brick-and-mortar store that opened six months into the pandemic. The community propels the coffee shop by asking for things that it can’t yet do. Be’Anka explained that “people believe in us so much that people will literally be like, ‘Ok, well, when you ARE roasting, I want you in our restaurant…’ We get that a lot on all kinds of different opportunities.”

Courtesy of Dap Ashaolu, their CFO and head of products, in July the sisters added a roastery and warehouse to their empire; a feat that usually takes years to reach. “I just felt like we kept being in those situations where the doors were opening,” said Jeronica.

From childhood, when they shared their grandmother’s leftover coffee—diluted with water and boosted with too much sugar—to today, the power sisters have only begun chasing their dreams.


“We just don’t want to be like old ladies thinking back to like, ‘Why didn’t we just try to open Nirvana Soul?’ ” –Be’anka Ashaolu

IG: NirvanaSoulCoffee

artist / writer / educator / activist

Even as a baby, Sara V Cole held art materials in her hands. Her mother inspired her to find no limit in her creativity, and Cole truly hasn’t. Originally from Framingham, Massachusetts, Cole attended San Jose State University, earning a BFA, and since becoming a nationally represented artist with an exhibition history spanning the continent, from San Francisco to New York City—understandably, too, because Cole’s art is a stunning journey through the impermanence and fragility of life. Fragile yet bold, vibrant yet muted, Cole’s work is one long process of experimentation, employing everything from ceramics to collage in an attempt to express the uniqueness of the human condition. While Cole has suffered from progressive chronic health conditions for most of her life, she doesn’t let it hold her back. Instead, Cole’s art is a reflection of resilience through pain, a reflection that is at once inspiring and haunting. 

“As a woman encountering chronic, debilitating health conditions since birth, my vision of a future self, be it artistic or otherwise, is inextricably intertwined with the progression of illnesses. Honestly, I am grateful to even be able to create today, and each additional day I am blessed to be able to do the same, is a great day—until I have run out of adaptive tech options for my mobility concerns, and I cannot!”
Instagram: svcstudio

Article originally appeared inIssue 11.4 Profiles (Print SOLD OUT)

If you’ve ever participated in the First Friday Art Walk, or seen the Phantom Galleries while strolling downtown, or been in to Kaleid Gallery, you’ve probably heard about Anno Domini, operated by Brian Eder and Cherri Lakey, two very passionate individuals who have set out to cultivate the fledgling art scene in San Jose. 

How did Anno Domini come to fruition and what are you guys all about?

CHERRI: In 2000, graffiti actually became a felony instead of a misdemeanor, so that was jail time. We really loved the street art that was happening in San Francisco in 98-99, the time when you’d see something really beautiful everyday and then 3,4, or 5 months later it was just gone, and it was just heartbreaking. So we really took an interest in the artists. There were maybe 2 galleries at the time showing street art. We really wanted to be involved in that and Brian had somewhat of an art background already, so we just had to find our place. We knew we wanted to start our own graphic design company. And then it was a matter of, do we go to San Francisco where we already feel like it’s a scene and has support, or do we go to a place like San Jose where it’s zero tolerance, it’s much harder, and there is less of a scene? Don’t they need it more? And couldn’t we build something of our own? We chose San Jose.

BRIAN: I lived here before and I think the campaign back in the mid-eighties was “San Jose is growing up.” And I remember “San Jose is throwing up” would always go through my mind because there was nothing happening. It was so devoid of life in a lot of ways, at least it seemed like it at the time. And the things that would start up, the cool kinds of places, they would disappear so quickly. Where was the culture? Only New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles? We wanted a place kind of like where Warhol and his friends would have hung out back in the 70’s, where people talked about everything from politics and religion to street art. And that’s the whole reason we started the gallery. In the beginning it was just wanting to get together with other like-minded people.

CHERRI: It was during the dotcom boom. There was a vibe down here; startups all the time, crazy creative people with two guys sleeping under a desk. We really thrived off that.

How do you think the scene here in San Jose differs from that of LA and SF?

BRIAN: For someone here to get attention on any level they really have to work a lot harder and we think that just makes for stronger artists. But at the same time, what’s happening in San Jose, especially in the past, was that artists would get to a certain age and they would leave, they would move to another city. So right when you got artists to a place where they could start creating here, they were taking off because they didn’t see being able to survive in San Jose doing their art.

CHERRI: It becomes a portal. The city and the artist invests so much into going to school here or trying for awhile. San Francisco is 45 minutes away. You can live really cheap and there are hundreds of galleries to plug into right away in terms of an art scene. And LA is not that far either, so every city has to say, what are we doing to really support them so they can live and work here? When we started 10 years ago, nobody was talking about artists. It was all about the tech industry, biogenetics, all this crazy stuff, and we would stand up at the end of a meeting and just go, “what about artists?” And they would sort of look at us like they had no idea what we were talking about. It was a real battle and we tried to find a bridge where we could work with artists, but also be a city liaison too because if you know anything about the digital culture and what’s coming, these are the bright minds that are starting these companies or being hired, mainly because these companies need musicians, and artists and poets. They can teach anybody the rules of accounting, manufacturing rules, but who’s going to think of the next big thing? Who’s gonna say, well why can’t we do this? They start with a blank canvas and they create something no one has ever seen before. And that’s who the companies want. So there’s this thing going on where the MFA is the new MBA. We need to cultivate that if we want tech companies to stay here too. They need to have a creative pool to hire from. But we need artists that live and work and thrive being artists. Hopefully there is some harmony there and some opportunities.

Can you tell us about the Phantom galleries, what you’ve done with that, and how it’s a part of the San Jose Downtown project?

BRIAN: With the dotcom crash, we would be walking around downtown and the biggest thing that was standing out was people just walking the streets staring at the ground past empty businesses and dying restaurants. On the weekends, it was literally a ghost town. We put in the phantom galleries by arguing that the empty storefronts were public space. At first it wasn’t seen that way, but at the end we finally got the project in there and it’s one of only two projects since 2001 that is still running.

CHERRI: At our peak we had 15 spaces going. It was insane! Our contract was to do a dozen installations over the year and we ended up showing 150 artists the first year. And we went back with a binder and said, we have this many artists wanting to show. We’re in our 8th year now.

BRIAN: It was about artists being part of economic progress in a city. That entire area is rented out now.

Do you have any advice for upcoming artists that are trying to break through?

BRIAN: I’ll use David Choe as an example. He did a show in Los Angeles at an ice cream parlor and the next time we saw his work in San Jose, it was 18in a hair salon. He wasn’t afraid to do it and there was nothing really beneath him in the beginning. It was just about getting his work out there. And there are a lot of artists that start out where they’re already too good for places. It’s just about doing the work and being open to possibilities and not slamming the door on an opportunity because it could be a bigger deal than you imagined.

How about you, Cherri? Advice for the upcoming artist?

CHERRI: The most successful artists we’ve seen do their art every day because it’s who they are. There are artists, where it’s a hobby, it’s fun, it’s a relaxing thing for them, and that’s great. So put that into context too. But typically the artists who are like, there is no plan B, this is it, this is what keeps them sane and they do their work with or without anyone noticing.

BRIAN: Artists have to understand the gallery. If you’re a punk band, you don’t go to the opera house and ask for a gig.

CHERRI: And then be upset when you don’t get it.

 What would you both like to see happen in San Jose in the future, specifically in the art scene?

CHERRI: Fifty more galleries, first of all.

BRIAN: More of an art buying culture. People would be really surprised about the kind of art that comes through San Jose. Besides having amazing local art, there is amazing international art being exhibited here. With all the wealth that’s in the Bay Area, it’s not romantic in their minds right now to buy their art in San Jose, so they think, I’ll just go to New York and buy this or that artist. There are artists being exhibited and blowing up in Europe and New York that have come through here.

CHERRI: More of an appreciation of the culture that thrives here. San Jose has a history of a more institutional and academic art scene. I think we are the only non nonprofit gallery downtown right now. But there are people doing amazing things in their basements and garages and down the street. San Jose has the same sort of habit of trying to bring artists in from fairs and stuff from outside, but I know a guy two blocks away that blows those artists away. So why are we not giving them more opportunities?

And it’s not San Jose’s fault, it’s a matter of people realizing it, being a part of the culture, and giving them opportunities. That’s sort of what we try to do with the street market and with Subzero. Let’s bring them out and bring them topside. We tend to gravitate to subculture and people under the radar. You know, a lot of them want to be there, they like flying under that radar.

BRIAN: It’s because mainstream doesn’t need anyone’s help. It’s already been embraced. And where’s the fun in that?

CHERRI: It’s fun for all of us in the underbelly to come up topside and get together and have one big party. It’s cool, because the mainstream comes and they feel safe. They are shocked a lot of times, especially when the artists are saying they’re from San Jose!

What is sacred for you about Anno Domini? What sets it apart?

CHERRI: Anno Domini is family. I grew up as an outcast, without friends, in a very small town in the Midwest and I never fit in. So when I found Brian, to find someone who is definitely my other half, that’s one huge life-changing thing. But then together, to create a place where we asked, where are the musicians and where are the poets, where are those people that we can debate with about all these amazing things? And then to suddenly have them in this box. Cause really that’s all Anno Domini is. It’s just a box. It’s just walls, a floor, and a roof. And to feel like you’ve found your people, your like-mindedness, you’ve found friends…the real definition of friends. People that step up every single time in the most amazing way. Consistently. That, for me, is the most sacred part of it. It’s interesting that you use the word “sacred” because we had a girl here and she was telling me how much she loved Anno Domini and I realized how much her eyes were starting to well up and starting to cry. She said Anno Domini was her church, where she gets her inspiration to keep doing that nineto-five thing everyday, day after day. It’s amazing.

BRIAN: To us, it is a sacred space. It’s this place where ideas are born. We curate the artists, we don’t curate their work. A lot of places you go into, especially bigger institutions, they want to tell you why something is art and to us, the question is more important. If you come to it like you have all the answers, you’ll never get anything out of it. But we try to walk in here as if we don’t have the answers and keep looking at everything as if it were new.

How would you describe the artwork you feature?

BRIAN: We refer to it as urban contemporary, and that’s about as tight as we want to get. The idea is that it’s by someone who lives in a big city, who really lives in it. And that comes through their music or poetry, or the art that’s there.

CHERRI: Artists will sometimes say to us, I can be this or that. We just want you to be you. And whether or not it fits with us is fine, but that’s the only criteria. We give a lot of debut solos and it’s not smart business to give an artist their first solo show. But our thing is, we knew a long time ago that we were in this for moving the culture forward and for art history. We know that someday, somebody is going to look at our history and say, something happened here, something came out of here.

BRIAN: That’s more important than how much money is in our bank accounts.

CHERRI: We know there are still a lot of artists out there that don’t know about us and we don’t know about them, but we would love to! The biggest thing we always say about Anno Domini is the inspiration part. A lot of times, we bring art here because we want people to realize what’s going on in the world. If you come in and say, “I could do that,” great! Do it! The best thing we hear is when a kid says, “I’d love to stay, but I really want to go home and paint.” Cool, we have done our job for the night, you know? That’s it!

IG: annodomingallery, kaleidgallery

Article from Archived issue 1.4 “Sacred” 2010

What do you do? (As far the person call gin themself and artist, painter, illustrious)

I recently graduated from high school and am a visual artist.

How did you get started in drawing and painting? I think I got into drawing when I started to make a lot of fan art relating to the video game Pokémon. I also have taken various art classes since I was young, as well as drawing, digital art, and painting classes in high school.

Who has inspired, influence you. In your art?  I am most inspired by video games I play, cartoons, flowers, plants, water, and other colorful and beautiful things I see.

What is the subject matter that you focus on, and why? Most of my artwork is focused on detailed patterns and nature, such as flowers and plants. I really love flowers, and I like to use bright colors in my artwork, which appeal to me and like the way it looks.  

What do you prefer to work with paint, oil, pen…etc.? I mainly use pencils and markers on paper but have used acrylic paint and digital tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Procreate on an iPad.

What do you see yourself doing next? I plan on taking classes at Foothill college in the fall, and the rest of the summer, will continue drawing artwork on an electric guitar for my mom’s friend.  

Which piece are you most proud of? A piece I am really proud of is an acrylic painting I did of orange flowers, where I used a photo and grid to create. I am really proud of this painting because of how much time I spent on it and how it turned out. Another one I am proud of is a drawing of my aunt’s dog next to her koi pond. I only used two colored pens to make it, blue and orange, and I am happy with how it turned out.

Now that you graduated high school, what are your future plans, personal, educationally, and with your art? I plan to take art and other classes at my local community college. I’m not exactly sure what I want to study in college, but maybe earn an AA degree and/or transfer to an art school or four-year school. In the future, I hope to do something related to art and also hope to continue to create more colorful art!


See Ally’s work at the Mosaic Festival on Oct 2, 12p – 6p

“I would love to see more public space engagement…”

As a teenager, Ed Solis didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, so he joined the military, more specifically, the 82nd Airborne Division. He came out of the service after a few combat tours with the intention of really making a difference in the world. Love brought him to San Jose. Then in 2014, he was appointed recreation superintendent at City Hall. In that position, Solis has implemented numerous recreational activities, but the idea for his most notable activity he gleaned during a fact-finding mission to Guadalajara, Mexico—the notion of a day of open streets, free of cars, to build better community relations. The idea is simple, and though Solis was hesitant to try it in the United States, he decided to give it a chance. “Viva Calle” was born and has been a smashing success. Last year, 130,000 people turned out to shut down six miles of San Jose streets and get to know one another. As for the future, Solis plans to continue bringing the San Jose community together in fun, meaningful, and inclusive ways.

“Before I retire in about five years, I would really love to see our open streets program growing and thriving on a multiple-timed basis every year. I would love to see more public space engagement where we have nonprofits, art groups, and citizens all taking part in creating vibrant communities and public spaces for everyone to enjoy. You may not have a park or a dog park in your community, but if there is a spot that can act as an open space, then that’s wonderful. Ultimately, I would love to see all the folks in San Jose come together around making the city more walkable, more livable, and more inclusive. This town is a wonderful place; we just have to connect all these little communities into one unified, connected city.”

Find out about the next Viva Calle San Jose, route, and tips visit the link below.

instagram: vivacallesj

This article originally appeared in Issue 10.4 “Profiles”

S hiloh Ballard wants to make diversity, equity, and inclusion central to Silicon Valley’s bicycle movement. Ballard is the Executive Director of Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC), a membership-based organization founded in 1970. If you use bicycle lanes, sharrows, public bike racks or if you bring your bike on Caltrain, BART, or VTA, thank the SVBC.

SVBC advocates for safe, bikeable streets in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties by working with local governments, developers, and public transportation agencies. SVBC staffers also teach bicycle safety at elementary schools and manage the Bay Area’s Bike to Work Day. SVBC volunteers offer free bicycle valet parking at festivals, as well as on game days at Levi’s Stadium and Stanford University.

Representing underserved communities, however, wasn’t central to SVBC’s mission until Ballard met Tamika Butler, who was the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Butler became one of Ballard’s mentors and helped her connect bicycle advocacy to the challenges faced by low-income communities. “If we’re supposed to be a bicycle coalition that cares about all folks,” says Butler, “then we have to realize that everyone who rides a bike isn’t just making a lifestyle decision. There are folks who depend on this mode of transportation because they have nothing else.” What advocating for safe, bikeable streets has in common with advocating for affordable housing, employment equity, and an accessible public transportation system, says Butler, is helping people who are underserved and unseen and whose voices are often disregarded.

Ballard was uncomfortable when she first heard Butler talk about transportation justice. “But after I thought about it,” says Ballard, “I knew we had work to do to make equity and inclusion more front and center in all we do.” Statistics say this work is needed. The City of San Jose’s Vision Zero program found that 50 percent of the serious bicycle and pedestrian accidents happen on 3 percent of its streets. These streets are in low-income communities like East San Jose. SVBC is helping the city reduce these accidents to zero.

“I knew we had work to do to make equity and inclusion front and center in all we do.” -Shiloh Ballard

Ballard is no newcomer to equity and justice work. She worked at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group for 15 years, advocating for affordable housing. Her work convinced Santa Clara County cities to enact housing impact fees, inclusionary zoning laws, and green building measures. Before joining the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Ballard worked for California State Senator Byron Sher and on pro-labor initiatives with South Bay labor unions and the Santa Clara County Democratic Party.

The SVBC was a perfect next step for Ballard. Her mother inspired her to become an environmentalist and to live a life of public service. Their camping trips to national parks gave Ballard a love of nature that led her to earn an environmental studies degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Watching her mother’s struggle to provide her with a happy childhood and a home in one of the nation’s best school districts showed Ballard the divide between haves and have-nots—and made her want to do something about it. The “something about it” at SVBC has been to re-engineer the metrics they use to prioritize staff time and resources so that in all they do, underserved, low-income communities are considered.

Her first step was self-education. Ballard reached out to the East Bay Bicycle Coalition’s René Rivera. He gave Ballard dozens of articles about ending racism. From there, Ballard met with her staff and Board of Directors. They spoke freely about racism and their experiences of it. They began a process to eliminate bias from their decision making.

Ballard also recruited her friend and mentor Poncho Guevara to join SVBC’s Board of Directors and help with this work. Guevara is the Executive Director of Sacred Heart Community Services, a grassroots antipoverty organization that serves the Valley’s neediest. Guevara says that it was Ballard’s authentic leadership that grabbed him. “We’re trying to become relevant to communities that not only have the greatest needs, but also have their own indigenous strengths and values,” says Guevara. “Is it happening quickly enough? Of course not, because this has a real impact on people’s lives. But it’s happening, and that’s encouraging.”

“For me, it’s about growing and galvanizing our membership,” says Ballard, “and transforming the SVBC into a powerful force of people who come out and work to make all of our streets and communities safe and better through bicycling.”


Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
96 N Third Street, Suite 375
San Jose, CA 95112

Instagram: bikesiliconvalley

Twitter: bikesv

Article originally appeared inIssue 10.0 Seek (Print SOLD OUT)

We’ve seen the lockdown footage of folks in urban areas dancing on apartment balconies—a hopeful sign of life and defiance during COVID.

Yet, how does a professional dancer survive a global pandemic?

 It’s not easy. For Alex “Prince Ali” Flores, San Jose native and veteran street dancer and instructor, the pandemic is one more challenge in a life in which one has chosen the path of art and rarely looks back. “I’m just blessed to be in the situation I’m in right now,” he says. That situation for many of us is in front of a computer running Zoom. He’s assembled what amounts to a studio dancefloor in an apartment bedroom, equipped with wide-angle cameras so he can dance, teach, and break down the technique of his students. It’s a strange environment for popping—Flores’s dance style of choice for over 15 years—a street style that has a history of battle culture, competition, and community.

“The style that I do is not the most popular,” says Flores. “I don’t advertise myself as this hip-hop-studio, commercial dancer. I do something that’s a very old-school, traditional style of street dance. I had to bounce back and
get creative.” 

Getting creative is at the heart of popping, which took shape here on the West Coast in the Oakland communities of the 1960s, where local kids developed a style called boogaloo. “It started in black communities in Oakland around the Civil Rights Movement. These kids were essentially creating this dance, characterized by a lot of soul stepping, stops, and animated-type movements. It all started in Oakland with boogaloo,” says Flores.

The soundtrack for boogaloo was often live funk bands, or James Brown on vinyl, blasting out of driveways and talent shows and echoing in local gyms. Middle and high school mascots would even face off in boogaloo dance battles for school pride and street cred. As the music got faster into the 1970s and more digital in the 80s, the dancing changed with it. In the mass-market sense, we now know it as “breakdancing” or “hip-hop” dance, yet purists know that each genre has its own style, moves, aesthetic, and aficionados. For Flores, popping was his first love.

 “Popping is its own style, a beautiful style,” he says. 

Growing up in a close-knit Mexican family in East San Jose, Flores was a shy kid whose father loved fishing and the outdoors and encouraged his son to become a public service officer and serve the community. A cousin who would break and pop at raves turned Flores on to street dance, and by high school, he had found his calling and an alternate way to serve the community.

“I was always the quiet kid, and I didn’t really have a voice in school,” says Flores. “I was always the wallflower in the back. I made this conscious choice. I’m going to do this. This is the thing I’m going to focus my energy on.”

Popping provided a focus, a passion, and a way to navigate adolescence and avoid gang culture in the neighborhood. He befriended local dancers Aiko Shirakawa and San Jose legend Spacewalker, who mentored him and critiqued his moves. It was urban folk art happening in the moment.

“There really was no school for popping. The way we learned was by being around people. It was very organic,” says Flores.

As he grew older, he continued to learn from the most established Bay Area dance crews, such as Playboyz Inc and Renegade Rockers, until a hallelujah moment arrived with an offer from Bobby and Damone from Future Arts, who offered him a salary equal to his day job to teach dance. He jumped at the chance. 

He continued to work on his craft, teach, and compete until winning his first world title for popping in 2019 at the Freestyle Session World Finals in San Diego, a seminal moment for his career and his art. 

The arts in general, and street dance in particular, are in a curious position in 2021. Superstar-sponsored, mass-market dance shows are reintroducing wide swaths of the population to dance and choreography, yet perhaps missing the point when it comes to freestyle and street dance, which is more immediate and of-the-moment, like jazz and hip-hop. For Flores, who has served as a judge and showcase artist for shows like World of Dance, he sees the world turning on to dance, but also tries to stay true to the form, even as street dance in general evolves and emerges.

While acknowledging that the competitive aspect of popping and street dance will always be a part of the form, Flores imagines a focus for street dance in the post-pandemic landscape that leans more toward helping one another through art, instead of trying to prove who’s best. He sees the city of San Jose and its communities as part of that equation.

“If we can have some sort of facility where artists can go and get paid their worth, that would be amazing,” says Flores.

Among his many dance education offerings, Flores teaches an intensive dance boot camp called “The Renegade Way,” which seems to describe the ethos one must have to pursue a life in street dance. For Alex Flores, his smile is disarming and his demeanor is warm and friendly, but when it comes to dance, his determination is evident.

“I’ll never stop dancing,” he says.

Instagram: princealifreez 

Article originally appeared inIssue 13.3 Perform (Print SOLD OUT)

Francisco Ramirez has been into art for as long as he can remember. His first memory is of scribbling on his mom’s walls. As he grew up, art became a form of escapism from a turbulent home life. It was a hobby for a long time. Only recently has Ramirez begun taking it seriously, picking up mural work and other commissions to keep himself afloat. His work is comprised of bright, mysterious color, bringing focus to his anthropological and fantastical themes—dramatic, mundane, and everything in between. Ramirez works in acrylic, watercolor, and pastel, but he prefers acrylic, as it lends itself to the versatility of his art gigs. He likes to work fast—sometimes producing a full painting in a day—although the complexity and composition of his work belies that speed. As for the future, Ramirez sees himself doing murals, but beyond that, he doesn’t plan much and is happy to see where his art takes him.

“While I have my personal favorite artists like Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo that are big influences on my art, at the end of the day, the people I’m really inspired by are those that surround me. Other artists are my creative food. That goes for life itself, everything beautiful, wonderful, and terrible, all of it brings me inspiration. But quite honestly, without the influence of the artists around me, I wouldn’t have much.”


Facebook: ea86hachy
Instagram: fco1980

West Valley Fashion Design and Apparel Technology

The Fashion Design and Apparel Technology (FDAT) program at West Valley College was established in 1985 by a group of industry professionals for the students who wish to gain knowledge and experience in the field of fashion. At the end of each year, we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating students with a fashion show that represents their individual collection.

The students showcase their own point of view through the garments they design and execute. The 2021 graduating students faced the challenges of Covid-19 that disrupted their learning when school shut down and the majority of classes moved online. They lost access to technology and equipment usually available to them and the collaborative learning environment was severely restricted.

Teachers and students had to adapt to extreme changes and rethink their learning strategies. Despite personal, emotional, psychological, and physical challenges, these students stayed focused, kept learning, and built their skills. This year’s Virtual Fashion Show on June 4th is the reaffirmation of their passion, dedication, and pure commitment to achieving the dream they choose to follow.

Wing Hung Flora | Flora’s passion for haute couture developed organically in the bustling shopping hub of Hong Kong after moving there in her twenties from Hunan, China. Flora not only enjoyed what the metropolis had to offer but also parlayed all she observed and learned and, with partners, opened a women’s clothing stores in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Since relocating to California, Flora has turned her interests to merchandising and hopes to either start a business of her own or work for a local fashion brand. In her free time, she enjoys shopping, events such as Fashion Week, traveling, painting and sketching. Instagram: floralo_fashion


Bonnang Kim | Bonnang has been interested in designing and making, especially something 3-dimensional. Ever since she learned how to make patterns and to sew garments in her early teens, she has always been with her sewing machines. During her 20 years as an interior, furniture, and architecture designer, she was particularly interested in the relationship between space and the human body and liked to play with architectonics and materials. As she continues her design path in fashion, she is looking at the human body even closer. Her tectonic design approach focuses on how the volume is constructed to be fit to the body. She also constantly tries to push the limits of her imagination by creating experimental silhouettes with asymmetrical balance.Instagram:


Crystal Hua | Crystal always wanted to be a fashion designer ever since she was little. Her first handmade piece she made was a cosplay from Sailor Moon and she dreamed of making more clothes that give comfort and confidence like how she felt when she wore her cosplay. Her inspiration comes from vintage garments from the 1940’s to 1960’s with a romantic and modern finish. She pursues to make pieces that are not only sustainable but also adjustable with delicate embroideries and intricate designs to make each piece wearable for any occasion.Instagram: by__chua


Maria Iordache | Maria learned sewing and knitting from her grandmothers. She loves math, particularly 3D geometry and graphics, and studied bridge design, got a PhD in computational mechanics and an MBA. In parallel with her professional career, she continued learning about design and patternmaking, and became particularly interested in fitting. She is intrigued that simulation and modeling technologies that existed for years in mechanical and aerospace engineering are hardly used in the apparel industry. She is on a mission to do just that and to create high quality, perfectly fitted, beautiful clothes for professional women.Instagram: mariamiordache



Monique Perez | Monique has found a new passion for repurposing tired unwanted clothes. She wants to bring an innovative reimagining of apparel to the world. Her designs plan to spark interest and creativity with her audience. She recognizes the need for sustainability within the fashion industry while also identifying the prioritization of quality garments. Her vision showcases the potential clothing has to transform personal style and believes less is more with intentions to create capsule based designs. Monique is passionate about nurturing creativity and finding ways to express herself while inspiring those around her. Instagram: mo_creativ


Nazrin Zamini | Nasrin grew up in Iran, with her talented parents who made everything from home. She was influenced by her mother creating garments by knitting and sewing for the family. She started college in interior design. However, passing by the fashion lab, she was so mesmerized by the students working on draping fabrics on the body forms, she decided to continue in fashion. In this school she learned about sustainable environmentally friendly lifestyles. She likes to focus on bridge design and create high quality, custom-sized garments for professional women. She also has a dream to bring vintage fashion back. Instagram:Nzamini1


Sirisha Gudimetla | Sirisha’s interest in embroidery and fashion started at a very young age, her true inspiration being her mom. She grew up seeing her mom create beautiful outfits using a simple sewing machine, needle and thread. She started doing hand embroidery on her clothes during her teen years. That is when her interest and passion for fashion began to blossom. Now, she wants to open a workshop, which mainly focuses on creating simple custom designer wear clothing with unique hand embroidery. She believes in using good quality and long-lasting fabric, while keeping sustainably in mind. Her goal is to use leftover fabric scraps wisely while designing and to bring awareness to people about environmentally conscious fashion. Instagram: sirishag


Rebecca Martinez | Rebecca is an ambitious upcoming designer. Coming from a humble background, she is driven to be successful. She believes it is in the fashion industry where she can achieve her dream. While a late bloomer in regard to the intricacies of the fashion world, she is of a mind in creating a versatile range of garments that are more suitable to the average sized woman of today. She believes in designing color neutral garments that are appealing to everyone. One day, she would like to be a costume designer for actors in the theatre arts. 



Is it real art or is it digital art? This is the question that San Jose artist Joseph Arruda is frequently asked, and his answer is: both. Influenced by award-winning American artist and writer Bill Sienkiewicz’s aesthetic to “learn all the rules so you can fundamentally figure out when to ignore them,” Arruda creates what he calls an “art hack,” mixing a variety of digital and traditional techniques to create his abstract and portraiture artwork. 

How do you figure out when to ignore the rules?

I look at the process as: I have been given a tool, what are the natural limits and corner cases for this thing? Sometimes you get a spectacular result that isn’t even reproducible and sometimes you go, that was a bad idea and really didn’t work.

“It’s kind of a Zen anarchy thing.” – Joseph Arruda

When people ask you what you “do,” how do you answer?

It depends on the context. Since I am equal parts tech geek and a creative, I lead with whichever I think the audience is likely to grasp easier. When I tell some folks that I do art or illustration as part of my livelihood, the looks range from acknowledgement to dumbfounded.  

What is your process, your medium?

I’ll use just about anything available (except oils, which I love but have no real facility with or patience for), but I definitely orbit around a lot of the same materials: acrylics, gouaches, a large army of various pens and markers, and various digital tools such as Photoshop, Krita, and Context Free.

I do a few things that seem to be my own schtick, mostly around the mixing of analog and digital. It’s something I’ve actively played with, and I suspect most of what I do is both a little bit primitive and a little bit unorthodox, which may be why a lot of folks regularly ask “which part is real and which part is the computer” and I’m not sure you can quantify it in the end really…and to be honest I’m not sure why it would matter. It’s kind of a Zen thing.

My head never got the memo that said you’re either this or you’re that. I just said if there is something out there and it will produce an interesting result and I can figure out how to use it, I will use it. So my process, for lack of a better term, grew out of that. For example, I will start with a pencil sketch, scan that sketch, print the sketch on Bristol paper, paint on that, scan it again, print it out again in color, etc. In some ways it’s a ridiculously overwrought or inefficient process, but mentally it works for me. 


What inspires and motivates you?

Almost anything, really. My head can occasionally make some ambitious creative leaps from the seemingly mundane. It probably also helps to live in an urban area that always has stuff going on.

How would you describe your subject matter? What themes seem to occur/recur in your work?

Of the material I’ve published, the two biggest groupings are stylized portraiture and abstract work. I also come back to kind of absurd/sci-fi styled illustration. For example, if you picked up local drum deity Wally Schnalle’s latest album, Idiot Fish, the sleeve image was by me. 

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

People outside of San Jose seem surprised that I chose     living in San Jose over [living in] San Francisco, and part of that was because of the art and music scene—that point really makes newer SF transplants apoplectic. It’s small, but vibrant, and getting better.  

What are your biggest challenges in creating art?

Space. It is no secret that the cost of square footage is at a premium, so that can often act as a constraint. Beyond that, maybe that there are only twenty-four hours in a day? It sounds trite, but I do actually have way more ideas than I can ever hope to complete execution on…but that is what it is.

Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting, that you can tell us about?

A series of jazz portraits I’m finishing in hopes of getting them shown at Cafe Stritch, over on First Street.


Article originally appeared in Issue 7.1 Discover  (Print SOLD OUT)

Born in Nezahualcóyotl, Mexico, Claudia Blanco was surrounded by art from birth. Blanco’s father was a part-time jeweler whose font books fascinated her as a child, as did the painted signs and screens sitting around the screenprinting shop her uncle ran. Back then, people told her she was good at drawing and painting, and after moving to San Jose when she was eight, she even took some basic art classes in high school. But was too critical, comparing herself to others, and didn’t pursue it further. It was only after she had her son and decided to go back to school that a videography class sparked her creative interests once again. From there, Blanco took more art classes, including one where the teacher directed her to the Arsenal in San Jose to buy the class-required materials. It was there that she met the shop’s purveyors, Sean Boyles and Roan Victor; after finding them on social media, along with other artists in their circle, she started getting inspired. “It made me feel eager to create, so I set out to rediscover my creative side,” Blanco recalls.

Pretty quickly she got the hang of things and began applying paint to canvas in earnest. Inspired by the work of photorealist painter Chuck Close, Frida Kahlo’s outlook on art and life, and the bold, bombastic work of street artists like Drew Merritt, Blanco began creating portraits. 

Blanco’s portraits are a vibrant mix of a technological aesthetic and a nostalgia for childhood. Working in a variety of materials, particularly gouache, which she enjoys for its “crisp and clean” qualities, Blanco creates imagery that is both charmingly familiar and uniquely engrossing. Some of her work consists of medleys with Picasso-like cartoon imagery and incorporates recognizable figures and icons as disparate as Barney Rubble and the PornHub logo, while others are portraits of notable women deconstructed with technological motifs. All of Blanco’s work is rendered in sharp, expressive lines that often dissolve into chaotic flurries, with pixelations being a common element of this entropy. Blanco likes to play on the viewer’s sense of nostalgia. “My generation had the best cartoons,” she claims.

Moreover, Blanco uses these dissimilar elements to capture people’s attention. “I want the viewer to see my work across the room and be intrigued and drawn in. It’s so interesting to watch people walk to the piece from across the room, and as they get closer, the image starts to disintegrate into tiny squares right before their eyes,” Blanco says of her pixelated portraits. 

What’s even more impressive is that Blanco has only been seriously making art since late 2016, after being inspired by that art class. She’s been on a proverbial tear, and it shows. In 2017 alone, Blanco joined every event and show she could, and her artwork was featured in a dozen exhibitions across California, including the Chocolate and Art Show at SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco, Fiesta Fridays at the Art Attack Gallery, also in San Francisco, the All-Womxn’s Showcase at Forager, and the San Jose Art and Zine Fair at Empire Seven Studios. This year, some of her work was featured in The World of Frida exhibition at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, a show focusing on art and photography inspired by the life and work of Frida Kahlo. The exhibition was so popular that it will begin traveling the country, exhibiting at a string of galleries for the next three years. 

Blanco remains bright and hopeful. “My twenties are coming to an end in November, and I’m excited to enter my thirties with this new adventure,” she says. “I’m just having fun and trying to learn as I go,” she says, adding, “In five years, I really hope I will have left my nine-to-five job and will be doing this art thing full time.”
Instagram: klawd

Article originally appeared in Issue 13.3 “Perform”

Self-taught artist and parent Jonathan Crow discovered that quarantine actually resulted in less time in the art studio. Crow experienced a shift in priorities, mainly preoccupied by the insurmountable task of keeping his six-year-old educated and entertained. Like many of us during this time, Jonathan checks social media—especially Twitter—and finds it hard to cope with the frustration of a world that appears “maddening and sickening.” The reality of COVID-19 and the BLM protests, however, have inadvertently bolstered Jonathan’s conceptual focus in his artwork.

In 2017, Crow released the coffee-table art book, Veeptopus: Vice Presidents with Octopuses on Their Heads, a collection of 47 vice-presidents hand drawn with octopuses on their heads, accompanied with esoteric and curious facts about each Veep. After the project’s success, including being recognized by the Huffington Post and New York Times, he turned his attention toward oil painting. Vintage photographs snapped between the 1950s and 1980s inspire him to create paintings that explore the suburban dream juxtaposed with the fears and anxiety “lurking at the root of America’s subconscious.”

During quarantine, Crow created two companion pieces that illustrate the amplification of current circumstances: Irene and Her Bugs and Tuesday 2pm. Both pieces use a muted palette of blues and whites, recalling the nostalgic hues of old Polaroids. The neat and tidy homes feature the clean-lined designs of the 1950s, a time when the suburban promise was to solidify the American dream. Crow’s use of color and negative space, however, creates scenes that are purposefully stark, alluding to the emptiness of that promise and dream. In Tuesday 2pm, the subject sits in her seemingly empty kitchen with three drinks poured in front of her, as if waiting for company. She appears to have finally given up on her pipe dream and contemplates drinking alone. In the second painting, Irene poses outside, face mask on, with her dog, Bugs. Her posture and dress color hint at a lightheartedness that is contradicted by the reality of her mask.

Jonathan Crow’s stylistic theme fits into the context of current events, but our quarantine and global pandemic increase the emotional potency for viewers. His art may reveal hard truths while also offering a catharsis that brings you back from the void. “Art can bring intellectual and emotional clarity to all the chaos and toxicity. Art can also tune into the subconscious currents of the zeitgeist and articulate them in a way that is beyond words or really even
rational thought.”
Instagram: jonathancrowart

Article originally appeared inIssue 12.4 Profiles (Print SOLD OUT)

Artist Isaac S. Lewin is a multidisciplinary artist with a studio at the School of Visual Philosophy in San Jose. He creates unique sculptural pieces in two different styles: signs that contain text-like forms with no concrete meaning and large, three-dimensional, welded-metal wireframe structures.

Lewin is talkative and thoughtful, with a unique charm that makes you feel like you’ve known him for years, even upon first meeting. Despite being a transplant to San Jose, he has a passion for the community and the artists he’s found in the South Bay. But his artistic roots are grounded in the graffiti and street art he saw in his hometown of San Luis Obispo. 

“I lived on a dead end, and we had train tracks at the end of the street, and I also lived on San Luis Obispo Creek,” he says. “I saw a lot of graffiti growing up, even though I’d grown up in a fairly small, agricultural town. All the creeks from my backyard go through downtown, and then also there’s tons of bridges and the train, so these are all like central places where graffiti is committed, so to speak. Walking through the tunnel, you’re seeing all this graffiti. I’d ride my bike by the train tracks all the time and see graffiti coming by on the Amtrak line and the freight cars. So over time, around the age of 15 to 16, I started painting graffiti.”

At age 18, he moved to Osorno, Chile, as an exchange student and discovered a whole new world of graffiti culture that dwarfed his own small-town experience. “It was like showing up to New York in 1984; there’s kids in the plaza writing in blackbooks, freestyle rapping. The community was as authentic as it could get. All it did was bolster my commitment to graffiti and hip-hop culture.”

This passion for the letterforms of graffiti has stuck with him through his studies and career. After attending college at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, he returned to California to work on an MFA at San Jose State, where he refined his concepts and began exhibiting his works. 

His signage pieces examine the beauty of text by emulating the forms of letters, but creating “words” with no meaning.

“The whole idea is to take a communicative format, which is signage, and then put something that can’t be communicated,” he explains. “I’m just trying to create beautiful text; I don’t want you to be distracted by the word ‘war’ or the word ‘peace’ because those things have so many meanings for people, based on their own histories and identity. But text is inherently human. It’s our basis for communication, and I’m creating a property where everyone can read it at the same literacy level. It doesn’t even have a sound, because we can’t speak it—but we know it’s communicative.”

The metal wireframes, meanwhile, have a different visual impact but draw from a similar concept. While these site-specific works appear deliberate in their form, Lewin’s approach in creating them is much more freestyle. He takes sections of steel and welds them together at joints, constructing the figure as he goes. Somehow, the result still tends to resemble graffiti, with shapes that imply letterforms and give an impression of the outline of a tag you might see under a bridge or on a train car in San Luis Obispo or on the streets of Chile. 

“Text is inherently human. It’s our basis for communication, and I’m creating a property where everyone can read it at the same literacy level.” -Isaac Lewin

“The style that they come out is just that way almost subconsciously,” he admits. “It’s kind of like a doodle, but instead of making a mark on the plane of paper, the space is just the paper, and the rod is the line. I don’t actually measure any of the things beforehand. I take the length of steel…cut it…weld it…and then I just build and build, and I listen to headphones and so it’s just music. I need to know the parameters of the area, but otherwise, I’m just building—just drawing in space.”

Lewin encourages people to see these pieces in person, with good reason. Their wireframe nature means photographs flatten the works, but in person, the three-dimensionality is striking, with the structures popping out of the walls on which they hang, filling the space and creating a form that changes its appearance depending on the viewing angle. While many of these works are in private collections, two can be found in the lounge of the Foundry Commons building near downtown San Jose. 

Ultimately, Lewin’s goal with his art is a simple one. “I can give you all these conceptual ideas and break it down really philosophically,” he says, “but at the end of the day, I’m just trying to make cool-looking shit. Most people only spend a matter of seconds with any piece of art in a museum. I think artists need to be really conscious of that first initial grab of visuals; once you’re drawn in, then you can meditate on it and think about it on a higher level. That’s important, but I think first it should just be…cool.”
Instagram: isaacslewin

Article originally appeared in Issue 13.1 Discover (Print SOLD OUT)

While spray painting on canvas remains his primary mode of artmaking, the phrase “the world is your canvas” holds literal meaning for Fernando Amaro, Jr.

Fernando Amaro Jr. started spray painting at a young age. He reminisces about practicing the art form in his teens, armed with Krylon and a phantom cap. Today, after more than two decades as an artist, Fernando goes by the name Force 129. An unassuming personality brimming with ideas, he is a resident artist at the Kaleid Gallery in downtown San Jose.

The studio where Fernando creates magic is a cozy corner in the backyard of his house. He built this studio by the sweat of his brow, a structure of his own creation to house many of his finished pieces as well as a few ongoing projects. The work on display here is a mix of both the figurative and the abstract. Fernando doesn’t limit himself to one form but instead prefers a freestyle approach to painting. He loves to work in mixed media, a distinctive aspect of his style the use of newspaper clippings and multiple kinds of paint in addition to the aerosol paint that is his go-to tool.

While spray painting on canvas remains his primary mode of artmaking, the phrase “the world is your canvas” holds literal meaning for Fernando. He paints everything from shirts and bags to jam bottles and collectible train sets. Earlier this year, the Exhibition District, a collaborative of creatives that pays artists to beautify San Jose, asked Fernando to “live” paint a shipping container in Cesar Chavez Park. Over the course of a week, Fernando painted the container until it transformed from a drab box into a bright and bold public artwork depicting a diversity of faces.

Each of these faces, with its wild eyes and distinctive features, seems to carry its own story. Fernando says that most of his work, in fact, comes out of character studies. He holds a “library of characters” in his mind that continues to grow each day.

This library of characters goes beyond the people Fernando observes in his day-to-day life. It also includes fictional characters that have resonated with him. His recent show at Kaleid Gallery, entitled #UseTheForce129, highlighted a number of characters— both past and present—from the Star Wars film series.

Whether using a preexisting story or character as inspiration for his work or delving into his imagination to build from scratch, Fernando likes to bring new ideas to the table. For example, in 2014 he created the Work_Spaces project, a pop-up group art show that features both the work of visual artists and an exploration of the spaces where they create.

Of course, launching group art projects while continuing to innovate on his own requires hard work as much as it does ingenuity and passion. “I’ve lost many nights of sleep completing things, and I continue to do so every day,” says Fernando. “But, in the end, it’s all worth it.”

“If you are looking to have a career in art or design,” advises Fernando, “set your goals right, prioritize things, and ensure you have all the time to create something beautiful. Rushing and taking shortcuts will only increase errors and lead to an unsatisfactory work.”

With the sleep deprivation, the packed schedule of projects, does finding inspiration become more difficult? Fernando takes a pragmatic approach to the question of inspiration: he believes the ability to inspire oneself is a skill an artist must develop. This is a skill he seems to have mastered. “Life is my inspiration,” he says. “It is constantly changing and evolving around us every day.” For Fernando, the inspiration is always there—it’s just a matter of training your eyes to see it. | social media: force129


Article originally appeared in Issue 8.3 “Show” (SOLD OUT)

Jhere’s a picture book kind of playfulness to Diane Villadsen’s photos. Not only do they practically twirl with sprightly youth and wonder, but they also toy with colors and shapes. They remind the viewer to let out that inner kid for a breath of fresh air.

The first thing others tend to notice about Villadsen’s visuals are those joyful, zany splashes of color. “I find myself coming back and back again to the same colors,” she observes. “Pinks, mint greens, tomato reds, yellows.” She’s crafted several presets so anyone can dip their pictures in what she describes as her “candy-colored dreamworld.” The palate, creamy and colorful with a vintage flourish, imparts a Candyland-come-to-life kind of aura. The feeling is furthered by delicious preset names—titles like Pop! Cotton Candy and Pop! Jelly Bean. One of her favorites—Pop! Peppermint (“warm, pink undertones with a dreamy glow”) is particularly fitting considering Villadsen’s wistfulness for a world glimpsed through rose-colored glasses.

“I love painting a picture for people, a different universe,” Villadsen notes. “I want it to feel—not like I’m in San Jose surrounded by strip malls and beige buildings—but I want it to feel like we’re in this magical world where it’s modern and clean and colorful and the buildings are painted crazy colors.”

“There has to be a layer of unexpected and a layer of almost…impossible in every photo.” -Diane Villadsen

This alternative view of the world, slightly weirder and far more whimsical than reality, recalls childhood imagination. Often the aesthetic results in the unanticipated: “There has to be a layer of unexpected and a layer of almost…impossible in every photo,” Villadsen says. As an example, she describes two approaches to a photoshoot on a pretty green hillside. “Some photographers would just take someone attractive there and shoot them at golden hour and call it a day. And that’s a beautiful photo. But almost anyone can get to that point technically.” In contrast, Villadsen seeks to add that extra layer. “I might bring five different colorfully painted chairs to that hillside—either have one model that I’m going to clone five times or five models.”

In addition, Villadsen’s adult models reclaim the creativity of youth—particularly through how they play with shapes. The photographer gives them the space to interact tactilely with props, often in a goofy manner. One model might strike spirited poses with the halves of a grapefruit, holding the rosy circles over her eyes like some kind of bush baby. Or two friends might toss a cinnabar-red ball back and forth as they balance on giant building block cubes.

In her series Taking Shape, a collaboration with installations designer Claire Xue, she kicks it up a notch. Xue cut out amoeba-shaped forms from people-sized pieces of foam. Villadsen then captured her two models, Xin and Joel, interacting with the props as they followed the impulses of their imagination. With the enthusiasm and energy of kids exploring a jungle gym, the models entwined legs and arms around the curves, poked their bodies through large holes in the foam’s surface, and toted the giant shapes about the set. “My not even knowing the results made it almost cooler,” Villadsen smiles. “It made some magical combinations.”

The childlike wonder of these images is tempered with a more complex adult lens, most noticeably through rich representation. The photographer often recruits elderly models as well as minorities with skin tones as diverse as her color scheme. And her portrayals of women are anything but stagnant. A girl in Villadsen’s images is never simply a pretty face. “What can I do to make this not just a pretty person, a pretty photo?” she asks herself. “What’s the next level?

Curiosity, joy, energy—these attributes don’t have to be monopolized by the younger generation. They’re vital at any age. Let Villadsen be a reminder to play with your environment, indulge your inquisitive side, and savor those candy-colorful moments. 

Article originally appeared in Issue 12.2 Sight and Sound  PURCHASE ISSUE

Born and raised in Fremont, artist Martin Malvar grew up in a house steeped in creativity. The son of an architect and drafter, Malvar came of age watching his father design and render figures with an exact, seemingly machine-like precision—all with a ballpoint pen. “I would watch him and just trip out,” Malvar recalls, laughing. With a brother and sister who also work as artist and illustrator, respectively, it was inevitable that Malvar would fall in with the family profession. 

In high school he dabbled in drawing, his signature character a figure with spiky hair and wild eyes. But it wasn’t until a particular class at San Francisco State University, which he credits for igniting his artistic ambitions, that Malvar decided to take art seriously.

Starting with 30-page sketchbooks, Malvar dedicated himself to filling them—to the point that he couldn’t believe how much progress he’d made in such a short time. “It gave me confidence to look at it and see all the art that piled up day by day,” Malvar says.

Characterized by spare, bold arrangements, Malvar’s art often features figures without faces in articulated motion or stylized contemplation. In soft but definitive lines, Malvar’s art gently deconstructs people into their archetypal forms, their elemental feelings. From esoteric expressions of sweeping feeling to more pointed commentaries on the absurdity of life, Malvar constantly returns to his humanoid figures, working and reworking their shape and form. The figures are all cast with the same blank expression because, he says, they act as a conduit for his social perception. “It’s people in general, but I don’t know them, so their faces might as well all be the same.”

“Doing art for skateboards has been a dream for me since I was a kid.” _Martin Malvar

Although he prefers to work in gouache or watercolor, Malvar is no stranger to different media. Whether it’s using Photoshop to polish a design for a skateboard or working in oil to enliven a larger canvas, Malvar uses whatever tools best express his intent. Tonally, he often works in color—painting his figures in vibrant hues—but of late, Malvar has gravitated to the finality of black and white. Inspired by the brooding slice-of-life drawings of Raymond Pettibon, as well as art that adorns skateboard decks and clothing, Malvar draws with an illustrator’s acumen and an expressionist’s heart. He has also recently been experimenting with media newer to him, such as block printing, to challenge his creative perceptions.

Since he started putting himself and his work out there, Malvar has been amazed and gratified by the response. A long-time skateboarder, Malvar worked up the courage to pass some art along to the owner of Red Curbs Skate Shop, who loved it so much that he printed a line of decks featuring Malvar’s creations. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and Malvar plans to design more boards for the shop in the future, if not as a career. “Doing art for skateboards has been a dream for me since I was a kid. It’s so gnarly,” he says of the experience.

Beyond skateboard decks, Malvar has shown his art in numerous places in the Bay Area, including Philz Coffee in Cupertino, Red Curbs, and various student shows at SF State. His biggest and most exciting exhibition was last year at Chromatic Coffee in San Jose, where he filled an entire wall with his art, selling a few pieces in the process. 

“People ask me what I’m going to do with my art degree. I always say I want to make skateboard graphics, since skateboarding is such a big part of my life,” Malvar says. “It has really been pushing me forward, so why would I want to stop?”

He’s still finishing his degree in fine arts, specializing in drawing and painting, but Malvar already has his sights set on the future. Currently he’s making T-shirts featuring his art, something he never before considered doing. “It’s a positive experience growing in art,” he says. “Learning, meeting new people, and establishing connections has been such a thrill.”


IG: nitramravlam

Article originally appeared inIssue 8.3 Show (Print SOLD OUT)

Scott Fulton began with San Jose Jazz 2013 to oversee the Summer Fest performing artists’ transpiration, getting them pick-up from the airport, taking them to hotels, and getting to their performances. Since then, his role has expanded to include helping write grants, managing the high school all-star big band and the U-19 combo, and organizing the summer camp. 

Scott played a primary role in the development of the Boom Box, the mobile box truck stage. He has recently led the project to transfer a section of the 310 South First office space (home to SVCreates/Content Magazine and San Jose Jazz) into a performance lounge called the “Break Room.”

In our conversation, we talk about Scott’s influences as a musician and some plans for the “Break Room,” which will be open during Summer Fest 2021.

To find out more about San Jose Jazz, Summer fest 2021, and other program, visit


envenuti! Welcome to Enoteca La Storia, an Italian wine bar run by Mike Guerra and Joe Cannistraci. The combination of the word “enoteca” (or “wine library” in English) with “la storia” (“story”) is as thoughtfully paired as the pasta is with the pinot noir. Fittingly, the focal point of the main room is the wine cabinet shelves. Bottles like oddly shaped books stock this “library,” waiting their turn to be selected and savored; they serve as a reminder that this place is a resource overflowing with knowledge. Providing thoughtfully crafted menus and a wide selection of offerings, Guerra and Cannistraci cultivate their customers’ palates, effortlessly easing guests past the chardonnay toward a sangiovese with muscular tannins.

Both co-owners agree that you can appreciate that bottle of zinfandel on a deeper level if you know where it comes from and the process vintners undergo to produce it. But although both co-owners share this affinity for the vine (as well as Italian backgrounds), their personalities are about as different as white grapes from red. Cannistraci used to be a plasterer, Guerra a social worker. Guerra describes Cannistraci as “an idea guy” and “good with his hands,” crediting him with hunting down the materials for their interior decorations. “As we speak, he’s putting a door in,” Guerra says, explaining that his partner is currently across town, executing the finishing touches at their recently opened second location (part of a project to recapture San Jose’s Little Italy). Guerra makes sure his partner gets the recognition he’s due, praising his drive most of all.

“We’ve got very different personalities, but underneath it, we have the same values: your word is your bond. You treat
people with respect.”– Mike Guerra  

To illustrate, he refers to when Cannistraci first resolved to grow tomatoes. After tapping into a number of resources—books, internet, other growers—he became the local expert. “It went from him having a few plants in his yard to ‘Mike, I think I’m going to plant a few extra plants, and I’ll get a crop, and we’ll make something out of it at the enoteca’ to ‘Mike, I’m going to put in irrigation in the backyard, and I’m getting this special organic fertilizer, and I’m doing worm castings, and I’m buying a water filter.’ ” He’s now on the board of the World Tomato Society, and every May and June, regulars start asking after the latest crop.

In contrast, Guerra identifies himself as more even-keeled. “I’m a little bit more thoughtful, a little quieter,” he says. “I like to think about things first and then do.” When a fired-up Cannistraci surges into the enoteca and ambushes his employees with a bunch of exciting new ideas, it’s Guerra who calms down the shell-shocked staff and steers them through a smooth transition process. It’s also Guerra and his expertise as a professional sommelier that members of the enoteca’s wine clubs have to thank for high-quality selections and for rotating regions and varietals. “We’ve got very different personalities, but underneath it, we have the same values: your word is your bond. You treat people with respect,” Guerra asserts. “We really want to do things well.”

To stay true to the enoteca spirit, everything Guerra and Cannistraci serve is either local or Italian. Guerra admits they’ve been tempted at times to add menu items that don’t fit either of those categories. “What’s kept us on the narrow path always comes down to ‘Is this who we are and what we’re about?’ ” he explains. “That helps us avoid pitfalls. We’ve got a good friend that says she always knows that a business is in trouble if it’s a retailer, but they bring in a slurpee machine.”

And this fealty to their values influences just about everyone they come into contact with. Not only do customers come away with a deeper understanding of wine, but the employees also experience benefits. “This gentleman here,” Guerra nods at a young man as he strides past, “he started out as a busser.” Enoteca La Storia slowly dissolved his initial shyness and replaced it with a newfound confidence and a promotion to server. “And now he’s a manager,” Guerra smiles. “We watched him grow as a person and as a professional. And we’ve had a bunch of people like that.”

Is your interest piqued? Come enjoy the bruschetta and a glass of syrah, and let Enoteca La Storia work its magic.

Downtown Location
320 W Saint John St
San Jose, CA 95110
instagram: enotecalastoria_downtown
facebook: elsdowntown
Los Gatos Location
416 N Santa Cruz Ave
Los Gatos, CA 95030
instagram: enoteca_la_storia
facebook: enotecalastoria
twitter: enotecalastoria

This article originally appeared in Issue 10.1 “Tech”


Ryan Melchiano and Ryan Hisamune met in 2002 after college while working at Hukilau in San Francisco. Melchiano was serving, eventually getting into management, while Hisamune was working as a barback. They found themselves having similar work ethics and ideas about the restaurant industry and found themselves having conversations about what they would do if they could ever open a restaurant of their own.

As a friendship developed, Melchiano and Hisamune worked together on various restaurant and club projects in San Francisco. When Melchiano was asked to help owners of Hukilau open the nightclub Suede, he brought Hisamune along to be a part of the team. Melchiano and Hisamune continued to gain experience and a track record of successful endeavors such as the opening of Big, which within a year was rated as one of the top 10 bars in San Francisco.

“You just know when you meet people and you like them and you get along with them, you’re just going to be surrounded by them for a while.”

The two Ryans met Pomaikai Shishido coincidentally at the Hukilau, where Shishido was managing and bartending at the time. The three starting talking. Melchiano and Hisamune were managing at 620 Jones and invited Shishino to bartend for a party they were having with the intention of seeing if he could sink or swim. Shishido swam.

In 2011, the trio decided to venture out together and try something new. Melchiano, Hisamune, and Shishido began to see that there was a demand in the South Bay when they polled their SF bar guests and found out 40 percent of their clientele were from San Jose. Recognizing there were customers in San Jose looking for a different dining experience, the three saw an opportunity to open a place that would combine their aesthetics and vision that had been brewing years earlier.

After a couple years of researching the nightlife and locations in San Jose,  they found the space adjacent to San Pedro Square Market that was once an horse stable. But over the years, previous tenants, most recently – Tapas Bar & Lounge, had covered up many of the building’s original features. Melchiano, Hisamune, and Shishido wanted to bring back to the historical aspects of the stable and embrace its roots.

Doing many of the interior improvements themselves, people walking by found it hard to believe that the crew covered in drywall dust were the actual owners. Having that kind of commitment to their vision is what gives SP2 its unique aesthetic. Together they divided up tasks but always, quality was the thread that bound them together.

In August 2013, SP2 had its grand opening. Melchiano was married the same week that the restaurant opened and worked the day before and after his wedding. For the three co-owners, the restaurant is their top priority. “When someone doesn’t like what we do or complains, it really burns us because we do care. We built that chair and put that light up,” says Melchiano. “We are married to this place.”

With Melchiano’s leadership, Hisamune’s bar expertise, and Shishido’s knack for marketing and social media, SP2 (San Pedro Squared) has already made a mark in San Jose’s dining scene. Yet, even though with the SP2 team’s experience, Hisamune admits he was caught off guard by craft beer scene in San Jose. “I realize people down here are very knowledgable bout that scene,” explains Hisamune, “And they expect that, so we changed most of our taps during the first month.”

Walking through the doors of SP2, guests are welcomed by an open kitchen and the warmth of a wood fire oven. The reclaimed custom designed furniture by local craftsmen and large hardwood main dinner are inviting and blend the old with the new.  Along the wall is a large wooden bar displaying not only a vast selection of beverages, but upon closer look guests will notice metal rings in the bricks where horses used to be tied to during the building’s original stable days.

Besides a wide selection of drinks, SP2 has a food menu that changes every month. As an athlete, Melchiano is very keen to healthy eating and it shows in his dedication to sourcing mostly local and organic foods. SP2’s American bistro menu has been developed with the help of chef and friend Executive Ola Fendert. Resident chef Kelvin Ott complements the owners’ passion with his own dedication to a perfect dining experience.

These elements make SP2 a welcomed addition to downtown’s expanding culture. And there is a sense that Melchiano, Hisamune, and Shishido have just begun. With their commitment to always improving, plans are in the works to redesign the back private dining room as well as opening the lounge into San Pedro Square Market’s courtyard in the spring of 2014.

“We’re always looking for other locations for other projects. You can be ambitious but you have to be careful to not be foolish. We want to make this our number one spot. We have a commitment to this community,” Melchiano says.

72 N Almaden Ave
San Jose, CA 95110

This article originally appeared in Issue 6.0 Discover.

A rt can do a lot of good things for people—it can make them feel like they never have, articulate previously unknown emotions, provide direction and open the heart, and given the right (or wrong) circumstances, art can even save a life.

Take South Bay–based sculptor Nicolas Echeverri (Nicola Stela). Born and raised in Colombia, Echeverri had a sense of art in his adolescence and later channeled it into architecture, the industry he studied in school. When Echeverri was in his early twenties, he was forced into a situation that changed the course of his life forever. Heading out on the town one night with one of his wealthy relatives, Echeverri never could have guessed what would happen next. Echeverri and his friend were kidnapped by guerrillas and taken into the mountains to be held for ransom. The problem was, Echeverri was by no means wealthy, and the $200,000  ransom that his captors demanded could not be delivered. In response, they held him longer and abused him for what seemed like an endless period of time. The pain and fear grew so great in Echeverri that, for the sake of survival, he mentally shut down. Reduced to a primal, trancelike state, he accepted his fate and what he was sure to be his death. “I went into a very weird state of mind in which I was finally in peace. I let the problem go,” Echeverri recalls. 

Then, inexplicably, the guerrillas freed him…

Indeed, Echeverri was free, but only physically. The trauma from the situation slowly shut him down, isolating him from his friends and family and making even simple, pure feelings like love impossible to handle. Unable to have normal relationships or a job, he fell to the lowest place he had ever been. “I dealt with the stress for years. I began looking for answers in a lot of things, especially spirituality, but nothing was able to heal me. I was too much in my mind,” Echeverri says. 

Meanwhile, he was waiting for his green card process to be approved. “I came here to look around and see if I liked it,” Echeverri says of his first trip to the States, adding, “And I decided to stay.” It was here that he found the School of Visual Philosophy, which he credits with helping save him, as well as cultivating his skills and philosophy as a sculptor. 


“If for a moment I can make people reach into their heart, then I’ve completed my goal. My art is not about thinking. It’s about making people feel.”  – Nicolas Echeverri

After 17 years of a mental war with himself, Echeverri came to a breaking point. Then, what seemed to occur out of pure fate, he met a woman, a spiritual healer who guided him. Never a religious person, after six months of interaction, Echeverri had a spiritual rebirth—then came the visions. “I found myself in spiritual ecstasy. I was finally happy again,” he says of the transcendental experience. “The first thing I realized was I need to do something with myself,” he says. “I was blinded by fear and anxiety. So I grabbed a piece of wood and started carving,” Echeverri says. 

Echeverri’s sculptures are therapeutic and stunning celebrations of humanity. Composed and crafted almost entirely in bronze, his work articulates the deep pain and long-lingering trauma that has defined so much of his life. But his sculptures, often comprised of outstretched human figures whose appendages meld into larger, abstract shapes, do not dwell on the suffering that brought Echeverri to sculpting initially. Instead, they express a sense of wonder, a celebration of life presented through the human figure’s physicality, all arranged with a somatic harmony enunciating what Echeverri is trying to say. “If for a moment I can make people reach into their heart, then I’ve completed my goal. My art is not about thinking. It’s about making people feel.” 

Echeverri devotes most of his time to his sculpture. To pay the bills, he’s taken on a bunch of gig-economy jobs that are in abundance here. He credits this on-the-fly work for giving him plenty of time to devote to his actual work—his sculptures.

And he shows no sign of slowing. After the success of an exhibition of his work at the School of Visual Philosophy this past June, Echeverri—who now goes by the artistic name of Nicola Stela—wants to expand his artistic horizon. Ultimately though, he wants to keep making work that embodies his personal philosophy that “the mind can break, but the heart is untouchable.”

Instagram: nicovonbroen

Article originally appeared in Issue 10.5 Dine (Print SOLD OUT)

What began as Koji Sake Lounge is now one-year-old Nomikai, a “social food and drinkery” (after the Japanese for “drinking party”) that specializes in premium sake and Japanese whiskey. Its owners, Kathy and Tone, are married high school sweethearts (talk about connected) who emphasize the fact that their establishment exists beyond the purpose of providing food and drink for patrons: through it, they aim to provide a place for all members of the community to feel welcome, to gather, and to flourish.

Did you grow up being interested in restaurants or cooking?

Tone: Not really, we both had corporate jobs before this. We were interested in having a place where people can come and hang out. For us, we wanted a place where we could go out and feel comfortable at the same time, and have people come together. [At Nomikai], you can be anyone: you can be a college kid and come in and have a few beers, you can be a sophisticated businessman coming in for some whiskey. That’s what we wanted.

Kathy: We don’t really have culinary backgrounds, this was more about filling a void. I mean there wasn’t even a place where we could really go. It was always just a dive bar or a club or a sit-down restaurant. We were like, “How come there’s nothing in between?” We figured there were people out there who don’t fit into certain “scenes.” So when we had the idea for our place, we were like, “Okay, this has a nice casual atmosphere where anyone can come and feel welcome.”

What other factors have made your establishment successful?

Kathy: We have a good family, a good team. That’s one thing that separates us from other places in the area: our service is really personable. People will recognize you by your name when you come in. It’s not just about creating a drink and being like, you know, “Here you go,” and then setting off to the next customer. Everyone here is really open and friendly and will greet you with a warm smile. It’s the team that makes this place what it is.

Tone: Yeah, a bar is just a bar, a restaurant is just a restaurant, but service is what keeps people coming back.

Why sake?

Kathy: Well, when I had my first encounter with sake I knew it was something really, really unique. I always said to Tony, you know, “This stuff is really good and there’s not really a place we can go to access it around here.” That’s when we decided to open our own place.

Tone: Not a lot of people knew what sake was at first, but after time people would come in and say “Can I have the Namazake?” They’d order by the Japanese names. We serve tasting flights [where people can become familiar with a variety of different kinds]. We also do occasional tastings where the vendors come by and they’ll bring their line, they’ll let you taste some and they’ll educate you. People have expanded their knowledge of sake and we’re pretty proud of that.

How have you made a place for yourself in this city?

Kathy: We’ve spent most of our lives here, so we do have a love for the city. When we opened, there were two other businesses on this street. Now ever since, it’s been growing and we’re really excited to be a part of that.

Tone: We know this is a small mom-and-pop business, but we operate it as professionally as we can. We hold staff and service to the highest standards. We’re very connected with the local community, also.

Kathy: Yeah, staying connected with the community is definitely something we’re on top of. We hold community mixers, fundraisers, and things like that. We try to give back as much as we can. This past Thanksgiving and Christmas we did fundraisers for Give Thanks, Give Back, so for every pizza sold we donated another to Second Harvest. And we did a toy drive for Christmas. Nonprofits will come in and do little mixers and we try to help them out as much as we can. So, yeah, it’s all about community. We can’t exist without each other.

Any advice for restaurant entrepreneurs?

Kathy: It’s been the most rewarding thing to start something with an entrepreneurial spirit so young. It’s different with this generation, from a business standpoint. You have to think out of the box, you can’t just open your doors and expect to be successful. You have to adapt and be really creative. You need to have passion and drive, I mean, that’s something you can’t learn in the corporate world. That’s something that comes from within. If you have passion, great, we need more of that in this world.

48 S First St
San Jose, CA 95113

This article originally appeared in Issue 7.2 Connect.

#65 – SoFA Pocket Park – Veggielution


The San Jose Downtown Association approached Veggielution to be a part of a temporary (approx. 3yr+) revitalization project at an underutilized parking lot in the SoFA District (South First Area). With funding from the Knight Foundation, Google, Urban Community, and with the property owner’s support, the space has been transformed during COVID-19 #SIP into a dog park managed by the Downtown Association and an urban demonstration garden that will be operated by Veggielution. The Veggielution section of the park will provide a space for a farm stand and mobile food vending hub.

With murals by eight local artists commissioned in collaboration with Local Color and the Quilt Museum, the park celebrated its official opening on June 30, 2021.

In this episode, we speak with Veggielution Environment Education Manager Rosa Maria Gordilla Garfunkel and Public Affairs Director Emily Schwing to learn about the project and plans for space.

To find out more about Veggielution programs, to donate, and to volunteer, visit: 

IG: veggielution 

Other Content articles on Veggielution:

Veggielution’s origin story from one of our Beta Issues 3.3 “Harvest” in 2009. 

Interview with Executive Director, Cayce Hill – Issue 9.5 “Profiles,” 2017. 

Yazmin Hernandez Carbajal – “De la Granja a la Cocina” – Issue 11.5 “Dine,” 2019 

J eremiah Kille creates art that blurs the line between figurative expression and geometric abstraction.

Born and raised in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Jeremiah Kille has liked art as early as he can remember. Though his family moved around from Arizona to Sacramento, Kille’s love of art kept growing. An avid skateboarder and snowboarder, Kille’s early artistic influences came from the bold graphics that adorned his decks. “Early on, I was exposed to a lot of skate art and culture,” he recalls,  adding, “Like skateboarding, a lot of my art is pretty graphic.”

Kille drew more than the average kid, but it wasn’t something he took seriously until much later. He spent most of his twenties outdoors, working as a mountain guide at ski resorts, making and shaping surfboards—anything that was outside and required his hands. Kille credits all these almost-careers with informing his artistic expression. At the time, Kille was living in Santa Cruz with his then wife and was looking for a direction to take his life in. He considered nursing like his wife; instead, she encouraged him to go into art. “I was a late bloomer,” Kille laughs, “and it was pretty amazing how supportive of my art she was.”

He started attending San Jose State University in his late twenties, where he studied pictorial arts, including oil painting, printmaking, and drawing. “At that time, I was really focused on making surfboards,” Kille says. “But at some point, there was a shift for me, mostly with my son being born.”

He knew that making surfboards wasn’t a lucrative enough industry to support his family. Around that time, he also started hanging large paintings at Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz. Kille wasn’t expecting much, but the work hanging in Verve was a hit, and he sold a number of paintings while still in school. The positive reception of his work, plus the good money he was getting for it, really shifted Kille into being an artist full-time. “It sounds bad, but money was a big motivator,” Kille says. “Times were tough, so I gave myself a year window to really pursue art.”

A couple of months into his self-imposed time frame, Kille knew that he wasn’t going to quit art anytime soon. “I was all in,” he recalls, adding, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Kille’s art is a bold, explosively toned journey into his subconscious. Much like his juggling of jobs, Kille’s work is a kaleidoscopic expression of the warring sides of his brain, where one day abstraction takes the driver’s seat and on another day figurative composition bleeds in. Focusing often on living, breathing motifs, such as elephants, birds, and matadors, and on the more inanimate, like boats and hot air balloons, Kille transforms this familiar imagery into a vibrant, texture-hopping landscape of metaphysical possibility.

Working mostly in oil and acrylic paint, Kille creates geometric compositions that melt into graphic representations of dreams through the use of loud, wild color. By combining the familiar elements of different styles, Kille creates entirely unique and unfamiliar compositions. “I am drawn to art that has elements of abstraction with moments of realism or recognizable objects,” Kille says. “To me, that combination is provoking. When I look at art like that, I am drawn in by the tensions between the two worlds as well as the balance.”

Through most of his artistic life, Kille has been met with pushback to his desire to jump around between styles and techniques. He understands unifying one’s work and seeing the artist as a brand, but Kille refuses to be tied down to one style or forced into one direction. He says, “If you look at my work, I do a few different things. I think it’s natural for me to not be boxed in creatively.”

As for the future, Kille’s work is going to be featured in an art show in Sacramento, as well as at numerous outdoor festivals, where he hopes to expand his large-scale painting skill. Either way, Jeremiah Kille is going to continue making art on his terms—and sometimes get recognition for it.

Instagram: jeremiahkille

Article originally appeared in Issue 10.3 Perform  (Print SOLD OUT)

H ere it is not just family-owned, it is family-operated, right down to Adolfo Gomez himself greeting you at the door.

Walk into 25 West San Fernando St. and the man seating you may be Adolfo Gomez, owner and manager of Mezcal. This is not your ordinary Mexican restaurant, it is a culinary treat straight from Oaxaca, Mexico. “If you look around San Jose,” Gomez says, “you will see a lot of Mexican restaurants and little taquerias, but they are mostly serving northern Mexican cuisine. Here, we do not have burritos on the menu.”

What they do have are rich moles made with fragrant spices, guacamole sliced, diced, and served table side, and of course chapulines, crispy grasshoppers sautéed with garlic, lime and salt. Not your ordinary menu, but that’s just the way Gomez likes it. “People come in and they ask, ‘Do you have chimichangas?’ No. ‘Do you have burritos?’ No,” he says with a laugh. “They ask me what’s good here, and I tell them ‘everything.’”

“You can have the best food in the world, but if the service is not perfect, no one will come back.” -Adolfo Gomez

When it’s your mother and brother in the kitchen cooking up recipes passed down over generations, the assessment rings true. Gomez knows these dishes because they are the same as when he was a child. “I ask people to think of all the meals their mothers made over the years. Can they pick only five favorites?” he asks. “We started with 125 of my mother’s recipes—foods I ate growing up as a boy. We chose 25 dishes.”

Oaxacan cuisine is known for its freshness and quality ingredients. The moles are slow-cooked, and everything is made from scratch. Gomez’s brother Octavio is chef,  but his mother, Doña Libo, is Mezcal’s heart. It is her recipes, perfected over generations, that give the restaurant its spirit and spice. Mezcal it is not just family-owned, it is family-operated, right down to Gomez himself greeting you at the door.

“I tell my staff that service is number one, because you can have the best food in the world, but if the service is not perfect, no one will come back,” Gomez says.

The atmosphere also plays a large role in what takes this restaurant into the extraordinary. Throughout the space there are pieces from famous Oaxacan artisans. The warm, brick walls and lighting glow with rich color. Traditional Alebrije figurines, brightly-painted carved wooden animals, nest in alcoves. Tin lanterns hang from the ceiling, revealing images from Frida Kahlo’s “Las Dos Fridas” and katrinas with their skeleton grins hanging from the walls. It is this attention to detail that perfects Gomez’s creation. Gomez recalls that, after five years of hard work, Mezcal was set to open—and then the 2008 recession hit. Having chosen a location to catch crowds flocking to the Convention Center, the brothers thought Mezcal was doomed to shutter its doors before they even opened. “We were lucky,” he says. “Family and friends came through. They helped with loans. We didn’t want to wonder what could have happened.”

In 2008, Mezcal opened. Metro Newspaper named it Best New Restaurant in 2009. After four years, it is still going strong. While other establishments change hands and close doors, Mezcal is filling chairs and serving up quality cuisine in a stylish atmosphere.

Gomez’ secret to running his restaurant is simple. “To succeed in service, you have to love what you do,” he says. “And we love it.”

25 W San Fernando St
San Jose, CA 95113

This article originally appeared in Issue 5.1 Sight and Sound.

Engineers are known for being problem-solvers, so when Mark Williams found that his collection of mechanical musical machines had outgrown his living room, he did what any creative thinker would do. He constructed a building for them.

Not just any building. The atmosphere had to be right for his prized collection, so he built them a whole soundscape, authentic right down to the brick walls, the chatter of diners, and the hiss of the soda fountain. He built them the Orchestria Palm Court, a new restaurant located in the city’s theatre district.

Williams hails from a musically-inclined family and wanted to learn to play the piano, although he admits to not inheriting the gene, so he bought himself a player piano—just as a backup. The piano wasn’t working when he bought it so he learned to fix it himself and there began his fascination with the machines.

“You can’t find these songs on CD,” says Williams. “If you want to hear them, you have to find a roll.” He is referring to the perforated paper cylinders which allow notes and controls to operate the hammers inside the instruments via a vacuum. Each roll held five to ten tunes, usually the most popular songs of the time. Many of them are reminiscent of the soundtrack for old cartoons. Remember “Mack the Knife,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody?”

“No one is going to hurry you. Stay as long as you like.” -Mark Williams

I asked Williams to play me one of these classics and, after offering an apology for the quietness of the empty room, he disappeared to activate a control panel in the back of the bar. The machine that came to life was a Violano Virtuoso, a self-playing violin. The strings inside are played by small rollers and the fingers on the strings are metal. Combined with a piano frame, the Virtuoso is a fascinating mechanism to watch that puts out a powerful sound designed for public places—it is meant to be heard in tandem with clinking glasses, laughter, and conversation.

The Art Nouveau nymphs frolicking on the panel of his 1926 Electramuse Jukebox also adorn the walls, decorated with prints and posters selected by Williams’ partner Russ. Purely acoustic, the wooden jukebox spins ten records with no amplification, just the horn of the Victrola inside. Player pianos line the walls, and three stand side by side up above the bar.

But not all of Williams’ machines produce music. He also owns an automated popcorn machine which individually butters each perfectly-popped kernel. The machine runs on Sundays. “Otherwise, it smells like a circus in here,” says Williams.

He does not want the place to be a museum or a kitschy old-time throwback. The interior of the ex-auto showroom built in 1910 has been lovingly renovated by Williams. The brick walls were designed to recreate the original feel and acoustics of a bar or restaurant at the turn of the century. 

The whole process took nine years. Retrofitting the exposed girders for earthquakes, installing A/C on the new roof and running all new electrics underground all took place while he was working for a startup. Then, just when he hit the point of no return, the startup folded. The restaurant, which was originally his retirement strategy became his full-time concern. “I had done everything except the final kitchen build-out. If I hadn’t done that, the building would have been useless.”

So Williams expanded his plans for the restaurant, designing a menu that features grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, and real creamery butter. “Not much comes out of downtown that isn’t deep fried. We just do cooking,” he says. 

Specializing in the warm and familiar European favorites, the dinner menu includes pork chops and steaks as well as salmon and ratatouille. Comfort food made from scratch daily with natural ingredients. Williams feels strongly about healthy cooking right down to the fiber content of his whole wheat flour. He has given the food he serves a great deal of thought. The kitchen does not use microwave ovens or deep fat fryers. “It’s not low-fat or low-calorie,” says Williams, “but I have lost ten pounds eating this ice cream.”

Many of the dessert items have been recreated from period recipes. The ice cream soda fountain features organic ice cream from Three Twins in Petaluma. Even the drinks are made with freshly-squeezed fruit juices. 

At first glance, the prices on the menu seem a bit high, but Williams decided to go with another nod to the practices of the past. The prices include service and tax. There are no waiters at Orchestria Palm Court. His customers order from the rear counter and pay when they are ready. No tipping is allowed. 

So has the engineer found more than a perfect home for his collection? Will this gamble on affection for the sounds of the past combined with a healthy modern consciousness win over the downtown crowd? “The jury is still out on that one,” says Williams.

By adopting theatre hours and staying open until 11:30 PM, Williams hopes to encourage people to come just for a glass of wine or a dessert. “No one is going to hurry you. Stay as long as you like.” 

27 E William St
San Jose, CA 95112
Friday 5:45pm-8:30pm or later
Saturday 5:45pm-8:30pm or later
Sunday 4:30pm-7:30pm
(Hours vary)

Article originally appeared in Issue 5.5 Feast in 2013.
Print Issue is SOLD OUT


#64- Connie Martinez – CEO SVCreates on “The Business of Arts and Culture”

In May, SVCREATES unveiled new local research on the arts sector in our region in The Business of Arts and Culture. The report hopes to help all of us understand who we are as a cultural sector and what we bring to this special community. And shed light on the particular challenges we face, how we are confronting them and, most importantly, your essential role in sustaining the business of the arts. 

Join our conversation with SVCREATES CEO Connie Martinez on the Content Podcast as we discuss The Business of Arts and Culture. Listen in and read more on our website.

Read the full report of “The Business of Arts and Culture” 
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S tanding 18 feet high, Talking Heads is a sculpture composed of empty space surrounded by stainless steel. Artist Oleg Lobykin’s largest piece to date, some have compared it to intricate coral or a spinal column. Lobykin hoped to use the unique language of art to set humans to thinking about their technological impact on future generations. Talking Heads graced the sands of Black Rock City in 2019. “For 12 years I have been to Burning Man,” says Lobykin. “I was amazed and blown away when I showed up the first time, specifically by art and what people do, and creativity on every level—the juxtaposition of technology and nature.”

Born in St. Petersburg to a military officer and a midwife, Lobykin has always enjoyed creating. “I always liked to escape from reality, to be in your own world and look for things like curves in the clouds. I like to waste time like that—drawing during school lessons. Before I ended up in the US, I was drawing a lot of cowboys and Indians.” At art school, Lobykin studied to become a master stone carver, following architectural drawings and creating free designs, like gargoyles. After graduation, Lobykin went to New York to work on the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and to Alabama, creating a 23-foot column carved into a mountain at the opening of a limestone quarry, training local stone carvers to help with the work.

When the Perestroika movement took hold, Lobykin decided to go back to Russia and “take a break from stone time to wear a shirt and tie and do something completely different” and set up a business. There he met his future wife, a Californian who happened to be in Russia. When she wanted to continue her education, they relocated to Palo Alto. “I am lazy and hate to spend time in traffic, so I started to look close by for a job.” When Lobykin saw the sandstone in the main court at Stanford, and found they had staff architects, he showed them his portfolio and was hired. Stonesculpt, his masonry restoration company, is still working for Stanford 20 years later—as well as for the Presidio and the City of San Jose.

Lobykin has a studio in East Palo Alto where he lives with his wife and daughter and continues to express himself in his art, selling some pieces and showing in a handful of galleries. He created No Swimming for Burning Man in 2008. Over the next few years, the piece went to Google HQ and then to Newport Beach. Now, Playa to Paseo, the Burning Man Project, and the City of San Jose collaboration has brought the 12-foot sculpture to SAP Center. “Its original meaning was about danger, fear, and hope for tomorrow; that is why it is a shark fin,” says Lobykin. “But at SAP, it is all about sharks, or whatever people see.”

Searching for the basic elements required to create complex form, Lobykin is experimenting with reflections and form in a massive conceptual piece called Pixel. “I actually look at forms in a different way,” says Lobykin. “How does it start? Where does it meet the form itself? In music you have notes. If you are talking about visual arts, specifically a three-dimensional object, what is the ABC over there?” Lobykin imagines Pixel’s polished curve as an interactive sculpture, more than 30 feet tall, that would allow the viewer to see themselves reflected in the surface. “If you come close to it, you appear in a normal way. If you go far away, you disappear and become part of your surroundings.”

Such process requires a combination of technology and natural material. Computer renderings don’t give the full picture. His process can involve 3D printing, traditional bronze foundries, and chromium-plated bronze. But he can equally explore found objects, like beach stones, turning them over in his hands before knowing what his stone will become. “I just take the stone, look at it. What can be done with this? I wanted to see how you could balance something made by nature—keep the natural shape but at the same time work with man’s interference.”
Facebook: stonesculpt
Instagram: oleg_lobykin
Article originally appeared in Issue 12.1 “Discover”


If you’ve ever sat on a project for a few years before starting it, then you’ll relate to Raul Lozano.
“I wanted something I could sink my teeth in for the next ten years,” he says about Valley Verde, the nonprofit he started in 2012 which provides low income families the knowledge and materials needed to grow their own organic vegetable gardens at no cost. 

Lozano had the idea to take his pastime—gardening—and make it available to anyone. He asked Health Trust CEO Frederick J. Ferrer for $30,000 in grant money to support his idea, knowing it was a long shot. Surprisingly, and without hesitation, Ferrer not only approved the proposed amount, but offered $50,000. Ferrer thought that it was a great idea and something that hadn’t been done. Though it was a big risk, Lozano thought it just might be a big reward too. 

Valley Verde’s garden program provides in-home gardens—planter boxes, seeds, soil, and drip irrigation—to low income families who want to grow their own organic produce. Valley Verde also sells these in-home gardens to the general public. For every garden sold, Valley Verde can provide one low income family with a garden and enroll them in a year-round gardening program. 

Prices for in-home gardens range from $85 to $400, depending on the size of the planter boxes. “The customer gets all the soil, we put in the drip irrigation system, and we deliver and install it,” says Lozano.

You don’t need a green thumb to keep an organic vegetable garden thriving. “The level of care these gardens need to be given is not as much as people think. As long as you have good sun and water them regularly, you’re going to be fine,” Lozano says. 

New gardeners take three organic gardening classes throughout the year before finishing the year-long program. Families can also come to monthly classes if they have additional questions and want step-by-step help. 

“My garden really helped me to feel better and be less lonely. I see how my plants are growing and changing every day and I feel good about growing my own food,” says Esperanza, a Valley Verde garden grower. “I haven’t bought lettuce or cabbage for the last four months.”

Valley Verde’s team wants to show that gardening is a valuable skill that is useful for the rest of their gardener’s lives. Most families aren’t just cash poor, but “time poor” as Lozano describes. “We’re trying to get as many people knowledgeable,” he says. “If we have these classes, it gives them the support to become self sufficient.”
“If we can not only give them materials but teach them how to garden themselves and feel confident, then they are going to be able to provide it as long as they live,” Lozano says. But Lozano’s movement has helped more than the pockets of low-income families. It’s creating symmetry between families in any economic class, government officials, city planners, and corporations.  

In ten years, Lozano hopes to have planted 20,000 gardens in Santa Clara County as part of Valley Verde’s Plant, Eat, Share campaign. They’ve partnered with city council members, corporations, and nonprofits. “If we’re successful, I’d like to create the same movement in other regions across the US,” Lozano says. “We are hoping corporations like Google will pick up the idea and collaborate on our Plant, Eat, Share campaigns with employees. They get their employees to eat healthier and we get to add gardens to the campaign. It’s a win-win,” Lozano says.

Three hundred gardens later, Lozano doesn’t rest. “What’s really got me through the really tough times is that I totally believed in what we were doing,” Lozano says. “I totally believed the community needed it. That’s how I wanted to start my new career. And it’s way more rewarding that I thought it would be.”

Instagram: valleyverde

Article originally appeared inIssue 5.3 Act (Print SOLD OUT)

It all started with a crush on a girl.

Jeffrey Lo’s high school crush wanted him to audition for a show. He had no fear of speaking in front of others, and he enjoyed making people laugh. So at 16, he walked into his first theatre. His confidence and willingness to learn on his feet have helped him succeed there ever since: acting, directing, and writing plays.

While Lo was a senior at Evergreen Valley High School, the class was given an assignment to write and direct their own shows using the Drama 1 students as their cast. Lo wrote a 30-minute play called “All I Have.”

Describing himself as a “smug 17-year-old,” he decided to write and direct a full two-hour play. Banding together with a close group of friends, they managed to nab the high school’s theatre for the summer before college, washing cars to raise funds. His play was about a psychologist and a troubled teenager whose mother is dating a drug addict. It nearly sold out its one-night run. Admitting the play had its imperfections, Lo said, “It was one of those things where we just didn’t know any better. We were going off pure adrenalin and emotion – all twelve of us.”

Lo still returns to Evergreen Valley High every other year to write and direct a show with high school students. He enjoys finding kids that are not too sure about performing. He said, “They don’t take it super-seriously, but they have that raw skill there that is not disrespectful, but ‘Oh yeah, I’ll do it – which is kind of like I was.” The last show he did there was about a Filipino high school basketball star. Although audiences enjoyed the play, “they laughed about the fact that there was an Asian American high school basketball star that was going to play in the NBA,” said Lo. “Six months later, Jeremy Lin proved me right – a Palo Alto boy.”

The wry humor that naturally flavors his work comes in part from his upbringing. “I’m Filipino, right? So my mom is a nurse.” As the only member of his immediate family born in the U.S., he admits to a childhood that involved not knowing much about his hometown of San Jose beyond the “coffee shop down the street.” His parents emigrated 25 years ago, and except for the occasional trips downtown for Christmas in the Park, his world was fairly insulated. With two older sisters, Lo is relieved that one of his siblings will be going to medical school, which “makes my mom happy.”

Receiving the Arts Council’s 2012 Laureate Emerging Artist Award also pleased his mother. The $5,000 award is not tied to any specific project and doesn’t require any reports, it is just intended to help an artist live. “None of my family is really involved in the arts,” he said. “So it was at least one gauge to let them know I wasn’t completely wasting my time.”

It is difficult to see where Lo could have wasted any time. He went straight to UC Irvine as a journalism major, but he then doubled and added theatre because he found that he “couldn’t escape it.” However, he still did theatre on his own terms, founding his own company, the Pipeline Players, rather than participating in University productions. “We did our shows the way we did it that one summer, and we did it for three years.” Fascinated by the craft, Lo also continued to read all the plays he could get his hands on.

At first, he was intimidated by the length of experience of most people working in the theatre department. So he quietly soaked up knowledge while beginning to embrace his own identity. “I came to realize that it was a huge advantage coming from a very different background. There’s a certain perspective that I come from that not a lot of people can write [about].”

Despite finding success down south, Lo came straight back home. He knew early on, although he wanted to go somewhere different for college, “San Jose was where I wanted to be.”

But college really paid off for Lo, especially his love of reading. A week after returning to San Jose, he was working as a soundboard operator at TheatreWorks. He was eating dinner in the green room when he overheard the director, Leslie Martenson, talking to some of the actors about her next show, “Superior Donuts” by Tracy Letts. As luck would have it, Lo had read every one of Letts’ plays because his college professor had compared the playwright’s style to his own.

As soon as that evening’s show was over, Lo ran up to Martenson and introduced himself, saying, “Hi, I’m Jeffrey. I overheard that you are directing “Superior Donuts” by Tracy Letts – I love his work, and I have read all his stuff. If there’s any way I can be of any help or be involved or assist you in any way, I would love the opportunity.”

So she said, “Go ahead and email me your resume and stuff and we’ll see if I can contact you.” Thinking fast, Lo said, “Well, actually, I have my resume in my backpack – give me one second.” He ran back to the soundboard and grabbed a copy of his resume and handed it to her. Ever since reading about Eugene O’Neill running away from home with a suitcase full of clothes and a suitcase full of scripts, Lo has always walked around with a backpack full of scripts and resumes. Hitting the books paid off for him again.

Martenson, who is now Lo’s mentor and number one champion, later told Lo it was the fact that he mentioned specific works by Tracy Letts that made it click for her that he really knows his stuff. He credits her as a “most remarkable woman who has done everything” for him, including nominating him for the Arts Council Laureate.

Although he is only 24, Lo has already written three plays – eight actually, counting his early stuff. But, like some of his favorite playwrights, he prefers to determine where we start counting. Lo explained that in Edward Albee’s foreword to one of Eugene O’Neill’s lost plays, he described his first play as “Zoo Story.” “The thing is,” Lo continued, “he wrote six plays before that. But he considers “Zoo Story” his first play. So I would say, for myself, I’ve written three plays.”

Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to see Lo at work in the Bay Area. He just directed a world premiere called “The Strange Case of Citizen De La Cruz” at San Francisco’s Bindlestiff Studio – where his play, “A Kind of Sad Love Story,” will have a month-long run in March. His newest play, “Angel in a Red Dress,” just had a staged reading at the Impact Theatre in Berkeley. Lo said, somewhat sheepishly, “It all kind of came all at once.”

In December, the ’06 Ensemble, where Lo serves as artistic director, will return with a second installment of the Bench Project. The first one was a series of four short plays that were all set on a bench. The one-night-only event packed the Dragon Theatre in Palo Alto. This December, the Bench Project 2 will feature seven plays. The venue will be the Pear Avenue Theatre in Mountain View, and admission will be warm jackets for the homeless.

Some major Asian American playwrights are participating in Bench Project 2. Philip Kan Gotanda and Julia Cho both wrote for the project. How did he manage to get them to donate their time? Having worked with Cho and Gotanda before, Lo simply sent an email saying, “Hey, we’re doing this project, and we are trying to get ten-minute plays set on benches – are you able to write one? I am upfront with them. I say we have no money.”

Eager to help others make their work known, Lo is willing to read scripts from anyone who is interested. “I am always looking for new people to do readings or workshops. The point of the ’06 Ensemble is to give people an opportunity to express their voice.”

No longer a smug teenager, Jeffery Lo has indeed begun to develop his own voice. Playwright Philip Kan Gotanda once sat down for coffee with Lo, and they talked about the Filipino American story. “In terms of theatre and poetry, it is one of the Asian American stories that hasn’t been explored a whole lot. My generation of people is starting that. We are starting to build a voice and tell our story.”

Falling in love with theatre has given Lo a powerful platform to tell that story. Perhaps he owes that girl a cup of coffee.

Follow Jeffrey and his work at (

IG: theycallmejlo ( (

IG: theatreworkssv (


This episode’s music in “Tang” by Chris Emond. Follow Chris on Spotify, Featured in issue 13.2 “Sight and Sound” 2021


Article from 2012 issue 4.4 “Education”


Marie Cameron is a Los Gatos artist who usually works in oils and mixed media assemblage. However, during the pandemic, she has been embroidering silk rainbows onto vintage photographs. “2020 was really hard”, Cameron exclaims, and her typical work that focuses on the issues of environmental and social justice become too heavy for her, and a trip to the beach one cloudy day sparked her new series as she says a rainbow amidst the gray.

“I wanted something that was more hopeful and would fill me with a bit of joy,” she says, “I was really searching for that joy, and I thought, yeah, I need more rainbows in my life.”

Thinking about the rainbows, Cameron decided to sew silk threads into vintage photos to contrast the black and white images and the vibrancy colors of the threads.
Cameron explored various themes she was interested in that we all were experiencing through 2020. For example, environmental pieces that are phot of forests done during forest fires we had last summer. Or, a firefighter with a rainbow coming down on him as sort of a “thank you” or prayer. As well as images of nurses, people of different races; as Cameron explains, “I wanted these rainbows to act as kind of like a blessing. Kind of like a manifestation of joy.”

“For me, these rainbows symbolize not only hope and inclusivity but a connection with spirit. They seem to offer a momentary connection to the universe and our place in it as they open a door to our sense of awe and wonder.”

Cameron is now opening her studio doors to share this work “en masse” to the community to view and purchase, hoping that others will experience the healing she experienced in the making.

Art Exhibition by Marie Cameron
“Wall of Rainbows” Pop-up!
June 15 -19




T he Japantown neighborhood is one of San Jose’s most unique treasures. Located just north of downtown, the quaint stretch of small businesses has been fighting gentrification in recent years as the surrounding blocks add new housing developments that threaten to whitewash the multidimensional history that can be found in one of the few remaining historic Japantowns in
the country.

That the neighborhood has survived to this day is remarkable, having been established during a wave of immigration in the early part of the 20th century amidst a rise in anti-Asian racism, then seeing most of its residents forcibly removed to concentration camps during World War II. Despite these challenges, Japantown has survived and thrived, with many families and historic buildings still intact generations later—monuments to the cultural legacy of Japanese Americans in Silicon Valley.

“Augmented reality is a way that we can really bring culture, art, history to a community that will never go to a museum, never go to an art gallery.”–Tamiko Thiel


As a way to help preserve this history, community leaders Susan Hayase and Tom Izu have partnered with artist and engineer Tamiko Thiel to create a new project called Hidden Histories. Inspired by Thiel’s previous projects, Hidden Histories has commissioned nine artists to uncover stories of Japantown through new artworks using an open-source augmented reality (AR) platform.

“I had a lot of assumptions about my parents’ generation, and I didn’t understand some of the experiences they had,” explains Izu about why he connected with this project. “There’s so many different layers, so many stories that are buried, that aren’t visible. You really have to pry into it and be open to learning about it. People—Japanese Americans included—aren’t that familiar. Even though they know some of the history, they don’t know the stories behind it. [This project] could help them have a much deeper understanding of who they are and who their community is. These stories…there’s a lot more to them than people think.”

Izu and Hayase have both been active in the Japantown community for decades. Izu helped found the Yu-Ai Kai Senior Center, which provides important services for Japanese American seniors, works with the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, and was director of California History Center at De Anza College. Hayase’s work throughout the 1980s on the movement for redress and reparations for Japanese Americans impacted by internments during World War II resulted in passage of legislation under President Reagan; she has continued her community
work ever since.

Through that process, she met a lot of people in the San Jose Japantown community and decided that this is where she wanted to live. “I also played in the San Jose Taiko group, so I was really interested in how art and culture deeply touch people and inspire people and really mean something in a community that is struggling to be seen and be empowered,” she shares.

Though Thiel now lives in Germany with her husband, she and Hayase have their own history: the two attended Stanford together, then worked at Hewlett-Packard (HP) in the late 1970s while rooming together, before Thiel departed the Bay Area for her work. In the subsequent years, the two have stayed in occasional contact, Hayase eventually urging her old friend to help her create a project for San Jose, a place where she has deep roots.

“My family had immigrated to the Santa Clara Valley in like 1908—that’s where my grandmother was born,” Thiel says, uncovering a story of her own hidden history in the region. Her grandmother met her grandfather at the Wesley Methodist Church in San Jose. For years Thiel has known a photograph of the two of them in front of a house, and she recently found out that it’s the Norman Mineta house.

Born in Oakland, Thiel grew up in Seattle. She returned to the Bay Area to attend Stanford and work at HP, moved across the country for grad school at MIT in Boston, and eventually wound up working as a product design engineer in Munich. Eventually, she decided her calling was to fuse her creative instincts with her engineering skills, and she became deeply involved with virtual reality technology, creating her first large-scale installation in 1995 with a piece called Beyond Manzanar, inspired by the concentration camp that was located in the eastern Sierras.

Later, her installations evolved into augmented reality (AR), including Mi Querido Barrio, another storytelling piece located in East Harlem in New York and Brush the Sky, a piece Thiel created with her mother, generating virtual calligraphy in the skies above Seattle.

When Thiel first started doing AR projects, Hayase was immediately wanting to bring it to Japantown and kept asking her if she would do a project in San Jose, because she could see that it would really enhance people’s understanding of deeper things that you can’t see with your own naked eyes.

AR is becoming more commonplace, used in cell phone games and in filters that map disguises onto people’s faces using the phone’s camera. For Hidden Histories, a visitor will download an app and use it in specific locations around Japantown, where they will point their camera to reveal the “hidden” artwork. 

Despite being in the heart of Silicon Valley, technology doesn’t come easily to everyone just because they live here. The team made an effort to choose artists both familiar and unfamiliar with using tech in their work, creating an interesting dynamic of creative ideas.

“I thought being right in Silicon Valley, there’d be people who could instantly help us, they would just fall from the trees like, ‘Oh, I know how to do this, I’ll just show you right now,’ but there’s this divide in Silicon Valley. We’re right in the heart of this high-tech world, but a lot of communities aren’t part of that infrastructure,” Hayase points out. “It’s very ironic that we’re going to take this specific community that predates Silicon Valley, and we’re going to take this technology that they want to sell us, but we’re going to use it for a purpose that they didn’t even think of. We’re going to use it to remind people about the actual people that lived here and the actual kinds of lives they had, the actual stories and their hopes and dreams. We’re very happy about that.”

With this subversion of Silicon Valley corporate culture in mind, Thiel insisted on using an open-source platform that would retain the content indefinitely, instead of one owned by a tech giant that could be discontinued on a whim, rendering the projects lost to history once again. This platform also keeps open the possibility of continuing to add to the project and creates an ever richer tapestry of art, history, and exploration. “Augmented reality is a way that we can really bring culture, art, history to a community that will never go to a museum, never go to an art gallery,” she says.

Set to debut in spring of 2021, Hidden Histories will showcase the stories of Japantown for a new generation, preserving an important part of our city’s heritage.



Article originally appeared in Issue 13.2 “Sight and Sound” 2021 


Toni Vanwinkle is the Senior Director of Digital Workplace Technology and Services, focused on keeping Adobe’s diverse and global workforce innovative, collaborative, and productive everywhere.

She is a seasoned digital transformation leader with extensive strategy development, program execution, and organizational change management experience. With over 22k employees in 37 countries, Toni has already been working with remote teams for Adobe before the WFH requirements began with COVID-19. She was honored by The Digital Workplace Group as “2019 Digital Workplace Leader of the Year,” recognizing the impact of her inspirational and innovative leadership leading Adobe’s Digital Workplace Experience organization focused on keeping Adobe employees collaborative and productive from anywhere.

In addition to her functional role, Toni always makes time for mentoring and community service. She founded Adobe’s Black Employee Network and serves as the Site Council Leader at Adobe’s Headquarters in San Jose. In her Site Leader role, she is an employee ambassador leading a Site Council whose mission is to amplify Adobe’s culture and connect employees to the communities they live and work.

In our conversation, we discuss her role at Adobe in the Digital Workplace arena and her experiences as a woman and person of color in tech.

In our conversation, we discuss her role at Adobe in the Digital Workplace arena and her experiences as a woman and person of color in tech.
Follow Toni on her Linkedin at


This episode’s music in “Tang” by Chris Emond. Follow Chris on Spotify, Featured in issue 13.2 “Sight and Sound” 2021 

A lifelong resident of San Jose, Pastor Danny Sanchez has always loved his city. And though many people come from a turbulent upbringing, rarely are they able to take that darkness and turn it into something positive and vibrant for those around them. Sanchez—a full-time youth minister and a member of the Mayor’s Faith-Based Gang Prevention Task Force—has worked tirelessly to help the often-overlooked populations of San Jose. Starting with the City Peace Project, Sanchez has filled roles as peacemaker, Latino community advocate, and a pastor of action in the streets of the city. He has received a number of honors for his community involvement, including being awarded the 2012 White House Champion of Change for his work with youth violence.

“The city and the community are a part of my heart, my passion. The types of problems I deal with will always be there, and we can’t fix them, but we can help. I don’t ever see myself not doing this, this type of ministry within the community, because I think it’s so vital. But another important part is training the people that I’m working with and equipping them—especially the youth—so they can go out and empower their own neighborhoods. I’ve seen people come out of it, but a large portion of the community is just stuck in negative cycles. I think it will always be important to be there for support. I’ve seen through Christ that everyone has the potential for transformation.”

In our conversation, we talk about Danny’s transformation that led him to found the City Peace project as well as discuss his book “Post Traumatic Quest: From pain to purpose, purpose to peace, his memoirs, which is accompanied by three songs he had written and remastered for the May 2021 release.

Post Traumatic Quest: From pain to purpose, purpose to peace.
In 1999, Danny Sanchez was an inmate in San Quentin Prison. In 2012, he was commended for his work in youth violence prevention and named a Champion of Change by President Barak Obama. Experience his journey through the trauma that shaped his childhood, his spiral in self-destruction, then his radical transformation and quest to serve the community he loves. Danny grew up in the juvenile incarceration system and lived a violent life, including police brutality, suicide attempts, and surviving multiple stabbings. Today Danny is a city chaplain and the founder of The City Peace Project non-profit organization in San Jose, California, where he inspires youth through his innovation as a social entrepreneur.

The City Peace Project 
IG: thecitypeaceproject 
IG: pastordanny_sanchez

Purchase at Post Traumatic Quest: From pain to purpose, purpose to peace on Amazon 
IG: posttraumaticquest 

The music for this episode is by Danny Sanchez. Listen to all three tracks on Spotify (

Danny was featured in issue 8.4 “Profiles.”

There’s a reason so many of us have such positive associations with coffee. Sure, it tastes great—but it’s not as if that flavor surpasses everything else you’ve ever passed over your taste buds. So what then? “It’s not so much about the coffee,” Bryan Chiem reveals. “It’s about coffee being the glue that brings people together.” He elaborates: “We can sit in a lab all day and talk about how it tastes or the science behind the coffee, but if we have no one to share it with then it means nothing.”

Chiem, founder of TÅno Coffee Project, acts as a sort of coffee ambassador. He’s one of the baristas who understand their impact reaches beyond the counter. “The farmers put in their work, they ship that over to the roaster; the roasters put in their time, then they hand it off to the baristas—and the baristas hand it off to the consumers. Anywhere along the process, things can go terribly wrong,” Chiem explains. “The barista’s very much the front line of that. If I’m not making something as good as I think it can be, then, not only am I not doing a good job, but I’m doing a disservice to everyone before me.”

But beyond his commitment to represent the coffee he serves well, Chiem also brings specialty coffee to unreached demographics by opening his pop-up in all sorts of unexpected locations: warehouses and weddings, barbershops and thrift stores, even the Rose Garden. “I like spaces that facilitate more conversation and curiosity,” he explains. For instance, “I think people who thrift are from all walks of life, and they have a little more time to hangout and talk story and ask about what I’m doing.”

For him, this industry is so much more than profit. “I try my best not to be a coffee schlepper,” he states. “My goal is always to contribute to a concept so people feel welcomed to hang out and talk to their neighbors or people around them. That’s how coffee transforms a space.”

One of his favorite pop-up experiences was selling Vietnamese coffee out of a 10 by 10 space in the parking lot of Eastridge Center during the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival. He considered it an honor not only to source and support this emmerging region, but to serve a demographic with a pride and connection to that particular country. “The East Side community doesn’t see much of the type of coffee services that I put on,” he adds.

East Side, the neighborhood of Chiem’s childhood, is where his lifelong passion first sprouted. “I consumed coffee since an early age. There’s a VHS with my dad feeding me coffee in the crib,” the barista chuckles. As a young adult, he considered owning a coffee shop—a retirement dream. “But I went through this period of life where I was tired of waiting for things, and I was just doing things—and coffee was one of the things I was doing,” he describes. And weary of the digital flatness of doing design work, Chiem determined a more tangible pursuit was in order.

After uncapping a dry-erase marker and brainstorming names, floor to ceiling on the glass sliding door of his home, he finally settled on “Tono,” a title taken from the word “tone.” The name acknowledges Chiem’s Vietnamese heritage and the tonal quality of Vietnam’s national language. Additionally, “When you’re drinking certain coffees you can pick out different tones or notes in the coffee,” he remarks. “Coffee as a beverage can also be a wholesome experience or it can be an exciting one or it can be a funky or funny one.”

Chiem also organizes events to introduce chain goers to specialty coffee and coffee lovers to each other. A string of successful latte competitions culminated in the Coffee Palooza this August. “There’s a lot of South Bay shops doing great things, but I don’t think we get as much coverage or hype as the cool hip shops in San Francisco or Oakland,” he notes. This event included the South Bay Regional AeroPress Championship, Waste-less Latte Art Throwdown, tastings, workshops, and a screening for a film about the odd yet iconic AeroPress coffee maker. Steve Cuevas of Black Oak Coffee spoke on roasting. Umeko Motoyoshi of Sudden Coffee revealed not only how to identify coffee notes, but how to discern which descriptions are subjective and which objective.

Like an ambassador, Chiem’s most basic function is to reinforce unity and forge connections. “Coffee is common ground for a lot of people,” he says. “I use it as a connector or bridge.” And, showing no signs of slowing, he will continue finding nonconventional ways to bring specialty coffee to the people. 


TÅno Coffee Project

Article originally appeared in Issue 11.5 “Dine” SOLD OUT

Juan Miguel Saucedo, 25, sits comfortably in an office chair at the helm of his cozy recording setup, intermittently burning sage. Reference speakers, keyboards, and a mixing console consume table space, and a drum kit is tucked away in a back corner of a converted cellar. It’s a concrete-walled nest of creativity that birthed the persona Miguel Kultura, Saucedo’s latest creative incarnation. 

In a way, the space has come full circle, and Saucedo himself has returned to his origins. It was in these same confines a decade ago when he first set up a USB mic to start rapping over instrumentals with two friends as Money Hungry Click. Inspired by the thriving southern rap scene at the time, they sold copies of their first mixtape while freshmen at Willow Glen High School.

“[We were] just being hoodlums and trying to chase money and hustle,” he says of his first foray into music. For Saucedo, music became an alternative to the gang life he saw friends and neighbors fall into growing up. “I like to think of myself like Kendrick [Lamar]. I was always around it and was this close to joining a gang but never had the commitment to do it,” he shares, noting that he didn’t know if that was the lifestyle he wanted to lead.

Thankfully, those childhood years listening to Tupac in his older brother’s red Camaro Z/28 hinted that something else was written in his story. Once Saucedo got his hands on the PSP game Traxxpad, he shifted his energy toward making beats, later doing so under the aliases Beats by Fly and Funkadelic Fly. (Both are variations of his inescapable neighborhood nickname, “Mosca.”) After years of honing his craft with other young creatives at various community centers around San Jose, he joined up with young multimedia collective BAMN (By Any Media Necessary). 

Miguel Kultura was birthed out of a time of serious physical concern and deep spirituality. While still with BAMN, Saucedo began dealing with a mystery illness that had him believing he was slowly inching toward death. Through visions and meditation, he heard a call to establish a new musical identity, one where he returned to rapping.

“Trabajando,” or “Working,” was his first foray into that new sound and the first time he wrote lyrics in Spanglish. With a buzzing synth and skittering percussion, Saucedo raps about the Latino struggle for visibility and acceptance, with lines like, “My father said we came here to work / Latinos go hard every day in the dirt” and “The son of a farmer can’t be tamed.” He dives more fully into that voice on “Conformar,” similarly Spanglish but more Spanish-forward. The song tackles the notion of conformity. It also alludes to the idea of resilience in the aftermath of losing friends too soon to depression. 

“This is what I’m supposed to be doing. It was already written in the stars.”

“As a Mexican-American growing up, you have these two identities,” he points out. “People from Mexico look at you like you’re not one of them, and people here don’t look at you like you’re American either, so it’s always a challenge to be a Mexican American. As I get older, I ask myself, ‘How can I merge these two identities?’ ” By leveraging his proficiency in both languages (he grew up bilingual), Saucedo hopes his work as Miguel Kultura fosters a bridge of connection and understanding across cultural and language barriers.

The journey has also helped him better acknowledge his musical roots outside hip-hop, allowing him to reconnect with the traditional Mexican songs his father taught him on piano as a child and the continued influence of local Norteño music legends Los Tigres del Norte. 

A video for “Conformar” is forthcoming, accompanied by a minidocumentary series that shares stories of young local Latinx creatives pushing in their own way to not conform to societal and cultural expectations. In that sense, Saucedo is using his creative work to speak to a greater cultural struggle. 

Sometimes, Saucedo speaks about Miguel Kultura in the third person. It seems to be a recognition that his work under this banner doesn’t stem from his creativity alone. Based on all that’s led to this creative moment, Saucedo believes something greater is at play. “It’s not so much about the accolades, the rewards, whatever. This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” he admits, pointing to the significance legacy plays in how he views his work. “It was already written in the stars.”

Miguel Kultura
Facebook: miguelkultura
Instagram: miguelkultura
Twitter: miguelkultura

This article originally appeared in Issue 11.1 “Sight and Sound”


Picking the perfect spot to grab a cold beer can be a formidable task. With so many breweries and restaurants with full beer menus in San Jose, the choices are endless. But if you’ve ever felt the options on tap were a bit underwhelming, Clandestine Brewing offers artisanal, small-batch brews to suit even the most adventurous palate. Originally tucked away in the Monterey Avenue manufacturing area—as the secrecy in their name suggests—this co-op of homebrewers is now serving in the SoFA District of San Jose. Rob Conticello, one of the co-owners, shares the brewery’s journey.

How did Clandestine Brewing get started? We have a rather interesting history. We’ve only been open at this San Jose location since November last year, and we had a grand opening in February. Before, from about 2014 to 2015, we ran a brewery that was a much smaller size. It was a great facility, but we ended up outgrowing that space. Everything there was handmade; we built out the whole thing ourselves, pretty much hammered every nail.

We knew we wanted to expand, so we went through an exhaustive search to find the right place. We finally found this place on First Street in San Jose, and it worked out beautifully for us, because there are so many breweries that are a close distance, so very walkable for people. Going through city planning took a lot of time. It actually took us longer to get permits than it took to build. It took us about 18 months, but it was worth it to have this location now.

How did you and the team meet each other? I’ve known co-owners Adrian Kalaveshi and Colin Kelley for a long time—since we started getting into homebrewing together. I’d homebrewed some in college, and they’d had some background in it too. We were all into craft beer, and we decided we could take up brewing just as a hobby. We ended up doing that for almost six years, and through that, met our other partner, Dwight Mulcahy, also a big homebrewer. We actually met through a homebrewing club, and after a while, we decided to take it more seriously and become a mini co-op.

Since we didn’t have a lot of professional experience, we knew we wanted to start small to learn what worked and didn’t work for us. We also learned what our customers liked and what they wanted to drink. For example, IPAs are a craze right now, but we want to have some diversity in our taproom. We didn’t want to become “just an IPA place.” There’s nothing wrong with that. Plenty of breweries are following that model, and people love IPAs. We love IPAs, too! We just want to have something for everyone.

“We finally found this place on First Street in San Jose, and it worked out beautifully for us because there are so many breweries that are a close distance, so very walkable for people.” _Rob Conticello

How does Clandestine work today as a co-op? We have five people that brew—myself, Adrian, Colin, Dwight, and Liz Scandizzo (Colin’s wife). At our old location, we all still had our day jobs, so it was a passion project to keep things going. Today, Adrian and Colin are managing the business full-time and brew during the week, while Dwight, Liz, and I spend a lot of time here on the weekends brewing. We all share the responsibilities of brewing, and it works great. Christine, Adrian’s wife, helps out around here, too.

How do all of you collaborate on a menu? It’s great to have so many brewers. We have ideas that we share and bounce off each other to expand and improve on. Right now, the only beer we’ve had on tap since we’ve opened is our Milky Way Stout, but we have a regular set of other beers that are available maybe 50 percent of the time on the menu. So we’ll have a Kölsch, a Pilsner, a hefeweizen, and always some number of rotating IPAs. We’ve had a lot of people follow us from our old location, and with the number of breweries in this area, I think it’s going to be great for everyone. We’re looking forward to collaborating with other breweries on some beers in the future. We’re still newly opened, but we’d like to begin some sort of partnership in the summer or the fall this year. We’re just getting started.


Clandestine Brewing

Downtown San Jose
980 S First Street, Suite B
San Jose, CA 95110




Article originally appeared in Issue 10.3 Perform  (Print SOLD OUT)

All appeared calm. The music pulsed, and the waves in the pool lapped against each other. But as the tempo rose, the water’s surface trembled, becoming increasingly agitated. The beat quickened and two heads popped up. Four arms gracefully followed, splashing upward for a second before shooting back into the water in perfect agreement. The swimmers twisted and somersaulted. In a blink, their heads, torsos, and thighs were again under the water, with only their calves and feet visible above. The legs began kicking in a series of synchronized, sharp movements, like two pairs of scissors slicing abstract shapes through the air.

But something was off. The music stopped abruptly, and the two girls paused. “Can you guys approach it more like bah-bap bah-bap bah?” their coach shouted, demonstrating the motions on the side of the pool.

To the left and right were two other coaches. One spoke into a microphone, running drills—figures practice—for six girls. The other used a bullhorn to coach three others.

“And then make sure you do the same thing underwater. How do you prepare…”

“You guys, do you know what happens if you’re going too fast? Do you know what happens? Instead of holding eight counts you’re holding 12…”

“OK, let’s do it again. Let’s go to seven. Five, six, seven…”

This was only the first hour of a four-hour practice. The girls, aged 13 to 15 years old, are competitive synchronized (synchro) swimmers, members of the Santa Clara Aquamaids, one of the most elite teams in the sport. Synchronized swimming often conjures images of Cheshire Cat smiles, exaggerated makeup, and the sparkly costumes seen in performances. The athleticism required is largely underrated—yet it combines the endurance and stamina of swimming, the flexibility and strength of gymnastics, and the artistry and expressionism of dance. The athletes are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool. They hold their breath while spinning and kicking, often upside down. They throw each other in the air, requiring the coordination of the whole team. They practice hundreds of hours for a single performance, but the training goes much further than just practicing routines. For these younger athletes, a large portion is practicing figures—the elements of synchro, like different types of leg positions. They hold positions for 20 seconds at a time, often with weights on their legs, train three to five hours a day, Monday through Friday, with extra hours on Saturday, and do this year-round, getting only a few vacation weeks each year.

Synchro got its start in the US in the early 1900s and gained in popularity in the ’50s with Esther Williams, who became famous for her “water ballet” in films such as Million Dollar Mermaid and Dangerous When Wet. It became an Olympic sport in 1984 and was at its height for the US in the 1990s. The Aquamaids was founded in 1964, with Kay Vilen as head coach. But when the current head coach, Chris Carver, came to the Aquamaids in 1984, the club had lost some of its strength, she said. After about 10 years, Carver built the club back up to be the leader of synchro. “It’s not overnight. You have to keep striving, keep striving,” she emphasized. “And then once you have that success, you’re a magnet and people come to you.”

Carver is a legendary coach. She coached the US National Team for over a decade, taking them on a gold medal–winning streak from 1991 to 1996; and in 1996, under her direction, the US Olympic team scored the first perfect 100 score in synchronized swimming’s Olympic history. She has had a hand in producing dozens of Olympic synchronized swimmers, including Kristina Lum Underwood who competed in the 2015 FINA World Championships with Bill May and in the 2000 Olympics, Anna Kozlova, a 2004 bronze winner, as well as Heather Simmons-Carrasco, Becky Dyroen-Lancer, and Jill Sudduth Smith, all competing in the 1996 Olympics.

Besides the Aquamaids, the region is home to other elite clubs such as the Walnut Creek Aquanuts, the San Francisco Merionettes, and one of the strongest collegiate varsity teams, the Stanford Women’s Synchronized Swimming Team.

Last year, the Stanford synchro team started practices at 6am, earlier than most of the other sports at the university. The Stanford athletes also work on endurance. The first few months of the year are spent swimming laps and conditioning. This includes training outside of the pool, lifting weights, and stretching. They train 20 hours a week while balancing a rigorous course load, said Head Coach Sara Lowe, who was on the bronze medal–winning 2004 US Olympic team coached by Carver.

The girls often have to make sacrifices for synchro. Karen Li, a rising sophomore on the Stanford team, missed her junior prom to go to nationals. “After [practice] I am just so exhausted…It wasn’t like I didn’t have friends,” she said. “I just couldn’t make the time to hang out with them, which is definitely very tough.”

The Bay Area is the most recognized hub for synchronized swimming in the world. But while synchro remains strong here, synchro in the United States as a whole has fallen behind. It began to decline at the start of the 21st century, when Russia won the gold medals in the team and duet events at the 2000 Olympics. Russia has won the gold in every team event since then, and the US only came to the podium in 2004, with bronze medals in the duet and team events. Russia, China, and Japan dominated the leaderboards at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The US only sent two athletes for the duets—they placed ninth—and wasn’t represented for the team event. “They didn’t qualify,” Carver said of the US team. “And you know, that’s really hurtful because that’s the leaders of synchro.”

A variety of factors led to the decline in US synchro. When Carver was Olympic coach, Bay Area synchro standing remained high, feeding both the Aquamaids and the national team. But once she stepped down, there weren’t enough new coaches trained. Plus, there was a rise in popularity with collegiate synchro programs. Collegiate synchro athletes train for a different purpose. Because their focus isn’t on synchronized swimming, they train less—they’re there for school. These collegiate teams might attract athletes who would be fit for a national or Olympic team but have decided to compete just on the collegiate level. These collegiate teams aren’t competing in international competitions.

But Carver is working on building US synchro up again, and the effort starts with the youth and the participation and dedication of their families and follows through to new, exciting events. While the athletes swim, their parents are volunteering to support the sport. The Aquamaids is a nonprofit and runs a bingo hall that brings in $12 million a year. The club has about $3 million to invest in the sport, community, and athletes each year, said Lisa Christian, the Aquamaids’ executive director.

The bingo hall is staffed entirely by volunteers. For the parents, volunteering these hours means they are helping raise money for the Aquamaids to pay for coaching and traveling for the synchro community in the Bay Area. The Aquamaids also supports USA Synchro—for example, when Carver was the US National Team coach she was paid by the Aquamaids. “[Being a nonprofit] allows us to equalize the support for anybody who wants to participate,” Christian said. These parents are lucky, explained Carolina Espinoza, one of the Aquamaid coaches. In other states, many parents have to personally shoulder the high costs of synchro.

Another element in the effort to bring back synchro nationwide is the mixed duet. Synchro is known for its team events, but there are also singles, duets, and trios. There are two types of routines: the technical, composed of the same moves everyone must perform, and the free. 

The newest event, the mixed duet, allows men—once barred from competing—to perform with female partners.

Bill May, one of the most famous male synchronized swimmers, came out of retirement when the event was introduced in the 2015 FINA World Championships, winning a gold in technical and a silver in free. The FINA World Championships are held every odd year. They are held for a variety of water-related sports, including synchronized swimming, diving, swimming, and water polo. May has been practicing with his new partner, Kanako Kitao Spendlove, for the 2017 FINA World Championships in July. Carver is coaching the duo, as she originally coached May when he joined the Aquamaids as a teenager.

Watching May and Spendlove perform is not like watching a usual synchro performance. During a recent practice, Spendlove’s arms, shooting in and out of the water, are both slippery and smooth while also sharp, verging on animalistic. She slithers around May, who is powerful and graceful. In their free routine, she’s Medusa and he’s Perseus. The two are in conflict. By the end of the routine, Medusa is slain and Perseus is victorious. “It should be a mixed duet,” Carver said of these new routines. “It should emphasize men and women swimming together, not two people looking just alike.” It’s a risk, as the judging system hasn’t changed—but Carver explained that if they lower their expectations, the world won’t see what’s possible for the event.

May and Spendlove have a tough schedule to train around. Both are performers in Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas and travel there constantly from the Bay Area, Carver following them. “Can you imagine getting to bed at one or two in the morning and then getting up at eight?” Carver asked. “You know, and starting to train, train all day, go eat something, and go right back to the same thing again?” But May and Spendlove are committed. May has a world title to uphold, and the new event provides US synchro the opportunity to once again become the leader.

Synchro goes beyond winning competitions, though. Both Coach Lowe and Coach Carver said their visions for their programs are to not only develop an athlete, but a better person. At Stanford, this means supporting the athletes in their studies and career aspirations, even if that means changing or easing practice schedules, Lowe said. “As much as it’s important for them to become a better athlete,” she continued, “it’s important for them to develop their skills for interviews and for jobs because they are eventually going to go on and need that.”

And even as Carver works on building US Synchro back up in international competitions, the goal for the Aquamaids is to be able to say the “heartbeat continues,” both for the coaches and athletes, to see these girls turn into strong women. “I don’t want it to ever be a puppy mill, where it’s just a business and you come in and you learn basic synchronized swimming, and maybe you go on and maybe you don’t,” Carver reflected. “I want it to be more than that. I want it to have more dimension.”



instagram: aquamaids

Select Women’s sports | Synchro

instagram: stanfordsynchro

*Special thank you to Senior Lead Coach Sonja van der Velden for arranging photoshoot with the Aquamaids.


Article originally appeared in Issue 9.4 Perform  (Print SOLD OUT)

Fil Maresca – the owner of Filco Events

Whether they realize it or not, anyone who has been to an outdoor festival in San José in the past 20 years has probably encountered Filco Events, the aptly-named production company headed by Fil Maresca, one of the city’s most significant drivers of cultural community events since he moved here in 1989; and one of the original DTSJ pioneers who provided us with the South First Street arts area known as SoFA.

In our conversation, Fil talks about how he ended up in the Bay Area after a car breakdown during a road trip which eventually led him to open the famed FX (currently, The Ritz). And how Filco began to assist local organizations in producing their event including San Josè Jazz Summer Fest, Music in the Park, the SoFA Street Fair, and our Content Pick-Up Parties.


Find more about Fil in our 2015 interview in issue 6.5 “Dine”

Follow Filco and their events at and IG: filcoevents


This episode’s music in “Tang” by Chris Emond. Follow Chris on Spotify, Featured in issue 13.2 “Sight and Sound” 2021




Interview from issue 6.5 “Dine”


Whether they realize it or not, anyone who has been to an outdoor festival in San Jose in the past 20 years has probably encountered Filco Events, the aptly-named production company headed by Fil Maresca, quietly one of the city’s most significant drivers of cultural community events since he moved here in 1989.

Maresca started his career working in nightclubs in San Francisco. In 1986, he was managing a club called the Oasis, and they were looking to open a new location in San Jose. Maresca was sent to scout out the downtown area to determine if it was a viable spot for expansion.

“At that point, the city was being torn up for light rail,” Maresca recalls. “There were a lot of problems downtown. But we looked around and thought it was a good time— there was a lot of opportunity in San Jose.”

Through researching for the Oasis, Maresca got to know other business owners who were also hoping to bring a scene to downtown— and who would go on to form the San Jose Downtown Association. They wanted to transform what had become something of a red-light district into a more livable place. So when another venue—the Pussycat Theater on the corner of First and San Salvador—shut down, Maresca was recruited to take it over, renovate it, and launch a new club of his own. In 1989, FX opened.

“The district became kind of a do-it-yourself, anything-goes frontier,” Maresca says. “We had coffee shops, art galleries, movie theaters, San Jose Stage, City Lights, and MACLA… all of this culture started happening all by itself. The Redevelopment Agency had a name for the neighborhood: the Market Gateway Arts & Entertainment District, which rolls off the tongue. We came up with SoFA [South First Area], so we went to [Dan Pulcrano at] Metro, and he said, ‘I think we can make that work.’ He gave it to his writers, and they started including it in everything.”

Thus, the section of South First Street from San Carlos to Reed had a new name and a new identity. Soon, the SoFA Street Fair launched, celebrating the music, the art, and the culture unique to the neighborhood. Maresca’s role in staffing these events came about almost by accident: he happened to be the guy on the committees who knew about permits and staffing for alcohol sales.

“Filco was originally a consulting business, and it morphed into an events company. I started with volunteer coordination with beer servers, and then that expanded.”

Maresca left FX in 1995 to run Filco full-time, bringing his expertise to events like Music in the Park, the San Jose Jazz Festival, America Festival, and many more—some of which have come and gone, changing along with the economic landscape and bursting bubbles of the region’s past two decades. Right now, downtown is clearly back on the upswing.

“The SoFA district—I gave it the name, and I’m very proud of that. But the reason it came around in the first place is that it was community-based. There was a community of people who really wanted it to succeed, and they were willing to put their businesses on the line and work together to make it succeed.”

Today, Filco continues to produce Music in the Park and San Jose Jazz Summerfest, and has worked with new events like the Electronic Sriracha Festival. Maresca also relaunched the SoFA Street Fair this summer and has been hosting a monthly outdoor food truck gathering called the SoFA Supper Club. He eagerly points out the efforts of others to continue creating events like SubZero and First Fridays, and he has even more ideas for future collaborations.

“I’m all about working together with people to figure out how to make the experience better,” he explains. “My name is on the company, but my company isn’t on the event. You don’t walk around and see big banners that say, ‘Filco is here.’ It’s not part of what I do; I work behind the scenes. I build a community. When you’re creating a large scale event, you take a bunch of parks and streets and you close them down and you provide music, you provide art, you provide toilets—you create this whole other world, then tear it all down. And everything goes back to normal. It’s a pretty cool thing, what I do.”

Ruben Escalante suffered a heart attack as a freshman in high school. But this is only surprising until Ruben reveals the trauma he endured as a child: the father who went out at least once a week and came home drunk, angry, and violent; the early death of the grandfather who was the only one that could subdue his dad’s temper; the constant and vicious attacks at school by bullies who could not accept a sensitive, poetry-loving brown boy.

“Because we’re all on these journeys, we’re all in progress.” _Ruben Escalante 

Now Ruben is a youth advocate and community organizer who moves his audience through film, photo, and every other medium he can get his hands on. And, really, the reasons for his art and activism are the same reasons behind his cardiac arrest. His path to recovering from childhood abuse and depression was paved with books, music, and movies—with stories and characters that made him feel a little more seen and a lot less alone. After reaching stability and self-sufficiency, Ruben realized that he wanted to dedicate his life to amplifying that sense of inclusion, and he’s done just that by serving as the coordinator for Digital Music & Culture Studio at MACLA and by co-directing the Emo Kids of Color collective.

“These books, movies, songs that saved me, ultimately will save the people who are like me. It’s always been for that reason, to try and engage people—more importantly, kids of color. Because we’re all on these journeys, we’re all in progress; but it’s those ages where you’re starting to see different parts of the world, starting to understand your parents aren’t perfect, when you need the most guidance and direction.”

Instagram: casualgiant, chicreativeagency, dmcstudio_macla


Trailer for Ruben’s 2022 movie “danny boy”

As a teenager, Doug Hughmanick’s creative outlet was graffiti: spray paint was his medium of choice, and the South Bay was his canvas. Someone suggested he channel his artistic abilities into art school, an idea he had never thought of before. Hughmanick found out about Academy of Art in San Francisco and was intrigued. Not so much for the art education, but to find new places to graffiti. “I was 18 wandering around SF with a skateboard and trying to figure the whole thing out,” Hughmanick says. Two years into the art school experience, he realized a career in design was his future. 

“I started thinking, ‘OK I need to take this seriously,’ and flipped the script,” he says. “I got tired of getting in trouble and got a real design job and then just left the graffiti behind because I was getting the same satisfaction for my need to create with design as I was from graffiti.”

What’s the biggest surprise for you in starting your own agency?

Probably just all the different things that go into it. It’s not just design anymore when you take that on. You’ve got to think about hiring people. You got to think about giving people benefits and competing with all the tech companies around here—it’s very challenging. It’s tough.

You got to think about all your accounting, you got to think about how you’re going to pay rent on a building, and all that stuff is outside all of the creative stuff. And you still have to be a rock star in the creative world. 

What part of your job that you’re currently doing do you love the most?

I really like when you get to work with a client like Autodesk or a client like Yummly, or—we have another client that’s pretty confidential right now—clients we get to help change the way old things are done.

For Autodesk, we got to work on a piece of software for them. It’s almost like if you’re building the controls of Photoshop. Their designers use it to build new parts of a city…infrastructure software. If a designer goes, “Let’s take a new part of San Francisco—Mission Bay or Dogpatch. We’re going to develop Dogpatch now. We need waterways. We need drainage. We need new bridges over canals.” This software is what they use to do all that. Someone’s going to use this to create a new area or a new park or whatever it might be. You’re involved in that process somehow. These projects really excite me.

What do you like most about the creative process?

I like the stage when we have figured out how everything is going to work and we begin marrying the design language to the functionality. I get excited when I start to see work come to life and begin to interact with it. 

What do you do outside of work?

I love being outside, going on trips, and my wife and I love traveling. It’s getting harder and harder, but we took a trip to Patagonia a while back. We went to Argentina, Chile, Peru. Years before that we went on a two-month adventure all through Southeast Asia.

I’m also a huge mountain biker. Mountain biking’s really my thing, which is possibly because it puts me out into nature. It turns my brain off. I get out of the digital world and I’m surrounded by trees. It really balances me out, kind of recharges me. I come back to the land of computers and I’m refreshed.

Have you always been kind of an outdoors person?

I’ve always been into adventure and I think that’s one of the things that attracted me a lot to the whole graffiti world, just being out there exploring and finding the places that most people didn’t go to. It’s the same thing with mountain biking—finding new trails and exploring the woods. I think that that just helps me balance out.

Industry-wise, what trends do you see in digital design and digital advertising?

We do a lot of product stuff. We’re starting to get a lot more into designing things that are tools, as opposed to just straight marketing, as opposed to designing advertisements that might live on a website and die. 

I think the minimalistic approach—less is more—is taking over a little bit. You hear some people talk a lot about having a lot less choices in interface design and making it very simplistic and guiding people through experiences. I think that is definitely a trend that I’ve been noticing happen: just a lot more simplicity.

How has being a designer changed your view of humanity? The way you look at things.

I look at everything as a user experience. It changes your thinking. You go into Philz Coffee, for example. I’m like, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m supposed to do. I’m standing at the counter. There’s a guy over here, there’s people over here. Who’s in line? Where do I pay?”

I walk up to the register. I’m like, “What happens if nobody pays?” He goes, “I don’t know. If it happens, we’re not going to worry about it.” Just things like that. You start thinking, “How can this be better designed to make this more clear?” You start looking at the physical world in user experience terms. 

Was that already in your personality, you think, to problem‑solve? As you went from graffiti into design, then is your brain now thinking that way, or did you already have that….

No, it started with doing this interaction design. Before, it was all quick fixers. “Let’s make it look awesome,” all sorts of that. You get so caught up in that, you don’t think about if it’s the best way for it to work. 

Think about your audience, don’t just design for yourself. Be willing to think, who is viewing this piece? Who’s using it? Because it could look beautiful, but if it doesn’t work, all you’ve got is a pretty picture.

I think that happened along the way when people started to question my work. They’re like, “How does it work? It doesn’t make sense.” I’m like, “But it looks cool.” They’re like, “If you just did this, it’d be so much easier.” I’m like, “No, I really like that little button I put right there. It’s shiny and it’s cool.”

Some people are siloed, like I only design user experience and I only do visual design, but I don’t feel like that creates the best end product. You need to consider both. 

What is the most challenging thing for you on the creative side at this particular point?

Probably the most challenging part of it is staying fresh. You always have to stay ahead of the game. You always have to think into the future.

Is that as far as the tools that you’re using? Design trends?

The look. Yeah, flat design is super-trendy right now. What’s next? I don’t want to do just a flat design anymore, because if everybody’s doing that, how do you stay ahead of the pack? That’s always the challenge. You’ve got to stay on your toes.

Instagram: anml

Article originally appeared in Issue 7.4 “Phase”

Doug Hughmanick is the founder and creative director of ANML Design that has work with clients like: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Roads & Kingdoms, JennAir, Yummly, and Whirlpool.

In our conversation, Doug talks about ANML’s style of work, what he looks for in a team member as well as the potential adjustment he sees for ANML in the remote-work atmosphere.

On working with clients:
 “What are the attributes that we’re trying to hit on? How do we want it to feel? What are the emotions we want to have surfaced when you look at this work? You get some key attributes, keywords, and principles. And then look at that and go, okay is this hitting those, and if it’s not, then something’s not right. So you have to take a step back.” – Doug Hughmanick

On finding inspiration for creativity: 
“If you’re doing web work and all you’re looking at is web work it’s hard to be innovative. If you’re following best practices and doing the stuff you see everywhere, you can find inspiration for digital through a piece of print” – Doug Hughmanick

Instagram: anml

Read more about Doug’s journey in issue 7.4, “Phase”


This episode’s music in “Tang” by Chris Emond. Follow Chris on Spotify, Featured in issue 13.2 “Sight and Sound” 2021 

Color is abundant in artist Erika Gómez Henao’s work. Through the use of several artistic mediums, including painting, performance, and ceramics, the vibrancy of Gómez Henao’s work captures audience attention, while her choice in subject matter commands it. Born and raised in Colombia, Gómez Henao credits her love of color to the richness of both her culture and the area where she grew up.

As a child, Gómez Henao used artwork as a way to keep herself entertained, often spending her free time creating and performing. After high school, Gómez Henao moved to the United States, joining her mother in Philadelphia and enrolling in community college. Of the experience Gómez Henao says, “It was very difficult to adjust. I didn’t know much English—only what I had learned in high school, and we were a working-class family. My mom was working in a factory, and, I mean, I had a home and food, but I had to work.” Despite these difficulties, she acclimated, learning how to speak English and earning an associate’s degree in art and design. With experience in design, Photoshop, painting, and composition, Gómez Henao began to explore the field and worked to find her niche. Reminiscing on her journey, she says, “I started testing the waters, and I knew that this was it. It felt like my calling in a way.” Working for the Mural Arts program in Philadelphia, Gómez Henao began to meet people in the art community, including mentor Meg Saligman, who, upon seeing Gómez Henao’s work on a mural, recruited Gómez Henao and opened her up to more work.

However, with the lack of art commissions available during the 2008 economic crisis, Gómez Henao ultimately decided to return to school and continue her studies. Upon receiving a scholarship to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Gómez Henao found herself in an environment that she felt lacked diversity and creative freedom. “I was like the only Hispanic out of 300 students. I experienced a lot of racism and a lot of uncomfortable situations. I was learning a lot though, and I was so passionate, especially about the human figure. I was learning about using all these colors that never even crossed my mind. It was amazing, all that I was learning. But I was unhappy,” Gómez Henao shares. Ultimately, she and her husband decided to move to California, where Gómez Henao transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute. Here, she flourished as she made lasting friendships, experienced the open, conceptual culture of her surroundings, and experimented with her own work. Once Gómez Henao graduated in 2015, she and her husband moved to San Jose, where she quickly made connections and began working at the San Jose Museum of Art, in addition to having her studio space in San Jose’s Local Color. About her life in San Jose, Gómez Henao says, “I’ve met so many incredible people. I feel super welcome here, and I really just love it. I just came back from back home—from Colombia—and I love it so much there, but I tell people that this feels
like home now.”

“I’ve had men come tell me that they’re intimidating. And, yeah, they’re kind of daring. Like, you know what? I’m not your subject to be looked at. There’s something challenging about them, and I’m definitely okay with that.” _Erika Gómez Henao

In terms of her work, Gómez Henao describes her art as an exploration of the sexualization of women in current consumerism, particularly in today’s social media culture. From her perspective as a female artist and a woman of color, she questions these often “shallow human connections” and the pervasive perception of women as fetishized objects. “I kind of stay away from the traditional, historical view of the nude female figure and what it meant, to be looked at, especially by men. My paintings are more…I don’t know. I’ve had men come tell me that they’re intimidating. And, yeah, they’re kind of daring. Like, you know what? I’m not your subject to be looked at. There’s something challenging about them, and I’m definitely okay with that,” she says laughing.

Gómez Henao explores these concepts through not only her painting and ceramic work but also through installations and performance pieces in which she uses bold colors, wigs, fabrics, and her own self-made props. Next month, Gómez Henao will be partaking in a group show, sharing paintings, a video, and a ceramic installation. The show, titled Raices y Alias, will focus on Latinx and Chicanx artists. 

Instagram: erika_gomez_henao


Since our interview in 2018, Erika has become a certified Angelic and Crystal healing practitioner and an energy healer.

Instagram: angelic_ray_healing_practice


Article originally appeared in Issue 10.3 Perform  (Print SOLD OUT)

#58 – Maryela Perez – Visual Artist, DJ, and Curator for MACLA