Montalvo Art Center – “A Path Forward: Honoring Ohlone Land & Spirit”

This feature is also available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube.

Francisco Graciano has been creating art in San José for as long as he can remember. His multi-disciplinary practices include sculpture, painting, music, and tattoos. His work centers on themes of evolution and human experience that follow a ‘continuous line’ and the many factors encountered through life that develop who a person may become. The ‘continuous line’ used to describe his wire sculptures is literally manifested in the unbroken materials he used to create three-dimensional impressions of the natural world, life, and society.

In May 2024, Francisco was commissioned by Montalvo Arts Center to design and fabricate a ten-foot-tall hummingbird as part of their 2024 Marcus Exhibition. The exhibition, “A Path Forward: Honoring Ohlone Land & Spirit,” is a collaborative project led by our lead artist, Charlene Eigen-Vasquez, in partnership with the Confederation of Ohlone People and Santa Clara County Parks, dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating Ohlone Territories. Featuring a permanent pathway enhanced with augmented reality (AR) elements created by Jesus Rodriguez and Graciano’s hummingbird sculpture, the project will open on July 19th at the Montalvo Arts Center as part of “Future Dreaming,” an exploration of themes related to indigeneity. “Future Dreaming” will have its opening exhibition alongside “A Path Forward” and will also showcase works by Beatriz Cortez, including “Ilopango, The Volcano That Left” and “Cosmic Mirror,” Rayos Magos’s “Te Veo, Te Escucho, Te Honro,” and newly commissioned pieces by Ana Teresa Fernandez, such as “Circuitry” and “Pulse.”

Join Graciano and Montalvo Arts Center on Friday, July 19, 6–10 pm for their  2024 Marcus Festival, which celebrates the opening of their new outdoor art exhibition, Future Dreaming…A Path Forward

Follow Francisco Graciano and Montalvo Arts Center at @francisco.graciano @pacofrancisco_tattoos and @montalvoarts

Mariachi music has existed for decades in its current form, and it is an important part of Mexican culture and folklore. Their signature charro costumes and sombreros are iconic, and the traditional songs serve as a type of Mexican oral history. Learning to be a mariachi is a skill often passed down from one generation to another with great pride and reverence.

It is common to hire a mariachi group to celebrate family events, religious holidays, and other important occasions. While there are many mariachi groups all over Northern California to choose from, many people consider Mariachi Azteca to be the area’s finest.

The San Jose-based Mariachi Azteca was formed in 1981. Besides performing at private and public functions, Mariachi Azteca members also teach music lessons

to students of the San Jose School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. The group, led by musician Juan Diaz, is made up of six members, though sometimes they perform with additional musicians.

There’s no need to wait around for the San Jose Mariachi Festival to catch a Mariachi Azteca performance, where they are the host mariachi group. Just head over to Tacos al Carbon on Story Road every Saturday and Sunday night at around 7:30 for dinner, and you’ll also be treated to a mariachi performance.


An Experience That Opens Your Heart

It’s not surprising that Keith Hames named his performance ensemble Akoma Arts. The Akan people of Ghana call the human heart “akoma.” This word represents not only love, but patience, tolerance, faithfulness, goodwill, and unity. These are his values and the ethos of his West African ancestors.

Since childhood, Hames has sung gospel and soul. At 12, he began playing the drums and forming bands, and while he may have come to San Jose for college, he stayed for the music. While raising a family with his wife, Melody, Hames worked as an art director for tech companies and performed with reggae, blues, and gospel groups. In the late 1970s, Hames became a devotee of the drum. He got hooked when he saw a group playing traditional West African music at San Jose City College, and in the 1990s, he joined Jaliya, a West African music troupe. In 2011, he and eleven others started Akoma Arts because they wanted to perform more and teach drum and dance classes.

Since 2011, Akoma Arts has used hundreds of performances, classes, and workshops to entertain and promote African music and culture. Twice a week, Hames holds drum and dance classes at the Alma Community Center in San Jose. The ensemble performs at community celebrations, civic events, weddings, museums, and at Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall. The East Side Union High School District brings Akoma Arts to their schools for assemblies and workshops.

The ensemble’s musicians play the ancestral music of West Africa on Ghanaian hand drums, bells, and rattles, accompanied by the group’s dancers. The heart of this music’s percussion is the djembe—a large, goblet-shaped, goatskin drum. The djembe’s name comes from the Mande phrase “anke djé anke bé,” which means “everyone gathers together in peace.”

In 2016, the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza gave a fiscal sponsorship to Akoma Arts, providing its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status to the group. Tamara Alvarado, executive director of the School of Arts and Culture, says this decision was a “no-brainer.” Alvarado is also a member of Calpulli Tonalehqueh, an Aztec dance and cultural diffusion group that holds classes and ceremonies at Mexican Heritage Plaza. “Keith’s a healer, he’s our trusted elder, and he is crystal clear,” says Alvarado, “that ceremony, culture, identity, resistance, and solidarity must be key in our lives if we want to make this world better.” Alvarado adds, “We are all ceremonial people. You’ve got your emails, your laptops, cell phones, and all those things, but if you don’t connect with some form of ceremony, you lose your humanity.”

Alvarado and Hames agree that Akoma Arts and Calpulli Tonalehqueh share a calling—the revival of their ancestors’ indigenous spiritual and cultural traditions. They were largely lost in the 15th through 19th centuries, when Europeans conquered Latin America and began a transatlantic slave trade.

Akoma Arts’ mission is to bring people together and create community through drum, dance, and song. “We engage our audiences and get them up to dance,” says Lisa Gains, Akoma Arts’ dance director. “They realize that we’re sharing our culture, and that breaks down barriers between us.” Akoma Arts engages young audiences by showing them how to dance and play the drums. This often introduc-es African American students to their African heritage for the first time. “Many of them don’t feel seen,” says Gains. “We have impact—we plant a seed and give them something they can hold on to, something to be proud of.”

Hames believes that traditional West African music can help people. He says that experiencing it promotes mental balance and can unify a group of strangers. When he sings and plays his djembe, he connects spiritually with his ancestors, and that’s a conduit to worship and well-being. This connection is available to everyone, which is why he’s so passionate about sharing it. “We’re stewards of African music, culture, and connection,” says Hames. “We’re sharing these songs, and we’re sharing an experience that opens your heart.”

The article originally appeared in issue 10.2, “Sight and Sound,” 2018.

This feature is also available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube.

Tiye Garrett began dancing professionally with the West African dance group Akoma Arts, founded by Keith Hames. When Akoma eventually closed its doors, Garrett tried to fill the void by dancing alone. She quickly realized she needed to share her expression, and the community felt the same way. She founded Kuumba LLC in 2022, emphasizing West African Dance and rhythms, community, and providing spaces for creativity to thrive.

‘Kuumba’ means creativity in the African Language of Swahili and is the sixth principle of the annual celebration of Kwanzaa. That sixth principle guides followers ‘to always do as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave our community more beautiful than when we inherited it.’ That meaning exemplifies Kuumba’s purpose in promoting self-care, fitness, educational growth, and overall wellness through body movement. Kuumba works to create spaces where all are welcome, where there is a sense of belonging, connection, health, and serving others.

Join Kuumba at Creekside Socials on Friday, July 12, 6-7 pm for an educational West African dance session with live drumming. This welcoming space nurtures connection and belonging, fostering community health. Dance with them and celebrate diversity as they embark on a fun, educational fitness journey. RSVP Here

Follow Kuumba and Creekside Socials at @__kuumba and @creeksidesocials

This podcast is also available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube.

Kimberly Snyder developed a love for creative artmaking from a young age and was inspired by sewing and crocheting with her grandmother. Her passion for art history began with classes at the University of Santa Cruz (UCSC), where she explored the narratives, historical contexts, and rebellious nature of some artworks. These combined interests eventually led her to a career in art museums.

Snyder began her journey at NUMU as a curatorial intern in 2014. She has held various positions before, most recently becoming the executive director. Through her work at the museum, she discovered a love for building connections with volunteers, members, and staff while spotting their potential contributions to the organization. Over the past ten years, Snyder has seen the growth of programs such as NUMU’s Annual Juried High School ArtNow Exhibition. This educational program provides student artists real-world experience by participating in a juried museum exhibition.

As executive director, Snyder aims to bolster NUMU’s community presence and elevate its Bay Area profile through strategic programming. She envisions the museum as an interactive hub that continues to engage with Los Gatos’s history. She hopes to enhance existing programs, such as establishing a council of teachers and producing an ArtNow retrospective exhibition celebrating the program’s impact on students.

In our conversation, we discuss Snyder’s journey to becoming NUMU’s executive director, her experience as a mother, her hobbies, which include cooking and bringing folks together, and the words she tries to live by: “It’s not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Join New Museum Los Gatos for its upcoming “Boundaries: the 4th Annual Experimental Exhibition,” produced in partnership with genARTS Silicon Valley and opening on July 19.

Follow NUMU @newmuseumlosgatos and learn more about their partnership with @genartssv

106 E. Main Street
Los Gatos, CA 95030
View on Map

Apr-Oct THU – SUN 10 AM-4 PM
Sep-Mar FRI – SUN 10 AM-4 PM

A (Still) Life of Avocados, Lemons, Oranges, and Strawberries.

The morning before an art event, you might find James Mertke unloading the Tetris puzzle of art pieces and display shelves from his car. It’s been a little over a year since James started participating in art markets, and although he’s still learning the ropes, he’s grown a lot since his first event. He’s created an eye-catching display with hand-painted signage and a variety of shelves.

James can’t remember a time he wasn’t painting. He loves pushing color vibrancy and emphasizing shadows. “I’ve landed on acrylic paints because I enjoy the vibrancy that can be achieved and the fast drying times that encourage me to work quickly and deliberately.”

Talk with James for a few minutes, and you’ll find there’s a story behind each brightly colored still life—sliced fruit, donuts, Botan Rice Candy, strawberry “grandma” candies—simple and happy childhood memories captured on canvas. “That’s one of my favorite things about the things I paint. Just on the surface, it’s a lemon to someone. But when I tell them the story about the lemon tree, maybe they’ll share something about how their grandparents had a lemon tree that they remember.”

During high school, academics became the priority while art took the back burner. James discovered a love of mechanical engineering in 2018 at Santa Clara University. Practicing art became something reserved for weekends at home. But when many doors closed during the pandemic, a door opened for James to pursue art. Commuting time could instead be dedicated to painting. 

Looking for new ways to practice his craft, James noticed a 100-day painting challenge on Instagram. Over the summer, he painted a new piece every day for 100 days in a row. With a time constraint, he spent less time adjusting the same painting and simply applied different techniques to his next piece. The subject of his paintings also shifted. “Before the pandemic, I was mostly painting ocean scenes…I would take reference photos when I went to Santa Cruz or Monterey…When the pandemic happened, I started transitioning to the still lifes because I was looking for things around my house to paint.” 

A prevalent subject in James’s art is lemon slices. He finds eye-catching glassware from the thrift store, arranging and rearranging lemon slices around them to get the right reference shot. James details the strong shadows and vibrant yellows in his art, but the connection behind the lemons is personal and sweeter. The lemons come from the tree in his grandpa’s backyard. “I always say it’s a giant lemon tree, but it’s a dwarf one—I’m taller than it—but it’s the most prolific thing,” he says. His grandpa remains one of James’s biggest supporters and is always thrilled to offer him lemons. After an art market, James will call him to share how it went. “He likes hearing when I make a sale…he’ll be so excited and smiling all the time.”

After the 100-day challenge, James improved his skills—and his inventory. “I had boxes and boxes of paintings.” He made it a project to get himself into events and shows to sell his work. Since James didn’t study art or take any art classes, he didn’t naturally find himself surrounded by an art community. He’s worked to find community by joining his school’s art club, frequenting art events, and exchanging art pieces with new friends. The art community he’s found is extremely supportive. “Art is about abundance. There’s not limited space for all the artists,” he explains. “The more art people create, the more opportunities people create for people to appreciate art, and the more people appreciate art, the more people will want to support artists.”

Early this year, James was invited to show his work at the Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento. His pieces have been curated into an exhibit titled, The Still Life. James also connects with the local community for opportunities to display art at businesses like Voyager Craft Coffee and Fox Tale Fermentation Project. 

Recently, James introduced mechanical engineering pieces into his work by snapping reference photos in the machine shop for mechanical engineering–themed paintings. He submitted a series featuring LED lights, electrical resistors, and 3D-printed items to an art show sponsored by the School of Engineering at SCSU to celebrate the art of engineers. The paintings were acquired by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and now hang in the office.

Mechanical engineering and painting used to be two unrelated interests, but James has found they go hand in hand. “I’m an artist and engineer. I feel like when people think of engineering, it’s all math and logic…but I also like expressing my creative side,” he says. “Engineering is creative too, in a different way. I think engineering and art coexist and create some really cool combinations.”  


Content Magazine and The Cilker School of Art & Design at West Valley College in Saratoga are not just partners, but a community united in their support for South Bay Artists. Over the past few years, this community has grown, coming together during the changing seasons to celebrate emerging, established, and student artists. Each year, the Cilker School of Art & Design graduation Expo has expanded, with their new visual arts building becoming a keystone fashion show. In 2024, the expo reached new heights, expanding to include the School of Science & math and culminating in their inaugural STEAM’D Fest.

The 2024 collaboration featured campus-wide activations that included physics and chemistry demonstrations, birds of prey raptor show, a visual arts student gallery exhibition, [a diverse collection of artworks showcasing the talent and creativity of our students], and a fashion show in tandem with the Content Magazine 16.3 pick-up party. The show opened with performances from the alumni ensemble “Hearts Matter,” gallery tours, food, and drink, along with featured creatives The Coterie Den and visual artists RC and Xiaoze Xie.

Guests gathered at 8 pm for the fashion show, hosted under a hundred-year-old oak tree at the new second-story visual art building courtyard. Opening remarks recognized esteemed professors who would be retiring at year-end, and a member of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe provided a land acknowledgment that recentered guests. Models took the stage, strutting the runway adorned in student designs and accompanied by projectors and a lights show produced by engineering students.

The end of the evening was marked by performances from Ambervox, which had guests dancing in the street. Even as the teardown commenced, guests lingered, connecting around the evening’s events. Your presence and participation made this event truly special, and we appreciate your support in making it a success.

This ongoing collaboration with West Valley College is a beacon of aspiration and inspiration, bringing together creatives of all skill levels, genres, and walks of life. It’s a testament to the vibrant and diverse local art community, a community that Content Magazine has long been dedicated to fostering and celebrating. Join us in this celebration of local talent and inspiration. 

Get ready for our next Pick-Up Party, 16.4, “Profiles,” which is set to take place on August 22nd at The School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in Eastside San Jose. This event promises to be a thrilling celebration, showcasing the 2024 Content Emerging Artist Award Recipients. We can’t wait to see you there! 

West Valley Colleges CILKER ANNUAL ART+DESIGN EXPO ’24 at West Valley College in Saratoga, California on May 16, 2024. (Stan Olszewski/SOSKIphoto)

How fashion reflects stories of the land.

Carla Marie & Desiree Munoz: Cultural Keepers for the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe. @ohlonesisters
Carla Marie & Desiree Munoz: Cultural Keepers for the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe. @ohlonesisters

To be indigenous is to recognize that you are part of the land, and just like our own bodies, we need to protect and take care of the well-being of the land as well. Native fashion continues to share the stories of the land and to remind us all that without the land we would not be able to survive. Fashion has a unique ability to be intimate with people by default, simply because they are the closest things we put to our skin. They are shaped like our bodies. Embodying the stories of the land and encapsulating the ongoing stories native people have and share. Urban Native Era is one of these brands. They aim to empower people who wear their designs and to “increase indigenous visibility all around the world”.

Witnessing Joey Montoya, who is the creator of Urban Native Era, at the California Academy of Sciences fashion show that showcased three designers, Alira Sharrief of The Hijabi Chronicles, Cindy Phan of Ao Dai Festival, and Joey, was a delightful experience. UNE gave us something we hadn’t seen before in previous streetwear collections released by the brand. With their famous “you are on native land” printed on dad hats and hoodies. These designs had a contemporary touch with elegant, earthy, neutral tones and modestly fierce garments. While tuning in to the Intersections Conversation panel discussion earlier in the evening hosted by Marisol Medina-Cadena, Joey mentioned that the designs he showcased touch on a lot of connecting us to our culture and place.

You can see the etheric elements embedded into the designs of the collection. The sheer blouse felt like a fabric of ghostly allure but also ready to wear out to a nightclub or day party. Really bringing two worlds together, enabling a kaleidoscope of diverse features. I really loved Joey’s take on what clothing meant to him. He mentioned that “Clothes can hold us. There’s a spiritual-ness to it. There’s something there, it’s life. When you put something on, you feel that”. Realizing that clothes can be spiritual is a great way to dress with intention and think about how our personal stories are expressed through the clothes that we choose to put on.

Urban Native Era started in 2012 right here in San Jose, California. Joey Montoya, who is Lipan Apache, born and raised in San Francisco, wanted to spread the visibility of indigenous peoples. Inspired by the Idle No More Indigenous movement, UNE began to release its first collection in May 2013, which was made up of a series of shirts. Joey is a multimedia artist and entrepreneur who has set out to re-design a new world. One that is more inclusive. Since then, he has expanded his company, UNE, into a global phenomenon where his designs have been worn by Pauline Alexis “Wagiya Cizhan” (Young Eagle), (Alexis Nakota Sioux), who plays Willie Jack in Hulu’s original series Reservation Dogs. Joey has been featured on ABC’s Localish series Unfiltered and has been in magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vogue. Joey is deeply rooted in the Bay Area Native communities and always has a booth at local Pow Wows.

Urban Native Era is a brand for everyone to wear. Non-natives can and should wear the famous “You are on Native Land” attire to contribute to spreading awareness about who’s land you walk on, use the resources on, and understand that everything we do, and everywhere you go, you are on Native Land that has provided for us since time immemorial. We all need to recognize the indigenous names of the land we live and walk on. To pay attention to the stories that the land has and the voices of the people of the land translating these sacred stories. We must protect the land, heal the land, and love the land as the land loves us. Recognizing native land is promoting the indigenous perspective, leading down a path that takes us out of the colonial mindset of exploiting the land, and into the indigenous mindset of nurturing the land.

Read my next post, where I sat down with one of Native Fashion’s iconic creators, Collin Tru Hale, Mideegaadi Maa?iagash “Buffalo Looking” (Hidatsa/Mandan/Navajo), to discuss his perspective on the Native Fashion world.

Our job is to ask the questions that the audience is thinking so that we can all connect with what the artist is thinking.

-Lauren Schell Dickens, Chief Curator San Jose Museum of Art

Also available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube.

The current San José Museum of Art Exhibition, Seeing through Stone, is on view through Sunday, January 5, 2025.

The stories told by museums hold profound implications for how society understands history and power dynamics. San José Museum of Art Chief Curator Lauren Schell Dickens has partnered with The Institute of the Arts and Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos to curate the museum’s current exhibition, “Seeing through Stone,” part of their ongoing Visualizing Abolition series. At the heart of this project lies a critical examination of the agency wielded by artists, activists, and institutions in imagining a world without prisons.

Seeing Through Stone challenges dominant narratives surrounding incarceration and stands as a testament to the power of art in confronting societal injustices. Featuring the works of 80 artists, It delves into themes of prison abolition, offering a platform for marginalized voices and a vision for creating a world beyond prison walls. Through poignant imagery and evocative installations, artists provoke viewers to confront the harsh realities of the prison-industrial complex while envisioning a world free from the constraints of incarceration. By centering the experiences of system-impacted individuals and their allies, the exhibition aims to spark dialogue and catalyze action toward dismantling oppressive systems.

Visualizing Abolition extends beyond the confines of the museum walls by fostering networks between abolition activists and artists. Through public programs and engagements, they seek to deepen community involvement and amplify the voices of those affected by incarceration.

Lauren Schell Dickens, most recently featured in Content Magazine Issue 15.4, “Profiles,” was born in the South Bay and raised in Sonoma County. She received a BA in American Studies from Yale University and an MA in Modern Art History, Critical Studies from Columbia University in New York. Her original interest in lighting design for theater arts set the stage for her interest in the work required when sharing an artist’s work. As a curator, Lauren weaves together the voices of artists, creating narratives that hopefully have a transformational effect on viewers.

In this conversation, we discuss Lauren’s Journey to becoming a curator, the transformative potential of art in fostering collective imagination and social change, the importance of artists in challenging normative representations of prisons, and specific installations that guests should look out for.

Join The San José Museum of Art on Friday, June 21, for live musical performances that will activate the artworks in SJMA’s exhibition “Seeing Through Stone” in collaboration with the City of San José’s Make Music Day Celebrations. Acclaimed composer and theorist James Gordon Williams, assistant professor of music at UC Santa Cruz, will perform an improvisational piece using a sculpture by interdisciplinary artist Maria Gaspar made of iron bars from the Cook County Department of Corrections, the largest single-site jail in the US. Experimental composer and visual artist Guillermo Galindo will perform a piece on his artwork, Llantambores, an instrument made of materials found at the US-Mexico border.

Follow The San José Museum of Art @sanjosemuseumofart on Instagram and visit their website at

Also available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky, and raised in San Jose, California, internet sensation DaQuane Fox, better known as Flammy Marciano, tends to be ahead of the curve when it comes to gaming, streaming, and even music. He began his music career in the late 2000s under the name Young Marvel before releasing viral songs such as ‘Jerry Rice’ and ‘Mood Right Now’ in the early 2010s under his current moniker, Flammy Marciano. Along with blending humor into his raps, Marciano has pioneered gaming and streaming into his musical career, building a large fanbase on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. 

Marciano credits his love for music to his late uncle, Sultan Banks, widely known as Traxamillion. This love for music and relationship with his uncle led to Marciano’s passion for entertainment outlets that resemble television and cinema. Marciano gets deep when discussing how fatherhood has molded his life and impacted his career. Despite gaining recognition in a modern world that rewards being ahead of trends, Marciano never strays from his affinity for television shows of the 1970s and anime of the 1990s. His current success as a public figure has made his potential to become an internationally recognized influencer a real possibility.

In addition to being a father, rapper, and streamer, Marciano founded his record label, 88 Entertainment, and continues to release music that displays his evolution in sound. His upcoming project, currently referred to as ‘Yourself’ (final title pending), will be released in late Spring 2024. However, Marciano has released several exclusive early-cut tracks on Patreon before the final release.

In this conversation, we discuss Flammy Marciano’s journey as a rapper, streamer, and father, the inspiration behind his work, and the evolution of his career. You can find Flammy Marciano on all major music streaming platforms, Twitch and YouTube @flamgawdfaming, and Instagram @flammymarciano.

Host Troy Ewers is a journalist and personality from Southside San Jose, CA, with a background in music, film, and sports. Hey aims to highlight art and culture through music, fashion, film, and sports. Check out Troy Ewers on the Content Magazine Podcast, Instagram @trizzyebaby, and YouTube @topkatfilms.

Blue hues spill into the windows, bouncing off the textured eggshell white walls, creating a nice, soft glow of cool serenity. The fly on the wall can’t tell where I end and the empty bed begins. I am fully embraced by the linen sheets I purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond when it was still there on Hamilton on the west side. Somehow, mornings always have a gentle presence to them. 

Slithering to the kitchen wrapped in slippery satin drapes. Thank God for coffee. Glaring with squinty eyes from the bright bulb somehow brighter than my actual overhead kitchen light illuminating the day-old papas con chorizo that will suffice for now. My cat side-eyes me as I pass by her food bowl. I know she’s antsy for some tuna as if she hasn’t eaten in weeks. “Today’s going to be a big day,” races through my mind as I head towards my closet door, oh shoot, what am I going to wear?

It’s safe to say all of us, each day, contemplate what we are going to wear: Depending on the occasion dictates the challenge. The South Bay, in all of its glory, hasn’t exactly been placed in the top five fashion regions in the world, but we are full of culture that is rich and full of creativity and life. That includes our fashion. 

In my previous blog posts, I’ve accepted the challenging journey of defining our style. How we dress articulates who we are and how we feel. It’s how we are perceived when attending the Culture Night Market or open mic night at Nirvana Soul and strolling down San Pedro Square. So, what is South Bay’s Fashion style? A crisp, bubbly flight of beer. In other words, it is a mixture of all sorts of things. 

How many pairs of baggy pants are currently hanging up in your closet? Why? Is it because you find them more comfortable? Or maybe you saw a friend or stranger walking down 1st Street in SoFA and thought, that’s a look. And let’s face it, we all want to look good while feeling cozy. The Hypebeast fashion aesthetic has always been a part of how we dress here in the South Bay. Throughout the years, it’s been shifting and changing, and somehow we’ve managed to add more pockets. 

Streetwear in the Bay Area has always been about expressing who you are and what you represent. It indicates a lot about which community you grew up in and impacts how you navigate our communities. Today, streetwear has adopted an additional layer of identity and focuses on the internal world of dressing and how you feel. Sparking the motion of individuals to dress more authentically and as yourself, and if you don’t know who that is, I invite you to use your fashion style to figure that out. 


Sans logo, screen printed shirts, and accessorized garments with metal hoops and pins are all elements that describe streetwear’s evolutionary state in the South Bay. Wide pants, cozy oversized sweaters, and a drapery scarf or hood to go along with a kind of Balenciaga-like silhouette consisting of weird shapes with the accents of vintage thrift clothes and crossing the boundaries of gender norms in fashion. Androgyny has allowed us to rethink the way we are perceived, the way we are labeled, and the way we are confined to a box, which limits our perception of self-expression. 

We can no longer be restrained by the compounds of decades-old ideologies of community roles, and instead need to recognize our spiritual connection and dress up our auras to influence the people around us to practice authenticity as their new religion to create salvation for us all. I invite you to think about what the clothes hanging up in your closet or sitting in piles on your couch mean to you, and they may show the world who you are or prevent the world from seeing you. A lot of us are wanting to grow as people. Some of us feel we have to, and that can, indeed, be expressed in the exploration of what we wear.

Native Fashion:

Indigenous design is the original design language of America. Connected to this land and place of what we call Canada and the United States. –Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika Nation) Fashion Curator and Indigenous Art Historian

When you think of Native fashion, what comes to mind? Do you think of feathers and maybe regalia? Well, although this is a part of native fashion, it is nowhere close to all of what it consists of. Each Nation has its version and style of clothing, as well as its own technique for making clothes and garments. All of these techniques stem from traditional techniques passed down through generations. Today, we all have more access to different materials, which enables Native designers to create their own fashion designs with contemporary concepts. Through this blog series, I will be exploring how Native Fashion weaves together the different Native communities all over Turtle Island and diving deep into why it’s important for us here in the South Bay Area. My next post will be talking about my experience watching Urban Native Era take the runway by storm at the California Academy of Sciences.

Since its founding in 2018, Chopsticks Alley Art has been a platform that elevates the perspectives and cultures of Southeast Asian Americans through a blend of cultural events, traditional art forms education, and carefully curated gallery exhibitions. The programming at Chopsticks Alley Art has provided a voice for young artists and empowered them to create positive changes within their communities.

Trami Nguyen Cron, author and visionary behind Chopsticks Alley Art, has a personal connection to the organization’s mission. Growing up amidst a tapestry of diverse world cultures, she experienced the struggles of Vietnamese immigrants fleeing post-war Vietnam. Her journey as a Vietnamese American, chronicled in her work, is a testament to her commitment to empowering her community and reclaiming their narrative. Trami’s inspiring story has been featured in episode #31 of the Content Magazine Podcast and Issue 12.2, “Sight & Sound.”

Join Chopsticks Alley Art this summer for:

Asian American Healing Convening on June 8, 2024.

A “Makers, Music, and Mindfulness” collaboration with Creekside Socials begins June 13, 2024. Stay Tuned.

Artist Phuc Van Dang’s exhibition residency. On view through August 11.

Summer arts camps are happening through July 26.

Youth Art Submissions for an annual Youth Exhibition in the Fall of 2024. Submission deadline is August 1, 2024.

Jerry Hiura Asian Artists Fellowship. 2025 Applications open in October 2024.

“Under One Moon” Immersive Video Mapping Exhibition Opening and Moon Festival –  Opening on September 6 from 5-9 pm

Article from issue 12.2

This podcast is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcast.

Bree Karpavage and Ann Hazels are breathing new life into the Santa Cruz art scene. 

First Friday Santa Cruz is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2024. As part of the celebration, First Friday Santa Cruz and Radius Gallery, also celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, have teamed up to host an exhibition entitled “Changing Spaces,” opening on the First Friday in June. “Changing Spaces” features the work of 39 artists and is an homage to this monthly event that presents both emerging and established artists showing in small businesses, galleries, and art spaces across the county.

Radius Gallery was founded in 2014 by Ann Hazels to create a space for contemporary art with an edge. As a commercial gallery, Radius partners with other regional arts organizations while maintaining its vision for curation and creating a platform for local artists. A practicing artist herself, Hazels believes in the power of art to change the world and works hard to create shows at Radius that resonate with visitors, knowing artists are working just as hard to make the same things happen.

Bree Karpavage, the new face of First Friday Santa Cruz since 2020, has injected fresh energy into the organization. Her focus has been on uplifting venues and artists, all while fostering a sense of community. Karpavage’s vision for First Friday Santa Cruz extends beyond downtown or traditional art galleries. She envisions it as a platform that showcases the artistic talent of the entire region. First Friday Santa Cruz is a bridge that connects the community to art and small businesses, firmly believing in the transformative potential of art experiences. 

In this conversation, Ann and Bree discuss the business of art, their own art practices, advice for emerging artists, and what they hope audiences take away from their work. 

Be sure to attend First Friday Santa Cruz on June 7 and check out the opening of “Changing Spaces” at Radius Gallery. This exhibition celebrates 20 years of First Friday and features the work of 39 artists. It is an homage to this monthly event, which presents both emerging and established artists showing in small businesses, galleries, and art spaces across the county. 



This podcast is also available on SpotifyApple Podcast, and YouTube.

Zoë Latzer is the Curator and Director of Public Programs at the Institute of Contemporary Art San José (ICA San José).

Growing up in Loomis, California, on the outskirts of Sacramento, Latzer became familiar with the concept of underrepresented narratives. Specifically, she became familiar with Loomis’ history with Chinese workers and a Chinatown that no longer exists. That experience with lesser-known history, her lifestyle, which includes practices from the Vedic cultures of India, and her passion for art history are all infused in her curatorial practices.

In primary school, Latzer received a Waldorf education focused on integrating art with interdisciplinary learning. Latzer later received a Bachelor of Arts in History of Art and Visual Culture from UC Santa Cruz and studied abroad at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. These experiences were foundational in her understanding of art in relation to culture and society and its potential for social commentary and reckoning with the past. Latzer also recalls visiting Michelangelo’s sculpture of David while visiting Florence, Italy, with family as a formative moment in her understanding of art history. That visit taught her the power and sublime quality art can have on culture through aesthetics and architecture.

Latzer’s curatorial practice involves world-building by installing immersive exhibitions that provide audiences with sensory experiences. Her approach is influenced by an openness gained from practicing Ayurveda and Yoga, sister sciences from the Vedic Culture of India related to tuning into one’s environment. That approach to well-being is reflected in curation that balances empathetic conversation and art history. Latzer tries to step out of the dichotomy of “I know” and “I don’t know” when approaching art, instead prioritizing care for the artists she works with.

Latzer hopes to facilitate a platform for underrepresented artists who address narratives that provide a more complete representation of history. Approaching curation with a focus on humanity, Latzer views a successful exhibition as one that uplifts the voice of an artist and creates space for the audience’s voice, creating a blend of conversation, proximity, dialogue, and community.

In this conversation, we discuss Latzer’s love for nature, her favorite artworks, the science of sad songs, and her current exhibition at ICA San José, a collaboration with Montalvo Arts Center.

Check out “P L A C E: Reckonings by Asian American Artist,” from March 23 through August 11, featuring eleven California-based Asian American artists and two artist collectives at the ICA San José in downtown San José.

Follow ICA at icasanjose

And Zoë at zoelatzer

Kathryn Dunlevie has always possessed a magical perception of the world around her, even before she became an artist. Growing up all over the United States, Dunlevie developed a deep appreciation of what gives a particular area a sense of place. Nowadays, her artworks a connecting thread, bringing disparate places and ideas together in what she describes as “hazy vignettes are woven together.” She photographs the locales of her travels and sits on the pictures until she begins the process of collaging. Then, in construction, she finds a method of arranging her photos that poignantly displaces the observer’s sense of time and place. Being an artist located in Silicon Valley, Dunlevie is often inspired by San Jose’s diversity—not only in viewpoint but in its sense of locality. Given the difference in age and style that many San Jose neighborhoods possess, she believes that you can walk down the street and enter into a new world entirely. Alongside the San Jose art community, she happily stands with, Dunlevie’s work captures the ever-changing world we find ourselves wandering in.

“I have a fascination with history. I’ve always been riveted by old places, as if I can feel them. I’m always collecting images and trying new ways to combine them. My assignment to myself is to experiment with new approaches and see what ideas take shape. When something catches my eye, I grab it, often without any idea of where it will fit in. As for the themes of my projects, that inspiration finds me.”
Instagram: kathryndunlevie

At first glance, the Space Palette might appear to be an alien device. It consists of a large, oval frame filled with a series of holes (4 large and 12 small). If only observed, its function will remain a mystery. However, once you physically interact with the object, its purpose is revealed. By passing your hands through the smaller holes, different musical sounds are selected, while passing your hands through the larger holes allows the instrument to be played. Multicolored, abstract graphics on a nearby screen visually reflect your choices. Though the origins of the Space Palette may seem extraterrestrial, it is actually one of Tim Thompson’s many interactive installation pieces.

How would you describe your artwork?

Before 2002, I was a musician who developed nerdy software for algorithmic composition [the creation of music through the use of algorithms] and real-time musical performance [music performed through immediate computer responses]. This software was a platform for my creativity.

Since 2002, the first year I went to Burning Man, I’ve been developing interactive installations and instruments as platforms so others can be creative. Burning Man provides powerful inspiration, virtually unlimited and uncurated opportunities, and a large appreciative audience for interactive artwork. While music is still a key aspect, my artwork has expanded to include graphics, video, and physical structures.

Three-dimensional input devices are particularly interesting to me. Using a 3D input device can be as transformative as using a paintbrush instead of a pencil. The potential for 3D input in uniquely expressive instruments is exciting and only beginning to be realized.

You often combine art, technology, and music. What are some of the challenges of working with these mediums?

Dealing with complexity is a primary challenge. My installations are often intended to be “casual instruments” that can be enjoyed immediately, analogous to “casual games,” like Angry Birds. A simple interface is key to this, but simplicity shouldn’t limit an instrument’s creative use or depth of expression. I often make a comparison to finger painting—one of the simplest creative interfaces around. No one needs to be taught how to finger paint. A child doesn’t even need to be able to hold a paintbrush. Yet [finger painting] allows a depth of expression that can satisfy any artist. One of my most successful pieces is the Space Palette—its interface can essentially be described as finger painting in mid-air, where the “paint” is both visual and musical.

“Using a 3D input device can be as transformative as using a paintbrush instead of a pencil.”

Tim Thompson

In technology-based artwork, a simple interface usually corresponds with a great deal of underlying complexity. I have a lifetime of programming experience, so I’m well-prepared to deal with that complexity. I sometimes use a complex interface to contrast and complement a simple interface, incorporating both in the same artwork. The more challenging aspect for me is selecting the type of technology to use. New sensors and displays are being invented at a dizzying rate. It’s easy to find yourself always investigating the latest technology and never finishing anything. Deadlines work well to combat this tendency, and events like Burning Man make excellent deadlines.

What does being creative mean to you?

Being creative means creating something that didn’t exist previously, which applies both to me and the people using my installations. Up until recently, most of my efforts involved creating music and software out of “thin air.” With the help of TechShop San Jose, being creative with physical things is becoming easier and easier.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you think your work is going next?

I have been using and exploring three-dimensional input devices for over a decade. I will continue to explore their potential for the foreseeable future, in both casual and performing instruments as well as installations. I’m particularly looking forward to using the Sensel Morph, a new pressure-sensitive pad being developed in Mountain View.

What response are you hoping for when someone interacts with your art?

I want people to realize that they are in control and are creating their own art and experience, especially if they haven’t previously considered themselves a musician or otherwise creative. Most instruments require a long learning curve and finger dexterity, which are barriers to entry for creativity. My casual instruments attempt to break down these barriers without sacrificing the potential for expressiveness or creativity. The response to the Space Palette has been particularly gratifying. The most common things I’ve heard as people walk away from it, smiling, are: “I want one in my living room” and “I could stay here all night.”

Born in Mexico City and currently based in Silicon Valley, Taryn Curiel’s passion for art has been with her since early childhood and has culminated in a body of work filled with sensation and enigmatic energy. 

Techniques involving texture, lines, and a muted color palette help her in her signature use of the figure with abstract elements. Her medium is watercolor, but in her own way. With continued experimentation, she is always learning and exploring but remains true to her overall mission: to intrigue the viewer. 

Learn more about ⁠Silicon Valley Open Studios⁠.

Silicon Valley Open Studios 2024 takes place the first three weekends of May and showcases the studios of over 200 Silicon Valley Artists. Weekend three, May 18-19, will be hosted in the South Bay. Thirty-three artists at The Alameda Artworks in San José, including abstract watercolor painter Taryn Curiel, will open their studios to guests on May 18 and 19.

Follow Taryn at:

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)

The first thing you may notice about Stephen Longoria is his gentle Texan accent. In his friendly manner, he’ll be quick to tell you about the craft of printmaking, his love of drawing his cat—or a one-eyed version of it—or his affection for his Texas hometown just north of the Mexican border.

While he doesn’t display anger on the outside, he says it drives his creative process. “Sometimes I get angry, and I just need to draw.” His stark black drawings tell the story about the sardonic state of mind in which he creates his art.

Today, Stephen is the San Jose–based owner and operator of Skull on Fire Studio, a printmaking shop downtown specializing in producing T-shirts and totes for artists and musicians. He describes his business as a punk rock business that operates more like a tattoo shop than a print studio, and he keeps his prices low to support his clients. “I try to keep it non-commercial,” he says before checking himself. “I guess that sounds pretty hipster.”

Screen printing is a complex process and supplies are expensive. It involves applying a photosensitive emulsion to a fine mesh and repeating the process for each layer of color added to a print. One mistake can cause your profit for a project to shrink drastically. Because of its cost, it’s a dying art in the Bay Area. On-demand digital printing is cheaper and faster, but it lacks the craftsmanship and vibrancy of hand-screened prints. The craft, he says, motivates him more than the money.

While his business takes up most of his time these days, Stephen still finds time to draw and make prints of his own art. His Instagram feed reveals his stylized approach to snakes, eagles, and ancient warriors. There’s no real inspiration behind his art—he just draws what he feels. “I try to draw what makes me happy. Sometimes I wake up and say I’m gonna draw snakes today, and that’s what I do.”

There’s a fantastical style to Stephen’s art that’s reminiscent of both Aztec pictographs and traditional Japanese illustrations. While he doesn’t actively emulate these styles, it makes sense that a kid who grew up in a Texas border town in an age in which pop culture was dominated by anime may subconsciously blend these aesthetics. In one drawing, a sharp-cornered cactus grows from a clay pot. In another, a roaring Godzilla emerges from the sea. 

What he is actively trying to create is art that resonates with music from his teenage years. He says bands like All-American Rejects and Death from Above were defining for him as a young artist, and the feeling of that music is something Stephen tries to capture in his art. 

His drawings—at least the ones he’s shared—are mostly monochrome, which makes them easier to print. While they look like they’re drawn in deep black ink, these days, Stephen is entirely digital. “I’ve given up on ink,” he says. Now, he draws in pencil, then traces the drawings in Illustrator and prints directly onto a film that can be transferred to a screen.

While Stephen is humble about both his art and his business, he has a lot to be proud of. Making a living as an artist in the South Bay is an impressive feat, and Stephen knows where his motivation comes from. “I’m pretty motivated by resentment,” he says again with a friendly laugh. “Being told I can’t do something has gotten me to where I am today.” Instagram: skullonfirestudio

Also available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube.

At West Valley College in Saratoga, Shannon Mirabelli-Lopez and Mel Vaughn have joined forces to launch the college’s first interdisciplinary graduation expo, STEAM’D Fest, where “Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, and Design” reimagine collaboration.

Guided by the collective vision of Dean of The Cilker School of Art & Design, Mirabelli-Lopez, and Dean of The School of Math and Science, Vaughn, STEAM’D Fest represents a step towards fostering future integration across traditionally divided academic disciplines and further building a culture where all disciplines at West Valley recognize their connections and contributions to problem-solving in this modern world.

STEAM’D Fest plans to catalyze cross-pollination between sciences and arts by showcasing the work of students graduating from both schools. The 3-day public event will feature an art & design industry night portfolio review, film festival, Cilker School of Art & Design Fashion Show, and Dance Caravan, as well as birds of prey raptor show, chemistry and physics demonstrations, planetarium exhibition, and moon garden tour. As educators, Mirabelli-Lopez and Vaughn believe that STEAM’D Fest creates a unique platform for students and faculty members to break down boundaries between respective disciplines and leverage the complementary nature of their fields, emphasizing user experience and human-centric approaches.

Mirabelli-Lopez’s success in organizing two previous graduation expos for her school fuels her desire to support Vaughn in elevating his disciplines, aiming for increased visibility and recognition in Silicon Valley’s tech hub. In their eyes, a successful STEAM’D Fest would allow visitors to seamlessly engage with the event’s artistic and scientific dimensions.

In our conversation, we discuss Mirabelli-Lopez and Vaughn’s journeys toward higher education, their thoughts on how teachers impact students’ lives and academic success, and the music they are listening to. RSVP Here:

Featured Artist: Kim Meuli Brown

Kim Meuli Brown is an artist and graphic designer whose journey began with a Bachelor of Science in Textile Design from UC Davis. Inspired by nature, Kim’s creations blend traditional textile techniques with contemporary innovation. Her canvas, often cotton, silk, or wool, becomes a testament to the beauty of local flora, adorned with natural dyes and botanical prints. Her current focus on fiber arts celebrates sustainability, weaving a narrative of harmony between humanity and the environment.

Learn more about Silicon Valley Open Studios.

Silicon Valley Open Studios 2024 will take place the first three weekends of May and showcase the studios of over 200 Silicon Valley Artists. Weekend two, May 11-12, will be held in the Mid-Peninsula region, and Weekend three, May 18-19, will be hosted in the South Bay. Thirty-three artists at The Alameda Artworks in San José, including textile artist Kim Meuli Brown, will open their studios to guests on May 18 and 19.

Follow Kim at:

K nown simply as “Manik” to most, Dalton got his nickname while digging through his mother’s record collection as a kid. Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 album Are You Experienced caught his eye, and the song “Manic Depression” altered his name forever. Born and raised in San Jose, Dalton describes his love for downtown: “Skaters, indie bands, hip-hop, punks—it was a very colorful underground scene. You could have one conversation with someone, and your ideas could spark

That kind of exponential spark has inspired Dalton’s most recent work. He explains, “During the pandemic, everything slowed down. That was my opportunity. I give it up to Francisco Ramirez, a friend and fellow artist. I would always start pieces and never finish them. It was great to see the process, but Francisco nudged me [with], ‘You should do a show. You should do more,’ got me to start painting backgrounds and framing pieces.”

As his nickname would suggest, Manik’s creative pursuits span multiple genres and disciplines. By day, Dalton is a craftsman, woodworking for his family business, Heritage Mill Work. He approaches his day job much like his art: “Definitely creative, but sometimes I am limited to what the client wants. I function as a manager, laborer, designer, quoter, sales, all of it.” Most of his art installations are framed in exotic wood, which he stains himself, explaining, “I am a builder, so I mixed the stains, and the frames are handmade with alder and poplar. If you don’t frame pieces with something nice, they lose some of
their impact.” 

Dalton’s artistic philosophy blends cultures of sight, sound, and spirituality. In his most recent work, he attempts to harness “something spontaneous, perfect, but perfect because it is organic. I came up with a concept called OCTMO, organic creations through mechanical operations. The perfect circle, a ray of light, waves, you see all of these things in nature.” Using his trade skills, he creates massive mechanical spinning turntables to spin his canvas. Once the mechanical processes are fabricated, he relies on meditative intentions, themes, and intuition to guide his painting. He explains, “I play really loud music, and most of the time, I start from the center. I like going with a theme when picking colors, but I also love seeing one color after the next pop, contrast, and move against the others. It never gets old. I try not to think about it too much. Just do.”

Meditation fuels the work Dalton calls “Circle Metaphysical”—his methodical practice of painting one circle after the next allows him the opportunity to zone in on the present. He explains, “Yeah, it’s hundreds of colors, but one hundred colors are nothing when you meditate.” Dalton hopes his introspective process is communicated to those who view his work, but he understands that each person will react differently, explaining, “It’s a vibe, a feeling. The colors are vibrations. Is it sucking you in, or is it blowing you out? I prefer to lightly focus on a piece and feel the pulse. If I am  in a bad mental state, I might feel differently about
all these colors.” 

When Dalton is not painting in his warehouse or working his day job, you can find him in the studio creating ambient new-wave music, producing reggae, or hosting a Sunday morning radio show on KKUP. Dalton is currently recording his own ambient music: “I have been working on a huge arsenal of sound for years. I want to do large, colorful installations of interactive art and music. Step on the ground, and it makes a noise. Sit on a rock, and it twinkles.” Dalton’s upcoming plans are to explore color theory, collaborate with small businesses, and paint murals. “I can’t spin a wall, so I will have to work backward in my process. There are a few different ways I have worked out. I think the bigger the circles, the bigger
the impact.”

Instagram: manikdub

Also available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube.

Episode #112 – Zach Waldren, Tailored By Design LLC

Zach Waldren founded his consulting business, Tailored by Design LLC (TBD), with a passion for customized user experiences. 

As a kid, Zach loved going to Disneyland, where he noticed commonplace items in the park, such as trash cans, were designed to blend in with their themed surroundings. Inspired by Dinsney’s level of attention to design detail, Zach became interested in tailor-made user experiences, ultimately leading him to open his own consulting business in 2018. TBD helps clients, from restaurant operations to hospitality services, achieve their business goals by curating their customers’ experiences. 

Zach sees San Jose as his own Disneyland, with challenges in hospitality and endless potential in the exciting and vibrant scene. Zach focuses on culinary experiences since food has a unique way of translating culture into experiences and stories. He believes food is a chance for San Jose to differentiate itself as a city through its cultural diversity. Zach connects his various experiences in marketing, hospitality, and DJing nightclubs to analyze the problems faced by his clients. 

Nowadays, food can be viewed as both nourishment and entertainment. Zach hopes to leverage both aspects of the culinary experience by producing Silicon Valley’s Taco Throwdown. Zach believes there’s no better way to bring people together than having 20 tacos in a building on the weekend of Cinco de Mayo. The plan is for people to enjoy tacos while cheering on a competition that will crown a Taco Throwdown champion.

Join Zach Waldren on May 4 from 11am to 5pm at Blanco Urban Venue for the FIRST Silicon Valley Taco Throwdown. 

In our conversation, we discuss Zach Waldren’s 20-year background as a wrestler and referee, his experiences as a DJ through his college years, and his belief in family and Christianity. 

Follow Zach on his personal Instagram, Zach.Waldren

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

First united by a single rare song, Anthony Perez and Stephanie Ramirez, known as Flipside Lovers, are on a mission to share California’s oldies story with the globe.

The genesis of analog DJ duo Flipside Lovers can, coincidentally enough, be traced to a single 45 record.

Anthony Perez began playing “You’re Acting Kind of Strange,” a rare soul single by the Chappells, one evening while DJing at Caravan Lounge in downtown San Jose. Stephanie Ramirez, a regular at the soul and oldies nights where Perez played, was in the room and immediately approached the DJ booth, singing along. She asked how Perez knew about the record. He had the same response. This was a song you had to dig to find. How did she know it? 

“I met Anthony collecting records,” shares Ramirez, known on the decks as Ambitious Outsider (she’s a gigantic Morrissey fan). While they had orbited similar circles, it was their deep mutual passion for collecting vinyl that kick-started their connection, and eventual relationship.  

In the years since that first encounter, they’ve built a reputation for their deep collection of sweet soul 45s. Some of those records have traveled the world with the couple, helping them share the famous West Coast sound with listeners in Paris, northern England, Mexico, and throughout the US.
Asked if they classify their sound as oldies, both are quick to say yes. Defining that sound, however, can be tricky to those not familiar.

“To me, ‘oldies’ is specific to California. It’s not defined by a genre, or even a decade. Call it a collective playlist that’s been growing since the 1950s,” explains Perez. “My dad listened to these same songs. I can’t think of another genre or movement where it’s so connected generation after generation. The classics are the classics, and we never get tired of them.”

The two pay tribute to that distinct tradition through the records they collect and play. They also take part in events where oldies are still a staple, cruising around San Jose with other lowriders as they show off their recently purchased white 1962 Chevy Impala named Blanquita.

“That’s inherently a San Jose culture—Lowrider magazine, King and Story,” points out Perez. “We’ve traveled the world and been able to show that culture to other people. I feel it’s important for us to try to do that.”

Their individual stories as collectors start at San Jose’s flea markets. While in elementary school, Perez remembers driving up from Gilroy and begging his parents to buy him rap tapes. His DJ name, Akro1, stems from his days as a graffiti writer. 

Ramirez started her collection by picking up records, five dollars a box, from people who were simply trying to get rid of them at the Capitol Flea Market. “I never knew collecting people’s trash would later be something you played out for people,” she shares. “I feel very lucky because if I tried to start collecting records now, there’s no way I would get a lot of stuff I have.”

“I’ve had the bug since I was very young,” notes Perez. “I would take anything and everything that anybody was giving away.” When his dad noticed his collecting habits, he gave Perez lists of records to track down. Once he did, Perez would record tapes for his father to play in his car.

Surprisingly, both admit they never collected records with the goal of becoming DJs. 
“I always just bought records because I loved records,” Perez says, though he adds “eventually it almost becomes a responsibility to share them.” After a few sets on local college radio, knowledge of his collection spread, and his gigs picked up.

Ramirez started by recording vinyl mixes purely to share her music collection with others. “For me, every single 45 that I own means something to me. It’s very personal, which is why I don’t like saying I’m a DJ. I’m a collector at heart,” she admits.

While they’ve performed together under their individual names for years, a few years back they coined themselves Flipside Lovers, an ode to the often slower “flip side” of a 45 record single. The two recently returned as resident DJs at Park Station Hashery, where they perform twice a month as part of the restaurant’s Two Wheel Tuesdays. They also play monthly at True Brew along The Alameda.

Their drive to share history and celebrate San Jose’s local culture seems to ground their pursuit of the next elusive 45 they’ll add to their collection. It also inspired an idea to upload some of their rare records to YouTube during lockdown. That gesture allowed them to directly connect with the families of those artists, some of whom had never even heard the music before.

“It’s like a piece of history we own,” says Ramirez when speaking about her reverence for the records in her library. “We’re archivists. We care about what’s out there,” concludes Perez. “You might just die tomorrow, and it could be trash, but I feel some weird responsibility to build this library. At this point, we’re 20 years in. Hopefully, there’s another 20 or 30 to go.”


This podcast is also available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube.

Jonathan Borca is a San Jose community leader, performer, and rapper. He is currently the Deputy Director at the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza and the San Jose District 5 Arts Commissioner. He performs poetry and rap as ‘The Francis Experience.’

From his early days in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to his nomadic childhood following his father’s Air Force career, Jonathan Borca’s journey is one of determinant care for the community. Settling in East Side San Jose at the age of seven, Borca’s progressive mother, who introduced him to hip-hop albums from Tupac and Arrested Development, ignited his passion for poetry and the transformative power of music.

Borca attended Bellarmine College Preparatory High School in his teens through an East Side pathway program. Reflecting on his time at Bellarmine, he holds two realities to be true: the program did not do enough to support the students from under-resourced backgrounds, but it also was beneficial in developing his interest in pursuing a career in nonprofits. Throughout his journey, music, performance, and storytelling have always been a common thread, sometimes for himself and, more recently, a craft to share with others.

Under the moniker ‘The Francis Experience,’ Jonathan Borca has crafted a unique storytelling platform. His live performance projects, such as ‘Color Me Gold,’ are a fusion of storytelling and various performance genres. These curated performances, featuring a blend of poetry, rap, dance, and jazz, serve as a platform to showcase local San Jose talent.

Most Recently, Borca secured a 3-part residency at the San Jose Museum of Art funded by California Humanities. The project, currently preparing for part 2 on April 5, 2024, is titled First Friday: Hip Hop(e), Jazz, & Storytelling that will offer students and diverse audiences community members new ways to engage with exhibition themes of migration, identity, self-love, and inclusion through written and spoken word. The series is presented in partnership with Francis Experience Quartet, with co-founder Gabby Horlick (drums), standout musicians Bennett-Roth (keys, vocals), and Miguel “Frunkyman” Leyva (bass). Together, the quartet blends rap, poetry, and storytelling, which will be augmented by SJ Storyboard’s digital art and will showcase with a monthly featured poet).

The residency will be offered on SJMA’s late-night “First Fridays” with open galleries, held from 6–9 p.m. on April 5, 2024 (Rasanna Alvarez) and May 3 (Tshaka Campbell).

In our Conversation, we discuss Jonathan Borca’s Background as a youth growing up in East Side San Jose, what led him to a career in nonprofits, and the vital role music plays in his life.

You can follow Jonathan Borca’s on Instagram @francisc_experience

Featured in issue 14.3, “Perform”

SVCreates Content Emerging Artist 2023

Fish swim, birds fly,
and human beings create.

In an unassuming suburban garage in South San Jose, a music studio is tucked in parallel to a parked car, storage totes, and hanging bicycles. Often, you can find a poet getting active in the studio, chipping away at refining his craft, hoping to carve Corinthian columns from a career in acting and music. This creative headquarters is home to Davied Morales, AKA Activepoet.

Davied Morales is a San Jose–born actor and rapper who has worked for numerous Bay Area theater companies, appeared in television shows, commercials, and various short films, and amassed tens of thousands of followers across social media. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed Davied to focus on the “why” behind his work. He explains, “I was able to learn more about the business and understand why I want to do this work. I want to inspire people who look like me, and let people know that they can do it too.”

Raised by a single mother after his father’s untimely passing, Davied had to grow up quickly at a young age. He notes, “I know what a bad day looks like. I always try to be extra positive because I know life’s hard.” His work’s light-hearted joy and humor can be traced back to the shows he watched as a kid. He observes, “Shows like Kenan and Kel were huge for me. They represented a space for being goofy on TV. I loved it because there wasn’t as much violence or the huge political problems you see in our community. We’re always getting killed on TV. We can be anything we want, so why can’t people of color just have friends and tell cool stories about what we can do?”

“Everyone deserves to be creative. Creativity is a fundamental truth for all of us. We say in our work that fish swim, birds fly, and human beings create. That’s what we do.”

Along with manifesting positivity through his craft, Davied also works as an improv facilitator for San Jose’s Red Ladder Theatre Company, a social justice company with whom he leads workshops for men and women experiencing incarceration. When talking about his work in California prisons, Davied adds, “Everyone deserves to be creative. Creativity is a fundamental truth for all of us. We say in our work that fish swim, birds fly, and human beings create. That’s what we do. The best feedback we’ve received was from an attendee who said that for two hours, it felt like they weren’t in prison. I want our participants to know they’re still in touch with their childhood selves. There are bright spots in this world, and I want them to see that.” Moving forward, Davied is developing a catalog of music and content focused on sustainable production and consistency that fans of his work can rely on. The work he puts in now is meant to create an infrastructure that will support more extensive projects in the future. You can follow Activepoet on all platforms for valuable information, a behind-the-scenes look at the industry, and something to make you laugh. Davied Morales continues to prioritize art in his life and wants to make art a priority in the Bay Area.

Instagram: activepoet

Also featured in issue 9.3 “Future” 2017

Pick-Up Party 16.2, “Sight and Sound,” was the 12th anniversary celebration of Content Magazine featuring the innovative and creative people of Silicon Valley. The party was an ambitious collaboration among venue host Creekside Socials, event designers Asiel Design, Filco Events, and Illuminate SJ Now!!!, along with supplied food by Barya Kitchen ,and the dozen or so creatives featured in the magazine, who displayed their work.

Creekside Socials is a Google project managed by Jamestown, activating San Jose’s Downtown West. They have a full lineup of community events and workshops scheduled for 2024.

Our Pick-Up Party was the first event of its kind held inside Creekside Socials and was a fantastic opportunity to activate the warehouse at 20 Barack Obama Blvd. With support from our partners, we brought in a stage, lighting, and projectors that illuminated the sights and sounds of Issue 16.2. We even introduced our partnership with Needle to the Groove Records, which made our long-dreamt-of flexi-disc magazine insert a reality.

Guests were treated to a live studio pop-up hosted by Brittany Bradley, a wet plate collodion photographer, performances by 2024 Poet Laureate and Creative Ambassador Yosimar Reyes featuring Ivan Flores of Discos Resaca, Srividya Eashwar of Xpressions Dance, singer-songwriter Amara Lin, Needle to the Groove Records, and Kid Lords who closed out the night. In addition, six visual artists featured in the magazine displayed their work, including 2024 Creative Ambassadors Deborah Kennedy and Rayos Magos, Shaka Shaw, and Girafa. 

This evening brought together various genres and mediums of music and visuals, exposing individuals to creativity they may not have been otherwise exposed to. Our goals of creating a magazine real-life experience were highlighted by our fantastic community of creatives, supporters, and partners who are essential to Content Magazine’s future.

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 artists of Santa Clara County.

We hope to see you again on May 17th at the West Valley College School of Art and Design for Pick-Up Party 16.3, “Perform.”

Event Photographer: Kinley Lindsey 

Event Videographer: StageOne Creative Spaces

Event Musicians: Kids LordsAmara 林Xpressions-Dance of India, and Needle to the Groove

Featured Artists: Britt BradleyVictor AquinoSteven Free, GirafJulie MeridiaDeborah KennedyRayos Magos, and Shaka Shaw

Event Partners: Creekside Socials,  Asiel DesignFilco Events, Illuminate SJ Now!!!, and Barya Kitchen

Issue 16.2, “Sight and Sound” Featuring

Musician – Amara 林 | Videographer – Victor Aquino | Photographer – Britt Bradley | Rapper – Chow Mane | RecordLabel – Discos Resaca Collective | Dancer – Srividya Eashwar | Artist – Girafa | Rap Crew – Kid Lords | Photographer – Josie Lepe | Artist – Julie Meridian | Record Shop and Label – Needle to the Groove Records | Illustrator – Shaka Shaw | 2024 San José Creative Ambassadors – Dancer – Alice Hur – Artist – Pantea Karimi – Artist – Deborah Kennedy – Artist – Rayos Magos – Storyteller – Yosimar Reyes 

SVCreates Content Emerging Artist 2023

Putting Pen to the Past

A shoulder-hung tote swings in the mid-morning air as Keana Aguila Labra approaches a sanctuary of creative inspiration. Depending on the day, that sanctuary may be a cafe, a public garden, or a library. Wrapped in the canvas tote are tools for building historical foundations and deconstructing generational curses. Along with writing instruments to translate pain and promise into poetry and prose, you may find books written by authors such as Victoria Chang, Therese Estacion, or Janice Lobo Sapigao—literary figures outside the canon of white literature sharing stories with which Keana can relate.

Keana wears many hats and explains, “I see myself mostly as a poet, writer, editor, and creative. I am also co-director of the Santa Clara County Youth Poet Laureate program and co-founder of Sampaguita Press, an independent publishing house.” Keana’s work focuses on sharing cultural, historical, or personal knowledge to foster representation and safe spaces for readers and creatives unseen in society’s cultural hierarchy.

“I hope that I can share the knowledge that I have obtained and disseminate it freely to folks who might not have access to the education I have had. Education is power.”

Keana is a Cebuana Tagalog Fil-Am poet, and writer in diaspora. Her parents, who immigrated from the Philippines, wanted a better life for their children in the form of Americanization and careers in science. Interested in creativity and ancestral roots, familial friction fueled Keana’s interest in developing forms of self-expression. “My mother can be my biggest role model and enemy at the same time. I hope she sees I am breaking generational curses,” she shares. “I empathize with my mother a lot. The trauma of immigrating alone when she was 15 is her generational curse. Poetry is a vessel to work through the things I couldn’t articulate to my mom, not because I couldn’t share what I felt with her, but because I knew she was carrying her own weight. Our parents aren’t just parents; they’re people too.”

Keana’s poetic process is captured in a quote from William Wordsworth: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Keana’s poetry typically begins with a thought or emotion that crystallizes in a moment and is jotted down as a note for later interrogation. “I try to sit with myself in a kind of meditation, write down snippets, and continue coming back to them. I think of them as my children,” she explains. “I don’t rush a piece if it is about very intimate emotions. I like to keep the original snippets to see how I refined them over time, thinking about craft, intention, negative space, and the flow of line.” Keana, a self-described poet-historian, writes poetry in both English and the Bisayan language of Cebuano, a regional language in the Philippines and her grandparents’ native tongue. 

Keana hopes to expand Marías at Sampaguitas Magazine from a digital to print publication, pursue an MFA in creative writing, and obtain a teaching credential while writing a book and screenplay. Keana concludes, “I hope that I can share the knowledge that I have obtained and disseminate it freely to folks who might not have access to the education I have had.
Education is power.”


Instagram: keanalabra

SVCreates Content Emerging Artist 2023

Such is Life

A wheat-pasted poster on a San Francisco sidewalk may be commonplace for 99 percent of passersby. For photographer Dan Fenstermacher, the details caught his eye from across the street: an ambiguous lower body clothed in shorts and walking shoes—leg tattoos exposed—standing on a trail with marketing copy that read “on the path to zero impact.” Dan also noticed a burly, shirtless man thirty feet away walking towards the poster; he had patchy body hair on his chest that shared an uncanny resemblance to a smiley face. Dan hurried across the street to catch the convergence of the two. The photo he captured juxtaposes a hipster on a hike with a shirtless man on a city street—both of whom are uniquely getting in touch with nature—and puts a humorous spin on the sustainability marketing technique of showing people experiencing the outdoors. The composition plays with body level, placing the lower body on the poster in line with the man’s upper half. While any similarity between those two figures could be viewed as an abstract coincidence, Dan sees potential in layering and capturing dissimilar details with eye-catching composition to create something new, authentic, and often funny. 

Dan Fenstermacher is a burgeoning photographer with internationally recognized work. He’s also a professor and chair of the West Valley College photography program, a contributor to The San Francisco Standard, and a volunteer photographer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Dan’s projects blend street photography and photojournalism with clever juxtaposition; his photos are most known for their vibrant colors, use of flash, and humorous composition.

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Dan obtained a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Idaho before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in marketing. While there, he realized that advertising has less to do with creative ad concepts and more with market research, data analysis, and spreadsheets. Dan recalls, “I hated it. I started taking photography classes at night through a local community college while doing those advertising jobs. I had a roommate at the time who went off to Korea to teach English, so I figured I could do the same thing.” Dan went on to use his community college photo credits to teach fine art in China, aided by student translators. Later, he enrolled in a graduate photography program at San Jose State University.

“Traveling makes me feel alive. When you experience a new culture, it’s like getting to experience life again for the first time.”

Dan’s photography is rooted in detail and captures reality at the core of often misunderstood situations. “I have always been an observer,” he says. “I tend to notice things that most people wouldn’t consider. I like to combine street photography with journalistic documentary themes.” Each of Dan’s projects captures a range of topics and manages to juxtapose conception with reality. His project documenting seniors in Costa Rica contrasts American society’s fear of aging with the joy and experience seen on the faces of the elderly. His “Streets to the Dirt” project documents Black cowboys in Richmond, California, and shows that cowboys are not just White men in movies. Dan continues to broaden his photo expeditions, explaining that “traveling makes me feel alive. When you experience a new culture, it’s like getting to experience life again for the first time.” Dan’s career as a photography professor allows him to embrace his passion while surrounded by inspiring up-and-coming student artists. Dan aligns his trips with his school schedule and plans to travel to Guadalajara, Mexico, to document mariachi culture. His next goal is to produce his first self-published photo book. 

Instagram: danfenstermacher 

Dalia Rawson is the South Bay’s authority on all things ballet. A longtime performer with the now-defunct Cleveland San Jose Ballet Company, the Saratoga native has performed for numerous companies in addition to holding backstage management positions with the Silicon Valley Ballet. With the closure of that company, Rawson founded The New Ballet School in March of this year. Less than a year later, the school has grown to over 300 students and is the only school on the West Coast that’s been certified by the American Ballet Theatre. The New Ballet School’s first production this winter, featuring Rawson’s choreography, will be a San Jose–inspired rendition of The Nutcracker

“It’s been since 2006 that I last danced professionally. Of course, I miss it, but the career doesn’t last forever. I was just really lucky to work with people I looked up to. It’s been 11 years now, but I certainly get a lot of joy and inspiration from teaching young people and working as a choreographer and director. Our newest production is the San Jose Nutcracker, which tells the classic story with local inspiration. Set in the city around 1905, it will feature a glowing replica of the historic San Jose Electric Light Tower, as well as the historic skyline. It’s something I’m really excited about.” | Instagram: thenewballetschool

Podcast with Dalia in 2020

Listen and watch on Spotify | YouTube | Vimeo | Listen on Apple Podcast

Trevor Jones is a family man, building designer, and co-owner of Minnow Arts Gallery in Santa Cruz, California. Trevor was born and raised in Cupertino before studying economics and international studies during his undergrad and earning a master’s in architecture from the University of Oregon. Trevor describes the 15 years he lived in Portland, Oregon, as the “cauldron of his life as a creative person.” Inspired by Portland’s DIY art, design, music, and skateboarding scene, he imbued collaborative and process-oriented principles into SpaceCamp Studio, his design-build practice where he works as principal designer and general contractor. 

Trevor moved to Santa Cruz in the early 2010s to continue his work at SpaceCamp, raise his family, and, as a surfer, live a coastal lifestyle. He met Minnow Arts Co-Owner Christie Jarvis through a mutual friend and artist, Jeremy Borgeson. Christie, a landscape architect, ceramicist, and filmmaker, was looking for office space, and Trevor had an office in the barrel aging warehouse of Humble Sea Brewing. It didn’t work out for them there, but it led Trevor and Christie to look for an office together. They eventually found and leased the space that became the Minnow Arts Gallery.

Trevor and Christie began hosting exhibitions that featured work from friends and artists they were connected with. Since then, Minnow Arts has been working to create an inclusive and supportive gallery focused on supporting the local art scene in Santa Cruz and giving opportunities to local and regional artists. Rather than having a strict mission statement, Minnow Arts stays true to its DIY roots and takes a more flexible approach to exploring what the space can be through different shows and events. They also aim to make exhibiting art more approachable and demystified for artists. Trevor sees his role as a “companion” to artists.

In our conversation, Trevor shares his approach to building design, reflections on the journey that led him to co-owning a gallery, and advice for anyone hoping to ‘do it themselves.’

Join Christie and Trevor at Minnow Arts Gallery on Friday, January 5th, for First Friday Santa Cruz as they open a retrospective exhibition featuring artwork from Good Knife Studio Creative Director Juan Llorens, a Buenos Aires-based artist who designs and illustrates work for Humble Sea Brewing’s cans, bottles, and marketing materials. Frank Scott Krueger from Humble Sea Brewing is collaborating with Juan to curate the show.

IG: minnow.arts

Check out First Friday Santa Cruz for their entire lineup of participating galleries.

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple Podcast

The Cultivator and Developer of Content Magazine review a year of publications. Daniel Garcia founded Content Magazine in 2012 and has cultivated the longest-running South Bay Arts magazine ever. David Valdespino Jr. Joined the Content team full-time in January 2023 as a production manager and writer.

In this conversation, we discuss highlights from the year, some magazine design and layout details, hidden aspects of the production process, and contributions from some writers, editors, and photographers that make Content possible. Episode #108 is the first time our team has offered a behind-the-scenes look at producing Content Magazine. 

THANK YOU to the writers, photographers, editors, partners, and creatives that make Content Magazine possible. 

Issue 15.2 Featuring:

Tattoo Artist – Danny Fernandez | M.A.N.O.S., Jimmy Castañeda | Visual Artist – Trinh Mai | Painter – Angela Johal | Photographer – John Todd | San Jos Photo Walk – Julie Chon, Diana Mae, 35mmallie, Yvonne Yeh, Sheldon Chang | Stylist – Kelly Peters | Gathering Artisans Collective – James, Clarice, & Jafar Green | K-Cafe – Kayla Dinh | Mama Kin – Andrew Saman | Silicon Valley Gay Men’s Chorus | Flautist/Teacher – Azeem Ward | Raue – Paige Kalenian & Jax Huckle | Album Picks – Needle to the Groove

Issue 15.3 Featuring:

Dancer – Alyssa ‘Ms. Mambo’ Aguilar | Chancellor of the West Valley-Mission Community College District – Bradley Davis | Designer – Carlos Pérez | Photographer educator – Dan Fenstermacher | Actor and rapper – Davied Morales, AKA Activepoet | Singer/Rapper – Ervin Wilson | Scholar and dance ethnologist – Farima Berenji | Hip Hop Record Label – F.R.V.R. Records, Aldin Metovic, Brevin Rowand, Vanessa Vindell | Aspiring Photographer – Iris Zimmerman | Writer/Poet – Keana Aguila Labra | Painter – Leslie Lewis Sigler | Musician – Mike Huguenor | Artist Educator – Mitra Fabian | Artist Rubén Darío Villa – Mr. Fuchila | Album Picks – Needle To The Groove | San Jose Earthquake – Niko Tsakiris | Emerging Fashion Designer – Nyr Acuavera | Graduating Architecture/Landscape Architecture – Onna Keller | Painter – Renée Hamilton-McNealy | Tattoo Artist – Sefa Samatua | ShaKa Brewing

Issue 15.4 Featuring:

Tattoo Artist – Abraham Ortega | San Jose Storyboard – Bertrand Patron Paule | Nonprofit organization – B.L.A.C.K. Outreach San Jose | Poet – Elodia Esperanza Benitez | Painter – James Mertke | Filmmaker – May Yam | Developer – Michael Messinger | Multidisciplinary Artist – Pantea Karimi | Muralist – Paul J. Gonzalez | San Jose Museum of Art Curators – Senior Curator: Lauren Schell Dickens, Assistant Curator: Juan Omar Rodriguez, Curatorial and Programs associate: Nidhi Gandhi | Artist & Illustrator – Suhita Shirodkar | Together We Create | Elba Raquel, Mesngr, Wisper, Roberto Romo | Meraki by Yaya Fashion Design – Yaya Bautista | Data Artist & Professor -Yoon Chung Han | Poet & Storyteller – Yosimar Reyes | D.J. – Weezmatic, Aaron Aquino

Issue 16.1 Featuring:

EPA Center, Nadine Rambeau | Tai Zhan Bakery, Wendy Chan | Gallerist, Pamela Walsh | Artist, Ignacio “Nacho” Moya | Musician and Painter, Ben Henderson | Artist, Miguel Machuca | Arts Los Altos, Maddy McBirney & Karen Zucker | Clothing Brand: Exhilo, Curtis Ying | Ensamble Folclórico Colibrí, Arturo Magaña | DJs, Soulmat3s | Musician, Will Sprott

The South Bay arts community rallied in Los Altos on November 30th to celebrate the release of Content Magazine Issue 16.1, “Discover.” Hosted at the stunning State Street Market food hall on the corner of State & 3rd Street in Los Altos, we invited the artists, musicians, organizations, and contributors featured in issue 16.1 to create a ‘Magazine-in-real-life’ experience for guests.

Creatives featured in the issue, such as Gallerist Pamela Walsh, Artist Ignacio “Nacho” Moya, Painter Ben Henderson, Artist Miguel Machuca, and Clothing Brand Exhilo by Curtis Ying, displayed their work in the center of State Street Market. Tucked between entrances, DJ Duo Soulmat3s performed throughout the night, spinning original mixes of eclectic genres, responding to the energy of the large crowd, and keeping the vibes right. Halfway through the party, guests were treated to performances by Will Sprott, followed by Ben Henderson with Wax Moon on drums and bass. Having made a long journey from his home in Grass Valley, Will was always within arms reach of his young son, Oz, even while performing. Will performed versions of songs from his new solo album, Natural Internet, that featured harmonica solos by Oz. Ben Henderson, backed by members of San Jose’s Wax Moon, filled the hall with warm folk music that garnered everyone’s attention.

Each of the nine food vendors hosted in the food hall generously provided delicious samples to content members. From ice cream and fried chicken to mocktails and matcha madeleines State Street Market hosts a diverse array of International cuisine.

As the night drew to a close and artists began wrapping up, you could see new connections and old friends leaning on the bar, waving farewell, or lending a hand. In the 12 years Since Content Magazine was founded, this pick-up party was the furthest distance from our home office in San Jose. We were overjoyed by the warm welcome of Los Altos, the willingness of folks from as far as Gilroy and Grass Valley to join, and the familiar air of kinship the arts community often provides. 

State Street Market often hosts community events and is open to the public Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 8 pm, and Friday & Saturday, 11:30 am to 9 pm, with the bar open late until 10 pm. State Street Market also offers space reservations for groups of 15 or more. You can plan your next party or meeting with no reservation fee or food and beverage minimum. Pre-order from amazing food hall vendors and invite up to 150 guests.

Thank you to everyone who joined us and our Event Partners for making these events possible!

State Street Market & Murdoch’s Bar. Bibo’s Pizza & Pasta, Ikuka, Konjoe Burger, Little Blue Door, Little Sky Bakery, Orenchi Ramen, The Good Salad, and The Penny Ice Creamery. 

Issue 16.1 Features:

EPA Center, Nadine Rambeau | Tai Zhan Bakery, Wendy Chan | Gallerist, Pamela Walsh | Artist, Ignacio “Nacho” Moya | Musician and Painter, Ben Henderson | Artist, Miguel Machuca | Arts Los Altos, Maddy McBirney & Karen Zucker | Clothing Brand: Exhilo, Curtis Ying | Ensamble Folclórico Colibrí, Arturo Magaña | DJs, Soulmat3s | Musician, Will Sprott

Pamela Walsh is an artist of a different sort. As a gallerist, her work lives in the margin between artwork and art buyer. A gallerist’s art is not just curation but creating a space that brings people to artwork and telling those stories-becoming a conduit between artistic expression and the community that is engaging with it.

Pamela Walsh Gallery is a contemporary art space in Palo Alto’s Ramona Street architectural district. The historic building housing the gallery was designed by Stanford architect Birge Clark in 1929.

Having opened in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Pamela was able to weather the turbulence of unprecedented times and is set to celebrate the gallery’s ⁠4th anniversary with a group exhibition⁠ opening in December 2024.

The gallery’s focus on contemporary art is on creating a platform for diverse creative expression or establishing emerging artists. Having spent 20 years before opening her gallery, Pamela sold works from historical artists. Still, she decided to move forward with contemporary art as a fun and inspiring way to work with artists who are currently practicing. Small local galleries like Pamela’s are crucial to the arts ecosystem by encouraging artists, providing opportunities, and fostering a culture of art.

In our conversation, Pamela shares what it means to be a gallerist, her background in art and working in galleries, her journey toward becoming a gallery owner, and the role her space plays in the broader arts ecosystem. 

Join Pamela Walsh this Saturday, December 16th, at Pamela Walsh Gallery for the opening of their ⁠4th Anniversary group exhibition⁠

Follow ⁠Pamela Walsh Gallery⁠ at ⁠@pamelawalshgallery⁠

Listen on Spotify and Apple Podcast

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

In this follow-up to Podcast #81, we reconnect with Marcus Lyon, artist, photographer, and founder of A Human Atlas, after completing his Silicon Valley project entitled De.Coded, which launched in October 2023.

In our conversation with Marcus, we talk about what he learned from his time with Silicon Valley change makers, how this project differed from previous experiences, the philosophy and design elements of the physical book, and what is on the horizon for A Human Atlas.

De.Coded is available to ⁠⁠⁠order⁠⁠⁠, and a companion app is available by searching De.Coded in ⁠⁠⁠Google Play⁠⁠⁠ or ⁠⁠⁠iTunes App Store⁠⁠⁠.

Some key takeaways from his time spent with the 101 Silicon Valley change-makers featured in De.Coded are the importance of Latino/Chicano culture and history in shaping the region, the rich diversity of cultures that have come together among various waves of immigration and migrations, themes of belonging, and a constant emphasis on refining the process behind A Human Atlas with a focus on context, equity, and authenticity.

Having completed A Human Atlas of Brazil, Germany, Detroit, and now Silicon Valley, Marcus Lyon is still grounded in what inspired his first project. As an Englishman married to a Brazilian with “Brazinglish” children, his initial concept, Somos Brasil (2016), which told the story of 104 extraordinary individuals creating social change across Brazil, was intended to develop a deep cultural immersion for his family. Originally intended as a one-off endeavor, Marcus began receiving requests for similar projects after its publication and recognition.

Currently, Marcus and his crew, including Joe Briggs-Price & Camila Pastorelli, are working on a new A Human Atlas project based in Los Angeles, entitled Alta / a Human Atlas of Los Angeles. 

Keep up with A Human Atlas and their team on Instagram and at their website:A Human Atlas@ahumanatlasMarcus Lyon@marcus_lyon  Joe Briggs-Price@joebriggsprice Camila Pastorellicamila_pastorelli 

Funding for De.Coded was provided by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation.

Nomination & fiscal support was provided by the American Leadership Forum (ALF).


Human Atlas projects are research-based, interdisciplinary explorations of the people of a specified geography. They are built on extensive nomination processes. A carefully curated group nominates individuals who are championing and driving social impact in all its forms: from public servants to entrepreneurs, from non-profit leaders and activists to artists and scientists. The projects then map these remarkable humans through photographic portraits, app-based oral histories, info-graphic mapping, and ancestral DNA. Human Atlas projects take on many digital forms but always begin as a published limited edition book and an interactive exhibition.

Check out Episode #81 on our ⁠blog⁠ or ⁠Spotify⁠ for full background on Marcus and his Career

Pictured: (L to R) Marcus Lyon and Camila Pastorelli⁠

Book images provided by Human Atlas.


Tracing Roots: Trinh Mai Finds the Beauty in Life through Honoring Cultural Heritage

Heart first, Trinh Mai aims to bring people together through art. Finding comfort in
color and peace in faith, her multidisciplinary works honor her Vietnamese cultural
heritage and shine a light on larger stories
of shared humanity.

“We have to draw strength from our community work, the people we love, art, and hope. We are drawing from a transcendent source. All beauty comes from that process of discovery.”

-Trinh Mai

Trinh Mai’s love of art is deep, rooted in family history, connecting past and present. As Trinh describes, she thinks in branches—uncovering stories—in search of healing, hope, and community. Her art is a prayer, a process of discovery, honoring her cultural heritage and family.

Shaped by her family’s experience escaping Vietnam during the War in 1975, Trinh uses art as a language to connect hearts to the stories of loved ones. Having passed through many countries, including the Philippines and Guam, on their journey to the United States, Trinh’s family arrived in Pennsylvania at one of four refugee camps in the US at the time. Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Trinh moved to Southern California at a young age and lived with extended family while her parents moved to Silicon Valley during the ’80s tech boom to find work. Trinh attributes her creative energy to her parents, who were both very meticulous, creative, and clever. Her dad nurtured a green thumb and loved cultivating bonsai trees. Trinh’s love of nature and desire to connect to the land threads through her work in symbolism and materiality. Trinh co-creates her art with history, informed by the heirlooms and stories of her family and the deep feeling of responsibility to honor her culture and share that love with the wider community. 

“One of the things that the elders and people in general fear is being forgotten. And not just that they are forgotten, but their history is forgotten, the history of [their] people, the ways that [they] arrived here, traditions, food, family lineages, and the sacrifices they made. What a shame it would be to forget about the sacrifices that were made for us to be here. My fear is that their fear will be realized. It’s both a blessing and a burden to carry this responsibility to share. But one of the things that has encouraged the elders through my art is not just that they see themselves and I’m honoring their lives, but also knowing that the younger generation cares and wants to carry on the history. When families see heritage being passed down and honored, it takes that fear away. And it’s not just descendants that are inheriting that culture, it’s also the wider community that we are sharing it with.”

Trinh’s favorite mediums are oil paint and charcoal, but oil on canvas is her first true love and how she found her voice. Trinh’s love of oil painting began at San Jose State University (SJSU), creating abstract paintings. Painting on large canvases felt like creating an all-encompassing environment that she could step into. During her studies at SJSU, Trinh encountered a Mark Rothko painting at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Initially skeptical of his work, seeing it in person was a very pivotal and transformational experience for her. It opened her eyes to how art could convey spiritual essence through color and form. Finding herself standing in front of the Rothko painting, Trinh was “consumed by the cadmium red.” Describing the experience as deeply real, it opened her heart to what she wanted her work to accomplish.

“I wanted to make paintings like that, so true to what they are that they speak for themselves. I would like for whatever spirit is living inside the painting to speak. I don’t need to be a part of that conversation, but I think maybe my role is to have an intimate relationship with the work, and then the work has its own relationship with the viewer.” 

Trinh describes her relationship to art as “salvation to the fullest,” born out of a desperate need to find comfort through life’s hardships. Through abstract art, Trinh found her footing and fell in love with the comfort, light, and life that art brought about.

“As I started maturing in the art and really taking it seriously, I realized it’s teaching me to see, the art of observation. I realized that was the main lesson, and once I embraced that, I saw how free I could feel painting boxes and spheres.”

As a multidisciplinary artist, Trinh describes her use of various mediums as a beautiful and fulfilling symbiotic relationship, with each medium teaching her unique lessons. She appreciates the labor and lessons that each provides, allowing her to excavate ideas by digging deeply through experimentation. For example, stitching teaches her to slow down, be careful, and have patience. From painting portraits to writing poetry, Trinh creates her work from a place of deep intentionality. Art has opened doors for Trinh to speak to universal truths of unified humanity. “I started discovering things about my family history that are shared by so many other people, not just Vietnamese refugees, but people all over the world.” Motivated by a desire to serve the community, Trinh finds purpose in discovering the beauty of life that can arise despite tragedy. “I feel that my responsibility is to offer life to stories to give comfort to other people.” Art gives life back to objects and stories and sows seeds for future generations. Sharing these stories cultivates a shared cultural heritage. 

Driven to discover what it means to have an intimate relationship with God, Trinh is deeply thankful for her faith and the peace and purpose that it brings her in daily life. For Trinh, it all comes back to an essential question: “In the midst of life’s trials, where do we turn for strength? We have to draw strength from our community work, the people we love, art, and hope. We are drawing from a transcendent source. All beauty comes from that process of discovery.”
Instagram: @trinhmaistudios

Japanese Pastry and Desserts

IKUKA pastry and dessert shop at State Street Market in Los Altos takes its name from the first syllables of the Japanese words imo (sweet potato), kuri (chestnut), and kabocha (pumpkin). The goal of its creator and general manager, Miyuki Ozawa, is to bring the namesake flavors popular in Japanese baking to the South Bay.

Miyuki created the idea of IKUKA alongside her mother, Kuniko Ozawa, a prolific Bay Area restauranteur. In addition to Kuniko’s five other South Bay Japanese American restaurants, including Orenchi Ramen (also at State Street Market), Sumika Grill, & Ogiku Kaiseki, Miyuki is putting her stamp on Japanese cuisine in the Bay. IKUKA offers the deliciously starchy and subtle sweetness of imo, kuri, and kabocha as well as other favorite deserts from Japan such as the beloved Mont Blanc, burnt basque cheesecake, mini croissants, and mochi bread in hopes that patrons can experience delicate texture and sweetness of authentic Japanese pastries that bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients.

For more info, visit

Try IKUKA at Pick-Up Party 16.1 This Thursday, November 30th, 6p-9p at State Street Market. Content members will receive a complimentary taste as a toast to their support of South Bay Creatives.

Check out this other video featuring The Good Salad.


Video by Nirvan Vijaykar @whosnirvan

     If your Christmas season has become packed with tinsel-clogged, holly-infested Hallmark films, it’s time to shake things up with a good murder. A holiday whodunit at the City Lights Theater Company seems suitable for the season. After all, what December is truly disaster free?

     The Game’s Afoot (also known as Holmes for the Holidays) written by playwright Ken Ludwig and directed by Mark Anderson Phillips, shows at the theater from November 16th to December 17th. City Lights invites theatergoers to a Connecticut castle in the ’30s—home to American actor William Gillette who garnered fame playing the character of Sherlock Holmes.  While entertaining his theater friends on a rainy December night, William discovers one of his guests fatally stabbed. He must channel his role as Holmes to crack the case. Hazardous and hilarious circumstances ensue.

     William is played winningly by Actor Damian Vega who brings candor and heart to his performance. This marks Damian’s 8th time working with the theater company. “My favorite productions to date are all with City Lights,” asserts Damian, who has been acting ever since he scored the lead in a vegetable-themed play in the 4th grade—and has since gone on to perform in not only a number of theatrical productions but also in commercials and independent films. “I keep coming back because they really treat you like a family member while you are working there—and once you’re initiated into the family, it’s always a wonderful feeling of homecoming every time you get a chance to come back.”

     Damian is joined by a strong cast. Standout performances include Alycia Adame (who thrives in the role of eager and eccentric Inspector Goring) as well as Gabriella Goldstein (who takes the role of Daria and embraces the character’s fatal dramatic bent with such evident delight that her energy is contagious). There’s also Tom Gough who plays our hero’s roguish best friend Felix. Tom’s flustered reactions and impeccable comedic timing are sure to amuse. “[Tom] teaches acting for a living, so he’s definitely a mentor that I study while I’m working on my own character,” Damian says. “Plus, Tom has an extensive background in improv so watching him bring that out in his work has given me the courage to try it in my own.” And the two actors do a great job feeding off each other on stage. “[Director] Mark mentioned that William and Felix have an Abbott and Costello vibe to their relationship,” Damian chuckles.

    You’ll enjoy not just the cast, but the castle. This glamorous old-world manor house will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a game of Clue (it even features a secret passageway)! What’s more, there’s a foreboding wall bristling with weapons. It calls to mind those familiar questions: Was it Miss Scarlett with the revolver in the dining room? Mr. Green with the knife in the study? “Oh, we’re nice and cozy in here, but we’re cut off from the world in this horrible storm, and it’s not really that cozy because there’s a dead person in here,” Director Mark comments mischievously.

     Set designer Ron Gasparinetti’s attention to detail is also remarkable—from the textured stonework and old-timey radio, right on down to the glowing embers in the fireplace. The extended wood ceiling beams seem to draw you into the stage world. Also take a moment to appreciate the collection of black-and-white photos on the wall—which on closer inspection, you’ll find aren’t family portraits, but the faces of the many actors who’ve played Sherlock over the years (from Basil to Benedict).

     Which brings up another point. This play is wonderfully meta—meaning it’s a story that emphasizes the devices used in storytelling. And it does this from scene one: the production opens with a play within a play. You also have a City Lights actor (Damian) who performs the character of William—an actor known for his character Sherlock. What’s more, Director Mark has also played the role of Sherlock in a previous play. This blurs the line between reality and fiction. And the intimacy of this 100-seat theater takes it a step further. The audience’s closeness to the characters makes us feel like we’ve joined them in the room.

     Though The Game’s Afoot is a fairly recent script, it’s one we hope to see circulating for years to come.“Many theaters tend to stay with ‘safe and proven’ shows because they know that they’ll get a built-in audience,” notes Damian. “City Lights is willing to take a chance on new work or controversial topics. They know the value of sharing those stories with the audience. Those of us lucky enough to witness that or be a part of that are changed for the better.”

     Ready for a glittering comedy mystery during this season of twinkling lights?

Treat yourself to City Lights’ little crime before Christmas.

Tickets and show details at City Light Theater Company

Founder and CEO of The Good Salad, Sanad Al Souz, is on a mission to shake up mealtime by offering healthy and delicious signature chef-crafted salads.

Coming from high-tech engineering, Sanad noticed his colleagues’ interest in nutritious lunches in a corporate cafeteria setting and got to work on an online salad offering that allowed the public to order custom salads. Since scaling to 3 brick and mortar locations in Santa Clara, Los Altos, and Palo Alto, Sanad has formed a team that reflects the values of making good food for good people so that they can feel good. But they don’t stop there; they make it taste good, too.

For more info, visit

Try @the.good.salad at Pick-Up Party 16.1 on Thursday, November 30th, 6p-9p at the State Street Market. Content members will receive a complimentary taste as a toast to their support of South Bay Creatives.

Look out for our next video mini-profile on @I.ku.ka, which will drop next week.


Video by Nirvan Vijaykar @whosnirvan

Listen and watch on Spotify | Listen on Apple Podcast

As a jazz bassist, composer, and arranger, Ken Okada has spent his life finding the groove. Unlike in other genres of music, in jazz, bass is the glue responsible for holding the group together. When composing music, Ken is less concerned with being credited with a beautiful melody and more so leaving room for other musicians to join and create.

Born in New York to Japanese parents, Ken also spent time in Brazil and New York in his youth as his family followed his father in business. His ear for music came from his creatively inclined older sisters, who played piano and influenced his taste in music. Video game soundtracks also inspired Ken. He began learning to produce music electronically and playing in multiple bands throughout middle and high school.

After attempting law school at university, Ken began sitting in with the historic Keio University Big Band, where a friend went. That was a huge turning point for Ken, who would soon dedicate his life to music while beginning a tech career, starting his businesses to support his family, and moving to the United States.

Over the years, Ken has composed music as part of the Ken Okada Group and performed in jazz combos and big bands featuring artists such as John Worley, Leon Joyce, Yankee Taylor, Destiny Muhammad, Eric Colvin, and Rick Vandivier and numerous jazz clubs and festivals around the world.

Most recently, Ken has recorded and performed with a percussion phenom, Yoyoka Soma, a 13-year-old Japanese musician living in America who went viral in 2018 for renditions of Led Zeppelin. Together, the group has released the album “Square One,” now available on Spotify and Apple Music.

In our conversation, we discuss Ken’s approach to jazz, his upbringing as a Japanese musician, the influences of jazz in San Jose, and his most recent project featuring Yoyoka.

Join Ken this Friday, 11/10, at 8 pm at the San Jose Jazz Break Room as the Ken Okada Group Featuring YOYOKA engages audiences with stunning rhythm, high-flying melodies, and original arrangements by Ken Okada.

Follow Ken at @jazzr777

Listen to the Ken Okada Group 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.

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)

RRedemption Boutique owner Tammy Liu has watched the items we buy become increasingly disposable. While a low-priced tee from your local big box might work as a one-off, she believes, a beautiful garment made by hard-working, passionate hands can become a keepsake to treasure forever.

Liu’s mother was a maker. When she and her husband moved to the US from Taiwan for her husband to attend college, they brought everything she had made with them: clothes, curtains, an entire household. They didn’t have the luxury of discarding their belongings to later replace them; nor could they ever replace what Liu’s mother had lovingly made.

When Liu was two years old, her mother made her a plaid velvet dress with lace tulle lining and a Peter Pan collar. Liu says, “The dress that my mom made me—it made my year.” Over time, Liu became more conscious of the meaning behind the items her mother made—this appreciation for scarcity became the root of her buying mantra.

Inspired by her mother’s craft, Liu’s been determined to work in fashion and open her own store since she was a child. After graduating from Cal Poly with a business degree, she began working in a small Bay Area–based boutique as a sales associate. She was soon managing several stores and ready to break out on her own.

“It had always been a solo mission,” says Liu. But then Liu spent a year in Australia, where she met Dave MacGregor-Scholes. Connected by their mutual love of “thrifting,” they discussed Liu’s ideas for her dream clothing store and expanded the concept into a lifestyle emporium, one that would promote quality over disposability and offer ethically, locally made goods instead of generic products.

Back in the US, Liu had to find the right location to make her and MacGregor-Scholes’s vision a reality. While Liu was considering how much capital would be required to launch a startup given pricey Bay Area rents, the downtown Campbell space practically fell into her lap: 1000 square feet of shop space in a prime location on Campbell Avenue.

Liu’s customers endorse her ideals and support local, handmade goods. Says Liu, “The majority of my customers are just like me: 30-somethings who want to feel good about their purchases.”

Documentaries about poor working conditions in clothing factories inspired Liu to research production methods. Wanting to reach artists who could produce merchandise for her space, she started looking for creative craftspeople in California. “I wanted to design a collective space that showcases the talent all around us,” says Liu.

Liu made it her mission to personally meet every artisan and visit his or her workshop. By being selective, she hoped to find people who shared her passion for quality.

When she finally opened in May 2015, she had 40 vendors—now the total is closer to 60. Many of these artists donate a portion of their proceeds back to the community.

All of the bath and body products are fair trade; the display fixtures in the shop were made from reclaimed wood. The unfinished edges and stark geometric shapes echo the simple message of finding value in all kinds of materials.

During her thrift adventures in Australia, Liu developed an eye for good recycled clothing, too. “I don’t shop in department stores,” she says, “because I don’t want what everyone else has.” Her store features a section for recycled clothing that she’s sourced from antiques and estate sales. The racks are filled with men’s and women’s lines that are manufactured in California, using local materials and fabrics.

The positive response she has received from the community so far reinforces why she opened the shop. One customer emailed to praise her excellent sales associate. Liu laughed about this as she’s the only employee, working seven days a week.

The longer the shop has been open, the less research she has had to do. Customers bring in products and vendors. While Liu would like to take some time off occasionally to take her dogs to the beach or catch up on laundry, running Redemption has never felt like work.

“This is the happiest I have ever been,” Liu says. “I am exactly where I wanted to be.”

instagram: redemption_ca
facebook: shopredemption
twitter: redemption_ca

Article originally appeared in Issue 7.4 “Phase”

Maxwell Borkenhagen and Hiver Van Geenhoven have known each other for years. More recently, they’ve become partners with a shared vision of attracting more people to downtown San Jose—SoFA, specifically. Van Geenhoven is the roaster at Chromatic Coffee, which is served at Cafe Stritch, the renamed and remodeled SoFA restaurant that has been in the Borkenhagen family for over 35 years. Maxwell Borkenhagen books the musical acts and art displayed in the restaurant and music venue, bringing new life and crowds to downtown San Jose. Both Borkenhagen and Van Geenhoven are optimistic about the future of downtown San Jose and want to share their passions with old friends and new customers alike.

How did you two meet?

MB: We had a lot of mutual acquaintances when I was in high school…

HVG: The way we met was actually over coffee. The guy that taught me how to roast coffee was hanging around with Maxwell. We just got along. Maxwell, your parents owned Eulipia before Cafe Stritch, so you’ve been a part of the restaurant business for a long time. Did you ever think you’d be here, running part of it?

MB: No. All throughout high school, I was very weary of getting into the family business. Mixing business with family can be good for the business but not as good for the family. It adds a level of strain. Part of why I moved back to San Jose is because I had started discussing reviving Eulipia, bringing it back to its origins, and modeling it after these places I encountered while in Portland.

When I moved back, I saw potential in this place to do more than a restaurant. There was potential for live music. For so long, that’s what I’ve wanted to do. Seeing that opportunity with this place gave me a new motivation to work for my family. I’ve come to embrace San Jose more. I love San Jose. I truly want to commit to building a better community here. When my parents opened this place in 1977, there was nothing here. They were the first young people to open up a cool, hip place down here.

What sets you guys apart from other businesses in downtown San Jose?

HVG: Passion. When it comes to Chromatic, it’s a dream that I had. I love what I do, and I love working toward it. I love seeing the reaction that people have of “Wow, this coffee is different.” That drive to provide an authentic experience…I want you to have something that’s unique.

MB: What sets us and a number of others apart is that we have a belief in San Jose that it does not have to be a secondary market. I want San Jose to be respected as a place where quality doesn’t have to always be less than San Francisco. Whether it’s in music, art, food, beverage, what have you. I don’t want to be better than SF, but there’s no reason we can’t be as good.

Hiver, where did your love of coffee come from?

HVG: I started working at Peet’s Coffee and learning about coffee. It caught my attention and held my attention. Nothing much had ever really held my attention. After a couple of years, Peet’s had moved their roasting facility, and they had an open house. I went and saw the machines and thought, “This is what I want to do: I want to roast coffee.”

I’ve thought of coffee as a medium of directing culture. The ideas that can be shared over coffee can be very interesting. I’m mainly interested in bringing coffee to the forefront and sharing the value of what that beverage is.

You’re both a part of businesses that are bringing people to downtown San Jose and breathe new life in the SoFA district. What else do you want to see happen here?

MB: Low-rent housing downtown. I see this as a huge resource. I would love to get to the point where San Jose State students make this community their home, but SJSU only accounts for a segment of the community that I’m a part of. If we had one high-rise that had rent that your average 20-something could afford, that could bring such a breath of life into this community. We need a bigger group of people concentrated down here.

HVG: We want to show the rest of the Bay Area that we too take things seriously.

You are both raising the bar in your respective fields in San Jose: downtown venues and coffee culture. Can you talk about your influence on your customers?

HVG: I’d like people to enjoy themselves. But if I can spark an interest to where they want to learn more or be exposed to more… For so long, this area has been inundated by mediocrity. Mediocre clubs, restaurants, food, shit on TV. We don’t overwhelm; we’re approachable.

MB: There’s a lack of tastemakers in the South Bay. Inevitably, if we’re going to build a culture here, it’s going to be much more embracing and unpretentious than in other cities.

I attribute the lack of this niche art and music culture that we’re trying to cultivate to a lack of people that have the confidence to take things they perceive to be good and expose those things to as many people as they can. I don’t claim to have better taste than anyone, but I do have the drive to take something I like and have the confidence to put it on stage and create an environment where all these people can be exposed to something. It’s not shoving things down anyone’s throat, but it’s “Hey, look at this, we think this is good.”

What’s next for each of you? What can we look forward to?

MB: A big motivating factor that drives me to try and build the art and music community is that I don’t want the youth in San Jose to have the same experience that I did. San Jose can be a cool place. You don’t have to just love it because it’s your hometown. I want to see South First Street be the central point of downtown San Jose.

HVG: We’re aware that there were these culminating points in SoFA history, but it always fell off. I feel determined that this is the last time that’s going to happen. We’re bringing authenticity. It’s important to me to create this sense of a little city in San Jose and allow that sense of community to evolve around music and coffee.

twitter: cafestritch
instagram: cafestritch

twitter: chromaticcoffee
instagram: chromaticcoffee

Entire article originally appeared in Issue 5.4 Form
Print Issue is Sold Out

President Dwight Eisenhower established the sister city program in 1956 to foster global awareness and peaceful relations. A design team from Okayama, Japan, one of San Jose’s sister cities, presents their view of their hometown.

Often called the “Gateway to West Japan,” Okayama is a quiet, modern city that serves as a transportation hub for travelers moving from eastern and central Japan into the further reaches of western Honshu, Shikoku Island, and Kyushu Island. The central area of the city is easy to get around via the well-developed transportation system that features local and high-speed trains, streetcars, buses, taxis, and rent-a-cycles. Incorporated as a city in 1889, when Japan moved from a feudal system to a centralized government system, the city actually has a much longer history which extends back to the Sengoku Period (1467-1603).

Although the surrounding area was and is farmland, the city has played an important part in history and boasts a castle that attracted important political figures in the past, such as the Ikeda clan, who developed the economic and cultural status of the city under their rule between the 17th and 19th centuries. Currently, Okayama Castle attracts only tourists, but it’s considered one of the top castles in the country. The main tower (and most of Okayama city, for that matter) was damaged during WWII when the city was largely destroyed after having been bombed by the US Armed Forces. However, two of the watchtowers survived and have been designated as Important Cultural Properties by the government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, and the damaged sections have been restored.

Geographically, Okayama falls in the humid subtropical zone: although it does get chilly in the winter months, the summer months can get hot and very humid. Okayama enjoys relatively low rainfall year round and is known as hare-no-kuni, which means “Sun Country.”

While the municipal and the prefectural governments have been working diligently to post multilingual signage around the city, Japanese is the only language spoken and understood by most of the population.

Although there are pockets of history sprinkled throughout the city in neighborhoods that were not damaged by bombing, visitors will want to head to the suburbs to enjoy the city’s best historical features.

Points of Interest
Okayama has many historical points of interest, with Saidaiji Kannon-in being one of the most intriguing. This small, quiet temple dedicated to the Buddhist deity of Kannon is also home to the oldest and largest Naked Man Festival. The 500-year-old festival, in which nearly 10,000 men dressed only in loincloths participate, is held late at night on the third Saturday in February of every year. The men compete for two lucky sticks that also carry a large cash reward for the winners.

The Saijo Inari shrine and temple complex is a great location to visit any time of the year, and boasts the largest torii gate in West Japan. Visible for miles around, the giant torii gate beckons to visitors. The shrine is dedicated to the Shinto fox god Inari, the patron deity of business, which is appropriately ironic as the souvenir shops leading up to the shrine are fantastic in number and variety.

Visitors would also do well to stop in at Kibitsu Shrine, which is located near Saijo Inari. Folklore sets Kibitsu Shrine apart from other shrines: legend holds that a demon’s head buried under the temple causes a cauldron to ring out during fortune-telling ceremonies. The shrine dates from the ninth century and exhibits many unique architectural features, several of which are registered as Important Cultural Properties.

For a taste of fresh, local seafood, stop in at Tontonme in the southern part of the city. This seafood restaurant is known for its sashimi and sushi made from fish harvested from the nearby Seto Inland Sea.

For another healthy option, Okabe in central Okayama is a long-standing tofu shop with attached home-style restaurant. The restaurant has counter seating only and there are only three main menu selections, but you can bet the food will be fresh, delicious, and surprisingly filling.

For secret hideaway dining, Balloom is the place. This elegant and cozy little cafe/restaurant/bar serves up fresh and healthy meals made with ordinary but fine-quality ingredients. Guests can enjoy a selection of fine wines, draft beer, cocktails, drip coffees, herbal teas, and imported sodas. Lunch and dinner are served. Tapas and pinchos are available in the evening.

For shopping, AEON Mall Okayama is a must-visit. Newly completed in December 2014, this shopping mall is one of the largest and top ranking in the country. Visitors can find an array of boutiques, interior shops, restaurants and food courts, a movie theater, and many other shopping options. The wine shop on the first level includes a winetasting vending machine.

Okayama has a number of covered shopping arcades, and Hokancho is one of the older ones. However, a recent influx of young, hip shop owners have breathed new life into this arcade, making it a great place to explore. Check out the eclectic mix of cafes, green grocers, boutiques, book and toy stores, dish supplies, bakeries, etc.

For a relaxing end to the day, stop in at Padang Padang to unwind. This chic little bar in the heart of the city also serves up European-style fusion cuisine selections made from top-quality local and imported ingredients.

Beautiful Places
Any itinerary should certainly include Korakuen. With a history of over 300 years, it is one of the top three traditional gardens in the country, and is well known for its use of “borrowed scenery”: in this case, Okayama Castle becomes part of the garden scenery despite the fact that it is a separate property. The garden is spacious enough to accommodate large groups while still imparting serenity.

Off the beaten track, the beautiful Sogenji Temple pleases the senses at any time of the year. Surrounded by tall trees and Maruyama mountain, this Zen temple of the Rinzai sect is near the city but feels secluded. Zazen sessions are open to the public on Sundays.

Places to Visit in Okayama

Higashi-ku, Saidaijinaka 3-8-8
+81-086-942-2058SAIJO INARI
Kita-ku, Takamatsu Inari 712

Kita-ku, Kibitsu 931
facebook: kibitujinja

Kita-ku, Takamatsu Inari 712

Minami-ku, Wakaba-cho 20-27
Kita-ku, Omote-cho 1-10-1

Kita-ku, Ekimoto-cho 21-13
instagram: balloom2013
facebook: balloom.ny

Kita-ku, Shimoishii 1-2-1
facebook: okayama.aeonmall

Kita-ku, Hokancho 2-chome

Kita-ku, Omote-cho 1-chome 7-10
instagram: padangpadangokayama

Kita-ku 1-5

Naka-ku, Maruyama 1069
facebook: sogenji

Kaigai Connection
We are a small branding company specializing in helping local businesses get their product overseas. We help customers with foreign language support, out-of-country PR, homepage and business document design, and nonnative staffing. We also work with a large, local tourist agency to bring visitors to Okayama and the surrounding prefectures.

instagram: kaigaiconnection
facebook: kaigaiconnection

Article originally appeared in Issue 7.3 Style.

Workouts in San Jose have just become a little more interesting.

Touchstone Climbing has opened a rock-climbing gym downtown. Located at 396 South First Street, The Studio is the only gym of its kind in San Jose, and only one of two in the entire South Bay. It features forty-foot high walls and over 11,000 square feet of climbing terrain.

The Studio takes its name from the classic movie house in which it has been constructed, the Studio Theatre. Long since converted into a nightclub, the building’s large and once brightly lit sign remains above the front entrance. Attractive as a climbing gym because of its large space and high ceilings, the interesting location and classic sign make The Studio unique and help it fit into the environment of downtown San Jose.

Touchstone CEO Mark Melvin and his wife, Debra, have been avid climbers since high school, and according to director of marketing and social media Lauryn Claassen, they often dreamt of creating a home for “climbers who love to climb.”

The Studio was not only built with climbers in mind, but by climbers themselves. Mark Melvin actually welded the walls, and as Claassen points out, “It’s an awesome company. Everyone who works here climbs.” She believes the environment makes it easy for everyone to have a great experience. The last time new member Cody Kraatz climbed was 2010, and he describes himself as “no expert.” He enjoys his workouts because they remind him of the outdoors and “there’s a point to it.” Kraatz admits, “It’s not the tallest set of walls in the area, but because I live downtown, it’s so convenient. I could climb on a first Friday, sauna, yoga, shower, and then hit the street with my friends to check out the music and art on South First.”

The Melvins founded their first gym in 1995, in the Mission District of San Francisco. Before the formation of their company, there were so few indoor climbing options that the new gym hosted the National Championship of the sport within a month of its opening. Touchstone now has seven locations in Northern California, making it the largest indoor rock climbing company in the United States.

There hasn’t been a climbing gym in San Jose for nearly four years, but The Studio isn’t the first venture downtown. In 2003, the company opened Touchstone Climbing and Fitness San Jose, a bouldering-only gym located across from Camera 12, and only about two blocks away from the new gym location. The smaller gym was forced to close in April of 2008 when there simply wasn’t enough room to accommodate all of the gym’s members.

Bouldering differs from the more traditional roped climbing in that it is done almost entirely freeform, or without any climbing gear. Referred to by climbers as “problems,” the bouldering courses don’t reach the extreme heights of the typical roped ones. Climbers can simply let go and fall to the padded floors when they reach the top. Kraatz is impressed with the new space. “Very nice bouldering area, too, catering to all the old guard that used to climb when Touchstone had a place on El Paseo de San Antonio.”

Though the focus is on roped climbing and bouldering, The Studio will offer other fitness options. Yoga classes are already open, and the company is planning kickboxing, Pilates, and core fitness classes as membership increases. Exercise machines have been set up on the second floor, which allows guests to watch climbers as they work out. There are also plans to establish youth classes, summer camps, and climbing teams in San Jose as soon as there is enough interest. Claassen, a coach of one of the company’s many youth teams, says rock climbing is a “great outlet for energetic kids.” First-time visitor Liz Sandberg, a mother of three boys, agrees, saying, “It’s fun. They want to keep coming back.”

The Studio will also incorporate a wireless café, built into its climbing walls. A large cutout in the main wall opens up almost like a balcony, giving café-goers a clear view of climbers making their way to the top. Claassen says that a quiet place became a necessity for their members because the gyms “become people’s homes.” The Studio’s café isn’t completed, yet, as parts of the gym are still under construction. Claassen hopes that the gym will be able to remain open during construction and that hours and membership will increase once the building is finished.

Climbers can become members for $69 a month or $759 a year. Membership includes access to all Touchstone gyms and the use of any of their facilities, including drop-in fitness classes, rock climbing, and exercise machines.

The Studio also offers individual day passes, which run about $18. The passes allow the same all-access use of the gym that memberships provide, and newcomers can sign up for a full “Intro to Climbing” class for $11 more.

There is one catch for those looking to drop in for a day of rock-climbing fun. For safety reasons, climbers must pass a few tests to climb on their own. The required skills include tying knots, attaching the harness, and belaying a climbing partner. This may sound difficult, but it only takes about three minutes. Kraatz says, “As long as you pay attention in the training class, it’s easy stuff.” Once the tests are completed, climbers are certified and receive a card verifying their ability to climb without staff assistance.

Claassen says The Studio is meant to attract members from “all across the board,” welcoming young professionals, college students, families, and seniors. The Touchstone team wants to reconnect with the community and is hoping The Studio will introduce rock climbing to many newcomers, as well. Everyone’s needs are met, whether the goal is getting in an interesting workout, sampling rock climbing without a trip to the mountains, or just having a day of fun.

396 S First St
San Jose, CA 95113
instagram: studioclimbing
facebook: thestudioclimbing

Article originally appeared in Issue 4.2 Vacation (Print SOLD OUT)

It’s about what you give back and how you change and help other people to become their best selves. I just want to give to others what they have to me.
Bay Area curler Gabrielle Coleman stands out in a sport that doesn’t.
Most Tuesday nights, Gabrielle Coleman can be found inside Stanley’s Sports Bar at Sharks Ice in downtown San Jose. She doesn’t drink, she’s not an employee, and she says she’s never been a great skater either. She’s not there for the hockey. She’s there for curling.

Once a week from 9:30pm to 11:30pm, Coleman and 40 or so other curlers join up at Sharks Ice for a curling league and a good time. Coleman, however, has aspirations that many of her co-competitors do not. The 33-year-old is such a good curler that she’s competed at the national level, even reaching the US Olympic trials in 2009.

Yes, her sport is curling, that shuffleboard-like ice sport that draws a lot of attention every four years when the Winter Olympics come around. But most of the time, it is forgotten here in the United States. There are a little more than 16,000 curlers across the country on record. Canada, regularly the favorite to win gold at the Olympics, has approximately 1.3 million by comparison, despite a population that is little more than a 10th of the size of the United States’.

Coleman and her coach Barry Ivy are part of one of the largest clubs in California, the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club. Established in 1958, their mission, along with the rest of the United States’ curling community, is to help the sport grow. Recently, it’s worked. Participation has grown by more than 50 percent since 2002, with an even more impressive 16 percent jump from 2010 to 2011.

For Coleman, it isn’t just the country’s reputation she’s trying to improve, but her specific region’s. Ivy calls the West Coast “the boonies of the curling world,” and while this statement is in jest, it’s not far from the truth. There are very few competitive curlers from the country’s Pacific coast. In fact, just one of the 10 teams at the US Olympic trials in 2009 was based west of Bismarck, North Dakota. Most are located in the country’s longtime curling hubs like Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Coleman, a Mountain View native, was a part of that sole western team, based in Seattle, Washington. She was also the lone competitor—of 42 total—who resides in California. It’s that obstacle that makes her curling commitment so much more demanding.

Paying out of her own pocket, she flies to Seattle or Vancouver almost every weekend from August to March for training. During competitions, she has to take time away from her work at NBC, which she credits as being not only accepting and understanding of her love for curling but “enormously supportive.” She doesn’t mind the commitment though and finds the bright side to her travels. “It’s like a mini-vacation every week.”

Other curlers live nearer to facilities dedicated to curling, and those among the highest ranked teams receive funding from the US Olympic Committee. Coleman and her teammates do not. As Ivy puts it, “People who play at a dedicated facility can go down and throw rocks at lunchtime for an hour.” The lack of practice time Coleman can get during the week presents a real challenge that other curlers, even in Seattle, don’t always face.

But while they have their advantages, Coach Ivy believes Coleman has some of her own. “If the rest of the United States curling world at the elite level was as committed as Gabrielle, we would be winning Olympics,” Ivy says.

The competition hasn’t always been that strong. Just seven years ago, Coleman attended her first curling event, just hoping to have a fun experience. Challenged by her brother that she couldn’t make nationals, she decided it was on. Within a year, she was competing at the women’s club nationals, who had trouble fielding enough teams for their 10-team tournament. That year, only seven teams had signed up to compete. This year, there are 18 teams vying for those 10 spots.

The US Olympic trials have also grown more competitive in recent years. The field of 10 from 2009 has been trimmed to just four for the upcoming 2013 trials. For Coleman, this means getting back will be harder than ever. In 2009, her team finished eighth, which wouldn’t be good enough to qualify this time around. Coleman knows her team has to win at nationals to qualify, since two teams have already qualified and the national governing body chooses the fourth.

She gives her team an outside chance at coming out with the win if they “have a good week.” Ivy is especially high on their chances. “Don’t let her fool you,” he says. “This is definitely doable for Gabrielle.”

While the increase in the sport’s popularity has made her goals more difficult, the NBC Bay Area morning show director is ecstatic to see so many new curlers, not only at her own club but around the country. As a member of the board for SFBACC, growing the curling community is important to her. She’s trying to help the club secure ice that’s dedicated to curling for the first time in 20 years, rather than having to share ice time with hockey players and recreational skaters.

Just like the sport as a whole, the Princeton grad has come a long way since 2006. She recalls her first national competition as something of a nightmare for Ivy, who tried to lead four curlers with about three years of combined experience. “I was so lost,” Coleman says. “In my first game, I had to ask my opponent when to start.”

Since then, she’s gone on to write an e-book on her experiences, directed at helping other beginning curlers. Break Through Beginner Curling details everything from curling basics to the confusing nature of large national competitions.

At Sharks Ice, it’s clear how much interest Coleman has in teaching others, taking time out to encourage a teenage girl who was just watching to give it a try. But while there is an inclination to teach, she also hopes to curl competitively for a long time.

The sport keeps drawing her back because, no matter how good she gets, she feels there will always be a new challenge. “Everybody who’s any good can throw the stone accurately,” she says. “It’s the complexity and the strategy of the shots at the higher levels that keep getting tougher.”

The unity and bond of a team is another aspect she loves. For casual observers, the team aspect might not be as obvious on TV as it is to those who know the game. “From the instant I release the shot, me and my teammates are communicating,” Coleman emphasizes. “It’s like any other team sport. We can’t win unless we’re all on the same page.”

On the ice, that communication is unmistakable. The sweeping of the ice, one of the most unusual aspects of the sport, relies on it. If their timing on when to speed up or slow down the stone is off just a little bit, the shot could end very differently.

Whether her team wins or not, Coleman hopes she and her teammates can be good examples of the increasing geographical diversity of the game in the United States. She also recognizes that her personal success can help grow the sport on the West Coast, especially in California.

“For me to win, for us to win, it would be a big deal,” she says. Both Coleman and Ivy believe that that kind of statement at nationals could lead to big improvements in not only her own curling environment but the West Coast overall. It would go a long way towards helping to find the dedicated curling ice SFBACC is still looking for.

From experience, Ivy knows that a lot of clubs don’t go to the lengths that SFBACC does. They require lessons for those wanting to join any of the club’s leagues, and Ivy knows they lose some curlers because of it. But he and Coleman both have a strong interest in passing the culture of curling on, and they want to do it the right way. “A lot of clubs will say ‘wing it’ and send you out on your own,” Ivy says. “We want to teach.”

Coleman remembers going to those training sessions and finding much more help than she thought she would. Though it was swarmed with close to 200 people, she said important members came up to her encouraging her to stay on because of the lack of women in curling. Ivy was one of those early tutors that kept her confidence and interest high, even if it was her brother’s challenge that made it stick.

With some of the founders of the club having moved on, Coleman calls Ivy the “resident expert” and lists him as her greatest inspiration on her USCA profile. She wants to give back, just like he has to her. “Even though it is about trying to be the best curler you can be and winning medals, it’s not really about that,” she says. “It’s about what you give back and how you change and help other people to become their best selves. I just want to give to others what they have to me.”

facebook: bayareacurling
twitter: sfbacc

[Editor’s note: As of 2018, the newly formed Silicon Valley Curling Club has stepped in to serve the South Bay in San Jose and Fremont.]

instagram: svcurling
facebook: svcurling
twitter: svcurling

Article originally appeared in Issue 5.2 “Invent”

Columnist Sal Pizarro Finds His Voice

Growing up in the Bay Area, newspaper readers got to know Herb Caen and Leigh Weimers over their morning cup of coffee. That’s how it was. Regular columnists became old friends or the source of a good argument. Relative newcomer Sal Pizarro is only forty years old and just six years into the job, compared to Weimers’ forty year tenure. Pizarro is still finding his voice, both in print and through new forms of social media. Published six days a week, his Around Town column for the Mercury News is witty but never opinionated. When will he bring on the funny or unleash the grumpy old guy in the corner?

“I have been doing the column for six years, but I don’t feel like I have earned the right to be that crotchety yet,” asserts Pizarro. “It is being encouraged at the paper for me to insert more of my own voice into the column. I didn’t want it to be that suddenly you’re going from Leigh to this guy, and we don’t know who he is. I feel more comfortable making comments about what I perceive going on in the city. Taking what people tell me and sort of throwing it through my head and saying, ‘Here’s the word on the street.’”

So how will Pizarro make the column his own? Could he become a gossip columnist? He answers, “That’s so funny. I ask people who say they wish my column had more gossip in it, ‘What do you think is gossip? Do you want to know who’s dating who?’ Because no one really cares. It’s just not that kind of community.” Just by talking to so many people, Pizarro knows the local community well. “People are very comfortable telling me things because they’re pretty sure I’m not going to print it. And that’s something Leigh taught me: always know more than you write. So I sometimes know things that I really can’t write.”

But he still comes across as someone with a genuine desire to get positive news out there again. “My goals are to be entertaining and informative, and a lot of times that translates into being the person who writes about the good things. I happen to love that idea because I’ll say, ‘If I don’t write about this, no one else is going to.’ A missing girl in Morgan Hill is going to trump a lot of things I write about. It’s going to take up three reporters that aren’t going to be able to cover the Boy Scouts Character Awards. So I like doing that.”

He also likes being a stay-at-home dad with an 8-month-old son and a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Pizarro does diapers and daycare from 7am until 3pm when his wife comes home from work as Public Relations Director for Presentation High School. They chat together and do a little download of the day’s events before he sets off for his job, which he will work at until late. His parents chip in and watch the children two mornings a week, which frees him up for the occasional morning interview or charity luncheon. Most of his writing is done at night in his converted office in the garage. His daily deadline is noon, so he can edit and read through his column the following morning during naps. “Not mine,” he quips.

The social butterfly lifestyle is not so easy when combined with caring for children all day. “Some days it’s really exhausting. I can be with the kids for basically nine hours, and then I’ve got to go to an event. But, on the plus side, after nine hours with really small kids, it’s nice to be able to talk to adults and have a glass of wine,” Pizarro says with a grin. “I get to spend a lot of time with my kids, so any time I think about complaining about my job and my hours, I just think: I get to spend all day with my kids and how many guys do I know who get to do that that aren’t collecting unemployment checks?”

When Pizarro gets dolled up for a Saturday night event, his daughter Mia often asks him if he is going to a wedding. “I don’t know where she picked that up. No,” he says. “Daddy’s going to work. I feel especially guilty because before we had kids, my wife used to go to a lot of these things with me, and it was great fun, and now we pick our spots carefully. It’s partly her choice, too, because she says if we’re going to use up a babysitting chip, then she doesn’t want to be going to work. Let’s go to a movie or dinner.”

While he relishes the flexibility of his job, Pizarro also misses the structure of his thirteen years working as an editor at the Merc—starting work at 4pm and clocking out by midnight. Many of those years were spent as Leigh Weimers’ direct editor. “Those years really prepared me. I’ve learned how [Leigh] took something and made it briefer. That’s the challenge of writing in this space. I have about 450 words a day. I try to fit as much as I can in. I will spend a lot of time trimming things down, and sometimes an entire item will go away because it’s sort of like doing surgery: once you’ve had to cut off both legs and both arms, what do you have left?”

Some of what Pizarro writes about comes directly from real people who call or e-mail and say, “I know about this thing that happened. It’s kind of a funny story. Chances are, if I’ve got room, I’ll get it in.”

A big chunk of his work concerns deciding which event to attend. His record is four in one night. “I don’t recommend that. It was crazy—downtown San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View. Driving all over the place and then stopping in at an event for an hour, and then moving on to the next thing. Politicians do that all the time, but it’s a little easier for them because all they have to do is shake a few hands, and then they can leave.”

Unfortunately, Pizarro has no entourage driving him around or sorting his mail. “If I had dreams, it would be to have an assistant of some sort. I always read about how Herb Caen had somebody going through his mail, taking his calls. Having the same general type of column, people make that assumption. Clearly you must have a staff. No, I don’t.”

Driving around is not so difficult because he knows the area like the back of his hand—Pizarro grew up in San Jose. “Being downtown in San Jose in the 1970s was, well…dangerous is a kind word. One of the reasons I transferred from San Jose State to Santa Barbara was because downtown San Jose wasn’t really there yet. The Jazz Festival, Cinequest, and Music in the Park all started in the ’90s because there was nothing to do. Now it’s changed with Sofa District getting going, cool places to eat. Eventually, San Jose grew on me to the point that I did not want to leave.”

But the future is uncertain for Pizarro—at least in print. Pointing at the paper, he says, “I think you will be surprised if we have that ten years from now. If you had said that to me when I started in 2005, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed, but now it is where we are. We have a point where we need to figure out how to make money digitally. It’s not just online ads; it’s a whole host of possibilities which aren’t just print advertising. That’s the joke. If Fry’s or Macy’s goes out of business, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

Pizarro’s tenure began during the recession, and he admits, “It’s strange thinking that I’ve only really done this job during hard times. I’d be really interested to see what things are like when the economy is up because it makes people a lot happier. I can’t imagine how many times I have written ‘despite the current economic woes.’ I might as well have that saved on a copy-and-paste.”

Many of the colleagues Pizarro began working with twenty years ago at the Merc are gone. “When I started writing this column, we had an art writer…a philanthropy writer, a dance writer. We had more education and theatre writers, and all those positions have gone away. And so everything eventually found its way to me. The reason I am saying this is because during all these bad times, these agencies need more help, and I am trying to get the word out. When things get good again—and I am counting on that they will—the agencies won’t need me as much. Wow, I am going to have some space to fill.”

But Pizarro has a new audience, and it is online. Social media allows him to express himself more freely, without space limitations. He can even crack jokes. “Twitter and Facebook are interesting,” agrees Pizarro. “This is maybe where eventually the crotchety old man will come out one day, but I still feel like it’s better for me to get in someone’s event or an extra few names than to make some joke that I’d have no problem making on Twitter or Facebook.”

Take last Friday night, for instance. Pizarro was covering a fundraising gala. “I was one of the few guys wearing a tie because it was all venture capitalists and they are all in shirts and sport coats looking hip. That’s what I was tweeting about. ‘Man, I am the only one wearing a tie.’ Or ‘MC Hammer’s here.’ So I am tweeting all these things, but none of that got into my column because that’s not about their organization—it’s just me making funny asides. I hope at some point we have someone covering their event and writing a story about what they do, and then I don’t have to carry that weight, and I can say okay, here’s what was fun about that. They had the most crazy expensive scotch I’ve ever seen at an event. They made fun of Jack Dorsey for wearing jeans by pointing out that Reed Hoffman from LinkedIn didn’t.”

“I don’t miss writing about gossip that much, but who knows, if I do this job for another twenty years, I may have a lot more bile,” says Pizarro. “I may just start writing about all these youngsters who are who knows doing what…I can’t imagine what this place is going to be like twenty years from now.” With any luck, he will be a little more crotchety but still bringing his positive message to a new generation of readers in San Jose and beyond.

instagram: salpizarro
twitter: spizarro

Article originally appeared in Issue 4.2 Vacation (Print SOLD OUT)

“In the end, however, we get our stories, the important thing is to keep passing them on.”

People walking into Hicklebee’s at 1378 Lincoln Avenue in downtown Willow Glen are entering a child’s imagination. Here, the best in children’s literature lines the shelves, and the characters peer out from the walls. From the worn cushions to the mismatched chairs, Hicklebee’s is every bit an independent bookstore. There are no gleaming register lines or stacks of discount buys; instead, there is a bathtub filled with pillows (for reading in, of course) and Clifford the Big Red Dog’s collar.

On the walls, there is a collection that can only be deemed “Hicklebee’s Museum.” Framed original illustrations from Rosemary Wells’ Ruby and Max occupy a place of honor next to a model of the plug from King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. A sign hangs nearby reading “Diagon Alley” right next to Charlotte spinning a web. What wall space remains is covered in signatures and drawings from almost every famous author or illustrator in children’s literature, including Jules Feiffer, illustrator of the classic Phantom Tollbooth, and Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling. Yet what makes the illustrations all the better is that many of them are scrawled across bathroom doors. It’s bathroom graffiti for children.

Enter Valerie Lewis, the last remaining founder and current co-owner of Hicklebee’s. “Sometimes we have a hard time explaining to [the children] why they can’t write on the walls at home,” she laughs. Lewis points out more artifacts littering the tops of shelves and signatures along doorways from authors and illustrators who have visited the store over the years. “We never know what they’re going to sign or what they’re going to do,” she says. “I always think to myself, ‘I know this person, and they just drew their character on a toilet.’”

When Hicklebee’s began over 33 years ago, the walls were blank. “It was like the artist looking at a canvas,” Lewis remembers. “I love the fact that I had this store and no experience and a zillion possibilities and that there was no end to the possibilities. I loved that idea.” Over the years, these same possibilities have shaped what has been recognized as one of the nation’s best children’s bookstores. Hicklebee’s stands alone in a market where the gap between quality children’s literature, found in the libraries of academia, and the overly commercialized form of children’s entertainment, found in modern bookstores, looms large.

In the beginning, however, it was simply the collective dream of four friends who had no experience owning a bookstore. “We all came in my house and sat in the kitchen, and everybody brought their favorite children’s books,” Lewis recalls. “I would open them up and see this one is from Harper and Row, and I would call information in New York.” Eagerly, Lewis would contact the desired publishers for catalogs. “We would think, ‘They are going to be so excited when they find out about us.’”

As straightforward as Hicklebee’s beginning was, the way it has unfolded and transformed has been anything but simple. Rather, Hicklebee’s has metamorphosed into something more complex over the decades through the collective efforts of authors, illustrators, and even the readers. During a tour, Lewis gently pulls down an unassuming brown shopping bag labeled “Ollivanders” from a top shelf. A child who frequents the store brought it back from a trip to England and gave it to Lewis for the museum. Peeking inside the bag, customers can see a magic wand nestled among the tissue paper wrapping. “We just started it,” Lewis emphasizes. “It was the authors who did the additions.” She points to a three-foot-tall cardboard cutout of a gorilla hanging from the ceiling. “See that ape?” she asks. “Well, Peggy Rathmann is a Caldecott award-winning illustrator. One day, she and her husband drove up. They opened the door, pulled out a ladder and a rope, and hung that.”

“Let’s go hang it at Hicklebee’s” is the quintessential thought behind this local treasure. With the opening and subsequent closing of the big chain bookstores, and the advent of discount online shopping, this small independent store has weathered the storm of consumer habits. Lewis and the shop’s associates often observe patrons browsing books, scanning their barcodes with pricing apps on smartphones, and then walking out the doors, perhaps only to order the same book with next-day free shipping and no sales tax from the internet. Some even download the books straight to their devices. Lewis comments powerfully on the recent trend: “When people compare electronic books for children and picture books for children, they are comparing apples and artichokes. An electronic book is no more a book than a radio or a television is a book. They are all telling stories, but a book looks like that, in my opinion.” Lewis points to a stack of books with crisp white pages, nestled between bright covers. One can’t help but think of the difference between seeing a photograph of a painting and being able to see the texture of the brush strokes on the original in a gallery.

Yet, Lewis remains optimistic. “We are not against electronic books; we are just pro-paper,” she says, laughing. So what’s next in Hicklebee’s storyline? More author visits, children’s story times, craft days, reading clubs, and, of course, additions to the walls and shelves. Customers continue to come in for the magic and wisdom that can only be found at the heart of Willow Glen and at the hands of Lewis’ expert staff, so she is not too worried. “In the end, however we get our stories, the important thing is to keep passing them on.”

instagram: hicklebees
facebook: hicklebees
twitter: hicklebees

This article originally appeared in Issue 4.3 “Branding”