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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.”

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[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.]

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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.

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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.”

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This article originally appeared in Issue 4.3 “Branding”