Brief Project Description
Collaborating with the Modesto Art Museum, artists Jessica Gomula-Kruzic and Christian Hali are creating //Building Imagination, an artistic response to Modesto’s ranking as the most unlivable city in the country. Through this project, we will explore some of the reasons for Modesto’s low ranking and re-imagine ways for the city to become a more livable, or even Utopian, society. Our goal is to confront the area’s poverty of imagination by using art - videos, architecture, design, and gameplay — to inspire creativity to help solve the area’s many urban problems.
After examining 70 criteria, the 2006 Most Livable Cities ranking placed Modesto last of 373 cities. In late 2008, Forbes Magazine rated it one of the 10 most miserable cities in the country, and in April 2009, Yahoo.com rated it the least livable metro area of more than 500,000 people. Modesto’s problems are overwhelming and deep rooted. It has high rates of poverty, crime, pollution, unemployment, cost of living, and home foreclosures; it has low rates of doctors per capita, access to health care, parks, recreational opportunities, and cultural amenities. Additionally, Modesto is in the San Joaquin Valley, the area that a congressional study in December 2005 called the most impoverished in the nation. Modesto’s ranking is in stark contrast to its reputation in the middle years of the 20th century as a progressive and desirable community known for its cutting edge architecture and urban design, and one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
The Alternate Reality Game
//BUILDING IMAGINATION: the ARG is an alternate reality event, a serious game in changing the world for the public good.
It is free to play and open to anyone, anywhere. It is for all ages; recommended age 13 and up. It invites everyone to help re-imagine a future for Modesto, or anywhere else in the world. People participate by contributing original online stories, creating new visions with every word.
The goal of the social network game is to help empower people all over the world, and especially people in Modesto, to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems.
The game begins on September 14, 2010. Players can join the game at any time.
On December 1, 2010 the first season of the game will end.The game’s masters reward the participants (“heros”) with tokens according to their contributions to our realistic portrayal of the re-building of imagination. The game places value on player-created communities, collaborative stories, and collective efforts.
Each contribution helps the game arrive at a larger truth. No team of experts knows better than a given individual what effect an influx of imagination could have upon that individual’s life, or what action he or she will take to spur it forward. Personal reactions to our simulated influx of imagination, placed in context with many other points of view, will help us all realize what’s at stake in our community.
The four videos, each about 5 minutes in length, will be structured around the city’s official slogan “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health” and will explore the city’s livability issues primarily through its architecture and urban design. While the videos will document the city’s architecture and design, they will be primarily expressive and experimental in their poetic interpretations of each topic, and live video will be incorporated into the installations. According to the American Institute of Architects, architecture and urban design offer a powerful perspective for exploring and finding remedies for a city’s livability issues. We have chosen this perspective to highlight the arts and their unique contribution to exploring the area’s deep seated urban problems. The perspective also focuses on art and artists as agents of change, and builders of the community.
Water will serve the entire project as a unifying metaphor and visual image. It will be a symbol for the area’s abundance and economic prosperity. The Water video will explore the specific importance of water in the economy and environment of the Modesto area. The video will include the city’s bridges, canals, and waterways, particularly the Tuolumne River running through downtown Modesto, as well as a component of live video. Water will also be our way to re-imagine how Modesto can protect environmental resources and conserve landscapes, particularly along the Tuolumne River. We will explore how conserving landscapes can lead to personally and communally rewarding recreational and cultural opportunities.
The Wealth video will examine the economic well-being of the city through its residential architecture and neighborhood design. We will explore issues of livability, particularly the city’s high rates of home foreclosure. We will explore ways to re-imagine Modesto neighborhoods, particularly through mixed-use development, including preserving urban centers, creating neighborhood identities, and the creation of the huge Tuolumne River Corridor with parks, walking trails, and bike paths that encourage exercise and discourage the use of cars, and we will incorporate a component of live video. Variety creates vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, and diverse communities and accommodates residents in different stages of their lives.
To get broad based community participation, we have included several avenues for public participation. First, they have been invited to submit images and locations for inclusion in the project through the Modesto Art Museum’s Flickr photo site. They can submit both video and photo images. Second, members of the public will be interviewed, and these interviews will be included in the Contentment video. Third, this project website is an accessible hub for community involvement. Members of the community are welcome to post their suggestions, critiques, questions, thoughts and feelings on this site, and are encouraged to dialogue with other community members about livability issues in Modesto and to re-imagine the city’s future. And fourth, we have commitments from the following three nonprofit / government community partners who are working specifically to improve the quality of life in Modesto.
The American Institute of Architects, Sierra Valley Chapter:
The Tuolumne River Trust
The City of Modesto Public Art Committee
The vision of the Modesto Public Art Program is a city that is an aesthetically stimulating and enjoyable place to live. People are delighted to visit, play, or work in public spaces when they are well designed and attractive. Art and artistic design permeate every aspect of the city’s infrastructure either as free-standing art works or as part of the design of public buildings and parks. Citizens and corporations are inspired to include art in the public spaces of their own properties and building projects. Modesto has a reputation as a place committed to creativity and the arts, attracting tourists and businesses to the city. (From the Modesto Public Art Master Plan). Henrietta Sparkman, chair of the Modesto Public Art Committee is our contact. This is a citizen’s advisory committee of the Modesto Parks and Recreation Department. They will assist in the process for outdoor screenings of the video, advise on the project, and receive public comment on the videos.
Public Exhibitions and Screening of the Videos
After the videos are completed, and over the course of six months, we will host free public screenings of the videos on the insides and outsides of buildings, directly reconfiguring the landscape of the city and challenging preconceptions. Live video will be incorporated into the screenings. The screenings are not site specific. By projecting the videos in community spaces both public and private, the project also draws upon the Modesto Art Museum’s mission to sponsor art events in every possible setting including “galleries, public and private institutions, parks, streets, schools, churches, homes, on-line, and in traveling exhibits.”
- Best of Oakland, Jack London Square, Oakland, CA; August 2010.
- Anderson Gallery, 1323 J Street, Modesto, during a Third Thursday Art Walk
- Chartreuse Muse Gallery, 10th Street, Modesto, during a Third Thursday Art Walk
- Carnegie Art Center, Turlock, solo exhibition scheduled.
About The Modesto Art Museum
The Modesto Art Museum was founded in 2005. Its mission is to inspire the creativity of people everywhere through the arts, for their own enjoyment, and for the improvement of their personal lives and the life of the whole community. To accomplish this mission, the museum sponsors exhibitions, workshops, classes, lectures, publications, performances, readings, tours, films, and symposia. The museum is not primarily an archive for art, but a facilitator of and catalyst for creativity in the community. It does not have its own building but rather brings art into the community through an ongoing series of temporary public exhibits and events. We have hosted painting, collage, assemblage, multi-media, technology, movie, photo, and sculpture events in a park, a theatre, museums, several art galleries, at street fairs, and other community formats.
In the area of media and digital arts, the museum is co-founder and producer of the Modesto Architecture Film Festival, the only architecture film festival in the country, and the Modesto Reel Food Film Festival, the only annual food film festival in California. In the field of architecture, the museum published Modernism in Modesto, 1937–1972, a guide to the modern architecture of Modesto, hosts the Flickr online Modesto Architecture group, and leads guided walking tours of downtown Modesto architecture. The popular walking tours are part of the museum’s successful record of community engagement.
This project is appropriate now because Modesto’s quality of life issues are receiving local and national attention. This is an opportunity for the museum to address major social issues and provide a format for creative problem-solving for the community. We will directly address the area’s poverty of imagination, particularly in regards to creativity in solving deep-seated, systemic problems.
Inspiring Creativity By
- Offering people an experience of the power of art to inspire creativity and to help solve significant community problems.
- Raising consciousness, encouraging thought, and facilitating dialogue about quality of life issues in Modesto.
- Educating the population about basic principals for livable communities, in particular the American Institute of Architect’s 10 Principles of Livable Communities and the city of Modesto’s master plan for future development.
About the Executive Artistic Producers
Artist Jessica Gomula’s intermedia installation work employs the use of animation and video sequences projected into large scale installation environments which elicit viewer interaction and participation. Her work has been exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally, in traditional and non-traditional settings. She is professor of Time Based Media at California State University, Stanislaus. This project continues her artistic goal to create collaborative intermedia artwork in alternative public spaces and will expand her social-consciousness-raising subject matter through the metaphorical use of architectural structures.
Artist Christian Hali uses architecture and landscape as a visual metaphor for the human condition. Hali’s award-winning collaborative work includes art direction for Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues and Playhouse Disney. His fine art work has been exhibited in New York, New Jersey, and California, and he has taught new media courses at CSU Stanislaus. This project builds upon his artistic interest in the intersection of people, infrastructure, and community and will allow his work to be used as a public vehicle for awareness and change.
A Collaborative Conversation
Division of Major Logistical Duties
The project will be overseen by Bob Barzan, the executive director of the Modesto Art Museum. Barzan will be the primary contact between the artists and the museum and will meet with the artists regularly. He will be responsible for securing insurance, permits, or permissions and for working with the artists to complete the project. He will also work with the artists in the organizing of public screenings of the finished videos.