Intersection for the Arts

Funding Received: 2011
San Francisco, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 22, 2012

Something is happening, says Deborah Cullinan of Intersection for the Arts:

In July, as part of our ArtPlace-funded 5MPlaceWorks initiative, Intersection, The Luggage Story Gallery, and Hyphae Design Lab opened the Renoir Trailhead, combining a ranger station, art gallery, and retail outlet in a vacant space in San Francisco's Mid-Market District. The Renoir Trailhead is part of a project we call “Trailblazing”, which is a series of placemaking projects encouraging connectivity in adjacent but divided streets, alleys and neighborhoods.

Inside the Renoir Trailhead, visitors experience art installations curated by The Luggage Store, savor locally roasted coffee from farm:table, purchase seedlings propagated in the nearby Tenderloin National Forest, and get styled out in re-purposed denim clothing created by the youth-driven Holy Stitch! Denim Social Club. Set against a dramatic San Francisco sky, opening night was stunning. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim stood side-by-side with neighborhood youth, artists, activists, and business owners - so many different kinds of people celebrating a corner of our City that people had avoided for years.

Last night, we held an information session about another project we are collaborating on called Urban Prototyping: San Francisco. UP: SF was conceived by Gray Area Foundation for the Arts and is a design and technology festival focusing on replicable digital and physical urban interventions that explore new possibilities in public space. Every project produced will be open source, publicly documented, and replicable in any city in the world.

Gray Area and Intersection are partnering with the SF Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, ReBar Art and Design Studio and Ideo on UP: SF which will culminate in an exposition at the 5M Project in October. We expect thousands of people to participate.

The following is a beautiful personal note written by Gray Area Research Director Jake Levitas following the event that we wanted to share:

Nights like tonight are my answer to the age-old existential question: "Why do you do what you do". There is nothing more rewarding to me than seeing people I love and admire - and people I have never met before - come together to build something greater than themselves. There is an appreciation of the simple beauty of creating things out of thin air that artists, architects, designers, musicians, coders, dancers, hackers, writers, community builders, and makers of all types share in common.

The truth is, these things are not actually created out of thin air. Every idea and object - material, sensory, performative, or otherwise - is the sum total of thousands of experiences, memories, choices, lessons, seconds, minutes, and hours of hundreds of human lives which have somehow aligned in such a way as to give birth to a new creation. Say what you will about language, tools, and opposable thumbs, but humanity's ability to not just evolve, but invent, is what truly distinguishes us as a life form.

We uniquely have the ability to create new things for ourselves which broaden, amplify, and improve the human experience for current and future generations. If necessity is the mother of invention, then, could there be a more necessary time? Is it a coincidence that the open source, open government, tactical urbanism, collaborative consumption, and maker movements have reached critical mass almost simultaneously?

Critical mass is the reason I live and work in San Francisco. Being an organizer more or less full-time for the past year and a half has taught me a lot, and I still feel like I genuinely learn something new every day. This is because organizing is a role fundamentally based around human interaction, and every individual is endlessly complex and beautiful. I am increasingly humbled by the power of passionate groups of people to invent and create together, and try to simply push myself to help facilitate this as much as possible.

To the extent that organizing is a form of leadership, I just hope that more than anything the work we do reflects Lao Tzu's vision of a leader:

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people all remark
We have done it ourselves."
- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Most importantly, we should all have fun, take pride in our work, and encourage as many others as possible to do the same thing. Everything else will follow.

Thank you all for inspiring me every day. Something is happening.
- Jake

By emphasizing bottom up, homegrown solutions, urban prototyping will empower people to feel a greater stake in their urban environment and find room for creativity and expression that helps meet public needs for comfort, health, safety inspiration and fun.

We’re excited to be participating in both the Trailhead and UP festival as part of 5MPlaceWorks, bringing people together to reimagine the city in artistic, exciting ways.
As Jake says, something is happening.