Intersection for the Arts

Funding Received: 2011
San Francisco, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
June 24, 2012

Intersection for the Arts is a leading collaborator on the 5M Project – a four-acre mixed-use development project in the heart of San Francisco. At 5M, more than 2,000 creative organizations have linked together: TechShop, Hub, SFMade, Off the Grid, SOCAP and Intersection, among others. Together, they are working to transform an underutilized property into a vibrant place for community and innovation. With the support of ArtPlace, Intersection and Forest City Development are co-creating PlaceWorks – a pioneering new model that fuses innovation in cultural, community and economic development practice.

ArtPlace spoke to Deborah Cullinan of Intersection for the Arts about what is happening at 5M Project.

ARTPLACE: What will be different in your community as a result of your work?

CULLINAN: The work we do in the arts, no matter where it takes place, is about a kind of transformation. The beauty is that the shape and scale of that transformation - from the deeply, singularly personal to the gigantic, the societal–ranges as wildly as the weather in San Francisco. Whether we are illuminating forgotten or discarded stories, casting light on injustice, reaching out to one lost child, or working in our communities to insist on beauty and equity—we are change seekers.

ARTPLACE: So what does that change look like? What is different in the world because of the work we do?

CULLINAN: The first exhibition that we opened in our new gallery at the 5M project (in May 2009) was called Lets Talk of a System. Inspired by German artist Joseph Beuys, it suggested that art is not simply an early stage intervention along an elusive and inherently inequitable continuum of change. Rather, art is an integral component of a wholly connected system like none we have yet made real. A system that is, in itself, a work of art. In Beuys’ words:

“Let's talk of a system that transforms all the social organisms into a work of art, in which the entire process of work is included... something in which the principle of production and consumption takes on a form of quality. It's a gigantic project. “

This week—and 2 solid years later—we opened a new exhibition called Motion Graphics exploring street art and urban movement. The week before, we hosted an intimate dinner party for 40 inspiring people exploring what we can do when we build a community of artists and social entrepreneurs seeking to make a difference. These events were as beautiful as any events I have experienced in my life. They were beautiful simply and completely because of the people. All kinds of people from all kinds of places with all definitions and kinds of power–people gathering on swelling common ground that says we can do something different and better together, than what we can on our own.

This is the work we are doing with 5M PlaceWorks. We’re creating a system that defies boundaries, a system that insists that art is an essential component of positive change every step of the way,  from early stage placemaking that celebrates the beauty in our neighborhoods, to helping to realize the dreams that live in the hearts of those around us, to creating real-time equitable opportunity for people to change their lives and their worlds in the ways that they want it to change.

At the opening of Motion Graphics, an artist drove his art car up onto the sidewalk and parked it. This caused confusion with our partner and landlord, the Hearst Corporation. The security team—trained to defend a fortress, protecting the secrets buried inside an iconic newspaper building–was stunned. Before anything could happen, throngs of people started to gather to look at the car, to delight in its subversion of the street as they had known it. It wasn’t long before an entirely random bus pulled up. The back door opened to an enticing performance by a group of amazing musicians. All kinds of people stepped toward and into the bus together to experience this magical music, this surprising moment. The street will never be the same.