Gray Area Foundation for the Arts
Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization supporting art and technology for social good in San Francisco, California. Gray Area hosts exhibitions and music events, software and electronics classes, a media lab and resident-artist program. Gray Area Foundation for the Arts’ stated purpose is to bring “together the best creative coders, data artists, designers, and makers to create experiments that build social consciousness through digital culture.”
Founded in 2006 by its Executive Director Josette Melchor and Board Chairman Peter Hirshberg, Gray Area joins similarly focused institutions, like Eyebeam Art and Technology Center and Ars Electronica, in promoting the intersections of art, technology and community by working to produce, exhibit, and develop the creative technical skills that allow for experimentation with and exploration of the most contemporary technologies.
Following a conversation in 2006 about the lack of proper venues for the exhibition of new media and technology based art work, Melchor and Hirshberg initially opened Gray Area Gallery in San Francisco's South of Market (SoMa). By 2008, the gallery incorporated as a non-profit and was renamed Gray Area Foundation for The Arts. In June 2009, Gray Area relocated to its present facility near the end of Taylor Street . In total, the 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) location had included in addition to the pornography arcade, a bar (Club 65) and liquor store. Leased from property owner Jack Sumski, the space allowed Gray Area to expand its well-established exhibition platform to include artist residencies, educational workshops and symposiums, growing Gray Area into the comprehensive and integrated center for the creation and promotion of technology-based art it is today.
When the Art Theatres pornography arcade that had been there since the 1970s moved out, Sumski decided that "it was time to do something in my old age, to get something going, and give the Tenderloin a future" and invested heavily to prepare the site for Gray Area. Gray Area Foundation for The Arts is part of a coalition of city agencies, arts organizations and community service providers seeking to revitalize a neighborhood that has historically struggled with the effects of substance abuse, addiction and poverty.
- Zimoun: Solo Exhibition Zimoun
- Milleux Sonores: Daniel Bisig/Martin Neukom/Jan Schacher, Jason Kahn, Yves Netzhammer/Bernd Schurer, Felix Profos and Jeroen Strijbos/Rob van Rijswijk.
- Open: C.E.B. Reas, Camille Utterback
- Prototype: Alphonzo Solorzano, Gabriel Dunne, Ryan Alexander, Miles Stemper & Daniel Massey
- Transpose: Aaron Koblin & Robert Hodgin
Gray Area Foundation for the Arts offers educational workshops in open source software, such as Processing, SuperCollider, openFrameworks and Arduino as well as electronic sewing, soft circuitry, and wearable technology.
Gray Area Festival
Launched in 2015, the Gray Area Festival is the first International media arts festival in San Francisco. The format of the festival is art show, daily talks and night performances. With initial presentations by Jane Metcalfe, Michael Naimark, Golan Levin, Camille Utterback and night events by Shigeto, Alessandro Cortini and more. The success of the event led to follow-up festivals in 2016, 2017, and a 2018 edition.
After the successful #ReviveTheGrand campaign which led to the update of the current home of the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, the first Gray Area Festival took place in 2015.
Artists & Performers included Alessandro Cortini, Andy Rappaport, Aram Bartholl, Barry Threw, Becky Stern, Bradley G. Munkowitz, Brady Forrest, Camille Utterback, Casey Reas, Chacha Sikes, Chris Delbuck, Dan Moore, Darren David, David Zicarelli, Di-Ann Eisnor, Effixx, Ekene Ijeoma, Eric Rodenbeck, Evan Roth, Gabriel Dunne, Golan Levin, Greg J. Smith, Ian Heisters, Jake Levitas, Jane Metcalfe, Jonathan Dinu, Jono Brandel, Josette Melchor, Joshua Kit Clayton, Lindsay Howard, Lustmord, Mark Slee, Mary Franck, MaryClare Brzytwa, Matthew Ganucheau, Max Weisel, Meara O'Reilly, Megan Newcome, Micah Elizabeth Scott, Michael Chang, Michael Naimark, Morehshin Allahyari, Olof Mathé, Opeyemi Olukemi, Paola Antonelli, Paul Chasan, Peter Hirshberg, Rachel Binx, Reza Ali, Ryan Alexander, Sarah Brin, Sha Hwang, Shigeto, Sophie Lamparter, Taurin Barrera, Teebs, Thomas Deckert, Tiffany Apczynski, Toby Schachman, Tolu Lawrence, Vero Bollow, Yael Braha, Zach Verdin, Zachary Lieberman, and Zoë Salditch.
The 2nd year of the Gray Area Festival focused on a prompt by Buckminster Fuller and a holistic approach to the arts. The event kicked off with the Refraction Exhibition.
Artists and performers in 2016 included Aaron Koblin, Alexander Randon, Benjamin Bratton, Casey McGonagle, Ceci Moss, Chelley Sherman, Container, David McConville, Deru, Effixx, Ekene Ijeoma, Eric Parren, Erik Nemeth, Erin LeDell, Fred Turner, Gabriel Dunne, Geeta Dayal, Gene Youngblood, Georgina Voss, Harvey Moon, Heather Kelley, Jonathan Dinu, Jonathon Keats, Jono Brandel, Joreg, Joris Strijbos, Joshua Noble, Justin Anastasi, Kamal Sinclair, KOKOROMI, Lara Grant, Mark Hellar, Marpi, Megan Prelinger, Morehshin Allahyari, Nicky Assmann, Pablo Garcia, Pharmakon, Ray McClure, Ryan Alexander, Sarah Brin, Sherri Wasserman, Sophie Lamparter, Sougwen Chung, Telefon Tel Aviv, and Tiffany Shlain.
The 3rd year of the Gray Area Festival focused on the challenges to the optimism of the future.
The 2017 art exhibition featured Angela Washko, Ashley Baccus-Clark, Can Buyukberber, Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Jan Nikolai Nelles, Joanie Lemercier, Juliette Bibasse, Memo Akten, Moor Mother, Nora Al-Badri, and The Digital Museum of Digital Art.
Speakers included Angela Washko, Ashley Baccus-Clark, Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Caroline Sinders, Charles Lindsay, Dawn Danby, Dee Hibbert-Jones, Gretta Louw, Jan Nikolai Nelles, Joanie Lemercier, Juliette Bibasse, Kenric McDowell, Kevin Byrd, Lauren McCarthy, Marie Hicks, Moor Mother, Newton Harrison, Nora Al-Badri, Nora Khan, Novi sad, Paul Dillinger, Rasheedah Phillips, and Toshi Anders Hoo.
The Gray Area Festival returned in 2018 with a focus on Blockchain, Distributed Systems and Art as the main theme. The event opened with the Distributed Systems exhibition curated by Barry Threw. The next two days Friday July 27 and Saturday July 28 hosted daytime high level talks around the festival theme with night-time audio visual performances.
Presenters included #NEWPALMYRA, Andrew Newman, Ben Bartlett, Christoph Wachter & Mathias Jud, Christopher Adams, Claire L. Evans, Clément Renaud, Cynthia Gayton, DISNOVATION.ORG, Grayson Earle, Ingrid LaFleur, Jessica Lynne, Julia Kaganskiy, Max Hampshire, Nicolas Maigret, Primavera De Filippi, Rob Myers, Ruth Catlow, Gabriel Dunne, Cullen Miller, Sam Hart, Sarah Friend, Simon Denny, Sophie Kahn, Sophie Lamparter, Theodore Watson, and Zane Witherspoon.
The Gray Area Festival 2019 focused on experience including augmented reality, virtual reality and XR. 2019 centered around the Experiential Space Research Lab, ISM Hexadrome and a robotic exoskeleton performance, Inferno. Also, Gray Area Founder, Josette Melchor, transitioned her role from Executive Director to Board Member making the Gray Area Executive Director, Barry Threw who also served as the curator of Gray Area Festival 2019. 
Installations in the event included work by Thom Yorke & Tarik Barri, Holly Herndon & Mathew Dryhurst, Ben Frost and MFO. Other performances by CAO & Michael Tan, Frank Bretschneider & Pierce Warnecke, Lara Sarkissian & Jemma Woolmore, Peter Van Hoesen & Heleen Blanken, René Löwe & Pfadfinderei, World premiere of work by Suzanne Ciani & AudeRrose and Inferno by Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn.
Presenters included Memo Akten, Salome Asega, Chris Barr, Monica Bello, Jessica Brillhart, Sarah Brin, Kathleen Cohen, Jax Deluca, Jiajia Fei, Fri Forjindam, Nicholas Fortugno, Domhnaill Hernon, Naut Humon, Jaron Lanier, Brenda Laurel, Rosa Menkman, Sasha Samochina, Timoni West, and ISM Hexadome.
Partnerships and projects
City Centered Festival brought together artists, educators and community leaders within the Tenderloin district to generate ideas of using 'locative media' to better understand and connect in their environment.
Syzygryd is a collaboration with three other arts organizations (Interpretive Arson, False Profit Labs & Ardent Heavy Industries), to create a large scale interactive art piece to be unveiled at the 2010 Burning Man event.
The first five resident artists (Alphonzo Solorzano, Gabriel Dunne, Ryan Alexander, Miles Stemper and Daniel Massey) moved into the space in July 2009. In 2010, three of these resident artists remained. (Gabriel Dunne, Ryan Alexander and Daniel Massey)
The Gray Area Incubator is a peer-driven community of creators developing work at the intersection of art and technology. Membership is a 6-month commitment, though many have continued on much longer to develop their works in the Incubator. Artists work in the disciplines of Visual Media Arts, Creative Code, Virtual & Augmented Reality, Civic Engagement & Digital Activism, Social Entrepreneurship, Data Science, Sound & Audio, and Software & Hardware.
Gray Area's Josette Melchor was selected as one of the five innovators showcased on Ford's The Edge of Progress Tour.
After the 2016 Oakland "Ghostship" warehouse fire, Gray Area raised approximately $1.3 million from over 12,000 donors which it distributed to 390 applicants, ranging from deceased victims' next of kin, displaced residents, people injured in the fire, as well as people who would not be acknowledged by traditional disaster relief organizations, including chosen family within marginalized communities.
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