Gray Area Foundation for the Arts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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.[1] 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.”[2]

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).[3][4] 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,[5][6] 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.[7][4] 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.[8][9]



Gray Area regularly hosts exhibitions focusing on interactive multimedia and technology, by local and international artists. Past exhibitions held at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts:

  • 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[edit]

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.[10]


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.[11]

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.[11]


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.[12]

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.[12]


The 3rd year of the Gray Area Festival focused on the challenges to the optimism of the future.[13]

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.

2017 multimedia performances were by BLEIE, Chelley Sherman, David Last, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Nonotak, Novi sad, and Rival Consoles.


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.[10][14][15]

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.

2018 Performances by Eartheater, Erik van der Molen, Hundred Waters, Layne & Rachel Aiello, Lily Ackerman, Machinedrum, Patricia, Pfadfinderei, Second Woman, and Subset.


The Gray Area Festival 2019 focused on experience including augmented reality, virtual reality and XR.[16] 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.[17] [18][19][20][21]

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.[22][18]

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.[22][23]

Partnerships and projects[edit]

Gray Area Foundation for The Arts has partnered with MIT Senseable City Lab to produce a multi-faceted series of community initiatives and symposiums called Senseable Cities Speaker Series.[24]

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.[25]

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.[26]

Artist residency[edit]

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)[27]

Arts Incubator[edit]

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.[28]

Media coverage[edit]

Gray Area's Josette Melchor was selected as one of the five innovators showcased on Ford's The Edge of Progress Tour.[29]

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.[30]


  1. ^ Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer (21 February 2009). "Arts district to transform lower Taylor Street". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  2. ^ Gray Area (2012). "Mission". Retrieved 31 Dec 2012.
  3. ^ "forward/slash: The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts Story". 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b Mid-Market Street Monitor (2009). "Examiner on Mid-Market Street revival". Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  5. ^ San Francisco Chronicle (30 September 2009). "An art gallery blossoms on seedy Taylor Street". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  6. ^ SF Weekly (2009). "Arts groups create new music opportunities in the Tenderloin". Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  7. ^ San Francisco Business Times (24 May 2009). "Mid-Market arts district may finally premiere". Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  8. ^ SF Gov: Office of the Mayor (2010). "Mayor Newsom Announces San Francisco Arts Commission Awarded $250,000 Grant..." Retrieved 6 January 2011.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ SF Examiner (2010). "Steve Falk: Mid-Market Street's best new hope can happen". Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Gray Area Festival". Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Gray Area Festival 2015". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Gray Area Festival 2016". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Gray Area Festival 2017". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  14. ^ McDermott, Matt (25 July 2018). "Gray Area Festival brings Eartheater, Patricia to San Francisco". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 5 Aug 2018.
  15. ^ Kost, Ryan (23 July 2018). "Mission District's Gray Area exists where art, technology intersect". Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Gray Area Festival 2019". Gray Area Festival. 25 July 2019. Retrieved 19 Aug 2020.
  17. ^ "Gray Area Announces Josette Melchor's Leadership Transition at 5th Annual Festival". Medium. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 19 Aug 2020.
  18. ^ a b Renée Reizman (2 August 2019). "The Future of Conceptual, Immersive Art Hasn't Quite Arrived". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 19 Aug 2020.
  19. ^ Nina Tabios (21 June 2019). "The Future of Conceptual, Immersive Art Hasn't Quite Arrived". The Bay Bridged. Retrieved 19 Aug 2020.
  20. ^ Peter Lawrence Kan (23 July 2019). "Enter Hell in a Robotic Exoskeleton, at Gray Area Festival". SF Weekly. Retrieved 19 Aug 2020.
  21. ^ Nastia Voynovskaya (18 July 2019). "Enter Hell in a Robotic Exoskeleton, at Gray Area Festival". KQED. Retrieved 19 Aug 2020.
  22. ^ a b Winston Mann (31 July 2019). "Gray Area Festival 2019". 48hills. Retrieved 19 Aug 2020.
  23. ^ Michael Calore (30 July 2019). "Strap on Your Exoskeleton and Dance, Dance, Dance". Wired. Retrieved 19 Aug 2020.
  24. ^ Gray Area (2010). "Senseable Cities Speaker Series". Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  25. ^ "City Centered website". 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  26. ^ "". 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  27. ^ Gray Area (2010). "Artists". Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  28. ^ "Incubator Membership - Gray Area Art & Technology". Gray Area Art & Technology. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  29. ^ "The Edge of Progress Tour: Technological Art and Robotic Filmmakers in San Francisco". 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  30. ^ Jones, Kevin (18 April 2017). "Gray Area Distributing Remaining Funds From Ghost Ship Donations". Retrieved 24 July 2018.

External links[edit]