16 arts projects that reflect the diversity, identity and innovation of San Jose

Arts / Article

This week, the Knight Arts team will gather in San Jose to meet with our grantees, celebrate their successes and begin a conversation on how to build networks that support artists living and working in San Jose. We are also announcing the latest artists and arts organizations to receive Knight funding. In San Jose, we have invested in great ideas from arts organizations whose projects reflect the community’s diversity, identity and innovation.

I am excited about the ideas the theater scene has brought forward this year to present new productions. They align with Knight’s strategy of supporting high-quality work that is designed to engage audiences. The ideas span from a neighborhood-based theater, Teatro Vision, to a mid-size company City Lights and an established institution, San Jose Stage Company. Each theater is producing work that is authentic to San Jose and will resonate with different audiences.

Teatro Vision de San Jose will develop a bilingual play – in concert with the local residents – that combines source material from classic Mexican and Chicano literature in addition to personal stories and objects from the local Latino community. Through a process developed over the past 20 years, Teatro Vision pairs actors and directors with community members to generate material for original plays. The artists then develop the final script and perform it with community members in designated roles. This is a powerful approach to creating work where the audience can hear their own words spoken back to them while watching their stories unfold on stage. This type of inclusive, community-inspired work approached with artistic rigor is what drew us to the project.

Photo courtesy of Teatro Visión.

San Jose Stage Company is embarking on a new co-production and co-commission of a play titled “The Memory Stick,” which commemorates Ireland’s centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The play will be presented jointly with Dublin, Ireland’s city arts office. This collaboration will raise the profile of San Jose’s theater community internationally. The play provides an opportunity to facilitate conversation around protest and how communities around the world are struggling for self determination. 

City Lights Performance Group of San Jose will experiment with technological innovation in the theater by supporting an immersive adaptation of Mary Shelley’s  novel “Frankenstein,” using projection mapping and first-person video tools to visually surround the audience with Frankenstein’s creature’s point of view. Building on previous investments from Knight, City Lights will use their projection technology to push the boundaries of set design. You can take a look at the video below to get a feel for what will happen on stage.

The ability to reimagine this classic play in a way that speaks to today’s audiences is exciting and necessary to sustain support for live theater. Imagine instead of seeing an old school microscope next to Frankenstein, you see a modern lab with DNA being modified. New production equipment is enabling theaters to create environments that would be cost prohibitive to build in a traditional set form.

We hope to learn from and share insights from these projects as well as our other grantees over the next year. Congratulations to all our 2016 arts grantees in San Jose. You can find out more about them below.

2016 San Jose arts grantees

Symphony Silicon Valley ($20,000) To experiment with new ways to attract younger audiences by launching a digital marketing campaign for the symphony’s major film score series, including the first performance of the score from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this month

Photo courtesy of Symphony Silicon Valley.

San Jose State University School of Music and Dance ($10,000) To engage audiences with a production of Mendelssohn’s great oratorio “Elijah,” with live action and digital media that challenge the audience to experience the biblical story in the context of modern issues

Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra ($10,000) To improve instruction of traditional Chinese music and instruments through master classes for teachers, who in turn will educate students about traditional music and instruments such as the ehru, pipa or ruan

School of Visual Philosophy ($30,000) To help artists expand their practice and spark new ideas by bringing in artists and experts in science, technology and the humanities to teach courses together. These classes will allow instructors to view their own field with a new perspective and introduce students to creating interdisciplinary work

Photo courtesy of School of Visual Philosophy.

School of Arts and Culture ($25,000) To strengthen the cultural leadership pipeline in San Jose by offering a yearlong fellowship to arts leaders of color

School of Arts and Culture ($20,000) To enhance cultural offerings in East San Jose by enabling local artists and arts agencies to use the production facilities at the Mexican Heritage Plaza at a reduced cost, and to receive technical assistance in marketing and facilities operation 

Exhibition District ($40,000) To transform a central alleyway from a blighted, unused space into a landmark by orchestrating 100 artists to paint 100 murals arranged into a mosaic

San Jose Taiko Group ($30,000) To plan and produce a series of immersive events that convey the rich history and vibrant present of San Jose’s Japantown through a blending of San Jose Taiko’s drumming with Epic Immersive’s theatrical and production expertise

Photo courtesy of San Jose Taiko Group.

Naatak ($10,000) To engage audiences in a new main-stage production in 2017 that combines ideas from India’s past and America’s present, with an emphasis on how the two come together for the local Indian-American community

Teatro Vision de San Jose ($25,000) To develop a bilingual play – in concert with local residents – that combines source material from classic Mexican and Chicano literature in addition to personal stories and objects from the local Latino community.

Photo courtesy of Naatak.

San Jose Jazz ($25,000) To bring more local, cultural programming to neighborhoods through a “pirate radio” project – a mobile radio broadcasting station that travels to neighborhoods and highlights local musicians from the SJZ Boom Box mobile stage

City Lights Performance Group of San Jose ($75,000) To experiment with technological innovation in the theater by supporting an immersive adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, using projection mapping and first-person video tools to surround the audience with Frankenstein’s creature’s point of view

Backwater Arts | Anne & Mark’s Art Party ($25,000) To promote San Jose as a hub for innovative visual and performance art by expanding the art and cultural festival Anne & Mark’s Art Party to include a juried competition and full week of programming

San Jose Museum of Art Association ($20,000) To engage new audiences with an exhibition of contemporary art focused on quiet contemplation, accompanied by guided meditations, tea ceremonies on the museum’s sky bridge, and related programs

San Jose Stage Company ($30,000) To raise San Jose’s artistic profile internationally with a new play titled “The Memory Stick,” which commemorates Ireland’s centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising. The play will be presented jointly with Dublin’s City Arts Office, Irish Theatre Institute and Dublin Theatre Festival.

San Jose Poetry Festival ($5,000) To assemble local and national literary talent during the second annual San Jose Poetry Festival, with readings by poet laureates, writer workshops and literary reviews

Amanda Thompson is an arts program officer for Knight Foundation.