A multi-discipline artist exhibition spanning 10 collaborative artist groups composed of over 40 artists participating under the curatorial direction of Lance Fung, all site-specific, site-inspired, and site-informed, in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. I was the project director for this massive project as well as being part of the CENTS collaborative team. What began as cocktail note conversations while I was interning with Lance during his Lucky Number Seven Biennial at Site Santa Fe, and then migrated into a graduate level course, where I was also his teaching assistant, we began the project in 2008 and opened to the public in 2009. Some of the artworks and partnerships still exist today, and the entirety is a lesson to community-engaged art making a difference socially, politically, and economically.
Each collaborative group took on their own research and development of their project with feedback from Lance and me. Our goal was that the project have strong community connections. We pushed the artists to stay clear of form and content in early development, and instead focus on research and concepts for as long as developmentally possible. Given the yearlong development, there was huge turnover in the artist roster as many artists couldn’t commit to the process for a variety of reasons, but a core group composed mostly of Lance’s graduate students and handpicked professional artists kept the project going.
It was all grass roots. The students did the web design, graphic design, and marketing. They also did a lot of the community organization and outreach. Lance and I stayed on the organizational side of things, securing fiscal sponsorship from the North of Market Tenderloin Community Benefit District which was nexus of businesses invested in improving the lives of all residents of the Tenderloin District. We maintained a liaison with the San Francisco Mayor’s office as well as the San Francisco Arts Commission, even though no official sponsorship or partnership existed. We truly kept it a community project by partnering with local businesses to secure storefronts and other alternative venues for the artists to create their installations.