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Way Outside the Box

news 1MAH’s Third Friday event showcases Santa Cruz’s flair for cutting-edge design and technology

Three years ago, Andrew Meave was struck with the idea of translating brain waves into light and music, and projecting them in an enclosed space. Armed only with the vision and a drive to manifest it, Meave taught himself computer programing, and built and acquired all the equipment he would need to bring his idea to life.

“I didn’t even know if it was possible, and then I started looking into it and realized there’s all this technology available to us, and it is possible,” says Meave. “The hardest part was just overstepping that learning curve of being a computer programmer, which I am not by nature.”

A participant in “Ravel” puts on a headset that reads brain waves and feeds them into a computer. From there the brain waves are translated into corresponding sound and light frequencies, which are then projected in a mirrored chamber that the participant stands inside. Through this synesthetic art piece, Meave hopes to help people perceive the world and their senses of self in a different light.

“I want to create a space that allows people to experience themselves outside of themselves and blurs the lines between where we end and begin, and create a new connectivity to the space around us,” he says.

Meave’s “Ravel” will be part of an event at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) on May 16 with the theme of design and innovation. Artists, designers, and educators from the county and the Bay Area will bring an array of interactive activities and art pieces to the museum for the Third Friday symposium that allow patrons to design their own creations, solve problems, and experience spaces in ways they may have otherwise never imagined.

At Innovation’s Edge

Every invention, from the spoon to the smart phone, begins with an inspired thought. Whether it stems from an unmet need (such as a more refined way to consume food) or a vision for a more connected and entertained public, innovations come to fruition through design. And although it can be difficult to perceive where one ends and the other begins, the two meet and mingle in Santa Cruz County regularly—in business, government, schools and beyond—and when they are joined with the art world, all manner of imaginative creations are born.

“Something that is exciting about this theme is that it’s pulling out the artistry in technology and design, and seeing how we can rethink these terms and enrich them,” says Nora Grant, community programs coordinator at the MAH. “We’re trying to expand notions of art and design, and invite a conversation around how we think about these ideas.”

When attending previous Third Fridays, Jo-Ann Panzardi, chair of the Cabrillo engineering department, looked around the MAH and saw an ideal venue to display the art of engineering to the community, so she pitched the theme to the museum.

“People tend to think that engineering and science are the same, and they are not,” Panzardi says. “Science is the knowledge that exists, and engineering is taking that knowledge and solving a problem using creativity.”

Many of the artists and professionals who will feature their work at the event say that Santa Cruz—with so many creative and artistic minds—is a great fit for this theme.

Panzardi and several Cabrillo engineering students will offer hands-on design projects, all of which combine various fields of engineering. One project called “Foam Coasters” will allow participants to design miniature roller coasters with interlocking foam components. Panzardi and her students will also set up a station to create a ‘‘Jiggabot”—or as Panzardi calls it, “a little creature that moves.” Another activity urges attendees to design the most efficient wind-power device.

“The goal of all these projects is to stimulate creative thinking and design,” says Panzardi. “We’ll have all the supplies, and then people come up with their own designs.”

A group of 14 students and two faculty members traveled to Vuelte Grande, a village in Guatemala, in January of this year through Cabrillo’s engineering abroad program. The students built a rainwater catchment system for the village’s elementary school, and will display a demo of the device at the MAH.

The event brings in people from all over the community, such as Santa Cruz designer Ted Holladay, known for his branding work with businesses like NextSpace and Betty’s Burgers. Holladay will bring a work to the Third Friday event he’s calling “The Faces of Santa Cruz.” He’s inviting event attendees to have their picture taken, which he will later form into a composite, black and white image of every person he photographs. “All of the faces will be multiplied with opacity on top of each other, and you will see what this face ends up looking like with hopefully 100 to 200 people on top of each other,” says Holladay.

Local nonprofit Learn to Discover will offer a variety of interactive stations at the MAH’s Third Friday event. Founded in 2008 by Shelly and Brian Laschkewitsch, Learn to Discover specializes in providing kids with the technology, career, and life skills that they felt were lacking in schools.

“We’re getting kids to try different things, and see what’s available to get them thinking about a career in the future because some kids get to high school or college and don’t really know what they want to do,” says Shelly Laschkewitsch, Learn to Discover’s vice-president.

The Learn to Discover staff will bring an assortment of activities, which they also provide to children who participate in their programs, such as a station where patrons can interact with robots, a Claymation movie station, a Lego building area, an online design program that allows attendees to build their own amusement park, and an activity that utilizes tablets to create digital art.

“Design and innovation are in everything we do,” says Laschkewitsch.

After creating, experimenting, and being blown away by the light and sound of “Ravel,” patrons of the event are encouraged to ease their stimulated minds and reconnect with themselves on the serpentine paths of Bay Area visual artist Paz de la Calzada’s “Nomadic Labyrinth.”

The “Nomadic Labyrinth” combines recycled carpet remnants from hotels and casinos into a pattern inspired by a design de la Calzada witnessed while traveling in Morocco. The massive maze of carpet combines the patterns of East and West to create an art piece that intends to change the space where it is placed, and the minds of those who interact with it.

“The labyrinth is a spiritual tool that has been used for thousands of years and is common to different religions,” says de la Calzada.

After a year of design and construction, and with funding from the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants, de la Calzada has brought the “Nomadic Labyrinth” to indoor and outdoor venues in the Bay Area where she has joyously watched the public walk, play, and even do yoga on the carpet sculpture.

“I have realized that art is not something that you buy and then put in your house. Art has this gift of engaging, and it has the gift of being something that people can use. It has a purpose,” says de la Calzada. “Walking the labyrinth can be something that connects you with yourself in a different way.”


INFO: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m, Friday, May 16, Museum of Art & History, 705 Front Street, Santa Cruz. 429-1964.

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