…art is—or should be—generous. But when working with place, artists can only give if they are receiving as well. The greatest challenges for artists lured by the local are to balance between making the information accessible and making it visually provocative as well; to innovate not just for innovation’s sake, not just for style’s sake, nor to enhance their reputation or ego, but to bring a new degree of coherence and beauty to the lure of the local. The goal of this kind of work would be to turn more people on to where they are, where they came from, where they’re going, to help people see their places with new eyes. Land and people—their presence and absence—makes place and its arts come alive. Believing as I do that connection to place is a necessary component of feeling close to people, and to the earth, I wonder what will make it possible for artists to “give” places back to people who can no longer see them, and be given places in turn, by those who are still looking around.
—Lucy Lippard, “The Lure of the Local” (New Press, 1997)
In the Belonging Project, your perspective is one of the “potential versions … that will be made concrete and visible” if—and only if—you share it.
An atlas is a collection of versions of a place, a compendium of perspectives, a snatching out of the infinite ether of potential versions a few that will be made concrete and visible….
—Rebecca Solnit, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas(University of California Press, 2010).
Contribute your story! There’s only six days left until the January 2 deadline.
Maybe you feel a sense of belonging on a soccer field, at a health facility, or on your block. Maybe you carry your sense of belonging with you, and you feel it when you make new friends or are with a group of like-minded people. Maybe you don’t feel a sense of belonging—what circumstances would help you feel belonging?
All these stories are welcome! Please submit. Contributions will inform a book with essays, maps, and bandanas that I’m going to start printing next month! But I need your stories to start…
Think outside The City
So far, contributors have shared many places of belonging in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. That’s great. I love all the stories. But I also want to hear about places of belonging in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, Sonoma, and Marin Counties.
Maybe you have felt belonging in these places? Maybe you can share the call for participation with people you know in those counties? Thank you!
Anyone with a meaningful connection to the nine-county Bay Area is invited to “share their story of belonging” by January 2. This call is deliberately open-ended.
For some people, there might be a place where they feel (or have felt) belonging. (This is how I framed last year’s project exploring belonging in Albuquerque.)
For others, maybe they carry a sense of belonging with them. I was inspired to add this section by Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, in which she argues that true belonging, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, is belonging everywhere and nowhere.
[I also included a section for people who neither feel belonging tied to a place or carried with them.]
If you haven’t yet submitted, please do! There’s less than 2 weeks left before the January 2 deadline.
With these multiple definitions of belonging in mind, it’s interesting to read:
“The Galería is not just this corner. The Galería is a movement.”
—Ani Rivera, Galería de la Raza Executive Director (in Ryan Kost, “Galería de la Raza, a birthplace of Chicano art, finds respite from exile” SFGate.com, December 20, 2018)
As most in the SF art community members know, Galeria de la Raza was one of the birthplaces of the Chicano art movement. It was located on 24th Street in the Mission District for as long as I can remember. Over the past few months, it’s battled a 100% rent increase. Rivera is announcing that they’re going to move, and find another location, but it may be nomadic—everywhere and nowhere—for the next two years.
It’s interesting to think how a place matters (obviously they’d want to stay in the Mission), while an identity or soul doesn’t have to reside in a specific building. Maybe carrying your belonging with you is a form flexible, strategic resilience in the face of gentrification and displacement. Maybe your sense of belonging can be tied to a place and also carried with you.
Many conversations I have in the Bay Area are about loss—about the working class, families, and artists—who have moved away to outer suburbs or different metropolitan areas. Take a look at this recent report on US cities with the greatest potential influxes and outflows:
More people are thinking about moving to a new city. Some 25 percent of those looking at homes for sale were searching outside their current metropolitan areas — up from 22 percent during the same period in 2017.
The general trend was away from pricier East and West Coast markets and toward more affordable inland areas. The top 10 most-searched destinations had an average home price of $150,000 less than the top 10 areas people were contemplating leaving.—Michael Kolomatsky, “Which Cities Are People Leaving — and Where Are They Going?” NYTimes.com, December 20, 2018
San Francisco tops the list of 10 cities with the greatest potential outflow.
San Francisco is also the top city of origin for three cities with greatest potential inflow:
Portland, Oregon (#4)
Austin, Texas (#7)
This is pretty outsized, considering that San Francisco is the 13th most populous city in the US.
TC was recently telling me that everything about San Francisco—from losing collaborators who move away, to the cost of living, to the ever-increasing traffic—feels like it’s pushing you out, and you have to proportionally become more determination to stay.
I replied that it sounds like San Francisco is turning into New York City.
I’ll think more about this. I’m interested in the love-hate relationship some people have to NYC. For those who can afford it, escaping the city (summering on the Hamptons or apple picking upstate) is considered a key to staying sane here. This has more to do with the place itself—crowdedness, tourists, and heat waves in the summer, and the general logistical nightmares of navigating such a large, expensive city. I wonder how love-hate relationships figure into the Bay Area. The negative emotions I’ve heard about are often about the impacts of changes, not qualities of the place itself. For me, when I lived in Oakland, it was a respite from San Francisco, but now Oakland is the US’ 5th most expensive city to live in, just after NYC.
Unfortunately, San Francisco can be a counterexample. There’s a fear that NYC (which as almost 10x the population and almost 10x the square mileage) is turning into SF:
“[Deputy mayor for housing Alicia Glen’s] legacy is bringing Amazon and turning New York into another version of San Francisco.”—Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of Align, a group focused on labor and income inequality (as quoted in J. David Goodman, “Deputy Mayor Who Oversaw Amazon Deal and Troubled Housing Authority Is Leaving,” NY Times, December 19, 2018)
One of the challenges of this project is balancing rays of light against the doom and gloom of San Francisco’s changes.
I’m asking the public to tell me where they feel belonging in the “nine-county Bay Area.” What does that even mean?
There’s a paradox in studying belonging while excluding people outside of the nine counties. Yet, there has to be some parameters, and the nine-county definition is a commonly-used one.
I would like this project to be as inclusive and diverse as possible. I aim to achieve geographic diversity within the nine counties. When I was stressing out about this, Haas Arts & Cultural Strategy Coordinator (and artist) Evan Bissell wisely reminded me that no matter how many contributors participate, I can’t possibly be comprehensive in this limited art project.
Here’s my reality check:
“These nine counties include 101 cities, 7.4 million inhabitants and approximately 7,000 square miles of land.”
The nine counties cover a lot of area
It’s a little intimidating to realize how large this undertaking is when you realize the nine counties’ vastness.
The nine-county Bay Area is larger than Delaware (1,949 square miles) and Connecticut (4,842 square miles) combined.
It’s almost as large as New Jersey (7,354 square miles).
Another way to think of it is if you imagine the municipal organizations that manage transit or air quality in the region, and how many people and levels of staff are needed to assess the area.
A lot of people live here
If the nine counties formed a state, it’d rank 13th most populous below Virginia (8.4 M), and above Washington state (7.2) (Wikipedia).
The nine counties are more populous than the eight least populous states combined.
In fact, more people live in the city of San José (1.035 M) than the five least populous states (South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming). More people live in San Francisco than South Dakota. More people live in Oakland and Berkeley combined than in Vermont.
I’m mostly familiar with population-dense areas
When I look at the nine-county map, I’m struck by how many outer regions I’m unfamiliar with.
Though I’ve lived in the North Bay, East Bay, and peninsula over 30 years, I don’t know much about Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties north of Santa Rosa, Napa, and Vallejo. Same with Alameda County east of the regional parks, and the peninsula west of 280. Nor have I ventured often south of San Jose, yet a vast expanse of Santa Clara County extends southward.
This map of population density shows generally less people living in these regions:
How Areas and Population Compare
To put this in perspective, I did a quick-and-dirty comparison of percentage of square miles versus percentage of population. The colors correspond to the five subregions in the first map of the nine-county Bay Area.
While 61% of the square mileage of the nine counties falls in the North Bay (Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano Counties), only 18% of the population lives there.
About 25% of residents call Santa Clara County home, which covers only 10% in area. And 37% of people live in East Bay (Contra Costa and Alameda Counties), though it constitutes 20% of the square mileage.
Density and San Francisco, Oakland, and San José
I know that many cultural resources are concentrated in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. I’ve been making an extra effort to reach people outside of those cities.
Though San Francisco, Oakland, and San José make up only 3% of the square mileage, one in five people in the nine counties live in those three cities.
What this means to me is that my outreach efforts to the suburbs and exurbs are worthwhile, but I shouldn’t be surprised if SF, Oakland, and San Jose are well-represented (if not overly represented due to network effects).
There’s roughly equal numbers of people living in the entire North Bay as there are in San Francisco, Oakland, and San José. But I’m not sure how to conduct a comparable amount of outreach in the North Bay, which is 21X the area of the three major cities.
For a friendly 8-minute intro to the nine-county designation, listen to KQED’s Bay Curious episode, “How Do You Define the ‘Bay Area’?”
Find more maps in “Where Exactly Is “the Bay Area” by Egon Terplan and Sarah Jo Szambelan (June 19, 2018) on SPUR.org.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Belonging Project, join us at one of these two workshops open to the public!
Berkeley | Public Service Center
Today // Monday, December 10, noon-1pm
Brown Bag Lunch with Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society Artist-in-Residence Christine Wong Yap
Belonging in the Bay Area
Eshleman Hall Room 212 A & B
We at the PSC have talked a lot about the ideas of othering & belonging. And, sadly, there are no shortage of examples of othering happening every day.
But what does belonging look like? How can we build it? Where can we cultivate it? These questions have felt harder to answer, even as we need belonging more than ever.
Come meet artist Christine Wong Yap, who is exploring belonging in the Bay Area as an artist in residence at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley. Christine has invited anyone with a meaningful connection to the nine-county Bay Area to share their story of belonging. She’s currently exploring the region, collecting diverse stories that she’ll compile into an atlas of belonging. Cal students can also volunteer to interview their family members in exchange for free admission to the Othering and Belonging Conference.
Bring your lunch, come hear about her work, and join the dialogue!
Union City | Union City Library
Sunday, December 16, 2–3:30 pm
The Belonging Project: A Free Public Workshop
Union City Library
Community Meeting Room
34007 Alvarado-Niles Rd
Union City, CA 94587
What does it mean to belong in the Bay Area? Together, let’s commemorate and amplify belonging with artist-made certificates, maps, and a book!
New York-based artist Christine Wong Yap will present behind-the-scenes photos of her process using calligraphy and letterpress printmaking.
Then you’ll have a chance to share your thoughts on belonging in a discussion and writing activity. Is there a place where you feel or have felt a sense of belonging? Or do you carry your sense of belonging with you?
Drinks and snacks will be served.
Everyone welcome. Free and open to the public.
A Chinese interpreter will be in attendance.
34007 Alvarado-Niles Rd
Union City, CA 94587
紐約藝術소Christine Wong Yap（葉黃셰聚）將嵐刻劒賈痰書랬結북攷경경畫創鱗돨캥遜製鱗직넋宮튬섞錦。
A quick update about what I’ve been up to:
Mostly I’ve been working on outreach—contacting organizations and individuals about the different ways they can get involved.
I’m planting seeds and hoping that they’ll grow, but I don’t know if they will. I feel like I’m in that moment of just staring at the soil where the seeds are. I’ll sigh with relief when the sprouts finally emerge.
As with the earlier Belonging project in Albuquerque, it’s a challenge to get the word out and align with organizations’ program schedules. The heart of the project is the stories. The quality of the stories and the authenticity of the voices represented gives the project salience and integrity. I can only invite people to contribute to the inputs. I can make the outputs as well-crafted and well-made as I can, but ultimately, the reader or viewer is connecting through the stories.
If you can, please submit a story.
(It would mean so much to me!)
I am currently here in the Bay Area, with one week left in my five-week stay. (I did the entire project in Albuquerque, from the outreach to sign painting and installation, and zine release, in a five-week stay.) I’ll come back in January to install certificates and print bandanas). I figured December 20 or so, until January 1, wouldn’t be productive for outreach. But I’m already learning the hard way that these first two weeks of December are challenging too, too. College semesters CBO programs are already wrapping up for the year.
I approached the project in Albuquerque with more of a sense that it was an experiment—I’m not from Albuquerque, and the project was inherently limited by the shorter residency duration. With this project, the Bay Area is huge, I’m hoping to represent the nine-counties, and I lived here 30+ years. I have five months to do this project. We’re planning to print 1,500 books (10x the Albuquerque zine edition). There’s the irony about mapmaking: maps convey comprehensiveness, though, by nature, are abstractions and limited representations.
This project will be the culmination of many collaborations. I will literally have mil gracias (thousand thanks) to say by the end. Right now, I especially want to thank the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society; Evan Bissell for all his support coordinating the residency, advising, assisting, and encouraging me; Elizabeth Travelslight for inviting me to do a workshop with her SFAI class; Jaime Austin, Bryndis Hafthorsdottir at CCA Exhibitions for coordinating and/or facilitating workshops with students at CCA and Live Oak School, whose stories will feed into the Haas project; Ben Gucciardi for inviting me to do a workshop at the Soccer Without Borders program at Castlemont High; Carrie Donovan for spreading the word and organizing a Brown Bag lunch at the UC Berkeley Public Service Center; Abby Chen, Hoi Leung, and Yuanyuan Zhu from the Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco for jumping in 100% and organizing a bilingual workshop at the Union City Library as well as future possibilities; and the many college professors who have shared the project with their students, including Alicia Caballero-Christensen and Dana Hemenway who invited me to introduce the project in their classrooms at Laney College and UC Berkeley; Binh Danh and Mel Day, whose SJSU students are volunteering; and especially Kevin B. Chen and Kathy Aoki, who went above and beyond in rallying their students at SFSU and Santa Clara University to volunteer to conduct interviews with their families.
I am here in the Bay Area one more week. If you’d like to meet, discuss, workshop, volunteer, coffee, high five, etc., let me know!
The steps I follow to make a letterpress print.
In my current project exploring belonging in the Bay Area, I’m asking the public to share their story about belonging. If they nominate a place where they feel belonging, I will commemorate that place with a letterpress-printed certificate.
Letterpress printing is an obsolete technology. It was used for proof-printing newspapers in the olden days, but these days it’s great for artist’s projects like mine.
Here are photos showing my process, using a combination poster-postcard-map marker I made for an project about Belonging that was recently exhibited in Take Action at the California College of the Arts.
Draw and Design the Artwork
Make Polymer Plates
You can make polymer plates yourself, or just order them. Because I didn’t have access to a printmaking studio at the time, I ordered them from Boxcar Press. When I print the certificates, I’ll make my own plates at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley.
When you have your plates and paper ready, you’re ready to print.
For this project, I needed to perforate the sections: the top is a poster, the bottom parts are a postcard and map marker.