belonging, Meta-Practice

Residency Wrap-Up: Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society Artist-in-Residence Program 2018–2019

The Who, What, When, Where, and How of my Haas residency

To help other artists interested in residencies, I usually write residency wrap-ups that give an inside look to my residency experience. I find that there is only so much information one can glean from the organization’s web site. The more you know about the residency, the easier it is to tell if the residency is for you and what to expect.

No two artists will have exactly the same residency experience. This is especially true when I’m writing about inaugural residencies, which may be seen as pilots by the organization. Regardless, I’ll share my experience for the sake of transparency.

Screenshot of Haas Institute's webpage announcing Artist in Residence 2018-2019

Who

Haas

The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society is a research institute at UC Berkeley that explores many different areas related to inequity. One of those research areas is othering and belonging. You can learn more at Haas’ website, their section on othering and belonging, and on their YouTube channel with videos of past Othering & Belonging conferences.

AIR Coordinator

Evan Bissell is the Haas Institute’s Arts and Strategy Coordinator. He was my primary contact person at Haas. I met with him regularly and he conveyed Haas’ expectations to me. I think Evan is uniquely positioned to coordinate this residency program. He is a longtime community-oriented artist in the Bay Area who holds a Master’s in Public Health and City Planning and teaches on art and social change at UC Berkeley. I’m not an academic, and I was a little intimidated about partnering with a think tank. But Evan is fluent in art and research. His feedback on formal concerns and artistic process was helpful. And, his input on how the work fits or intersects with Haas’ work was reassuring and complementary. In many ways, he was like a “fixer,” who helped me figure out what kinds of support he or Haas could offer. In some aspects, such as in parts of the book, I thought of Evan more as a collaborator.

 

What

Haas invited artists essentially “to create original work… to illuminate and advance our understanding of belonging… [in projects] that explore practices of dialogue.”

The residency included:

  • a $10,000 honorarium
  • a platform at the Othering and Belonging conference (1,500 attendees)
  • amplification in the Haas Institute news magazine and digital media (here’s a link to an interview in their newsletter)
  • support from Haas staff

Additional funds for materials were considered. (I asked for about $6k to cover travel, materials, studio rental, printing, etc. Though I reside in NYC, I did not have to pay for accommodations since I could stay with family in the Bay Area.)

My Project

You can learn about the Belonging Project at Belonging.ChristineWongYap.com.

 

 

When

November 1, 2018 through May 1, 2019. (The webpage says it’s a year-long residency but it’s technically only six months—or only about five months leading up to the conference.) I was interviewed in early October and notified in mid-October.

The residency culminated with a display of the work at the Othering and Belonging Conference in early April.

My Time Line

I traveled to California three times for this project, for a combined total of about three months. I did two five-week stints. The first was for outreach; the second was for production. The third trip was to prep and attend the Othering and Belonging Conference.

The generous stipend allowed me to focus on this project for 30–50 hours per week from mid-November to late February.

The schedule was tight; I’ve encouraged Haas to allow future AIRs more time. It wasn’t just that six months is a short time. It was also the timing around the winter holidays. I found it challenging to schedule workshops and find volunteers since semesters and organizations’ programs were ending, and students were doing finals. I also happened to start my project right when the Bay Area was suffering extremely bad air quality days that disrupted school and work routines.

 

Where

Haas is located on the UC Berkeley campus. The program is actually more akin to fellowship in that you aren’t provided with a space. The Haas office is small, and not set up for an AIR. In fact, many Haas staff and researchers work remotely in far-flung locations.

Where I worked

For one month, I printed at Kala Art Institute. I was previously a Fellow at Kala, so I was familiar with Kala’s studio, staff, and rules. I asked them if they would barter studio fees for conference admission; they agreed. Going back to Kala was a great experience. The staff and community of artists wholeheartedly welcomed me. They handed over keys and letting me get to work right away. A sense of belonging and interdependence are tangible there. It feels like those values are in the DNA of the place. I spent many 10- to 12-hour days working there.

 

Aside from Kala, I worked at my family’s house and did offsite workshops and meetings all over the Bay Area, from Benicia to San José. Fortunately, I could borrow a family car. I transcribed, edited and designed in my apartment in NYC.

The conference

The conference was at the Oakland Convention Center in downtown Oakland. Haas gave me two columns which were 6 to 8’ wide each to display my project on. I created an interactive mapping activity, launched the book, displayed the bandannas, and showed a slide show of certificates on a video monitor they arranged for me.

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The columns inside the Oakland Convention Center where I presented my project during the Othering and Belonging Conference.

 

[Photos above: Courtesy of Lee Oscar Gomez.]

A bar chart titled "Which two qualities of belonging are salient to you and your place of belonging?" Responses from 104 attendees of the Othering and Belonging Conference 2019. Connectedness: 66. Authenticity: 23. Family: 22. Well-being: 22. Accepted: 19. Growth: 19. Familiarity: 13. Meaning: 12. Self-worth: 9. Agency 8. Safety: 8. Access: 7. Autonomy: 4. Confidence: 3. Continuity: 1.

In the mapping activity, I asked participants to pick two of the 15 qualities of belonging we identified in the book, 100 Stories of Belonging in the S.F. Bay Area. Participants selected connectedness almost 3x as often as the second-most selected quality, authenticity.

How

Application

Haas held an open call for applications for the AIR program. I can’t remember how I heard about it. The application was refreshingly streamlined. All you had to do was email a short letter of intent, a CV, and a link to a website (or 10 images, or 3 minutes of video). There was no fee to apply (hooray!)

From the pool of several dozen applicants, some were interviewed via video chat, and one was selected. I was honored to be selected, and doubly honored to learn that the jurors included Brett Cook (whose murals I’d admired for years) and Roberto Bedoya (who has written seminal essays on creative placemaking).

Process

First, I met with Evan and we started by self-organizing: I came up with a timeline, a budget, and a draft of outreach materials (I wrote my “dream” budget and a “get-by” budget, they opted for the “get-by” budget and I made it work). He gathered feedback from Haas staff, and I made amendments.

As anticipated, the outreach phase was the hardest part. Fortunately, I lived in the Bay Area for over 30 years, I worked with many organizations, and I knew a lot of artists and art professors. Evan helped by connecting me with groups, reaching out to his own networks, and hosting a dinner. Some groups reached out to me after seeing Haas’ announcements, or individuals submitted their story after seeing the call in Haas’ newsletter. Evan also helped out by having materials translated into Spanish.

All the submissions made a 170+ page Google doc. When I was working on compiling, reading, and editing the submissions, I got caught colds, twice in four weeks.

I was happy to be back at Kala and to enter the production stage. Printmaking is very humbling. You have to be methodical and plan thoroughly. I learned a lot.

Lessons and tips

The experience made me adopt some principles that systematically prioritize patience over productivity:

  • Never skip steps.
  • Don’t overbook your schedule.
  • Do one thing at a time.
  • Take breaks.

This makes for better results, a more sustainable pace, and a healthier and happier attitude.

From past residencies, I’ve learned:

  • Taper off production the last few days of a residency.
  • Leave a whole day to pack and ship projects and materials.

Administration

This is going to sound extremely boring and unsexy, but I think administration, communication, and organization were crucial to a successful partnership. This is an unusual residency in that Haas is most interested in belonging and dialogue; they leave you tons of leeway in how you structure and execute your project, who you choose to work with, what you ask for, where you work, and when you accomplish benchmarks. Being self-directed and having self-management skills are critical. Again, it sounds banal, but in my wrap-up phone call with Evan, we realized that since we’d kept each other informed along the way, there were no major surprises or changes we needed to debrief.

Getting reimbursed in the UC system involves a lot of paperwork. I recommend that future AIRs learn about the documentation requirements, be diligent about keeping receipts (especially anything related to travel), and expect that check turnarounds will be lengthy.

Afterword

This is a really amazing opportunity for any artist who wants to tackle a self-directed project around belonging in the context of researchers interested in city planning, public health and more. I’m so honored and grateful to have been the inaugural resident. It’s been a tremendous opportunity to realize this project, to partner with Haas, to collaborate with many supportive community organizations, and to be entrusted with so many contributors’ stories. I feel that the seeds of this project were planted in 2016, and the fruits of this labor can be nourishment for the future.

 


A Postscript

Years ago, I had the chance to be considered for a residency at a very large tech company in California. I declined because I knew I’d regret it (money comes, money goes, but regrets haunt me for years.) Later, when I learned that their residency came with a $10,000 stipend, I didn’t second-guess my convictions, but I couldn’t help but think about what I would do with that much money.

It just so happens that the Haas honorarium is the same amount as that tech company’s. I did this project for so many other reasons beside the money. But this coincidence reaffirms that I did the right thing saying no. I garnered the same amount of financial support without compromising my values. And I did it partnering with a deeply ethical organization that actively promotes values and social justice. This helps me feel a sense of self-congruence for me as an artist, the projects I make, and my greater purpose as a human. It gives me a sense of maturity and self-assurance about what I am doing, and that being true to my principles is always the right choice.

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New Book Released: 100 Stories of Belonging in the S.F. Bay Area

Book cover: 100 Stories of Belonging in the S.F. Bay Area, from the Belonging Project, by Christine Wong Yap & contributors. with a foreword by Evan Bissell

I’ve been working hard the past 3.5 months (that’s why I haven’t posted lately) finishing up the Belonging Project as an artist in residence at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley.

Check out Belonging.ChristineWongYap.com to learn more about or to purchase 100 Stories of Belonging in the S.F. Bay Area. The bandannas and the certificates of belonging are featured in the book, and I’ll post more photos of them on the website in the coming weeks.

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…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)

Points of Reference: Lucy Lippard on “The Lure of the Local”

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Six days left to contribute your story to the Belonging Project

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.

Sketch of a map of the 9-county Bay Area, with counties highlighted where I could use more stories.

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!

 

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Is Belonging a Place or Something You Carry With 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.

A drawing of a bakerya drawing of a human figure with the heart highlighted

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:

Sacramento (#1)
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)

[Read “Bad Deal, Bad Company, Bad Billionaire: How Proposed Taxpayer Subsidies for Amazon HQ2 Can Still Be Stopped.”]


One of the challenges of this project is balancing rays of light against the doom and gloom of San Francisco’s changes.

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What is the Bay Area?

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.

682px-Bayarea_map

Map of the nine-county Bay Area. Source: Wikipedia // Wikimedia Commons.

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.”

—Metropolitan Transportation Commission website

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:

wherewelivenow-700x1062

Map: “Where we live now — 2010 household density and priority development areas” produced by Darin Jensen, Madeleine Theriault and Mike Jones of the CAGE (Cartography and GIS Education) Lab at U.C. Berkeley’s Department of Geography, and by Thomas Guffey and Michael Stoll of the Public Press. // Source: sfpublicpress.org.


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.

nine-county-bay-area-area-population-comparisons-01a-1200x289

Comparison of percentages of area and population in 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.


More info

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. 


See all Belonging Project posts.

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Belonging Project Workshops

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
UC Berkeley

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!


Belonging Project: free public workshop Sunday, December 16, 2–3:30 pm Union City Library Drinks and snacks will be served. Everyone welcome. Free and open to the public. A Chinese interpreter will be in attendance. with a drawing of a book

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.

12墩16휑(槿퍅휑),苟敎2時逞3時30롸

聯북냘圖書館 ,區會議杆
34007 Alvarado-Niles Rd
Union City, CA 94587

“歸屬먁”項커
출費무묾桔討會

瞳灣區這樣돨뒈렘,“歸屬먁”對콱個훙랍喇야唐부種雷義?

讓乖們拷過묏藝製鱗돨證書、뒈圖鹿섟書석,묾谿깊拉並瓊“歸屬먁”!

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。

랍콱將唐機會롸權콱對這場桔討會돨였랬並參與寫鱗삶動。角뤠唐這樣寧個뒈렘、角讓콱먁돕샀鄧經먁돕唐歸屬먁돨? 샀諒,瞳콱內懃角뤠懷唐캐種歸屬먁?

將묩應飲죕與點懃。
歡短몹썹훙却參속。출費蕨무眾開렴。
現場將瓊묩櫓匡럇譯。

 


See all Belonging Project posts.

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