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Photo: Lovelle Harris

Photo: Lovelle Harris

The creators chime in on the future of art in the city—and their craziest Sacramento Downtown Plaza memories

 

Originally published in Sacramento News & Review on 11.21.13

By Lovelle Harris

Related stories this week:
Art of the Mall
These upstart artists turned retail wasteland Downtown Plaza into a cool, creative hub. So, what happens when construction starts on a new Sacramento Kings arena?
Culture jammers
How the artists behind Exhibit S transformed part of a shopping mall into an upstart creative collective.
 

The more weird fans, the better, says Exhibit S artist Matt Brown.
Photo: Lovelle Harris

Matt Brown
Exhibit S artist and writer

What do you think about the Downtown Plaza as a new hub for Sacto arts?

Well, I didn’t know that it’s being touted as that, but that’s sweet. I feel like it needs to expand more on that, because this is pretty amazing. … If you just give motivated people space to work in, it just goes to show that they don’t really need anything else other than just the space.

If the arena is built at the mall, what do you think the role of the arts should be in the revitalized downtown?

I hope they’ll realize that it can be more than just an arena and more of a cultural revitalization. People just end up leaving if they’re really good at being artists. They don’t stick around and make it better. I’ve been doing this a long time, and very rarely have I dealt with the city in like a super-positive enthusiastic manner when I’ve had really innovative ideas, but this is a step forward, for sure.

What’s your craziest mall experience?

How much time do we have? Well, when I got [into Exhibit S], I had weird fans that followed me, and I remember one night, there was a girl who came in, and she was doing cartwheels in her underwear out on the floor, then her boyfriend ran up and was like, “Oh yeah, she’s really crazy.” Then, they left together. I’ve seen giant Samoan men crying outside at, like, 4 a.m. Just a lot of really weird, eerie stuff.

Leon ‘A.C.” Willis
Owner of SledgeHammer Graffix and muralist

What do you think the role of the arts should be in the revitalized downtown?

It should be big. Considering there’s going to be so much concrete going up, they should include a lot of art, or they’re going to be subject to vandalism. How much money would the city have to spend in removing vandalism?

What’s your craziest mall experience?

At Thursday Night Market: When I came to this town, that was still happening, and it was new to me to be able to see all of the people out, and the art and the musicians and everybody just vibing together on the street. The craziest thing that happened was when the SWAT team came and flushed everyone off the street. The event itself was really nice, and they shut it down—and they shut it down in a whole police-state manner. That part sucked.

Bryan Nichols
Downtown Plaza music booking agent and former owner of Zuhg Life Store

What’s your craziest mall experience?

One time, Katt Williams came in and spent [more than] $500 at the Zuhg Life Store. That helped us out.

If you could take over the mall and do anything, what would it be?

A huge surf arena, like the one they have in Dubai, because the waves suck in Sacramento.

Tula in Bloom owner Omonivie Okhade says Sacramento residents “have a huge stake” in making the city culturally interesting. Photo: Lovelle Harris

Tula in Bloom owner Omonivie Okhade says Sacramento residents “have a huge stake” in making the city culturally interesting.
Photo: Lovelle Harris

Omonivie Okhade
Tula In Bloom owner and jewelry maker

If the arena is built at the mall, what do you think the role of the arts should be in the revitalized downtown?

I’ve had this conversation with so many people, about how Sacramento is still trying to find its identity, what kind of city do we want it to be, and I think artists have a huge stake in making it interesting and not making it like San Francisco or Los Angeles, because we’ve had that hang-up for many years. And having this arena come in will kind of skew it more toward L.A., because L.A. has the Staples Center. If artists are involved, the local community leaders will make it more of a Sacramento-identified place. It will make it more integrated into the community.

If you could take over the mall and do any arts project, what would it be and why?

I would have a huge performance space. I think that would be a great addition to a mall, because I’m also a dancer, and so you have all of these talented people in the area and not enough venues—or not enough affordable venues—to perform in.

Chris Jarosz
Restaurateur, Wicked ‘Wich

What do you think about the Downtown Plaza mall as a new hub for Sacto arts?

I think it’s a really cool concept. I think, in general, downtown malls have suffered nationally. … There are a couple of cities, like L.A., where it seems to work, but in most cities, for whatever reason—either it’s traffic or parking—for a lot of them, all [mall] traffic as fallen off and [JMA Venture’s] approach here is doing something that’s more boutiquey and artistic; it’s a cool approach.

If you could take over the mall and do any arts project, what would it be and why?

I would integrate—because we’re the “farm-to-fork capital”—a little bit of urban gardening, because we have this big, open-air component to it, and put in some raised-bed gardens.

Jason A. Silva, A.I.A.
Architect and partner at Dreyfuss & Blackford

If the arena is built at the mall, what do you think the role of the arts should be in the revitalized downtown?

The arena, when it goes in, will be a highly prescribed environment. It may be dynamic and exciting, it may have plenty of public art, it may have plenty of facilities to host art, but the hosting of that art won’t be organic from the community. It will be run like a business. Because it’s like any of the other entertainment and sports complexes, it is a private space. It can be run to appear like it is more public, but it will not be.

What’s your craziest mall experience?

I was a skater in Sacramento in the ’80s, and I spent a lot of time on the K Street Mall before it was the K Street Mall. … There was a big concrete fountain that ran down the middle of it, and we used to ride our skateboards, and, what was a fairly common occurrence, getting chased out of the mall by police. The mall had a lot more culture back then, it was actually a really exciting place, we had a really dynamic punk scene, and there were a bunch of clubs, and the Crest [Theatre] was also a big venue for shows, and so I’d spend all day hanging out in the mall. That’s about my mall experience, getting chased off the mall by police for skateboarding.

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