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The Town Spectacle will turn art appreciation into an interactive, community-building event

on March 8, 2012

Have you ever attended a musical performance or an art exhibition and found yourself wanting more—more contact with the artists, more interaction with the art? Then you may want to head down to the Oakland Asian Cultural Center on Friday March 9, and check out the Town Spectacle—a whole new kind of living art experience that brings together local artists, musicians and performers to connect with the community.

The event will feature seven interactive workshops for people to choose among—everything from drumming circles and ukulele lessons to screen-printing stations and a workshop with Bay Area artist Momoko Sudo where she will teach her unique art of linescaping. Partakers will be free to walk around and take part in whatever grabs their attention. Event organizer Pamela Ybañez hopes this will encourage participants to meet new people, create new conversations, and learn some new skills.

“When people are actually doing and participating in learning something new in a hands-on way, it effects people on a deeper level,” Ybañez said. “With the participatory aspect of this event you’ll go home with whatever you make. You have something that is tangible, you’ve started to create your own art—and in some ways that is more encouraging than just looking at someone else’s.

The Town Spectacle is a collaboration between New Hall, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, and  RAMA, a Berkeley-based organization that hosts musical events and fosters a Pan-Asian arts community in the Bay Area. Ybañez started New Hall in early 2009 as a way to build community and inspire people to be more engaged in the world. The organization puts on events and workshops every two to three months that are intended to connect adults in a meaningful and educational manner. In the past, these workshops have included foursquare games and bowling nights as well as art workshops and Do-It-Yourself electronics projects.

Recently, Ybañez started meeting with Ryan Takemiya, RAMA’s executive director, to discuss the possibility of collaborating for an event. Takemiya had been looking for ways to make RAMA more interactive, and together with Ybañez and Oakland Asian Cultural Center’s program manager Herna Cruz-Louie they began brainstorming. Not long after, the Town Spectacle was born.

The event caters to all ages, and Ybañez encourages parents to not only bring their kids but to also participate. She stresses that singing and making music and art are often considered things you have to stop doing after you grow up, but they are actually something you can do your whole life. Ybañez, an artist whose latest work explores understanding her own Filipino lineage, sees engagement with art as one very powerful way of building communities.

“I saw boundaries in the community—economic, social, ethnic,” she said. “And as an artist I think it’s so amazing that you can gather a large group of people together to enjoy a performance or appreciate the work of an artist on the wall. We have been rather successful in joining together different communities and together we feel inspired by each other. You don’t have to be an artist to create art.”

Admission to the event will cost between $5 and $15 on a sliding scale and is open to the public. For more information visit New Hall’s website.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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