Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions: A New Frontier of Media Art in the Bay Area

In 2022, Creative Capital partnered with the Hewlett Foundation to administer the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, supporting the creation and premiere of 10 new media works by world-class artists with Bay Area nonprofit organizations. The initiative supports the creation of exceptional works of performing arts and their premiere in the Bay Area through grants of $150,000 to Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits receive funding to achieve their creative vision in partnership with the commissioned artists, who may be based anywhere in the world. The 2022 grants were selected from more than 100 applications through a process administered by Creative Capital.

Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions is a five-year, $8 million commissioning initiative that is the largest of its kind in the United States. The ultimate beneficiaries of the new program are local audiences, who are among the first to see important new works in the performing arts premiered in their communities.

Creative Capital congratulates all of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions recipients: Ben Levine with AXIS Dance Company, Heesoo Kwon with Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, Skawennati with Gray Area, Simon Lee with The Long Now Foundation, Susana Ruiz and Huy Trong with Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, including Creative Capital Grantees Jen Liu (2019) with /(slash), Stephanie Dinkins (2019) with the Institute of Contemporary Art San José, Heather Dewey-Hagborg (2016) with Exploratorium, Postcommodity (2012) with Leonardo/ISAST, Eve Sussman (2008) and Simon Lee with The Long Now Foundation, and Trimpin (2008) with Other Minds.

Explore the six Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions by Creative Capital artists:

Jen Liu, Ghost__World Jen Liu

/(slash), a San Francisco-based nonprofit visual art space, is commissioning artist Jen Liu to create Ghost__World, an extended reality media project and multi-site choreographed performance telling the stories of people whose lives have been made invisible. Ghost__World draws connections between women workers in the electronics industries in China and Asian-American women facing racialized gender and environmental violence in the United States. Informed by interviews with electronics and e-waste workers in China, Liu will combine augmented reality, web interfaces, choreography, sculptural props and costumes, and audio to tell stories of people whose lives have been made invisible.

Stephanie Dinkins, Data Trust Forest Stephanie Dinkins
Data Trust Forest

Institute of Contemporary Art San José is commissioning Stephanie Dinkins to create Data Trust Forest, an installation that deploys cutting-edge and ancient technologies in the preservation of deep-seated community knowledge. Combining storytelling traditions with emergent DNA technologies, the artist will honor and care for often overlooked histories by archiving them within living trees for future extraction and sharing. Dinkins believes our stories, histories, and the myths we weave through family lore, movies, and even advertising construct us. Working with stories shared by South Bay residents, Dinkins will transmute conversations into a multimedia experience available both in the galleries and online.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Xeno in Vivo Heather Dewey-Hagborg
Xeno in Vivo

The Exploratorium is commissioning multidisciplinary artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg to create Xeno in Vivo, a multimedia hybrid performance and live film investigating xenotransplantation—the genetic engineering of pigs as a source of human organs. Xeno in Vivo will explore the 10,000-year history of pig domestication and breeding by humans and ponder how cutting-edge gene editing technologies and xenotransplantation will affect that relationship in the future. The project will feature an operatic soundtrack, live narrative, and 3D-printed ceramic pig sculptures, and will include multiple projections integrating original documentary footage, 3D imagery, and live heart cells.

Postcommodity, Cosmovisión Postcommodity

Leonardo/ISAST is commissioning Postcommodity (artists Cristóbal Martinez and collaborator Kade L. Twist) to create Cosmovisión, a generative music performance and instrument that uses video game mechanics to explore and determine relationships between land, community and worldview. An intentional community of teams will create an archive of sound recordings that sonify these relationships as a practice of Indigenous-led community self-determination and meaning-making. The teams will then enter a friendly and performative multiplayer gaming tournament where victory will come to those who can best collaborate, listen to each other, and create harmony.

Eve Sussman with Simon Lee, Naming Names Eve Sussman with Simon Lee
Naming Names

The Long Now Foundation is commissioning Eve Sussman and Simon Lee to create Naming Names, a theatrical and sonic event that investigates the act of naming. The project will link the Bay Area to the ancient city of Athens, Greece through a series of performances that examines how human nature operates by changing not at the pace of technological advancement, but at the evolutionary rate of human emotion. Utilizing pre-recorded and live video, Athenian performers will engage in a call-and-response with their counterparts in the Bay Area, inviting audience participation through SADISS, a new smartphone platform developed by Naming Names composer Volkmar Klien that enables synchronized sonic events.

Trimpin, The Cello Quartet Trimpin
The Cello Quartet

Other Minds is commissioning Trimpin to create The Cello Quartet, which explores the interplay between humans and machines in the form of a kinetic sound art installation and multimedia performance. The performance will include dancers, a mechanized piano, and three heavily-modified cellos on motorized platforms controlled wirelessly to “dance” and play themselves. The modified cellos and piano will be controlled by a human cellist playing her own instrument. The capacities of human musicians and instruments will be expanded through the digital interface and data transmission hardware engineered for The Cello Quartet.

Learn more about the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions and see all the awardees.

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