Announcing Gray Area’s Fall 2016 cohort!

Gray Area Foundation
9 min readOct 12, 2016

Now entering our third session, we’re excited to announce our incoming cohort of new and returning Cultural Incubator members. Our Cultural Incubator program brings together a cross-disciplinary community of creators who combine art and technology for social and civic impact. Members share workspace at Gray Area for six months, participating in workshops and peer critiques and developing projects that will culminate in a public Showcase of their work on February 23, 2017.

Eight past members will stay with us for this cohort while five new members join us. Projects focus on a range of issues including the current Presidential race and socioeconomic disparities in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. Others explore storytelling through avatars and augmented reality.

A special congratulations to new member Katie VanderDrift for making it to the front page of Inc. Magazine! As part of Katie’s Incubator project, she parsed all of the previous debates from Clinton and Trump, applied Natural Language Processing and infused the results with art. Read the article here.

Please check out the brief bios of our Cultural Incubator Members below!

Allison Leigh Holt

Allison Leigh Holt is a cross-disciplinary artist living and working in Oakland, CA. Using hybrids of sculpture, video, installation, and performance she pursues a dialogue between divergent ways of experiencing, comprehending, and describing reality. Holt has received numerous awards from institutions including the U.S. Department of State (Fulbright Fellowship, Indonesia), Djerassi Artist Residency Program, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the David Bermant Foundation, Cemeti Art House (Indonesia), the Experimental Television Center, Kala Art Institute, and the North Dakota Museum of Art.

Heart of the City

Heart of the City is a growing team of creative individuals fascinated by San Francisco’s civic ecology in an increasingly polarized sociopolitical climate. Heart of the City works to address the need to share insight and perspective from people throughout the socioeconomic spectrum on an accessible social media platform. The renowned urban scholar Jane Jacobs said, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody”.

Having documented public issues concerning crime, drugs, income inequality, arts, city government, homelessness, and race for over three years in San Francisco’s Tenderloin and Mid-Market districts, we’re beginning to draw parallels of value to disenfranchised social groups and communities at large. We’re creating relationships between non-profits, city government, private sector business, artists, small businesses, and citizens by providing reportage and user feedback on a variety of topics relative to current events and the needs of the community. Heart of the City is a collective of laborers of love working to hone our individual skills while joining in the reciprocity of the community experience.

Joseph Lukasik

Joseph moved to San Francisco for work as a software engineer in 2016 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Math. His work entails understanding how large complex systems function and fail.

The inputs to Joseph’s life have led him to build mental models of the world that stress edges over nodes, context over content, nurture over nature. He sometimes explores these thoughts and others thru typing text in human or programming languages. Other times he wanders and watches in amazement at the information revolution happening everywhere around him.

Katharine VanderDrift

Katharine is a San Francisco Artist and Software Engineer with a degree in Theater from UCSD (emphasis set design). Over the past 10 years, she has worked at several startups (CloudCrowd, KahootzMedical, Healthiest), created several successful web apps, and created complex software systems in Ruby and Javascript. Katie’s rent project using Natural Language Processing made it on the cover of Inc. Magazine. Check it out

Niki Selken

Niki is a designer, educator and technologist living in San Francisco. Her work focuses around storytelling, instillation and interaction design. Niki had taught design and creative coding at Parsons School of Design, St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, and University of San Francisco. Before landing in New York to attend Parsons School of Design, Niki lived in San Francisco where she ran an experimental theater company, Ko Labs, and a technology consultancy, Big Treehouse. During her time at Parsons, she was awarded design fellowships with Ms. Foundation for Women and PETlab as well as Girls Write Now. In 2013 she founded the World Translation Foundation with Cara Rose DeFabio as a way to promote, explore, and translate the written word into the pictorial alphabet of Emoji. Her latest Emoji project, The Emoji Dictionary, debuted in New York City at The Proof is in the Processor art show and was featured at Currents New Media Art Festival 2015in Santa Fe. In 2014 she won New York NASA Space Apps and placed as a global finalist for wearable tech project, Senti8. Her game, Find Maria Rivera was exhibited and selected as an Award Finalist at Indiecade 2015. Currently she is a Parsons E-Lab fellow for her as work with the interactive storytelling platform, Wayscape. Niki’s design and Emoji work has been featured by Yahoo Tech, Adafruit, and Make Magazine among others.

Claudia Miranda

Claudia is an artist and freelance designer who’s work explores the intersection of technology + nature, digital storytelling and avatar embodiment. Her work endeavors to provoke self reflection, play and a reverence for nature.

She is currently working on designing VR experiences that can live alongside holographic sculptures which manifest the digital in the physical world. Claudia has previously worked as user experience designer, VJ, 3D animator, illustrator, videographer and multimedia content creator.

Historypin is a free website where anyone can upload and create collections of historical photos, videos and sounds. Historypin is a way for people to come together to share and celebrate local history. It consists of a shared archive, a mutually supportive community and a collaborative approach to engagement with local history.

Jacob Sperber

Jacob (aka Jackie House) is a DJ based in San Francisco, and co founder of Honey Soundsystem, a collective of disc jockeys, musicians, performers and designers. The creation of Honey Soundsystem was inspired by pivotal gay underground parties, which offered a take on dance music in direct opposition to what was blaring on mainstream club speakers. Honey Soundsystem is responsible for helping start three labels Honey Soundsystem Records, Disciare, and Dark Entries. Jackie House will be performing at Gray Area on October 14th! Learn more and get tickets here.


MEDIATE’s primary activity is the production of the acclaimed Soundwave Biennial, a curated two-­year program that culminates in a summer sound, art and music festival. To date, Soundwave has showcased over 500 emerging and established local, national and international artists and engaged tens of thousands of audience members. Renowned for its thoughtful curation and unique programming in urban spaces, Soundwave has become the largest and most anticipated sound-based art festival in the Bay Area.

Ray McClure

Ray’s work exists at the intersection of interactive visual art and audio synthesis. He is interested in re-purposing advanced technology, currently disguised as phones and game controllers, to unlock new forms of human experience. He founded his company, Dreamboat, in 2009 for the development of interactive web and installation projects. Notable creations include PollySynth (collaboration with graphic designer, Superdeux): a multiplayer polyphonic synthesizer, and 808 Cube: combining a Roland TR-808 drum machine with a Rubik’s cube.

As a member of the Gray Area Cultural Incubator program, Ray exhibited a multi-sensory virtual reality experience titled Amazing Grace and Computers. He was also a participant in the recent Convergence Residency in Banff, Canada where he created the vocal virtual reality meditation experience, VVVR, with fellow artist Casey McGonagle. Ray was part of the team that created Twitter and owner of Kokoro Studio art gallery.

Recombinant Media Labs

Recombinant Media Labs (RML)was founded in 1991 by Naut Humon, and further evolved by technical directors Vance Galloway and Barry Threw, along with artists Edwin van der Heide, Egbert Mittelstadt, and Li Alin. Qualified support from ObscuraDigital, UCSD, ICAS, Gray Area, and Goldsmith’s University, London, has expanded the base. It continues to research the qualities and artistic potential of spatial envelopment by means of Experiential Engineering; exploring processes that expand the aesthetic and technological boundaries of panoramic installations, surround cinema, and multichannel AV performances. Recombinant Media Labs emerged from a series of experiments that started over two decades ago with the Sound Traffic Control tower of televisions amidst hundreds of speaker arrays in Tokyo’s Ginza district. After a number of years of blending live vs. programmed events of symphonic scale and substance, RML and Asphodel, a bi-coastal independent record label, joined forces to occupy two fixed-location warehouses in the bay area in California to headquarter a performance-residency convergence center for developing their submersive, simulation style of re-cog-ignition.

After working several years within downtown San Francisco, a new organization with a focus on mobile setups was founded. This was done in order to formulate an answer to the increasing requests for international presentations at museums and festivals. Freed from the constraints of a geographically anchored construction, RML’s nomadic approach is also able to offer residency opportunities together with various other organizations in international cities. This vanguard hybrid media platform encompasses many presentational options to potential partners, (co)-producers and curators.

Symmetry Labs

Symmetry Labs builds creative technology and immersive experiences for clients around the world. The Sugarcubes project, which is currently on display at Gray Area, is an exploration of modular sculpture, algorithmic art, and light as an instrument. The entire hardware and software stack is custom designed by Symmetry Labs.

Trevor Sigler

Trevor is an Idaho transplant who has been in San Francisco since 2009. He has been DJ’ing for 5 years and producing for 6 years, and is currently working on a new set of EP’s in the techno and dub techno genres of music. Trevor recently released an LP on Friends with Benefits Records.

To be part of the current cohort, apply here. The next round starts on March 2, 2017.

Urban Prototyping Lab

As we welcome new members into the Cultural Incubator, we prepare to send off our Urban Prototyping Research Lab Incubation projects which will begin their lives on Market Street on October 6th. Many of you have attended our monthly Urban Prototyping Lab Meetups and have had a chance to interact with these works in progress in our theater workspace.

Testing components for Ember at the August Urban prototyping Meetup

After nearly six months of incubation in partnership with Autodesk, YBCA, and SF Planning, selected incubation projects will be installed on Market Street between the Embarcadero and Civic Center for up to two years. More information about the Festival and the project locations can be found here. We hope you will visit and interact with these exciting works!

Elastic Interaction (now Strange Lenses) at the 2015 Festival

Maker City Book

Maker City Book has launched! We are proud to announce the culmination of another Gray Area Research Lab project, Maker City Book, authored by Peter Hirshberg, Dale Dougherty, and Marcia Kadanoff, and made possible with funding from the Kauffman Foundation.

Robot and the Giraffe, San Diego, CA. Photo by Balboa Park Cultural Partnership

The Maker City Book is designed to help cities understand the Maker movement and the impact it is having on economic opportunity: ecosystem development, education, advanced manufacturing, workforce development, and real estate.

The book is based on interviews completed with 50 thought leaders and practitioners who work at the forefront of the Maker movement in 20+ cities.

Gray Area Research Labs are multidisciplinary teams challenged to create new work around specific themes. Have an idea for a project, contact us at



Gray Area Foundation

Gray Area is a 501(c)3 nonprofit in San Francisco, CA applying art & technology to create positive social impact. #grayareaorg #creativecode