Who’s #OnPatch: Niki Selken

Gray Area Foundation
4 min readApr 17, 2020


When she isn’t running Gray Area’s education and artist incubator, you can find Niki Selken rehearsing live streamed screenplays and creating virtual reality games celebrating the language of emoji. Meet Niki Selken, Creative Development Director at Gray Area, in the first of our community highlights.

Read on to meet one of the many essential members of our Gray Area community on Patch!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I run the education and artist incubator programs at Gray Area. I also help with curating the festival workshops and the conference. Most recently I managed the development of The End of You, our extended run immersive art exhibition. For that show I did everything from designing motion graphics, wiring plans, to soldiering hundreds of LEDs, to sewing fabric screens and even making sure everyone working on the show got fed. Something everyone might not know about me is that I used to write and act in experimental musical theater works, I even had a company called Ko Labs.

Where are you sharing this from right now?
My apartment in the Mission, three blocks from Gray Area.

Can you share a playlist with us?

This is my 90s dance party music video playlist. It’s basically what I thought the world would be like when I was in junior high, and then I went to college in the 2000s and it wasn’t. Gone were the technicolor 90s with sunflowers and geocities webpages. It was the dawn of the new millennium, the age of the iphone and social media.

Can you describe yourself in a few images?

Gif by Niki Selken.

What have you been up to during quarantime?
Working on getting Patch up and running to support Gray Area! Also I broke my foot right as shelter in place began, so I have been spending a lot of time elevating my leg while on Zoom calls.

Can you share some of your work?
In 2013, I co-founded the Emoji Foundation as a way to promote, explore, and translate the written word into the pictorial alphabet of Emoji. The Emoji Dictionary is Emoji Foundation’s flagship project, and it’s the first crowdsourced Emoji resource on the web. Similar to Wikipedia, it relies on the community to share, build, and define the Emoji that have so long remained shrouded in mystery. Most recently I created the first (as far as I know) Emoji themed VR game, EmojiFlower VR.

I‘m also proud of my educational and mentorship work with artists, specifically women, queer folks and people of color. I have been working for many years to open the door and make room for voices that are often overlooked within the art and especially the technology space.

Any words of wisdom you can share?

Just keep making work, showing up for other artists and creatives, and you will gain traction in your career. A lot of the time it’s simply by being present within art community spaces and just arriving and listening that begins the next chapter of your work. We all influence each other.

We should all be responding to what’s happening within the world at large and in our immediate circles as well. Right now the pandemic is expanding that circle, so let’s all put our virtual ears to the ground and listen, then make something lovely out of it.

Every week, we’re highlighting the many essential members of our Gray Area family. To support our creative community, join us on Patch.

Patch is an online initiative to connect our creative community. Explore new ways of connecting, learning, and preserving intimacy through live streaming, online education, and virtual spaces.



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