Huy Truong, Susana Ruiz, Karen Tei Yamashita with Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History Awarded Hewlett 50 Arts Commission

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SANTA CRUZ, CA (October 26, 2022) — The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) is
pleased to announce that it has been selected as one of ten recipients of this year’s Hewlett 50
Arts Commissions in Media Arts, a program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The
MAH will receive $150,000 to create a new project in collaboration with local artists Huy Truong,
Susana Ruiz, and Karen Tei Yamashita related to the history of Santa Cruz Chinatowns.
“We are honored to receive this grant that furthers our commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration
and the sharing of untold or little-known stories of Santa Cruz County,” said Robb Woulfe,
MAH’s executive director. “This project continues our efforts to connect people, art, and history
well beyond the museum walls, and to use public space to exchange ideas and build community.”
With the grant, the MAH will commission artists Truong and Ruiz to create “The Last Chinatown”
(working title), an interactive public memorial and augmented reality film that speaks to the rich
narrative landscape of Santa Cruz through the lens of historical erasure with a focus on its last
Chinatown. The project is a performative interpretation of an original story by Yamashita
supported with insights from community members and historical documents. The final work will
incorporate theatre and gameplay and will be experienced on mobile devices, including
augmented reality glasses, at historically important sites in downtown Santa Cruz to render
visible the lives, legacies, and labors of those who lived there.

As part of the project, Truong and Ruiz will also work closely with a number of history-makers
and leaders in the Santa Cruz AAPI community, including George Ow Jr., an elder and one of
the last residents with memories of living in the last Chinatown. As Ow explains, Chinatown may
have been a ghetto, but it was also a haven not only for the Chinese but for Black people,
Mexican people, Filipino people, and other groups for whom it wasn’t safe or legal to live
elsewhere in Santa Cruz. Thus, Chinatown in Santa Cruz and Chinatowns across the country
were not a space solely devoted to marginalization, but a place where Chinese culture and
traditions could be preserved and passed down from generation to generation, as well as
revised and transformed in diasporic and multicultural contexts.
“The Last Chinatown” is slated for a public premiere in Santa Cruz in the spring of 2024, with a
preview of the work scheduled to be shown at the MAH’s “Frequency” digital arts festival from
September 21-24, 2023. Additional support for this project is provided by the Arts Research
Institute (ARI) at UC Santa Cruz.
More information about the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions can be found at:
Launched in 2017 in celebration of the Hewlett Foundation’s fiftieth anniversary, the Hewlett 50
Arts Commissions is a five-year, $8 million commissioning initiative that is the largest of its kind
in the United States. The initiative supports the creation of 50 exceptional works of performing
arts and their premiere in the Bay Area through grants of $150,000 to Bay Area nonprofit
organizations. Nonprofit organizations receive funding to achieve their creative vision in
partnership with the commissioned artists, who may be based anywhere in the world. The
ultimate beneficiaries of the program are local audiences, who are among the first to see
important new works premiered in their communities.
Huy Truong is an Emmy Award nominated director of photography, media artist, and creative
producer with extensive experience in feature films, television series, documentary, and mixed
reality production. Truong’s research interests include emergent aesthetics and technologies of
cinematography and new approaches to storytelling that include Mixed and Extended Reality
and participatory co-creation. Truong has worked on multiple award-winning shows, including:
director of photography of the documentary feature GRAB (Sundance Official Selection, PBS),
directed by renown Indigenous filmmaker Billy Luther; director of photography and co-producer
of TIG (Sundance Official Selection, Netflix), nominated for a GLAAD Media Award; and director
of photography of MAPPLETHORPE: LOOK AT THE PICTURES (Sundance Official Selection,
HBO), which received two Emmy Award nominations, including one for Outstanding
Cinematography. Truong was Artist-in-Residence at the Cooper Union Telerobotic Theatre
where he worked with renown media artist Adrianne Wortzel on the intersection of art and
robotics. With Ruiz, he is a founding partner of the multiple award-winning Take Action Games,
an artist’s studio with a portfolio traversing games, art, activism, and storytelling.
Susana Ruiz is an Assistant Professor at UCSC, where she teaches in the Film and Digital
Media Department, the Digital Arts and New Media Program, and the Social Documentation
Program. Her work is concerned with how the intersection of art practice, playful design, and
digital storytelling can enable useful approaches to social activism, aesthetics, and public
pedagogy. She holds an MFA from the Interactive Media and Games program at the University
of Southern California (USC) and a Ph.D. from USC's Media Arts + Practice program. She is a
founding partner of Take Action Games (TAG), an artists' studio based in Santa Cruz and Los
Angeles that creates linkages between games and the histories and practices of documentary

film, performance arts, and participatory culture. TAG has garnered numerous awards, including
the Games for Change Audience Award, the Adobe MAX Award for Social Responsibility,
Honoree status in the Webby Award's Activism Category, and the Academy of Television Arts &
Sciences' Governors Award (the Emmy's highest honor) in collaboration with MTV Networks.
TAG’s work has also been covered by press outlets such as National Public Radio, the New
York Times, BBC News, ABC World News, the Washington Post, Jezebel, and Mashable.
Karen Tei Yamashita is an American author and scholar. She is the author of ten books,
including I Hotel, recipient of the 2011 California Book Award, the American Book Award, the
Asian Pacific American Librarians Association Award, the Association for Asian American
Studies Book Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award. Her books include Through the
Arc of the Rain Forest (1990), which received the American Book Award, and Brazil-Maru,
named by the Village Voice as one of the 25 best books of 1992. Tropic of Orange (1997), was
a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize, and she followed that with Circle K Cycles (2001), a
book based on her research on the Brazilian community in Japan. Letters to Memory (2017)
examines her own family’s experience in a Japanese-American internment camp during World
War II through letters, stories, photographs, official documents, art, journals, and other personal
records found in the family archive. Sansei and Sensibility (2020), is a collection of short stories
about growing up and living in Japanese America. She is Emerita Professor at the University of
California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), where she held positions in Literature, Social Documentation
in Film and Digital Media, and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies.
The MAH is a thriving community gathering place that offers a full slate of art and history
exhibitions, visual and performing artworks, public festivals, education and outreach programs,
and cultural celebrations in collaboration with its many partners. It maintains a permanent
collection of regionally significant art and artifacts, a research library, a historical archive, and
historic sites including the Evergreen Cemetery, Octagon Building, and Davenport Jail. It is also
home to Abbott Square, a vibrant public plaza on the museum’s doorstep that offers food, social
events, and year-round creative happenings.
The Arts Research Institute at UC Santa Cruz supports UC faculty, graduate, and
undergraduate students involved in creative research, scholarship, and publicly-engaged
practice. They are particularly interested in fostering critical interdisciplinary collaborations that
reach across disciplines and genres and engage a broad range of off-campus partners,
organizations, and communities. They are committed to supporting the diverse artists and
scholars of our campus in an environment of respect, support, innovation, and exploration.