Tomás and James Talk 80 Turk Street: an interview with our Executive Director

Tomás and James Talk 80 Turk Street: an interview with our Executive Director


James: So the first question I have – what’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of our new home at 80 Turk Street?

Tomás: Potential – I mean, CounterPulse has the potential to transform the community; it’s something that’s so needed and necessary in the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin certainly has the reputation that it has, but it also has the highest concentration of children and families in the city. Our building is a tremendous resource and we want to be an asset to that community and honor the history that the Tenderloin represents to the city of San Francisco.

We also have the opportunity to bridge the income disparity that is represented by the fact that the Tenderloin is also just across the street from the central market tech corridor, and I think that’s a function CounterPulse has traditionally served – the opportunity to bridge disparate communities and bring them together over specific cultural contexts.

J: There’s a strong focus on addressing social impacts in the new move – how do you see these issues correlating with the type of art that’s going to be happening in the new space?

T: Well, I think CounterPulse talks the talk and walks the walk. What we’re trying to say here is CounterPulse believes in taking risks on the stage, and we manifest that as an organization. Leaving a home that we’ve been comfortable in for 10 years and making this tremendous leap into the renovation of a multi-million dollar facility is something that really can challenge the ideas of what it means to serve as a cultural institution on a scale like CounterPulse.

J: Challenges the idea of remaining true to the original vision of the organization?

T: Yea absolutely – I feel there’s a niche that CounterPulse fills; there’s a need in the arts community generally, and it’s a launching pad for artists that may not find a stage any place else, we really do represent a conduit in that way.

J: And for you personally, what excites you most about the new theater?

T: Well I definitely recognize the potential of the sheer square footage, I mean to have that much real-estate in that part of town means that you can leverage that square footage for an infinite number of opportunities to both serve the community in all of its manifestations and also deliver on a promise that we made to the community of artists we work with to provide a space that is really able to showcase what they bring to the stage.

J: In addition to the stage, there are so many new spaces to support different forms of arts presentation. CounterPulse will be able to debut artists interested in exhibiting work, for instance, in a gallery format?

T: There’s definitely opportunity for us to serve a larger and broader community of artists, and in different ways. There’s developmental spaces: the basement itself is a multipurpose workshopping space that can also serve as a venue for smaller sized crowds and audiences. The stage itself doesn’t really represent a big leap from what we currently have, so we get to continue that intimacy that CounterPulse provides for its audiences. But at the same time, the facility itself is just higher grade in terms of its technical capacity, and artists that don’t get to work in larger cultural institutions will have access to the same type of technology and production value that you would get in a larger venue.

J: Will we be seeing you on stage in the new building – maybe presenting some of your poetry?

T: I would love to perform on CounterPulse’s stage, but in a context that this is an opportunity for others to share the stage as well, and if a literary movement blossoms out of CounterPulse that would be a dream come true for me!

J: Lets make it happen!


for more about the 80 Turk Project, click here.

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