GK Callahan - BIO / Artist Statement, 2017
I earned my MFA in Social Practice from the California College of the Arts, and I hold a BFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute.
Currently, I am employed as a Community Arts & Development Specialist for the University of Missouri. My focus is on economic and community development in Missouri communities, using the arts. I am the co-founder and primary producer for Contracting an Issue, a national social awareness art project that explores the continuing impact of HIV/AIDS, and I am also in the throes of producing the second Beaded Quilt Mural. The Beaded Quilt is a community-based project working with the blind and visually impaired.
I built expertise in cultural development through my work with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the City and County of San Francisco. In 2010, I received at San Francisco Arts Commission, Arts & Communities: Innovative Partnerships Grant and founded the Please Touch Garden, an outdoor community arts space in San Francisco created in collaboration with the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Creating cultural change through the arts and social engagement, with a focus on humanitarian issues related to public health; I am a trans-media artist and have devoted more than a decade working in, and with, community-based arts. My practice also includes traditional mediums like painting, sculpture, and mixed media works. As a maker, the visual art I create is drawn from life experiences, focusing on play and the narrative line between reality and fiction, often incorporating children’s stories to illustrate adult metaphors.
The work I produce takes a sharp, but subtle approach to breaking down the conventional barriers of interaction and understanding between people, and people that have been "othered." Those others have included individuals with disabilities, homelessness, queerness, substance abuse, and people who live in the bonds of suppression/actions. All of whom serve as very critical partners and often co-collaborators in my practice helping me support others with less voice than I have.
Through social practice and relational aesthetics, my work supports the programs and the people I work with in rising to entirely new levels of interaction with the public. Whether a large-scale beaded mural, storytelling through performative verbatim theater, the building and maintaining of a community space, writing in a blog post, or imagery that hangs on a wall; my work engages the viewer/ participant in multiple avenues. Opening a space that allows the building of bridges across communities that would generally, not intermingle.