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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Downtown Davis named a Cultural Arts and Entertainment District

Concluding the struggle to expand art in public places fought by community members, artists, and gallery owner John Natsoulas, the Davis City Council on May 15 unanimously voted to make Downtown Davis a “Cultural Arts and Entertainment District.”

Davis is among the first 20 cities in California to carry such a title.

Currently the city has publicly displayed 18 pieces of art, all of which are part of the transmedia art walk. Of that total, 16 of the pieces are sculptures and two are murals. Natsoulas and his team plan to have 40 pieces exhibited in the public domain by January 2013.

In an effort to restore the arts in Davis, Natsoulas has worked diligently at gaining community support and involvement.

“This is all about creating community,” Natsoulas said.

In celebration of the newly named district was the Flourish Davis movement created by Natsoulas himself, held this past Saturday. Joined by Mayor Joe Krovoza, Natsoulas and his supporters unveiled three new pieces downtown.

Two of the three new pieces are Susannah Israel’s new sculpture “Circus” and the California State colleges “Collaboration” piece.

The third stands as the world’s first interactive mural envisioned and executed by Davis artist William Maul in collaboration with the Davis mural team, located on a wall fronting the E Street alleyway behind Peet’s Coffee & Tea on 231 E St.

Titled “It Can Happen Now…TO YOU,” the towering mural highlights a scene of an actress screaming from the old horror movie The Devil Thumbs a Ride.

Beneath the graffiti-proof gloss lies a small silicon chip known as a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag. Through the free mobile app “Microsoft Tag,” participants can access the video files embedded in the transmedia sculpture plaques directly to their cellphones.

“Personalization is what I am working on,” said Dr. Monto Kumagai, the transmedia designer for the Flourish Davis movement. “The goal is to try and get people involved in the art.”

As an active partner in this transformative movement, Dr. Kumagai hopes to provide people with an outlet of physical interaction and expression.

The RFID chips empower viewers to leave a message, whether that be a feeling that was evoked or one directed toward the artist.

“Transmedia is exactly the right thing we need for this movement,”  Mayor Krovoza said. “Voices can be heard and can be shared with the community.”

As an avid supporter of the shift, Mayor Krovoza believes the city needs to figure out how to put aside permanent funding for this movement. Currently the artists on the team have been working for free and the majority of the funding has been subsidized by Natsoulas.

“We are not wrapped up in the cost of all the supplies,” Natsoulas said. “We are doing this because we see a change happening in the city and we want it to flourish.”

In the process of transforming these public spaces, Natsoulas and his supporters have a vision of engaging the community, and bringing people in from all over the world to witness the beauty.

“We have a long history of Davis being synonymous with art,” Natsoulas said. “And the Davis mural team, Davis sculpture team and artists in Davis are taking over because we can’t wait anymore, we are making the change happen.”

Guided tours are available every Saturday beginning at 11:15 a.m. in front of the John Natsoulas Gallery, located at 521 First St.

ANI UCAR can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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