Saturday, June 29, 2013

About Gregangelo written by Ian Bull

            I grew up in San Francisco in Diamond Heights, and when we moved into our brand new Hayman Home in the 1970’s, the Herrera family was just two doors down.  We were from Canada and had been in the United States less than two years, while the Herrera family was of Lebanese and Mexican descent and had been in California for three generations.  There were enough kids who matched up against us age-wise that we all became friends and we have been ever since.

            The Herrera kids grew up to be filmmakers, scholars, teachers, and musicians, but Greg, the middle kid, grew up to be a professional whirling dervish.

            At a young age, in the street and on the playground, Greg would spin. He could turn and turn and turn and not get dizzy, leaving any challenger who went up against him on their hands and knees in the dirt.  No kid on the block could do more than twenty spins without falling down, but Greg would then spin on for twenty minutes. With no worthy adversary he’d spin alone, entering a trance state to break his own personal record again and again.

            Most people eventually set aside childish things, but San Francisco is one place where it’s neither required nor recommended. You can call yourself a stilt walker, or a juggler, a clown, an acrobat, painter, sculptor, a nun drag queen or a pro downhill skateboarder and no one will bat an eye. In fact, if you’re good enough they’ll probably name a day after you.

            That’s how it’s been in San Francisco from the beginning. The Outlands were defined as the territories west of the Mississippi, and that’s where outlandish behavior was tolerated. Keep moving west and you’d reach the city where your outlandish behavior was actually celebrated. Emperor Norton was an English eccentric turned San Francisco resident in the 1860’s who called himself the Emperor of the World and the Protector of Mexico. He’d mount parades around the city, which he’d lead in full military uniform, and people loved him for it.  Besides abolishing Congress (people didn’t obey him) he declared that the two bridges spanning the San Francisco Bay should be built (which people obeyed) and 30,000 people came to his funeral.

            So, when you’re growing up in San Francisco and people ask what you plan to do for a living, you have a wider choice of careers.  Some kids might dream, “I’m good at basketball, maybe I could play in the NBA.”  Greg dreamed differently. He was good at spinning, and figured he could be a professional spinner.

                     When you have a passion, you still work -- you just don’t call it that.

            Greg studied theater and dance and business.  I remember being in a nightclub and Greg arrived wearing a paper painter’s button up jumpsuit that was splattered, Jackson Pollock style, with vivid florescent colors that lit up when he was on the dance floor.

            “Cool jumpsuit!” people would say. “Where’d you get it?”
            “I made it!  Want to buy it?” he’d answer.

            He’d open his backpack and sell twenty paper painter suits for 20 bucks each, and then disappear.  Great artist, great presentation, great businessman.  He paid five bucks for the jumpsuit, five bucks for the paint and made 100% profit on every jump suit he made, and he made dozens of them in an afternoon and sold them in clubs every weekend.

            Greg turned his spinning talent into an act -- Gregangelo, the Amazing Whirling Dervish. Imagine spinning to music in multiple costumes with electric lights. It’s mesmerizing.
            Other artists noticed that Greg was booking more gigs and making a better living than they were, so they asked him if he’d manage them.  It was an unwieldy and eclectic group, more like a circus than a business...

   Greg turned it into Velocity Circus, which now performs 200 days a year.  He mounts performances at San Francisco’s City Hall, for the San Francisco Opera and often hired to promote exhibits at the DeYoung Museum.

   The kid down the street who wouldn’t stop spinning is now The Amazing Gregangelo, an Electric Whirling Dervish, Master of Ceremonies and leader of Velocity Circus, a real life Willy Wonka with a labyrinth in his home.  His life is his art is his life, so why not turn your home into something worthy of a creative dervish?

    I tried to turn him into a reality show awhile back and did a sizzle reel, the link is below. If you ever get a chance to see him or his home, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Night Circus at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art


 Upon our initial meeting with the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) the museum development staff charged us with creating an exciting new benefit gala that raises funds to support the mission and vision of SMoCA.  “Night Circus at SMoCA” Loosely based on the novel “Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern was an inaugural fundraising event created to benefit the Museum, its exhibitions and arts education/outreach programs. The goals of the museum were to engage the community; raise visibility in the community of the Museum’s programming and fundraising. 

The evening was designed to immerse guests in a wildly colorful arena; enchanting costumed characters in custom environmental installations were designed alongside the living art, video art and d├ęcor of each gallery and aroused a complete engagement of the senses.  The Museum galleries and Sky Space were individually transformed into thematic surreal, magical, ­dream-like circus environments... Each turn into an unfamiliar new realm beckoned guests as they encounter ‘living art, immersive films, tables serving delectable treats, and perused a variety of chef-prepared food stations and signature cocktails created especially for this event.  This site specific event/installation in its design as an immersive labyrinth and experience engulfed the museum and also brought focus at the end of the journey to the existing MASH-UP Exhibition during the gala.

3. Design (environmental installations and costumes/characters)
There are 6 spaces at the museum include an outside sculpture garden. 5 of these spaces were schedule to be blank and in between exhibitions. This allowed the museum the space to use as a venue rather than renting space off site for a fundraising event.  In addition the museum initiatives and expectations were to engage existing and new community members into the museum through this event. 
It is rare that this type of immersive event can be schedule in the galleries and through our (Gregangelo & Velocity Arts/Entertainment) many multidisciplinary art platforms and events in museums and cultural institutions we were confident and seasoned in designing an event that is not only art, but pays homage to the museum, its work and its former life as a movie theatre.  The individual room designs, inspirations and details are encapsulated below.

A.   Red  “Beneath the Wave” Lounge

Featured in the Red Lounge was an extraordinary haute couture costume inspired and created for public programs surrounding the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition; From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.  This costume “Gilded Lady” was created in house, along with several costumes for the de Young programs.  The aesthetics of the permanent SMoCA Lounge Installation created in 2011 “Beneath the Wave” designed by Janis with assistance from Effie Bouras created a perfect backdrop for the “Gilded Lady’s” gold infusion.   the Egyptian costumes that accompanied the Gilded Lady in the Red Lounge were created for the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs Exhibition also at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, this living, moving installations of haute couture costumes meet performers in ancient to contemporary attire were leashed together via three orange organza ribbons to show transition and connection of time and fashion from ancient to contemporary, the custom film both served as character lighting as well as to showcase imagery and transitions of the sun from ancient to contemporary. The film also showed different positions of the sun setting over ancient monuments and literally reflected the “Sun” as a clock (key in the story The Night Circus), our constant measure of time from ancient to contemporary as it still remains.

A.   Black and White  Gallery
A direct inspiration from the contemporary novel The Night Circus, in the book the night circus is a series of magical, unexpected installations to be discovered in a series of small tents. The Black and White gallery was inspired by imagined scenes within the tent with hints of red on 3 key costumes and characters that differentiated the key characters from others as ‘The Dreamers” and were leading in the engagement of guests.  In the book night circus there are hints of red on the guests that differentiate them from the performers in the circus.  

Custom Elements in the Black and White gallery included:
1)    On the East Wall: Velocity created a floor to ceiling platinum museum frame encrypted with moons reflective of night circus that framed a montage of  vintage to contemporary circus films in a black and white finish with black and white theatre style and arranged seating for guests to view and mingle with each other.

2)    On the West Wall we created a custom “ID” film (inspired by Freud’s definition of ID and an artist subconscious compulsion to create art). The film represented the known artist faces and work throughout history from ancient times to contemporary. Portraits of the artist faces fade in and out of imagery of their most iconic works of art. As the film moved through each time period, a time clock reflective of that era would appear.  In night circus the clock was a very important pillar of the story.

3)    On the South Wall Velocity created a floor to ceiling Optical illusion film. The circus environment of The Night Circus novel is simply black and white stripes, so starting with the simplicity of black and white stripes, we morphed them into patterns, animated  and swirled the stripes until they created a pulsing and swirling animated optical illusion lighting effect central to this gallery. Dancers in platinum and white costumes immersed and choreographed within the motion media and  in essence they themselves became the silver screen.

4)    On the North Wall we honoured the event sponsors by repurposing some black and white graphics as a stylized morphing backdrop for “rolling credits” Placed directly next to the DJ tent -they could not be missed.

5)    An interesting and challenging note was lighting. Early in the site visits and conscious of fundraising expectations we took inventory or the existing technical capabilities and resources available already in the museum.  In lighting this and other rooms that required lighting we utilized the existing museum lighting grid/plot and collaborated with the museum’s carpentry staff to create pedestals, boxes and aerial points for each of the characters. Through this design idea we lit, placed and scheduled each character as living works of art engaging and interacting with the guests in a museum setting, creating a beautiful and dramatic flow of energy, observations, perspectives and sight lines for each character to be integrated into the overall environment.

6)    Upon meeting with the Art Institute of Phoenix we worked with teachers and students to design and create Architectural elements that framed the four walls to ceiling films created by us and these architectural elements also anchored the room as one entire installation.

The aerialist, the mischievous monkey, and the Ringmaster in this black and white gallery are costumed in red and represent the flight of the imagination, wonder, and love- a direct reference to the circus revellers in the novel
The Night Circus.

7)   In the Black and White Gallery, we also created an environment for the World Famous DJ Rani using a simple effect of a gobo carousel (***the only traditional event lighting element used in the entire museum) focused above a black and white opulent carousel pagoda umbrella that we custom made.  Both the DJ and his accompanying musician were costumed by Gregangelo in opulent, hand crafted black and white regalia. 

8)    Everywhere you turned in the gallery there were mini designed environments and objects- de- art to view, sample, engage with and enjoy.

9)   Dreamatorium
Moving from the stark Black and White gallery into the astounding contrast of the Technicolor Dreamatorium, we created a simple entry with a black drape and a black and white spiral optical illusion graphic that signalled the exit from the room.
Here, wonder and imagination instantly burst into full bloom. Guests are given a new way of seeing as special effect glasses are handed to them as they cross the threshold into the Dreamatorium.  Through a combination of Velocity’s signature special effect lighting and costuming viewed through glasses we are able to transform the effect of how a human perceives.
The Dreamatorium is literally a place that brings the subconscious to the conscious.   The central focus is a sculptural twinkling LED Cube light source, which shifts through a never-ending sequence of multi-colour luminescent patters which, in a microcosm, attempt to  imitate the extraordinary varying light patterns of our infinite universe.

Juno, in an elaborate and complex costume representative of the cosmos and inspired by imagined other worldly beings welcomes you into this realm and interacts with guests on an intuitive, intimate level, telling fortunes and guiding guests in the questions and quests to help solve life’s riddles posed to her.

A cosmic lily pond with hovering dragonflies illuminates Juno’s realm

The exterior walls of the Dreamatorium are projected with films of Velocity’s “Neptune” phosphorescent acts.  Live characters appear to meld with projected characters and are layered with various holographic and laser effects from floor to ceiling, and add to an uncanny sense of floating in space.

Two glowing sculptural ‘Meteors” built on the principles of Sacred Geometry are anchored in the room, each encapsulating a performer clad in illuminated architectural costume appear to be hovering inside each. Another “living building” defies gravity and glides throughout the room atop a rolling globe while manipulating cosmic hoops, like the rings of Saturn.  

A richly orchestrated sound-scape, inspired by the majestic cosmos further indulges the senses in this profound installation which contemplates the beyond...

10.   The Night Garden
The Night Garden is intended as a sensual decompression chamber following the transition from the over-sensory Dreamatorium. But, just when you thought you were catapulted back to full consciousness … your eyes refocus to realize you are immersed in an enchanted garden where all the flora and fauna stare in wonder at you and mythical forest creatures are real…

In the Night Garden, six distinct seasons (hibernal,  prevernal, vernal, estival,  serotinal  and autumnal) , are represented by opulent hand crafted, large scale umbrella “trees” which simulate each varying season in their respective colours and artistry.  Each seasonal tree also serves as an environment where the characters and guests converge, interacting playfully.  

Characters in the Night Garden included an Ice Empress, living flora and fauna carnivorous plants, queen green nymph, 12 foot living tree, aerial pan, satyr, and a water sprite. The sound-scape we mixed for the environment  fuses classical music inspired by the natural world, layered with wind, water birds and other wildlife roaring in the distance to create a surreal sensation of resting safely in an imagined new wilderness.

Working with the Art Institute of Phoenix, Gregangelo directed the team to create a garden cascading over two walls. Via video mapping, the AI team created a rich and lustrous film for the walls that included slow moving fog, and leaves that fell slowly to the ground- a perfect environment for the living characters placed in the foreground.


This AI video mapping alongside films of previous Velocity performances set outside in the lush nature-scapes of Northern California enrich the environment, lighting and entertainment quality further. Watery effects from special projectors glisten and ripple uniting the audience and characters alike.

11.   Sculpture Garden
Under the dome of a natural night sky in the Turell Skyscape, Velocity’s resident musician performed clad in a contemporary costume playing classical music of the ages on a rare bowed bass. In the sculpture garden, The Art Institute composed and video mapped  poetic verse on the east and west walls. The verses represented the times of day and night and were projected onto the existing wall colours of yellow for day and dark brown for night.


12. Canyon Entrance
On the entry wall of the Performing Arts Center, just across the entrance of the museum, The Art Institute of Phoenix, under the design direction of Gregangelo created an animated film that defined the 40’x 12’ walls, using panoramic projectors. Inspired by The Night Circus time-period A Victorian paper doll swings through a starry night sky illuminated by a blue moon above the shimmering horizon of a dark ocean of tears below. 
The strolling Victorian stilt walking character just beneath the scene welcomes and engages guests on entry and creates a false illusion of what is to come… unbeknownst to the guests, the “tents” inside are even more explosive of imagination than could be anticipated.

Installations, Costume Design and Creation- Gregangelo
Artistic Director Gregangelo, of Gregangelo & Velocity Arts and Entertainment has been producing and performing in the arts for 30 + years. He is a graduate of CCA with a multi-media degree with an emphasis on textiles and costume design. His signature aesthetic fuses ancient to imagined multi-cultural artistry with Entertainment, Science and Technology. His team of twelve artists for this event included, film makers, multimedia artists, costumers, make-up artists, libretto/musical composition, sculptors, animators, technical specialist, an artist manager, drivers, and four seasoned performers.  Concept for this event was a year in planning and execution, and was made financially possible for SMoCA by a partial sponsorship.
Financially for Gregangelo & Velocity, the event was made possible by directing a dedicated team of artists willing to work at a reduced rate, and invest in the future of the museum, as well as build relations with CSA Events and continued collaboration with artists of the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tucson region.
  Velocity also repurposed much existing inventory of costumes/props/equipment/film/music created over the years. Some works  included elements of the de Young Museum’s  commission of costumes for public programs surrounding John Paul Gaultier exhibition, “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk”, the blockbuster exhibit Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs as well as several other museum commissions and a recent commission from HBO for the Season 3 Premier of Game of Thrones.  All of the media and films used for The Night Circus at SMoCA are site specific and custom created for the Museum’s launch.

Producer- Jeffrey Lazos-Ferns
As the producer Jeffrey provides leadership in design, artist development/management, arts administration, business development, marketing, public relations, community partnership, community relations and strategic planning.  His foresight and long range planning skills has contributed to a significant growth in the regional, national touring and special events markets for Gregangelo & Velocity Arts & Entertainment.    He has been working closely with Gregangelo on large scale multi-platform events and public commissions for the past 17 years. Currently he  is the project director for Encoded Textiles Arizona, a multi disciplinary, 3 year project in partnership with ASU Project Humanities that includes a touring exhibition of encoded/augment traditional native art and 3 full length documentary films, In addition he is a costume designer, event planner, has a catering company that specializes in edible desert plants integrated with traditional indigenous medicine men and women, and is a consultant/advisor in developing Circus School of  Arizona into a premier fitness and professional training studio for circus arts in Arizona. He identifies primarily as a cultural worker and uses his multifaceted skill set and endeavours to create dialogue and advance communities through art/social interactions and public programs.

13. Public Relations/Marketing

Flash mobs and spectacular parades extended beyond the gala walls and into neighboring thoroughfares and businesses to further gain the public’s attention towards the museum.

The museum exceeded their fund raising goal and expectations by 300% during this one event.