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Into the Twilight Zones: Art and Virtual/Augmented Reality in the West, a symposium, Thursday, February 27, 2020, 4:30-6:45 pm, Cantor Arts Center Auditorium, Stanford University
This symposium, co-sponsored with the Cantor Museum, will explore how art and technology such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are changing the way we see art and the future of museums in the American West.

Mission & Purpose

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ArtsWest is an innovative program that aims to place a spotlight on western arts through speakers, symposiums, film screenings, and exhibitions. The West boasts a rich tradition of distinctive and celebrated works of literature, photography, and visual and cinematic art. The West is a place of globally influential creativity and artistic vision as the epicenter for America’s motion picture industry, a mecca for seekers of the counterculture, and a home for daring artists and trends. ArtsWest aims to explore the contribution of the arts and humanities in the American West through programs for public and scholarly audiences and to extend the reach of the University into continuing education for adults in the arts and humanities.

Although many associate Stanford University with the science and technology of Silicon Valley, the strong influence of the arts and humanities on campus dates back to the university's founding. More recently, the opening of the Anderson Collection, McMurtry Building, and designation of the new Arts District surrounding the world class Cantor Center for Visual Arts have combined to place Stanford in the top tier of American universities emphasizing the visual arts.

ArtsWest seeks to leverage the excellence found on campus with a special emphasis on the contributions of western-based artists, writers, and cultural leaders who are inspired by the lifestyle and landscape found in the West. Through a series of lectures, seminars, symposia, and teaching, ArtsWest highlights historical contributions and forward-looking trends in the arts benefitting the campus and public at large.


2018-19 Season

Western arts as seen through the lens of contemporary photography.

Photography, Archives, and Apophenia: Lukas Felzmann on the Intersection of Nature and Culture

A lecture tracing Lukas Felzmann’s work across time and the western landscapes as seen through the lens of contemporary photography. From New Mexico and Nevada across California and all the way out to the Farallon Islands, Felzmann spoke about building archives and how this led him to book making. He presented work from all six of his monographs, focusing on and ending with Apophenia, his most recent publication. The event was held at Stanford on October 29, 2018.

Burning Man: Art and Technology — An ArtsWest Symposium

This program explored the creative spirit of Burning Man as an original western cultural movement and its innovative paradigm of art as a participatory and interactive experience, not attached to traditional museums or commercial art markets. Technology has increasingly become a component of Burning Man art. The symposium explored the affinity between art and technology with the rise of Silicon Valley and the parallel evolution of the Burning Man movement. Both are pillars of contemporary art and technology based in the Bay Area that have a global reach. The event was held at the De Young Museum in San Francisco on February 23, 2019. The full event’s webcast can be found here.

Self Landing: Daguerreotypes on the Western Landscape Landscape – A Lecture by Binh Danh

For the past six years, Binh Danh has been traveling across the West, making scenic daguerreotypes in a mobile darkroom he called Louis, after Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerreotype process in 1839. His photographs ask us to reflect on the land literally in the polished mirror surface of the silver plate, provoking questions of politics, landscape, history, and the self. The event was held at Stanford on May 20, 2019.



2017-18 Season

The second year of ArtsWest programming focused on art produced under adversity.

The Evasive Bodies of May’s Photo Studio

A lecture by Stanford Art History professor Marci Kwon about a storefront photo studio that documented San Francisco’s Chinatown at the height of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and created powerful, transformative images for the community. The event was held at Stanford on November 30, 2017.

Women Who Transformed Art in the West

A symposium celebrating the rise of women artists and art scholars in the West during the 20th century and the prospects for advancing women artists in the future. Held in San Francisco on February 24, 2018, the event featured Arnold J. Kemp (Dean of Graduate Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Claudia Schmuckli (Contemporary Curator, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco), a Guerrilla Girl (Käthe Kollwitz), Claudia Altman-Siegel (Director, Altman Siegel Gallery), Renny Pritikin (Chief Curator, Contemporary Jewish Museum), and Hung Liu (Artist & Professor Emerita of Art, Mills College).

Art and Culture on the US-Mexico Border: 2,000 Miles of Imagination that Unite and Divide Us

A symposium focusing on how art, cinema, and music are shaping social, cultural and political identity in the U.S.-Mexico border region. The event was moderated by Ana Raquel Minian, assistant professor of history at Stanford University, and featured: Enrique Chagoya, artist and professor of art and art history in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University; Anna Indych-Lopez, associate professor of art history at CUNY Graduate Center; Alejandro L. Madrid, professor of music at Cornell University; and Chon A. Noriega, art curator and professor of film at UCLA. The event was held at Stanford on May 18, 2018.



Inaugural Season, 2016-17

The programs of the first year explored art produced by marginalized populations of the West as seen through their craft.

Jack London: Apostle of the West

The inaugural ArtsWest: Great Writers of the West symposium was held on September 19, 2016 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of London’s demise. Four eminent cultural and literature scholars assessed London’s works of literature and photojournalism that argued passionately for social change and attention for the ragged ends of humanity from San Francisco, to London, to the South Pacific. Full video from the C-SPAN broadcast is available.

The School: Diane Arbus’s Untitled Photographs

Stanford Art and Art History professor Alexander Nemerov gave a lecture discussing his aunt Diane Arbus’ photographs of the developmentally disabled based on his book about her. The event was held at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco on February 4, 2017.

Steinbeck and the Environment

In May 2017, the Center hosted the second Great Writers of the West event, which examined the plight of indigenous peoples of the West and the fragility of the western environment. A recap of the symposium and complete video from the event are available on our website. Read more about Gavin Jones’ work on Steinbeck from the Stanford News Service.



Recent ArtsWest News

Mar 18 2019 | Happenings, ArtsWest
The contributions of all four speakers contributed to the sense of Burning Man as a type of experimental art utopia for those seeking an alternative to purely capitalist pursuits.
Nov 20 2018 | Happenings, ArtsWest
On October 29, Lukas Felzmann discussed the evolution of his photography leading to his most recent book, Apophenia.
Aug 29 2018 | Stanford News Service | Happenings, ArtsWest
Communication Professor Fred Turner has been studying the role of art and countercultural movements – including the communal, participatory lifestyle celebrated at the annual Burning Man festival – that have had far-reaching influence in the workplace of tech firms. This October, he will present his scholarship for the Center’s ArtsWest Initiative.