Arizona ArtBeat: urbanSTEW

More from this show

Get a taste of urbanSTEW as Co-Directors Jessica Rajko and Robert Esler describe their nonprofit organization that explores “synergies between art, technology, and culture”.

Ted Simons: Before we get to tonight's "Artbeat," we want to let you know that the state Supreme Court has reinstated Colleen Mathis as chairwoman of the redistricting commission. Again, the high court has reinstated Colleen Mathis to the chair of the independent redistricting commission. We'll have much more on this story on tomorrow's Journalists' Roundtable. But for now, it's Arizona "Artbeat" time. We get a taste of urban stew. It's a nonprofit organization that describes itself as exploring synergies between art, technology and culture. Here to explain what that means are two of the group's codirectors -- Jessica Ryko and Robert Esler. Esler, correct?

Robert Esler: Yes, sir.

Ted Simons: I got it right. It might be the only thing I get right. This is an interesting project. What is urban stew?

Jessica Ryko: Just like you said, it's looking at the synergies between art, technology and culture and by that, we mean that we're trying to think of different things we can do. Projects that span across different fields of art, technology and culture. And we usually do things that involve all three, but the gamut in which it involves each of those can vary and we do projects that might lean more to the art side. Like case study, which was a performance project that we did. We also have other things like rehearsal assistant which is a mobile phone application which looking at helping the rehearsal process and do things like workshop where is we can educate people how to use technology for art making or whatever purpose they may want.

Ted Simons: Sounds like everything from mobile phone technology to what we would recognize as an old-fashioned art installation, correct?

Robert Esler: Yeah, we'll take anything we can find and we call it hacking. We'll take it apart and use it for art if we want, write software for it and then make art out of it. Just like any other tool, we hack into technology and use that to make art.

Ted Simons: So cultural sensible art and technology, what does that mean?

Robert Esler: That's a good question. One of our projects, called radio healer, taking technologies and discussing through performance and art and through music and dance, their impact on our surrounding culture. Started by Christopher Martinez and Randy Kemp, former members of urban stew and they have native American and Chicano background and we took those elements and when Jessica came in and other members, we brought in our cultural experiences with technology and that was a way of working with what technology actually means in our lives as artists as well as people.

Ted Simons: That's -- that makes sense. This is now starting to come together finally. But again, other examples of how that cultural sensibility comes into play when there are so many avenues of expression here.

Jessica Ryko: Absolutely, I think it's the thing we're trying to, number one, understand what the culture of art and technology is here in the valley. We try to network with other artists who work with technology and art. And other things we look at, how do we address different cultural needed or issues, through art making with technology. Something like what Robert just explained.

Ted Simons: It sounds like it's another way to look at art. I don't want you to define art for us, we don't have time for that. But is it a different way to consider art?

Jessica Ryko: I guess in a way -- one of the ways we think of ourselves as an organization, we're not so interested in making a certain type of product and a think a lot of artists get coined at making a certain thing -- music, dance, visual art or sculpture. But because we come from these different backgrounds, we're really interested in different ideas and our projects vary across many platforms trying to bring to life an idea we might have. And that's the nice thing about our organization. We are collaborative and look working with other people. Especially people we don't necessarily share the same methodologies with. And we're trying to see what happens similar to radio healer, when you bring all of these people together and have an idea and we found through the process it really expands the limit of what we can do with an idea.

Ted Simons: So how did this particular idea get started? Inspirations for this?

Robert Esler: You know, I think it was an organic thing that happened. We all came together and we had this passion for art making. But we also had this dynamic interest in what technology can do in making art. And I could say that, maybe urban stew is more of a philosophy, maybe more of an advocacy group or maybe more of an idea, but, you know, when we came together, we saw we had this commonality, you know we were dancers, musicians and visual artists, but we knew that we had something critical that we could talk about when it came to technology itself.

Ted Simons: Are audiences connecting with what you're doing?

Robert Esler: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, especially when you use something like a Wii note from an videogame console, and have that as part of your instrument you're playing, they go, I know that. And it's doing something different and they connect.

Ted Simons: What about the non-tech savvy audience?

Jessica Ryko: Even if we're non-tech savvy, we use it all the time and one of the things we do is finding ways to relate to art and technology in the way we use it every day. Like using a Wii mote, or for example, in case study, that project came out of creating an online video blog series and putting it on facebook. While we do things with technology that maybe people don't understand, we try to bring it back to ways that people use technology on a regular basis, like with the Android mobile phone platform.

Ted Simons: Same case as where you don't know what the singer is singing, but you like what's sung, this is the same situation?

Jessica Ryko: Exactly. And we've done workshops in the past. We did a series in the mad cap theater called stew shots and spent one day a month looking at a different topic and teaching people entry level, how to deal with complex technology.

Ted Simons: Congratulations on good work there and we'll keep an eye out. Hard to miss considering the nature of the projects. Good stuff.

Jessica Ryko: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Again, we want to remind you that we've heard that Colleen Mathis has been reinstated to the independent redistricting chairmanship. That's it for now, I'm Ted Simons, you have a great evening.

Jessica Rajko:Co-Directors,urbanSTEW;Robert Esler:Co-Directors,urbanSTEW

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
aired May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: