The Susan Gosling Community Service Award
On the day of my graduation, Sunday June 14, 2015 the English Department at UCSB awarded me with the Susan Gosling Community Service award for my work on The Catalyst. It was a no-brainer, the hours, the constant trial of skill, communication and patience put forth toward The Catalyst. For two and a half years, this has been a full time job working toward something that could glue all the disparate pieces in our community and campus together. To be recognized for community service is the highest honor I could have received, especially from people I admire and respect a great deal. The English faculty of UCSB and the Writing Department have been more than mentors. They are friends. I am grateful to them for the words of encouragement and tireless support during all phases of this project, which will continue in years to come. The students taking over The Catalyst are working to make the now interdisciplinary course into an official English course.
It has always been about the people. The magazines, the events, the courses were essential to bringing together our community when we needed it most, and to connect and blend many visions.
My individual art and my work in the Isla Vista and UCSB community are of the same root. Though I’ve been illustrating and painting my entire life, I view my most recent work with The Catalyst and in the community as my calling.
The Humanities and the Sciences weren’t talking, and neither were the poets and artists I knew. I wanted to start a platform that would allow people to interface and connect, in hopes that people like me might end their search for other creatives. Over the past two years many have come out of the woodwork—amazing writers who had never showed anyone, closet painters, voices and visions that, once coaxed into working with me, began to collaborate and be found organically.
Isla Vista, as the world has seen, has undergone radical events over the last couple of years. With that said, there have been numerous accounts and editorials which point blame at one group or another. That’s not the point. The point is to stay united, strong and support each other within our town. The point is to grow and learn with each other. Our town is a mix of university students, community college students, residents who have lived there since the 1960’s, artists, faculty, church leaders, musicians, surfers, the elderly, entrepreneurs… you name it. Our bright community possesses a great number of talents and capabilities, and I believe it has extreme potential to be a forward thinking, progressive voice and agent of positive change.
The team I left with The Catalyst is a conglomerate of various majors and people of all sorts of interests. The goal and the benefit of bringing together a bunch of wildly creative individuals is the exchange of lessons, ideas and skills that only collaboration brings. We were strangers who figured out a dynamic, became friends, and are now family. We might be spread out all over the world after our time together at UCSB, but we will always be an alive network ready to reconnect and continue working together. One of the most rewarding aspects of this project was observing the character arcs over the one to two year period I worked with these students and faculty. For example, on day one I have every fill out a questionnaire. Nine times out of ten the student would put down “editor” or “photographer” down and end up doing everything under the sun. People wanted to expand their skill set and try new roles. Some people had an immediate knack for understanding the level of commitment and extensive “behind the scenes”, non-glamorous work. These people were always given the option to take initiative and join the ranks of Editorial Board once they proved a work ethic. The ones who excelled tried their hand at social media, event planning, press releases, volunteer coordination, and after hours editing.
Every quarter we call and collect submissions, select and edit them, design and assemble a 64-80 issue (depending on funding), throw an event, and various course projects.
Year One Volunteers
For the first year or so, from April 2013 to the end of the school year, April 2014 I lead and coordinated well over a hundred volunteers who worked on the magazine, or contributed, or on the events we threw. In the thick of it, I managed about 40 people consistently as “staff”. We had weekly meetings to discuss submission selections and editorial work, then the meetings went toward event planning and set up.
Our trademark release parties are much more than the magazine debut. We highlight dozens of local artisans, showcase local 2D art and sculpture, and provide entertainment from 5-6 bands/musicians, spoken word artists, and poetry readings. Our partnership with the Isla Vista Food Co-op, a place and staff recognized for leading and connecting our community throughout the years, has provided our events with a unique and intimate space where all types of people—not just students—trickle in. I realized we had struck gold. Our readers and newcomers attend our events for many reasons and we like it that way. We aim to create a magical interactive art space, where people can see and be immersed in local talent under the lights. I think the most beautiful moments come from the sheer surprise coming from our audience when they recognize what their peers are capable of. Every event is student run, and organized by students.
Here's montage of my last event, The Catalyst Presents: IV Art Fest
Teaching the Magazine & Writing Course
The Catalyst Collective Writing course began in the fall of 2014, my senior year. I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with excellent faculty members and to develop close working relationships with many. The chair of the department, Dr. Ghosh provided the class with a space in the department and a course listing. Once I got the syllabus approved, I enrolled 26 students and we met twice a week. I taught three classes, one each quarter, each with a new theme. Broadly, the categories were: produce, curate, and sustain. In the fall, the Find Your Voice unit was an introduction to the writer’s voice and character development. I wanted our team (whether or not they wrote “writer” on the questionnaire) to experience what it takes to write and polish an original work before they edited the submissions. The majority of the course was divided between creative writing workshops, assigned readings and discussion, and the latter half planning the launch event. My small team of close friends produced the issue that quarter. In the winter I had nearly 40 students (some where club members and not enrolled). This quarter was distinctly the most regulated and organized. We managed to fit in guest lecturers from the writing and English departments and a publisher from Punctum press while still accomplishing all our goals. The students wrote original essays on Isla Vista history, memoir or short fiction, edited, designed, or illustrated multiple submissions, successfully put on the event with an interactive mural, and in mini-editorial groups, produced their own magazines. Editors and artists gained first hand collaborative experience working with the authors of the selected pieces, while designers were trained in InDesign to reflect the overall style of our magazine. Issue 4 was a highly collaborative effort, and arguably the most collaborative magazine. The mini zine project impressed me the most out of all my project ideas. The class was split into groups with several editors, one designer, one artist and a chosen Editor In Chief who was in charge of the group’s deadline schedule. Every group came up with a different theme and had nothing but positive things to say. I was truly in awe of what they were able to achieve in just a two week period and with little force from me. Spring was about creative sustainability. I wrote a manual and selected next year’s staff, we raised over $13,000 with a local fundraiser and our kickstarter campaign, set up what will become an online Catalyst Shop (all proceeds going to the printing), threw an incredible event and published a special 84 page, Isla Vista themed issue as my last one. We really gelled as a group this quarter. I attribute this to a term I call “happy chaos”. Allowing people to fail instead of picking up what they drop was a hard lesson to learn, but once I did, we became a true collective team. We recognized and accepted our interdependency and excelled. As a reward, our last project was to start developing a professional or artist porfolio. We all created artist statements for future use.
Our class met outside of school in backyards to read and sing at open mic, we published a blog throught the year, and supported and promoted local art and music shows to keep our readers informed and active in the arts.
Hard Lessons: The Vigil
Photo: Mark Brocher
On May 24, 2014 I woke up and called my best friends on the Catalyst staff. Without really thinking about it, we responded in the only way we knew how: to give voice to people who needed it. This day is burned in my memory and will always be for many reasons. One, is I discovered what my community is made of. We called and contacted everyone we knew about a candlelight vigil in one of our local parks. Then we joined forces with Associate Students and other campus organizers and planned the vigil that met at 7pm that evening under Storke tower. The march left me speechless with a confusing mix of admiration and love for the trail of people before and behind me, and of course all of the other strange buried feelings we all felt that day. Once we got to the park, an open forum was provided for anyone who wanted to speak. It was heartbreaking and beautiful, eye-opening and cathartic.
I distinctly remember when our group stopped to get something to eat after cleaning up. We went to our favorite local joint, Super Cucas, and saw the march on the news. We were momentarily overjoyed at seeing the first positive press reflection of Isla Vista. Moments later the security footage from I.V. Deli Mart was on the screen and we were angry.
We, Isla Vistans, were bound together and fiercely protected our privacy and the privacy of those grieving those next couple of weeks. We turned our attention inwards, toward the soreness and dug down and connected in ways I’d never encountered before. The Catalyst issue 2, our most intense and difficult issue yet, came out days after that, focused by coincidence on our town: Isla Vista. The tragedy showed me what art and expression of voice can do in circumstances of tragedy and collective hurt. We are still healing, but what we have done during that time is work to open up dialogue in Isla Vista and care for this place through the arts and communal expression.
The Catalyst Manual - Ensuring a Future for Catalyst Members
This year I began to design and compile a Catalyst Manual that I could leave in the hands of the future Catalyst editorial staff. Here are the first few pages.