4 Important Things to Know About Participating in FIGMENT Oakland

FIGMENT Oakland is a new annual event, heading into its second year on October 24, 2015.

It’s inclusive, family-friendly and totally free to participate and attend. With its anything-goes vibe and very open ended call for artworks, we get a lot of questions about what to expect.

Here are 4 really important things to consider while you’re planning your visit and planning what kind of project to bring:


FIGMENT Geelong,  © 2014 Miriam Fathalla


1. For best results, embrace interactivity

At FIGMENT, our goals are nothing less than transformative personal change. We encourage an environment full of energy, participation and creativity! We achieve being through doing.

One of the ways we do that is by focusing on projects that are interactive. For some artists and makers, this might be a stretch. For others, it’s natural. We believe that no matter what medium you choose for your creative expression, there’s room for some type of community participation. Communal effort creates special bonds between people, and we love to facilitate that by offering as many opportunities for collaboration as we possibly can! 

Some examples of interactivity and participation at FIGMENT are….

  • Live paintings completed with suggestions and help from participants

  • Drawing machines that visitors may remote-control

  • Dance workshops with a group performance where everyone is welcome

  • Scavenger hunts and other games

  • Electronic music or video that responds to people moving about a space

  • Bicycle decorating stations and costume tents open to all

  • Music performances with extra instruments available for when the audience is inspired to join the show



FIGMENT NYC,  © 2014 Tim Schreier


2. “Leaving no trace” is a really big deal

If you hang out at FIGMENT, chances are you’ll hear someone say, “Leave no trace.” This is one of the 11 core principles of FIGMENT. This means that we strive to leave no physical evidence of our presence, wherever we hold our events.

Why is this so important? We hope to nurture and grow our community of volunteers, artists, makers and doers. We do that by making friends wherever we go, showing respect for the spaces we visit and for each other. We know that by being respectful of the environment and of each others’ space, we are contributing to a better artistic community for everyone.



FIGMENT Boston, © 2014 David F. Parmenter


3. Be patient

At FIGMENT, you may not always know what to do, where to go or how things work. There will not always be signs or instructions. There will not always be someone to ask. But…that’s OK.

One of the greatest joys in life is found in discovery. If you take a little extra time to explore, play and wander, we think that you’ll find something you love and create an experience that is special and can’t be repeated. Interactive art creates a dynamic collaboration between the artist, the audience and their environment.  Allowing those connections to grow takes a little bit of time.

One other thing about patience: Since its inception in 2005, FIGMENT has been run entirely by volunteers. (Full disclosure: We now have 2 honest-to-gosh paid employees who help with global logistics and manage the books, but the hundreds of others making it run are still volunteers.) This means that we’re never short on passion, but sometimes short on people and polish.

We also make great efforts to include as many projects, artists and participants of all kinds as we possibly can. Sometimes this means that participants must be a bit more self-sufficient than at a traditional “arts festival.” We feel the payoff - more freedom, less restrictions and more inclusion - is well worth it.



FIGMENT Oakland, © 2014 Calista Chandler


4. Bring an open mind

Some people describe FIGMENT as an “art festival.” We prefer to think of it as more of a “creative community event.” For some people, calling something “art” places a wall between themselves and creativity...and we want to break that down!

We love the idea that everyone can be creative in so many ways. That’s why FIGMENT is open to all art and all artistic mediums—from opera to decorating cookies (and yes, both have been seen at FIGMENT before). Art can include performance, street theater, costuming, sculpture, inflatable sculptures, dance, performance art, installations, social experiments, mobile art, workshops, games, community building projects, arts & crafts, sound art, bands & DJs, lectures & seminars on themes of participatory art & culture, and anything else you can imagine!

To get the most out of participating at FIGMENT (including bringing your own projects!), remember to keep an open mind...about what “art” can be, about how people should behave around it, and about what is possible if we all create something together.

3 Things that kids and families love about FIGMENT

What kind of experiences come to mind when you hear the words “art show” or “art event”?

Did you picture a stark gallery with white walls or a museum filled with precious objects that you aren’t allowed to go near or touch? Maybe a concert or performance where you have to sit still in a chair and you aren’t allowed to talk?

Let’s face it, what most of us think of as the usual “art experience” just isn’t very kid-friendly.

At FIGMENT, we aim to change that. We think that’s a big part of why kids and families love FIGMENT! We encourage families to attend with children of all ages. We think it’s the perfect place for the whole family: It’s purposefully inclusive, cost-free and totally interactive.

FIGMENT Oakland 2014  © Calista Chandler

1. FIGMENT is radically inclusive

While many arts-related events are aimed at adults (often adults with a certain level of traditional education), FIGMENT aims to be inclusive to people of all ages and backgrounds. That means as few barriers to entry as we can manage, and an especially welcoming atmosphere for children. From a demographic perspective, our artists and our audience are as diverse as our cities are, and we are dedicated to keeping it that way.


The Lady Buggies by Overkill Movement at FIGMENT NYC © Tom Egan

2. FIGMENT is totally FREE...and totally AD-FREE

There aren’t enough places where you can find a whole day of creative entertainment for zero cost! While many theater and museum tickets are prohibitively expensive, FIGMENT is committed to producing events and exhibitions at no charge for artists and participants.

We think it’s especially valuable to present opportunities for us all to play, learn and interact in an environment totally free from advertising and consumerism. The experiences you and your kids have with art and other creators at FIGMENT is rooted in fun and community - not mediated by sales pitches and marketing.


Lego Jeep @ FIGMENT Oakland 2014 © Calista Chandler

3. FIGMENT encourages participation

Young people and families have flocked to FIGMENT in part because (unlike at most museums or galleries) they are actively encouraged to touch and play with everything! Part of the FIGMENT ethos is that education comes from engagement, and there are so many ways to engage.

Engagement in art can be a wonderful way for adults and families to bond as well. We often hear adults say that they “feel like kids again” after a day spent playfully exploring creative projects at FIGMENT. Perhaps the joy of discovery at FIGMENT might inspire some more creativity at home all year long!

 Jugger @ FIGMENT Oakland 2014 © Calista Chandler


Why FIGMENT Oakland?

FIGMENT seeks to demonstrate what the arts can be: participatory, bursting with creativity and born from the desire to share imagination and invention between artists and the public. FIGMENT is a grassroots effort; organized and run entirely by volunteers because we believe in the aspirations and mission of FIGMENT. We believe that FIGMENT addresses a number of key issues that impact artists, cities, and creative communities alike.

Problem #1: Lack of Opportunity for Emerging Artists

We aim to provide as many opportunities for emerging artists as possible, creating an inclusive and participatory alternative to the high-end gallery scene. FIGMENT invites everyone to participate, regardless of socio-economic background, age, race, gender, artistic ability or career level . The main goal of our curatorial process is not to limit or restrict participation by weeding out artists, but to encourage all artists to make their work as participatory in nature as possible.

Problem #2: Access to the Arts for All

One of our main priorities is to lower the barriers to entry for audiences as well as artists. Museums, art events, concerts, and the theater are often prohibitively expensive in these difficult economic times. FIGMENT is committed to producing its event and exhibitions at no charge, minimizing as best we can the role economic privilege plays in access to the arts.

Problem #3: Passivity in Our Society

We live in a culture of spectatorship wherein people are often more comfortable watching than doing or making or creating. FIGMENT’s focus is on art that is created by a community working in collaboration, art that is created or enhanced by the input of its audience, or art that must be directly engaged with in order to be appreciated. FIGMENT intends for everyone who comes to the event be a participant, so that FIGMENT itself can be seen as one large collaborative art project.

Problem #4: Communities in Flux

Many of the inhabitants of large cities are transitional, moving to the city to pursue education or a career, then relocating elsewhere as their circumstances change. Existing neighborhoods change as older residents move and successive waves of new neighbors take their place. Many community structures that have functioned as longstanding social glue have lost their place of social prominence in the 21st century. FIGMENT seeks to provide a community-based experience that is open to everyone, giving even the most temporary of passersby a place to belong. With an emphasis on participatory art, FIGMENT encourages connections among audiences and artists, as everyone participates as collaborators in the creative process. Participatory arts include any works of art that require the interaction of participants, bringing together artists and community members in ways that build relationships and unlock individual creativity. The result is art as dialogue, rather than monologue; this dialogue forms the basis for a collaborative, constructive community.

Problem #5: Few Places for Youth and Families to Go

FIGMENT actively engages with youth and families, attracting a large number of children and their parents/caretakers. Children enjoy that FIGMENT’s culture is about getting your hands dirty and working with others to create. At FIGMENT, it’s okay to touch, in fact, it’s encouraged. Part of the FIGMENT ethos is that education comes from engagement. At the same time, FIGMENT is not a “just for kids” environment. We often hear adults comment that they “feel like kids” at FIGMENT; given an opportunity, even adults are able to play, have fun, and look at the world with fresh eyes.

Problem #6: Utilizing Public Space

FIGMENT was originally created for New York City’s Governors Island in 2007. In 2014 we’re coming to Oakland’s Mosswood Park - a much loved local park sitting at the intersection of multiple different neighborhoods. We want to get people out of their homes, out of their cars, off the BART and into the park - enjoying Oakland’s wonderful Mosswood Park! 

Problem #7: Oversaturation of Branding and Commercialism

We strive to create a culture free from buying, selling, and advertising. So often, our experiences in today’s world are mediated by ads, logos, and sales pitches. FIGMENT accepts no corporate sponsorship whatsoever. At FIGMENT, a logo should never interfere with your personal experience. Here, your experience is not for sale.

Problem #8: Living in a Time of Scarcity

At FIGMENT, you don’t need currency to experience the richness of the arts. Indeed, at a time when so many people are struggling to get by, we are proud to celebrate an abundance of inspiration. Despite the scarcity all around us, there is no shortage of creativity, innovation, and passion. FIGMENT provides a place where people can bring their gifts and share the wealth with their neighbors, old friends, new friends, and community members.

FIGMENT 2015 Volunteer Kick Off Meeting - Monday, Feb 9

Hello all of you wonderful, great, fantastic, generous people!

Welcome to the FIGMENT 2015 KICKOFF!!!!!!

We will be hosting our first official volunteer meeting on: Monday, February 9 @ 7pm-9pm at the Firehouse Art Hangar located here.  

FIGMENT veterans, Sandwich and Rick Abruzzo are helping put together this year's event as its new event producers. And they are calling on YOU to be part of this year's FIGMENT Oakland all-volunteer team because you have a big heart, a civic spirit, a hearty volunteer mind and body, and YOU LOVE ART. (We love art too.)
Remember that sunny day in November when people of all ages frolicked among art of all sizes in Mosswood Park in OAKLAND? That was fantastic.
It's about time to brush the dust off those memories, kick them into gear, and get going on putting this event together again. We hope that you will join us in the planning as well as on the day of the event. 
We are reaching out to people who have previously worked on FIGMENT to get a sense of who would like to return, who/what resources we can expect to have this year, what we have, what we need, and what gaps need to be filled.
Are you good with spreadsheets?
How do you feel about generators?
Do you like to communicate with artists?
Are you interested in Outreach?
Do you have a car/truck/van/cargo bicycle and can run errands?
Any and all of these skills (and more!) are useful.
Anyone can be a part of FIGMENT.
2014 was the first annual FIGMENT in Oakland, and it was the nation's third largest. Pretty good for an inaugural year. Dang good. Can it be better? We challenge you!  

Please bring questions, ideas, notebooks, laptops, hardworking friends, and items to discuss. Snacks and beverages will not be turned away at the door. 
Monday, February 9, 7pm-9pm. 
Firehouse Art Hangar, 3192 Adeline Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94703 

Let's get ready to make some ART happen in OAKLAND!

The FIGMENT Oakland 2015 Team