Robotics Artist Ashley Newton on Technology, Art and FIGMENT

Something phenomenal happens when technology expands the reaches of an artist’s imagination. Ashley Newton, a San Francisco-based artist, spent her days doing market research in a cubicle before stumbling on that accidental discovery. Newton and her business partner, Sean Stevens, were teaching a class on creating arboretums when one of the students mentioned something revolutionary: a robotic flower. Just like that, the internal gears of a maker began to turn.

“[We] called it Sustainable Magic, because we wanted to create something magical,” Newton smiled. Soon after opening their artistic practice in 2012, Newton and Stevens applied for 2013’s Priceless Art Festival in Belden Town, California, to create radiant mechanical flowers that amaze attendees. The team painstakingly laser-cut the delicate designs. From petals and pistils, Sustainable Magic was born.


Robotics artist Ashley Newton with some of her creations.

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Celebrating creativity & imagination with artist Robin Birdd

If you’ve heard of the X-Men comic books, you might know about The Danger Room: a fictional training facility appearing first in X-Men #2. “The Danger Room [is] a [space] that changes depending on what the characters want [it] to be,” Robin Birdd noted, pausing to consider the inspiration for her own version of The Danger Room. Robin Birdd and Jeffrey Yip wanted their version to be as much a place for creative imagination as possible: “Every time Danger Room pops up, there’s a new scenario,” Birdd explained.

The Danger Room, a whimsical place of discovery, is first and foremost an interactive space intended to push the limits of the imagination. “With the use of light, texture, and sound, the artists engage the human senses in the temporal unknown,” she smiled. “People were afraid to go in. It’s supposed to be mysterious.” But more than anything, like the comic book space before it, The Danger Room emphasizes training the senses: in unstructured play, participants can imagine anything they want to be.


Artist Robin Birdd inside The Danger Room, FIGMENT Oakland 2015. (via Instagram)

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Seeking Curation Co-Director for 2017!

Interactive Rainbows by Toni Tone, Photo by Jason HayesInteractive Rainbows by Toni Tone, Photo by Jason Hayes

Are you passionate about art in Oakland?  Do you love connecting with artists and your community? FIGMENT Oakland is looking for a co-director for our 2017 Curation team!

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FIGMENT sits down with multimedia artist Adam Davis

“It’s only been recently that people started thinking of the Bay Area as tech hub first, and art hub second,” says Adam Davis, an illustrator and full-time father in the East Bay. Davis attended FIGMENT in 2015 with his project Secrets Everywhere, an intricate, puzzle-like scavenger-hunt in which participants used clues to find a piece of art they could keep. This project--along with his original scavenger-hunt--are very much about immersive experiences leading people to see the world in a new light. For Davis and other appreciators, original art is undervalued. “[But] if you make art accessible, someone [may] want to [go] home and hang it on their wall, rather than going to Ikea,” Davis said wryly.

Locally, there are many different types of art-themed events: you could attend a gallery showing by current MFA candidates, experience interactive theatre like Neurosociety, witness the Oakland Symphony, or get a taste of the thriving East Bay gallery scene at Oakland Art Murmur First Fridays. The Bay Area offers a diverse array of cultural flavors to experience: and some even allow you to get up close and personal. Since 2014, Oakland’s FIGMENT Project offers you just that: a chance to get up close and personal with local artists just like Adam Davis. 

Can you spot the clue? Painting by Adam Davis.

Can you spot the clue? Above: A mysterious painting by artist Adam Davis.

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Mark your calendar for these Meet and Greet events

Are you an artist or maybe just art-curious? Are you considering submitting an art project, installation, workshop or performance idea to FIGMENT Oakland 2017? Or, are you interested in helping with the event and want to know how to get involved? Then these free participant Meet and Greet events are for you.

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You're invited: Dancehall of Beautiful Radiant Figments

The Dancehall of Beautiful Radiant Things - a creative slow dance event series - is joining forces with FIGMENT Oakland - a free, global interactive art nonprofit - to present a one-night-only event on March 22, 2017. Art supporters and social dance enthusiasts of all skill levels are invited to sway, shimmy, and mingle in support of the annual interactive FIGMENT art event and community.

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Welcome to FIGMENT people, a series of stories about the people behind FIGMENT Oakland! We’ll meet some people on the core event team, artists and volunteers. Want to hear about a specific FIGMENT team member or volunteer? Email us and tell us who you’d like to see: [email protected]

FIGMENT person: Emmie Katz

Emmie Katz is the 2015 Curatorial Director for FIGMENT Oakland. Her role has her communicating with our dozens of artists, managing the growing volunteer curatorial team, assisting with art placement and event logistics, and doing individual artist outreach. Her longtime roots in the local community give her a unique perspective on the Oakland art scene.


Though this is Emmie's first year in a FIGMENT team leadership role, she is no stranger to large volunteer art projects, events and festivals. She was drawn to FIGMENT in particular because of its commitment to inclusivity.

She says, "The Bay Area is lucky to have a ton of great places to see and make art. FIGMENT is unique, and particularly exciting to me, because of its commitment to making a welcoming, creative space that isn't transactional. Creative expression is very democratic, and very human. I like to blur the distinctions between art, craft, and play. I hope that FIGMENT becomes a place for that in the Bay Area."

What does she do when she's not working on FIGMENT?

Emmie keeps busy building large scale art installations all year long. Her passions include sculpture, carpentry and metalworking. She was part of the teams that created the larger-than-life Birdhouse for Arthur J. Wren (which made an appearance at FIGMENT in 2014 and has travelled to other events such as the Treasure Island Music Festival) and the Ardent Mobile Cloud Platform (which has been shown at California Academy Nightlife and other places, click here for a video). She's an avid rock climber and writer.

Want to meet Emmie and say hello? Join the volunteer team and help her do whatever needs doing!


Welcome to FIGMENT people, a series of stories about the people behind FIGMENT Oakland! We’ll meet some people on the core event team, artists and volunteers. Want to hear about a specific FIGMENT team member or volunteer? Email us and tell us who you’d like to see: [email protected]



FIGMENT person: Josh Silverman

Josh Silverman is a longtime rockstar volunteer and contributing artist to FIGMENT. He’s helped out with FIGMENT NYC over the years with promotion, labor and logistics. He also produced the popular Kissing Booth installation in 2013. Now a Bay Area resident, he’s leading a project to bring to FIGMENT a massive 18-foot-tall outdoor LED video wall where he’s curated a lineup of original digital video content from a dozen local artists. He hopes it will be seen from space.


Some people donate money to charities or volunteer at soup kitchens. Josh believes that bringing participatory art to the masses in a setting like FIGMENT is a meaningful way to give back to the community.

Josh says, “A good interactive art piece should feel like magic to the viewer, and FIGMENT provides a really magical environment for this kind of work, especially for kids. That makes it an ideal venue for bringing interactive video art to people who might not otherwise know that it exists!”

What else does he do when he’s not working on FIGMENT?

Josh lives and breathes digital art and video in his day job at the WorldStage Lab where he works on projection mapping, graphics code and R&D, and system design and sales. In his spare time he writes music, plays classical piano and climbs rocks. (A terrible combination for the hands, actually!)


Josh encounters a subterranean art installation life form at FIGMENT NYC.

Want to meet Josh in person and say hi? Volunteer to help right here!

PEOPLE OF FIGMENT: Audrey Boguchwal

Welcome to FIGMENT people, a series of stories about the people behind FIGMENT Oakland! We’ll meet some people on the core event team, artists and volunteers. Want to hear about a specific FIGMENT team member or volunteer? Email us and tell us who you’d like to see: [email protected]

FIGMENT person: Audrey Boguchwal

Audrey Figment.jpg

An oldie but goody, Audrey surveying the terrain at FIGMENT NYC 2009. Yes, that’s a cooler.

Audrey is a member of the communications team for FIGMENT Oakland 2015. Her role is to tell everyone about FIGMENT, at all times. She promotes FIGMENT to artists, organizations and participants alike. Audrey attended the first FIGMENT ever, in NYC in 2007, and joined the curatorial team the following year. Over the years, she’s volunteered for FIGMENT in many capacities. She served as FIGMENT NYC curatorial director from 2009-2010 and is excited to be involved with FIGMENT in her new west-coast home.


For Audrey, FIGMENT is as much about about participation as it is about art.

She says, “FIGMENT reminds people that they should participate in their communities. They need not be spectators in their own lives. Through art and play, FIGMENT models the positive outcome of collaboration. When we come together to work on shared projects, the benefits for all increase. FIGMENT teaches us to get involved - a valuable lesson that we can take back to local government, education, our jobs and more.”

What else does she do when she’s not working on FIGMENT?

Audrey has approached art from many directions. As a kid, she spent her summers at visual arts camps, making horrifying creations that still lurk in her parents’ suburban New York basement. Undeterred by society’s feedback on her work, she thought, “perhaps I should approach art from a new angle,” and pursued graduate study in Museum Anthropology, later working in a few different museums. A few trips to Burning Man followed and soon she stumbled upon FIGMENT on that fateful day in 2007

Over the years, Audrey has been part of teams for many large-scale art installations in New York City, its environs and the Nevada desert. These days, she is more focused on smaller projects like elaborate cooking, indoor gardening, and crafts. During the week, Audrey manages software design and development for a tech nonprofit in San Francisco. In her spare time, she enjoys social partner dancing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, exploring museums, hosting dinner parties and listening to podcasts.

Want to meet Audrey in person and be part of our team? Volunteer to help right here!


PEOPLE OF FIGMENT: Irene Malatesta

Welcome to FIGMENT people, a series of stories about the people behind FIGMENT Oakland! We’ll meet some people on the core event team, artists and volunteers. Want to hear about a specific FIGMENT team member or volunteer? Email us and tell us who you’d like to see: [email protected]



Irene hard at work at Artist Check-In, FIGMENT NYC 2014.


FIGMENT person: Irene Malatesta

Irene Malatesta is the Outreach Director for FIGMENT Oakland 2014-15. Her role involves talking to artists, art institutions and other non-profit organizations about FIGMENT. She works all season long to forge and nurture partnerships between local organizations and publicize FIGMENT to the greater Bay Area arts community. She has been a volunteer and curator for FIGMENT NYC since its inception, before skipping town and moving to San Francisco this year.



From drawing to storytelling, performance art and dance, Irene loves interactive art and creativity in all its forms.

She says, “One thing I love most about FIGMENT is how the events encourage people of all ages to explore and play. My education background is in fine art and art criticism, but it makes me really sad to think how many people are put off or intimidated by art that they think is too complex or serious or just not intended for them. I’m so proud to work on an event where everything is explicitly presented for the interactive enjoyment of all - where there are no wrong answers and visitors can focus on the joy of discovery.”


What else does she do when she’s not working on FIGMENT? 

Irene has spent many fun years devoting her spare time to creative events in and around the arts community, including over 10 years of producing absurd costume and theme events with Kostume Kult, leading Zombiecon, and dancing with Thrill The World in New York City. In her day job, she’s the marketing director for a health and wellness-focused tech startup in downtown San Francisco, and spends whatever time she has left hiking, climbing, dancing and writing.


Dancing with Thrill The World in the street at Dance Parade, NYC.

Want to meet Irene in person and say hi? Come to FIGMENT Oakland on October 24th! Or, even better, volunteer to help right here.