CONNECTS Fellow: Tina Shen

“This is literally the first time that I’ve had the chance to talk to so many people: developers, people who live in the buildings, people who operate the service….It’s a really cool back and forth [process] to see how successful the design is, but also to look at the projects from a different point of view: by the locals, the residents, and also by the clients.”

– Tina Shen, CCA CONNECTS Fellow


Fellowship Description

Tina (Mengjie) Shen worked alongside Katie Ackerly, Associate at David Baker Architects, to develop a new post-occupancy toolkit for evaluating residents’ use of space. Tina shadowed Katie on site visits and helped create occupancy surveys, which which will provide David Baker important data for future projects. This process of integrating engagement into the design process allowed Tina to see first hand how design affects quality of living.

Tina spoke to how important engagement is to design:

“This is like the real time, having a conversation with those people, to listen and to observe, and to get the information from them. It’s a different learning process for me to think about how design really changes and affects their life quality….like after design, after people move into the building, what are the factors that make a difference. [This is] what we can learn as designers to improve or get a new insight of design for our next projects.”

CONNECTS Qualities

This Connects Fellowship is an example of:

Impact Statement

Site Mentor, Katie Ackerly (L) and CCA Fellow Tina Shen (R) share how CONNECTS impact them and their community:

“Tina provided a new perspective on the objectives we defined, and allowed us to put attention things in buildings that otherwise get overlooked.”

“Helps me look at architecture and design in a completely different way through having direct interactions with locals.”


Histories and Rituals

Community Arts’ Student Jacqueline Castillo shares her experience working with the residents of the Alder Hotel in San Francisco

Why I Believe in Community Arts

I believe that community arts has potential to heal, to teach, to include diverse voices, and to have endless applications. I am in the middle of my junior year at CCA and have been in community arts classes every semester, making this ENGAGE class not my first experience with community engagement. Other communities that I have engaged with during my time at CCA have been: fellow CCA students, young people in Palo Alto, and organizations in West Oakland. I have had the privilege of working in many positions that cater to community with an emphasis on art while working as a volunteer with People’s Kitchen Collective, and as an event organizer of my own projects. I have an understanding about what it takes to work in collaboration with a community while working towards the goal of creating art that matters in places that exceed a classroom.

Collaborating with and in a Community.

I learned how difficult it could be to try to align a classroom with different interests in order to create work for a place that none of us are used to. That being said, the projects that came out of our diverse skill set were amazing. I got to learn what my peers brought to the table as I was not familiar with what my peers were studying and what skills they brought to the table. For example, I was impressed with the photographs that were taken as they truly captured the spirit of those who participated and I thought the sound deadening solution was smart.

Our collaborating organization was wonderful through the way they supported us, engaged us, and through their availability. The context we got before we started working was comprehensive and I really felt like I learned a lot about the housing system in San Francisco and I won’t look at homelessness the same way again. This class gave me an opportunity to work in a community that I would not have had access to before which makes me feel more empowered to enact change in my community.

Jacquline shares Alder Hotel Resident Darnell Boyd’s  thoughts on working with CCA students:

Darnell was excited to be around young people and to have his prospective valued. He was also excited to see more color in the common spaces of the Alder because the space was so unactivated. He spoke about how SRO housing is seen as a place to die but now the art makes it feel like a place to live.  He was complimentary of how the students came to the Alder as frequently as they did and how they showed respect to them because he felt that they don’t get a lot of respect.





Athena Project

For the Athena Project, CCA students worked alongside students from ARISE High School, in Fruitvale, Oakland California to co-create murals.


Illustration student Ella Enkhsarnai shares her experience partnering with ARISE High School students

Connecting Communities

As I grew up and became more aware of my community, I began to think about what I could do to help my nation, Mongolia or even the United States, become a better place to live for the citizens with adequate living conditions by collaborating with the people who yearn for the same goal. Life in Mongolia is not always easy—hardship has always been present.  California College of the Art’s motto, “Make Art that Matters,” reached out to me, and here I am today as an Illustration major, facing a world of the unknown, absent of complete reassurance of my future but somehow feeling complete as ever doing something I love with an endless passion, and ready to embrace faults and mistakes to ultimately to create art that matters.  Before taking Athena Project as an ENGAGE course, I was, and still am, a Chimera Leader (CCA Student Leadership) who strives to bridge communities within and outside of the campus, advocates for the students, and guides new artistic-citizens to successfully transition into life at CCA. I had some experience in managing as well as mentoring students, so when the class began, I was extremely eager to meet and collaborate with new students to design and create community art that addresses issues relevant to the culturally mixed Fruitvale district.


Easing into Engagement

Of course, in the beginning, like everyone else, I was lost in the midst of all, perhaps overthinking about every word that came out of my mouth or every move that I made in front of the students to get them engaged and keep them interested.

I have learned that it is okay if there are some awkward and quiet moments, it is okay if the students do not want to engage in the activity at that time, and it is totally okay if I cannot reach every student. I have realized that it is remarkably significant to value each student who is showing up and participating, even if some might not be interested in art, they are still showing up and listening, and whoever shows up is the right person.


Learning as Peers

Since they were high school students only a few years younger than I am, we were much more like friends, teaching and learning from one another class to class. The progress of our friendship from beginning to end, slowly coming out of our own shells until we began to just freely converse about anything, was truly a highlight of the overall experience. Even though we, as mentors, are specialists in different branches of art making, our role was to guide the students to find and amplify their own voices, valuing each individuals’ expertise and interests that they bring to collaboration.

In working in the Athena Project, Ella Spoke with ARISE student, Katherine:

(Katherine) “lived here in the Fruitvale district her whole life,” born and raised. From her point of view, the goal of The Athena Project was to provide a space where they can “ask questions … to work with each other, to find a way to connect with people from other areas, from different backgrounds”

We, as mentors, strived to be the backbone the students needed to lean on for support, to eventually and hopefully provide them enough nourishment to grow and bloom to keep pushing on and decide for themselves what they need to know. It was so much less about what we know and more about what we learned.

Ella spoke with ARISE High School faculty, Nils Heymann:

This is the fourth year Mr. Nils has worked with the CCA students, and he has “always enjoyed having that mentor relationship where the CCA students are not teachers, not friends, nor high school students, but rather a mixture of things where the students can have casual and yet still have the mentor and mentee relationship…[the time] where everything gets pulled together, from day one to where everybody is shy to the last day where everyone is talking”(Heymann) has been immensely enjoyable to see.

From the sketch phase to the final, we painted, got painted on, laughed, cried and celebrated together when we finally finished. Through this experience at Athena Project, I am more aware about others and I, as well as the social issues in Oakland than ever before. In the future, I want to keep participating and volunteering in organizations that are for the people through art somehow, and I am just beginning to discover this interest enriched by the Athena Project.


Active Urbanism

Working with SF Jazz, Active Urbanism worked with the local community to develop bottom-up activation of Hayes Valley’s alleyways.

The seminar partnered with SF Jazz to work on proposals for an urban intervention on Linden Alley as part of the San Francisco Planning Department’s Living Alleys project. This new two-year city initiative was developed in conjunction with the Market-Octavia Neighborhood Plan, and aims to provide tools to the community for the bottom-up activation of Hayes Valley’s alleyways through Public Private Partnerships. It constitutes a new test case for the integration of bottom-up and top-down efforts. The long-term goal for the SF Planning Department is to create similar programs for other areas of San Francisco. Students actively participated in putting forward a specific proposal for tactical and permanent urban interventions that have the potential to be realized as part of the first prototypes that San Francisco Planning approved for realization.

The project resulted in 4 different proposals that included a phased deployment of short-term and long-term interventions for Linden Alley. Each project aimed to provide better links with the rest of the Hayes Valley alleyway network while reinterpreting the alley’s potential as an urban event space. In addition to phasing, the proposals included recommendations for potential collaborations between local organizations to support and structure both interventions and urban events.

SF Planning submitted the proposals to the Planning Department. As a result of the seminar’s work, this part of Linden Alley was selected as one of three prototypes supported by the Planning Department.


Marcus Books

Team Marcus Books partnered with Marcus Books and the African American Arts & Culture Complex to recreate the prominent Marcus Bookstore within the AAACC’s physical complex.


The Marcus Bookstore was a major hub for the San Francisco African American community in the Fillmore since the 60’s. It was a critical site for intellectual and communal activity, but was evicted in 2014 against major public outcry. Team Marcus Books partnered with the Marcus Books and the African American Arts & Culture Complex Initiative (AAACC) to recreate the space within the AAACC’s physical complex.

“We will always face contrasting goals within teams, talking through these goals and prioritizing helps to get everyone on the same page.”

The team acted as design facilitators, creating and testing prototypes, devising business strategies, and providing architectural renderings and visualizations. They also supported a dynamic relationship between the community and the organization, actively incorporating community voices into the design process. The tools and resources they developed will be used by the AAACC to carry the project forward.



Partnering with San Francisco Nonprofit Simply the Basics, Dahlia developed materials for a strategic marketing campaign

Project Dahlia was a reaction to the high levels of homelessness in San Francisco. The team was especially interested in addressing problems surrounding hygienic needs, and partnered with Simply the Basics to develop materials for a strategic marketing campaign. One of its main programs is managing and distributing hygiene donations to other organizations, and Simply the Basics is a valuable resource for other nonprofits as well as for homeless individuals. Team Dahlia supported them with spreading awareness to garner more community support and develop collaborative relationships with other organizations.


Open Engagement Walking Tour

23rd and Telegraph:  Exploring Oakland at the Intersection of Art and Social Justice

Open Engagement is an international conference and platform to support socially engaged art. The conference highlights the work of transdisciplinary artists, activists, students, scholars, community members, and organizations. The following walking tour was a part of Open Engagement 2016 in Oakland, CA.

The Open Engagement walking tour group was invited to engage with 5 distinct historic, community sites in Oakland: Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, Soul Space: Shoe Gallery and Creative Lab, Betti Ono, Regina’s Door, and Chapter 510. The tour started at Oakland Museum of California, where the Open Engagement group was greeted by Chapter 510 high school students tour guides. Stopping briefly at each venue, the group learned about the site’s specific programming, the various mediums through which issues of power are addressed by the site, and how these organizations are situated in relation to the dynamics of displacement.  Presentations along the tour explored the importance of storytelling as a means of resistance, tactics through which to intervene in economic structures that promote or hinder cultural expression, the ways in which art-making and arts organizations may co-opt and/or fortify urban networks  towards collaboration, and the ways in which cultural processes may both translate and give voice to endangered histories as well as anticipate a more equitable future. The walk ended at Chapter 510, the intersection of art and social justice, for a public conversation, snacks and drinks in Uptown Oakland.

Download a .PDF of the Walking Tour Map

This map encourages you to share the same route as the group at Open Engagement 2016. The walking tour of Oakland, co-hosted by Chapter 510, Parcel Projects, and the Center for Art + Public Life at CCA, starts from the Oakland Museum of California, an interdisciplinary museum dedicated to art, history, and natural science of California, and ends at Chapter 510, an Oakland community organization committed to developing creative and expository writing skills for students.



The design team envisioned “Bipool,” a bicycle program that would improve cyclist safety by increasing bicyclist visibility through commuting groups and planned routes.

Design Sprint Prompt:

In response to growing safety concerns, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) began the Vision Zero initiative in 2011 to increase roadway safety for its community members. The Vision Zero: Silicon Valley program began as a partnership between SVBC and Stanford Hospital & Clinic’s Trauma Center. Members of these community groups gathered information from public works staff, AAA, cycling clubs, law enforcement, and community members to better understand the issue of cyclist safety in Silicon Valley. Out of this collaboration, the Vision Zero: Silicon Valley program identified a 7-point focus plan to improve safety. Vision Zero created design prompts that focused on outreach campaigns to improve road safety and put the 7-point focus plan into action.

Students were asked:

Team Proposal:


Xiaofei Liu | Graphic Design

Jingjing Yang | Graphic Design

Qian Mao | Graphic Design

Di Wang | Industrial Design

The design team envisioned “Bipool,” a bicycle program that would improve cyclist safety by increasing bicyclist visibility through commuting groups and planned routes. “Bipool” commuters would use a website and/or smartphone app to identify departure points throughout the community. Each departure point would be highlighted with the “Bipool” logo and would resemble a bus stop, with groups of cyclists embarking to their destinations at set times throughout the day. “Bipool” commutes would also be equipped with volunteer ride leaders. Veteran cyclists would encourage bicycle commuting by keeping the group together at a comfortable pace. “Bipool’s” website and mobile application would not only coordinate departure points, but also track cyclists heading towards their destinations, as well as provide common bike routes to popular locations.


The “Bipool” design team was awarded $1,500 to develop their design solution and prepare a presentation for jurisdictions in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Youth Programs Coordinator led the first “Bipool” (now called “BikePool”) test ride in March 2015, and meetup/drop-off points are now available via an online map.

The Runners-Up:

In the end, all participating teams were exposed to a swath of valuable opportunities.


Chris Waugh | Senior Lead of Health & Wellness @ IDEO + One Medical

Dave Bertini | Police Commander @ City of Menlo Park

Derek Chan | Outreach Manager @ CA Department of Motor Vehicles

Kirsten Keith | Council Member @ City of Menlo Park

Jessica Manzi | Community Development Engineer @ Redwood City

Corinne Winter | Executive Director @ Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition

Ellen Corman | Supervisor of Community Outreach & Injury Prevention @ Stanford Trauma Center

John Knox-White | Transportation Planner @ SF Municipal Transportation Agency

Cindy Welton | Co-Leader @ SVBC’s Roadway Safety Solutions Team

Beth Thomas | Branch Chief for Pedestrian & Bicycle @ CalTrans District 4

Patt Baenen | Cyclist + Principal @ Scaled-Up Productions

Bill Fallis | Ride Leader @ Pen Velo

Ariadne Scott | Bicycle Program Coordinator @ Stanford University

Shawn Chase | Deputy @ Sheriff’s Office of San Mateo County

Mark Welton | Surgical Oncologist @ Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Matthew Davis | Attorney @ Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger

Conor Kelly | Attorney @ Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger

Design Experts:

Will Moran | Senior Creative @ Google

Michael Carabetta | Creative Director @ Chronicle Books

Lucie Richter | Principal @ Lucie Richter Consulting + Senior Lecturer in ID @ CCA

Marc O’Brien | Designer @ Smallify + Designer @ Good SF

Eric Heiman | Principal @ Volume, Inc. + Assistant Professor in GD @ CCA

Josh Levine | Principal @ Great Monday + Senior Lecturer in DMBA @ CCA

Melanie Doherty | Creative Director @ Melanie Doherty Design + Adjunct Professor in GD @ CCA

Ulrika Andersson | Principal @ Rubrika + Adjunct Professor in IxD @ CCA

Katie Barcelona | Principal @ room207 Design + Senior Lecturer in GD @ CCA

Bryan Houlette | Creative Director @ Eleven, Inc.


Dan Cohen | Creative Producer @ Apple + Founder @ Collective Good

Matt Cooke | Head of User Experience @ Iron Creative Communication

Maurice Woods | Founder @ Inneract Project + Co- Founder @ Convozine

Thomas Prehn | Director for Global Strategic Business & Product Innovation @ CatEye

David Oberholtzer | Lead User Experience Designer @ Gensler

Bob Jonsen | Chief of Police @ City of Menlo Park

Corinne Winter | Executive Director @ Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition

Derek Chan | Outreach Manager @ CA Department of Motor Vehicles

John Knox-White | Transportation Planner @ SF Municipal Transportation Agency


Puerto El Morro

Puerto el Morro Pig Project created a communal pigpen that reduced environmental hazards to the elderly and children, while allowing Puerto el Morro to retain its cultural relationship with the pigs.

Project Overview:

Puerto el Morro Pig Project is a public space project that responds to the sanitation issue of free roaming local pigs in the town of Puerto el Morro, Ecuador. With the support of APROFE, a non-profit association dedicated to the welfare of Ecuadorian families, Team Puerto el Morro facilitated dialogue within the local community about the day-to-day health impacts of free-roaming livestock. Through community meetings, site-specific design sessions, and collaboration with local builders, Puerto el Morro Pig Project created a communal pigpen that reduced environmental hazards to the elderly and children, while allowing Puerto el Morro to retain its cultural relationship with the pigs.


Team Puerto el Morro sourced local material and collaborated with local farmers and community members in Ecuador to build the communal pigpens. The final pigpens are easy to maintain as well as readily accessible. They are located 2 minutes outside of town, on a site secured by the local agricultural association. This project was developed to address the specific pig culture of Puerto El Morro, but can be used as a model for other sites with similar environmental concerns, as well as modified to house other livestock.



Externs at SOMArts Cultural Center serve as community liaisons for artistic programming helping to publicize and promote exhibitions and events through on- and off-line outreach, as well as marketing activities.

Organization Description:

SOMArts is a beloved cross-cultural and community-built space in San Francisco, with a rich history spanning over 40 years. As an incubator for ideas that lie outside the mainstream of contemporary art funding and consumption, SOMArts provides a space where cutting-edge events and counterculture commingle with traditional art forms to open up, engage, and inspire the community.

Externship Description:

Externs at SOMArts Cultural Center serve as community liaisons for artistic programming helping to publicize and promote exhibitions and events through on- and off-line outreach, as well as marketing activities. In addition, CCA Externs identify and activate opportunities for SOMArts to engage with community groups, schools, and neighborhoods.

“CONNECTS taught me to appreciate my role as an artist in my community. Artists aren’t here to just make art, we’re here to bring people together, to educate others!” – Michelle Lagasca, BFA Illustration (‘14), 13-14 CONNECTS Extern