Anne & Mark’s Art Party: An Occasional and Irrational San Jose Arts Fest
Some say it’s an “Art Exhibition” others say it’s a “Happening”. It’s been described as, “Mad Max meets Moulin Rouge”, “Burning Man meets Venice Biennale.” Some say, it’s better than… anything they’ve ever experienced…and we won’t argue with that.
It all began in 2007, when we got the idea to convert our downtown house into a gallery and invite our friends and family to showcase their talent, and invite all their friends, family and fans for a “One Night Stand for the Arts”. We said we’d never do it again. But we did. Each time the past artists and guests invited their friends, family and fans, and each time it grew bigger.
We’ve gone from one night to one week, from our house to a warehouse, and now to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. We now have hundreds of artists and thousands of guests and the only thing we need is…YOU!
In 2006, Anne and Mark — having lived in San Jose for several years, and having seen nary an artist — decided to go on a search. They ended up at the Citadel one night during Open Studios and, down at the bottom of the steps, they saw a man in a trench coat yelling, “The Cows, The Cows! Ya gotta see the cows!” Eventually they ended up in Ben Alexy’s studio, where they saw some BIG cows. 18′ X 8′. “You don’t do sofa size, I suppose,” said Anne. “Nah, that’s not really my thing,” said Ben.
Anne and Mark really liked the cows.
About three weeks later, they miraculously found themselves in contract for a house with an 18′ wall and, when asked by a relative if they would have some kind of house-warming, they thought, “Yes! And maybe we can borrow the cows.” (Anne thought, in a calculated manner, “This is the only time in my whole life I will manage to get all of my relatives — most of whom were ranchers — to come to my house. And I want them to see the cows!”)
So they did. And the relatives came. And they came back. And more people came. And David Middlebrook thought it was cool, and he carted his sculptures down….And other people came. And now they have created a monster. (Note, none of this could have ever happened without Georgie Huff, who came over regularly with bottles of wine and yellow note pads and reminded them in the morning what they had said the night before.)
If you have ever wished that San Jose’s various little pockets of cool activity would come together and reach a critical mass, you will find the creative energy you are looking for at the…Art Party. Tucked away in a no-man’s-land industrial zone, the Art Party is a vibrant mix of art from all ends of the spectrum, artists, patrons, fab food trucks, performances, and impromptu meetings. This kind of unexpected, buoyant urban interaction is hard to find in the South Bay. Without hype or big claims to fame, Anne and Mark have worked hard to build a sense of community and opportunity. It’s a generative, gritty art scene — something to crave. If San Jose can become the next Brooklyn, the Art Party is leading the way.
Anne and Mark’s Art Party is Mad Max meets Moulin Rouge, freak show meets Fellini…. Their art festival… is so audacious, so surreal, so successful, that artists clamor for an invitation to show their work and would-be patrons use every click of social networking to get on the guest list....Still, there’s a sense when guests arrive — and are greeted by Bonefire Bob and a 12-foot rocking rooster — that the party is so underground they need a secret password to get in….Here, on a wild autumn night each year, party-goers become art patrons, buying edgy artwork right off the warehouse walls. There’s a distinct sense among all who experience this creative happening that the arts community in San Jose is expanding, that the culture of this suburban city is shifting, that Anne and Mark are changing the karma of this place.
Anne and Mark have expanded San Jose’s cultural boundaries with a quirky, guerilla demonstration of the power of good ideas that emerge outside established institutions and processes. Storming into the warehouse district on a fire-breathing rocking horse and backed by an armada of taco trucks, the Art Party not only showcases the amazing range and breadth of the area’s under-acknowledged artistic community, it’s pretty much its best party of the year.
Art Party has played and early and important role in bringing more widespread visibility to San Jose's thriving creative scene. It's an impeccably produced celebration of eclectic, distinctive, multi-talented, wacky San Jose. You cannot go to Art Party and deny that San Jose's got something special going on now — with artists, art-lovers and cultural entrepreneurs like Anne and Mark stepping up everywhere to actively shape and showcase an authentic San Jose creative culture. Go to Art Party. Show at Art Party. Support Art Party. Heck, fall in love at Art Party — with an artwork (I did!), with old friends and new, with San Jose's special urban culture clearly coming into its own.
The Art Party is an extravaganza that exposes the general community of Silicon Valley to the rich and intense art being made around, above, and beneath the cool exterior of the valley’s technology businesses. The artists that Anne and Mark discover and bring under their wings vary from painters, performers, art car creators, and musicians, to chefs. These artists become part of a growing network that, in turn, fosters a sense of the immensity of the arts in Silicon Valley. People… see works that challenge their ideas of what art is and can be. In one glorious, art-saturated night, patrons and artists are welcomed by two intrepid impresarios to experience the lively and unpolished contemporary art scene going on where they live.
Of all the hip, edgy and cool things that have happened anywhere on our planet in the last decade, Art Party ranks among the top three — and yes, it happens in our very own San José. It makes “South by Southwest” look like a Wiggles convention by comparison.
The Art Party is a large-scale, pop-up Kunsthalle that Anne Sconberg and Mark Henderson mount on an occasional basis in San Jose, California. The process is community and artist-driven and the success of the art party is dependent upon the hard work of volunteers. The quality of the art on display is excellent and it gives contemporary artists who live in and around Silicon Valley a chance to display their work to a large audience outside the established art venues. I see the Art Party as a supplement to the offerings of San Jose's other art venues such as Anno Domini, the ICA, MACLA, and the San Jose Museum of Art. It's all about creating a buzz in the community and inventing opportunities to bring creative minds together. Three cheers for Anne and Mark's Art Party!
The Art Party brings people together — and that’s when the fun begins! It’s truly a celebration of creativity and community — inclusive, eclectic, freewheeling, with an organic “Do it Yourself — With Us” energy that is contagious and intoxicating. There has always been an aura of intimacy surrounding the event. Even as it has grown more expansive, moving out of Mark and Anne’s home and into the warehouse, it is still deeply personal and engaging. Obviously, Mark and Anne’s perennial studio visits and dedicated hands-on curation set the tone. It is also that rare and special combination of “informality” and “dead-seriousness” that permeates the Art Party. In effect, we work hard, we play even harder, and there is nothing we take more seriously than creative expression and indulging in the fruits of our labor with those that we love. Mark and Anne embody this attitude. The Art Party stands for this.
"The fearless Anne Sconberg and her enthusiastic partner Mark Henderson are extraordinarily dedicated eccentric visionaries who for the past several years, with an assembled cadre of arts professionals, have produced a series of the most amazing and entertaining arts events ever hosted in the San Jose area. Anne and Mark’s Art Party is a phenomenon not to be missed. This “all media” extravaganza features respected established arts professionals and talented emerging local artists. The events also include exciting performance art and a variety of live music, and are a dreamy alternative forum for showcasing a wide range of creativity in a hybrid gallery/party setting. Anne Sconberg and Mark Henderson’s 30K+ square feet of Art Party is a happening not to be missed." — Marc D'Estout
It’s not unusual for people to turn all their focus on San Francisco when craving art and culture in the middle of our high-tech haven; but when Anne and Mark’s Art Party took over the Santa Clara Fairgrounds traffic reversed and San Francisco people drove to San Jose to find out what the buzz was all about. The buzz delivered. As soon as you walked through the Fairground gates you felt yourself entering a different world, and spontaneous smiles grew on guest’s faces. With a drink in hand I entered the main exhibition hall and worked myself through the maze of walls and art. It was like a treasure hunt, with visual surprises lurking behind every corner. The art of getting lost took on an entirely new meaning, the "eye candy” pleasantly overwhelming … and did I mention people’s smiling faces? Musical intermezzos competed with people’s laughter to fill the air with ambiance, and then some. Venice Biennale meets Burning Man in San Jose. As a spectacular alternative to formal art fairs, perhaps this is the new way to discover quality art, and foster community at the same time. Anne and Mark’s Art Party was definitely the place to be. People showed up because they simply didn’t want to be left out! They soaked it all up, they experienced, they enjoyed, they smiled … I can’t wait for the next edition. Congrats Anne and Mark for lighting a tantalizing fire under the art and cultural life in San Jose!