On May 6, 2017, we setup the Calliotree.
The weather was bad: raining all day and part of the night.
The timing was bad: we'd forgotten about the city's 18th Annual Cinco de Mayo festival, which typically throws the Artwalk and downtown off its usual cycle of cross-town circulation and kept many of our partners engaged elsewhere.
But all was not lost.
I had asked Manuel Escamilla, Town Historian to volunteer at the Calliotree on Saturday night. Manuel or "Manny" offered to invite Sean Robertson, a famed local sound and visual artist who regularly performs at Artwalk. While I knew of Sean and had thought of him many times for this project, I'd never reached out to him directly for some odd reason.
At dusk Sean showed up with his gear and was a bit perplexed by the site: no power for his equipment in a deserted exurb of downtown, but he seemed unphased. I showed Sean the equipment we'd purchased so that he could play the tree: a network of battery powered bluetooth amps and sound synchronized lights that made Sean's heart sing with delight. "Where did you get all this stuff," his sunglasses sliding down his face? Score, I thought. We had fine-tuned the list of equipment after testing several setups, consulting experts and reading hundreds of Amazon reviews. The search paid off.
We setup the area better than ever too: a gobo light projected "The Calliotree" onto an electric box announced so people learned about the project as they approach.
We did a little placemaking to keep people hanging out: we arranged glowing seats and laid down AstroTurf after meticulously cleaning the area.
We setup a battery-operated projector and impromptu movie screen and played a mini-documentary about the project.
We laid out house plants and placed a light on the plaque that tells the story of the tree.
From our previous engagements and lots of testing in-between, we now launched the Calliotree benefiting from all of the incremental advancements we'd learned along the way.
We'd combatted no electricity with battery-powered equipment.
We learned where we can borrow a pair of scissors, a broom or a banda.
We learned the event logistics for that block by shutting the street down after said banda brought a phenomenal crowd that required more space than the tiny sidewalk allowed.
The Calliotree took us on an incredible journey that brought the tree back to the forefront of many minds.
I'm excited about how this project evolved with a community of partners. While our project's constant struggle was that we didn't always know where we were going, it's clear that with this project, all of the fun and value was in the getting there.
Our desire for the tree now is the same as what hundreds of community members told us: help the tree heal. The tree top is sick and dead while the branch growing sideways can be grafted to the top to bring the tree back to life.
In the future, as the site is redeveloped, its important to memorialize the spot. People of Santa Ana and visitors alike, loved the tree and its story.
Story by Ryan Smolar
Fast friends of the Calliotree project are the brothers Oscar and Diego Olivares, who were informed about what was going on by Manuel Pena or “Manny” as we call him. Manny has been in the city of Santa Ana since the year 1980 and is known as one of the founders of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Orange County. He was also once the president of the Downtown Business Association and currently runs an insurance agency off of Broadway adjacent to the parking lot that holds the Historic tree.
As I described in an earlier blog about that "first meeting under the tree," this is the point where Manny’s work of organizing his neighboring businesses around the Calliotree project came to full fruition. The first neighbors he influenced were Oscar and Diego Olivares who recently opened another branch of their famous Marisco’s restaurant in Downtown.
Now, if you have never been to a Hectors Mariscos you have not yet seen all the sites of Santa Ana. Walking into Hector’s Restaurant you find beautiful and robust, scantily clad Latino women that wait on you. You will find larger than life images of Emiliano Zapata and the beloved Pancho Villa lining the walls. You will find the sounds of big brass bands playing Banda music with their horns-a- blasting. You regularly see massive crowds of people packed into the restaurant almost every night of the week and even more people can be seen to come out during the famous fight nights. The managers of the restaurant Oscar and Diego love being around people and love to bring people out and their space is perfect for it.
Fortunately, the Historic Spurgeon Tree just happens to sit in the parking lot behind their restaurant and so it was a natural that these two brothers, prodded by Manny Pena would become part of the project. What we did not expect is how excited they were to contribute.
Diego and Oscar instantly partnered with us beginning during Treeversation and began to help us to highlight the tree.
The brothers at Hectors brought out food and music and even blocked the streets at the first event allowing people to dance in front of the tree. The night became alive with celebration and our excitement grew and people passing stopped and became involved in the festivities.
Written by Madeleine Spencer
In order to understand the true creative process occurring here you must get an understanding of what is being done and who is doing it, so I will introduce you to one of our lead creative engineering team members in more detail.
When I first heard about the work of Arman Bastiani of Oval Integration from Ryan it was in relation to a project Arman was working on at Portola Coffee. Arman had created these alchemical looking vessels for Portola Coffee that have given their barista’s the creative freedom to develop these interesting personalized coffee menus that showcase not only the coffee at its best, but also their amazing talents for making creative coffee drinks. Many may be more specifically familiar with the Cold Drip system for example that has become hugely popular in Urban Coffee Shops. Anyway, this is how Arman was first introduced to me.
Then I was taken to his commercial warehouse in Costa Mesa and learned about how he had also created emoticons for cars so rather than only road rage you can actually communicate with drivers behind you the way you do on Facebook where you like, love, dislike, are sad about something. This is where things begin to get very interesting. Below is a write up about him in the OC Register.
The next thing I would learn about Arman is that his group assisted in the project to light up the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. At this point I can honestly say I was blown away by the creative talent of our team member and this is only one of them.
Here is what happened next. Arman and his partner looked at the tree on the First meeting I shared about in another earlier blog that is posted below. They took the dimensions and engineered a plan.
The next step was for Ryan and I to find a contractor who could build this structure so that the lighting apparatus could be set up beside the tree and this is how we would begin to light up History. A few days back we found our contractor to build this interesting apparatus.
One of the truly excellent parts of working Downtown is the opportunity we have been given to imagine and affirm the creative process in our Urban Spaces throughout Downtown. The Irish playwright, critic and polemicist George Bernard Shaw once stated that "Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."
I think the point is that if you believe in something and you write it down, like Ryan did when he sent in to get the Grant from the National Endowment from the Arts, that you can achieve many things. The process itself has a snowball effect after that. And if you really take the steps forward and set up the dominoes you know that with the flick of a hand the whole set of dominoes will fall in place at once. Let the process continue.
Story by Madeleine Spencer.
To launch the Calliotree project, Ryan initiated the site in becoming a place hosting a series of festive events. He made sure that these events were integrated into our monthly art walk on the first Saturday’s of every month. In this way, Ryan understood that more people would become aware of the movement to repair the tree over the up and coming months. This is what spurned the roll out of events that have since occurred like Treeversation, Treeprov and the Fiesta on 5th Street. These events continue to give our community a chance to share their voice, passion and participate in the process as the Calliotree project evolves. This memoir will share details about the first event called Treeversation.
Treeversation acted as a project mixing art, dialog and nature. The event compelled us to recognize in our artists open individuals who are regularly ahead of their time. With a progressive social attitude and the sense of increased openness to the other, whether that other is human or nonhuman artists have helped to lead in celebrating our Historic Sycamore. On the first Saturday of March a beautiful display of dialogic activity occured when local artist Leah Shapi hosted an art event related to the Sycamore tree during the Boca de Oro: OC Art and Literature Festival in Downtown Santa Ana. The event was cleverly called Treeversations.
At the event locals and visitors where told the history of the tree and were given beautiful handmade scarves in which each came to write their inspirations, ideas and hopes for the tree. The colorful scarves were strung up at the site. Since beginning we have collected hundreds of these messages for the tree.
Once the messages had been written on the scarves they were hung on the fence surrounding the tree. Below is an example of one of the messages people wrote.
To further the treeversation dialog a featured didgeridoo performance by Joseph Newberry who makes his own didgeridoos stood by to further the message. Joseph would play the messages to the tree on the didgeridoo after it was spoken by the person who had written the message.
Overall it was a beautiful first event and I am reminded of a woman named Karle Wilson Baker who is quoted as saying “Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.” In the city of Santa Ana the quote would go like this: “Today I have grown taller from talking to our Sycamore Tree.”
Making the space for nature to be admired and respected brings us together with the earth, tree, and sky and these three things are something that we as residents of the city can truly say we all have in common.
Story by Madeleine Spencer
SOLUTION NO. 1: Grafting is defined as a natural or deliberate fusion of plant parts allowing for vascular continuity this means the part of the plant that water flows through is connected with the part of the dying plant in which water ought to flow to establish a connection between them this results in a genetically composite two plant parts to merge until they grow together and the organism begins to functions as single plant.
Estevan described how he knew the art well and would come to Santa Ana to assist us with the tree and deliberately graft the living part of the tree with the part up top that was no longer alive to bring life back into it. I got extremely excited at this point and wanted to make sure the whole production was videotaped.
It seemed brilliant and fantastical to me, this old art form that reminded me of Druids and those who could truly understand plants and their needs. I imagined the spectacle of the whole process and became very excited. I was imagining the interest and popularity of the Reality Television Series called "Out of the Wild" where people are riveted by this popular Discovery Channel show for its painstaking lessons on real survival in the wild. I also thought how beautiful it would be not to throw away the tree but to revive it since we live in such a throw away culture and nature in essence is something that we really cannot throw away. So the science of mending is a beautiful one indeed.
Santa Ana Birthplace Location
We believe the Calliotree is an amazing revival of local history using organic life, digital technology, and simple creativity.