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
Santa Ana Birthplace Location
We believe the Calliotree is an amazing revival of local history using organic life, digital technology, and simple creativity.