SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A mechanical engineer in his 30s, with top tech firms on his resume, and an artist in her 70s have come together at a unique collective space in San Francisco, where the art and tech world have found common ground.

Tech startup workers and artists are sharing space at a collective at 15th Street and Potrero Avenue in San Francisco despite the many differences between the two sides.

Just ask artist Marlene Aron, who is as fiery as her red hair. She said she’s a regular protester of Ellis Act evictions. “Oh, I’m very involved in that. I was down at Civic Center on Saturday, absolutely,” she said.

Aron said she doesn’t like when riders of the corporate shuttle buses, for companies like Google, Apple and Genentech, are so absorbed, that they can’t even say hello and chat at a bus stop.

Engineer John Yi said he has seen techies and artist butt heads. “And yet, I know my colleagues from Facebook and at Pinterest, and none of them would say, we don’t need the art,” he said.

With that in mind, Yi is one of four tech entrepreneurs, with an appreciation for the arts, that has formed a collective called Code & Canvas, where tech startups help subsidize the cost of artist studios.

“We believe strongly that art and technology are symbiotic, and then secondarily, that businesses ought to improve lives,” Yi said.

At Code & Canvas, art and technology are intertwined. Aron has studio space. “I work with soil, mulch, wax, paint, environmental installations using glacial rocks,” she said.

Startups rent space for $1,200 per month, artists for between $200 and $500 per month for a studio, or $200 a month for access to communal areas. “As you can see, all the walls are designed to be integrated use as well. So you can hang art, and they actually double as white boards,” Yi said. “These walls actually collapse over, so that the entire space can become one big, contiguous art wall and event space, as well.”

As for the future of art and technology coexisting in San Francisco? “John Yi and his colleagues have set an example of what is possible, and I’m hoping other people will be aware of it and inspired by it,” Aron said.

Artists at the space, known for 30 years as Live Art Gallery, were faced last December with the possibility of eviction, before being saved by Yi and three other tech leaders, Nik Ajagu, Jeff Miller and Gi Fernando, who opened Code & Canvas on April 10.


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