Jen Chien

Managing Editor, Crosscurrents/KALW News

Jen Chien is Managing Editor for Crosscurrents and KALW News. She has been a contributor to All Things Considered, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, BBC/PRI’s The World, Making Contact, SF Public Press, East Bay Express, New America Media, and KPFA in Berkeley, where she took part in the First Voice Apprenticeship Program. She is the recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Emerging Journalist Award from the Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California. She holds a BA in American Studies from Smith College, and an MA in Interdisciplinary Performance from New College of California. Before entering the field of journalism, she has had a successful career as a professional dance and theater artist, teacher, and massage therapist.

Ways to Connect

Courtesy San Francisco Mime Troupe

The San Francisco Mime Troupe has been performing free satirical theater in Bay Area parks for 50 years. They also run the Youth Theater Project, an after school program currently celebrating its 20th anniversary.

 

Local filmmaker Amir Soltani was fascinated by the people making a living recycling bottles and cans in his West Oakland neighborhood. So Soltani and his collaborators spent spent seven years following the lives of three recyclers for their documentary “Dogtown Redemption.”

Courtesy John Givens. Cropped and resized from original.

Berkeley based guitarist and songwriter John Givens brings a sensibility for visual art into his songwriting; he used to be a filmmaker and art director. Together with his 8-piece soul band, No Lovely Thing, he also explores themes ranging from the political to the emotional. He shares the stories behind some of their songs in this edition of Bay Area Beats.

Courtesy of Anya Manes

San Francisco educator Anya Manes used to teach sex ed in her high school biology class. Now, she teaches parents how to take up the discussion at home.

Photo by Bethanie Hines, courtesy of Youth Speaks

Twenty years ago, writer and educator James Kass was in graduate school at San Francisco State University. He had a small idea: a writing workshop for city teens.

Rene Yung, by Lisa Strong

 


Multimedia artist Rene Yung was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the Bay Area when she was 14 years old. For the past decade, she's been dedicated to uncovering the hidden history of early Chinese immigrants in the American West with her multi-platform art and storytelling project Chinese Whispers.

by Trinidad Escobar

Oakland-based poet and cartoonist Trinidad Escobar was born in 1986 during a typhoon in the Philippines. She was adopted by a family in the U.S. and  grew up an ocean away from her original homeland.

Photo: Joan Marcus (from Brava Theatre press folder)

 

Disco legend Sylvester wasn’t born in San Francisco, but he came into his own as an artist in the City in the 70s. He was a trailblazer both musically and culturally — with his high, clear falsetto and unapologetic presence as a fabulous gay black artist, he became known as the “Queen of Disco”.

Excerpt from Last Day of Freedom. lastdayoffreedom.net

The short documentary film "Last Day of Freedom" came out last year to almost universal acclaim. It won "Best Short" at the International Documentary Association awards and is now up for an Oscar.

Musician Mads Tolling lives in Albany, but he’s played all over the world. He’s a classically trained violinist and composer who loves jazz, and his goal is to remind audiences that the violin is capable of playing all kinds of music.

Education can take many shapes - just ask Phoenix Paz. She's a teacher of contortion at the San Francisco Circus Center, and says she made her home in circus arts because she wanted to push her body to its limits.

Courtesy ShadowLight Productions/Resized and cropped

Larry Reed is a master of shadow puppetry. He learned the craft the traditional way in Bali in the 1970’s. 

By Amy Snyder

Oakland-based visual artist Zarouhie Abdalian makes art work that examines how people interact with their surroundings. She spoke to KALW’s Jen Chien about using “unremarkable materials” to create memorable experiences for the viewer.

Kate Willett, by Anja Ulfedt, from katewillett.com

San Francisco comedian Kate Willett is used to not fitting in, which makes her perfect for stand-up comedy. Willett takes her weirdness to the stage to challenge ideas about what women can and cannot do.

Dancing with Mama Diouf

Nov 25, 2015
diamanocoura.org

Oakland-based Diamano Coura West African Dance Company celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

"Oakland Murals 14th St and Alice", by William Newton, used under CC license, resized and cropped

Oakland-based muralist Desi Mundo is on a crusade to change the negative perception of artists who paint using spray cans. 

Peter Dobey

Alva Noë  is a professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley with a background in cognitive and brain science, so it makes sense that he writes about the nature of consciousness and human experience.

Lisa Keating

Comedian and event organizer George Chen talked to KALW’s Jen Chien about how he came to make laughs for a living, what’s unique to the San Francisco scene, and his recipe for making culturally relevant humor.

Pat Mazzera

Classically trained composer and pianist JooWan Kim's new performance piece, The Town on Notice from Dimensions Dance Theater, is about Oakland’s gentrification. Together with his group Ensemble Mik Nawooj, Kim fuses hip-hop and classical elements together to make what he calls “hybrid music."

San Francisco is a city known for a lot of things: cable cars, political activism, a vibrant arts scene. One annual event has been bringing these things together for 12 years now.

Under CC license from Flickr user Franco Folini

Documentary filmmaker Mo Morris has a background in immigration law and social justice activism. Her first feature film focuses on an activist who does her work through art: painter and muralist Edythe Boone.

Flyaway Productions

Choreographer Jo Kreiter is the artistic director of Flyaway Productions, an aerial dance company that's performed on a chandelier on fire, an umbrella, and a construction site. Their latest performance tackles the issue of wage security for women in the garment industry.

Ben Trefny

  San Francisco-based artist Marcus Shelby holds many titles. He’s a composer, a bassist and a educator - just to name a few. His latest composition, Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio, centers on the prison industrial complex. He spoke with KALW's Jen Chien about his work, and how he uses the blues as both a form and a concept.

SHELBY:

If I was a plumber, I would be doing social justice work . . . I'm a musician and so it’s an extension of that.

ODC Performance/Robbie Sweeny

 Amara Tabor-Smith is a choreographer, performer, and an initiate in the Yoruba Orisha tradition. Over the years, she’s been infusing her performance work more and more with her spiritual practice. Her new show EarthBodyHOME continues that trajectory with a multi-media dance theater performance. It's inspired by the Cuban American artist Ana Mendieta. Mendieta was active in the 70s and 80s, before falling to her death from a 34th story window in 1985, under mysterious circumstances.

accesshiv.org

We've come a long way since the first diagnosis of HIV in 1981, but the epidemic is not over. San Francisco is indelibly marked by the epidemic, which reached its height in 80's and 90's, but what is going on now? Dr. Susan Buchbinder is director of Bridge HIV, a San Francisco Department of Public Health HIV prevention research program, and she’s on the steering committee for Getting to Zero San Francisco, an initiative that aims to reduce deaths, new infections, and stigma.

 

 

Chris Hambrick

Rupa Marya is the composer, guitarist and lead singer for the band Rupa and The April Fishes. She sat down with KALW's Jen Chien to talk about the influences behind her new album Oval and how music can inspire social change. 

MARYA: You need all of these things to create a city, you don’t need just one group of people. You don’t just need apps.

These days, new robotic technologies are being rolled out in fields as diverse as healthcare, transportation, and retail. Though these wonders bring with them convenience and efficiency, they all bring about new concerns for society to consider.

City of Oakland

More than three months after Oakland implemented a higher minimum wage, the city is working to enforce the new law. Yet, job postings have been placed on Craigslist advertising positions that pay below the legal minimum wage of $12.25 per hour, some receiving dozens of applications. How is the city responding to this kind of confusion?

Simron Gill

 

When it comes to locking up young people, the US leads the industrialized world. And though youth incarceration rates have been declining for the last two decades, adult prisons still contain many inmates who entered the system as juveniles with life sentences. These prisoners have grown up and lived their entire adult lives behind bars.

 

It’s early evening, and Anna Halprin is leading one of her weekly dance and improvisation classes at her Marin County studio. She guides the dancers across the wood floor, gracefully demonstrating movement after movement. Her voice fills the room as she encourages students to dig deeper.

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