Porter Alum Tom Franco, Founder/Director of Firehouse Art Collective

January 15, 2015

Tom Franco is an artist based in Berkeley, Calif. and the founder and director of the Firehouse Art Collective. Franco was an Art major at UC Santa Cruz' Porter College (earning his BA in 2002), and then studied ceramics at the California College of Arts in Oakland (CCA). His work as a sculptor and painter has been the foundation for the Tom Franco Co-Lab, which is comprised of works done in tandem with one or more artists. Franco’s philosophy around art practice has always been centered on collaboration, with other influences on his work being dance ensemble, Tai Chi and martial arts. These practices provided the backbone for his view that visual arts should be experienced in groups instead of in isolation and that performance is a central element in understanding visual representation. All of Franco’s projects are the mature expression of his lifelong study of what art really is, and an essential element for community to honor and give space for on-going creative expression.

Franco’s Firehouse Art Collective, a nonprofit founded in 2005, is a pioneering project that is changing the arts community in the East Bay by providing spaces for local artists of all disciplines to co-create community and culture, and for art patrons and collectors to purchase cutting-edge art of lasting value. Firehouse’s five locations include gallery and public art exhibits, curated live art events, open studio art walk, performance theater, workshops, lectures, artists studios, film club movie nights, music events, living spaces and organic gourmet food.

A Bay Area native, Franco grew up in Palo Alto, California, in a creative family. His mother, Betsy Franco, is an acclaimed author, and his brothers David and James are award-winning film and stage actors. “In my family, you were never cool, you never had anything good to say, unless you were talking about art,” says Franco.

To kick off our yearlong celebration of UC Santa Cruz’s 50th anniversary, the Sesnon Gallery is thrilled to present an innovative exhibition collaboration and performance series with UC Santa Cruz alumnus Tom Franco and his Firehouse Art Collective, along with UC Santa Cruz students, alumni and special guests. This collaboration is a compelling example of how UC Santa Cruz graduates are truly original.

This Co-Lab project is part of a Porter College course called Curatorial Practice, taught by Sesnon Gallery Director Shelby Graham with Tom Franco and will cultivate a creative community through a collaborative exhibition format. We will host open mic events, performance collectives, discussions, and paint murals. The students will learn participatory aspects of exhibition development, promotion, art handling and installation, including a chance to paint collaborative murals inside and outside the Sesnon Gallery.