[Special Issue] To Code Creatively in Gray Area Foundation for the Arts

Contents provided by Niki Selken Editor: LI Ruixuan

Creative Code Apprenticeship Program

Gray Area Foundation for the Arts teaches youth the skills necessary for hacking, coding, and soldering creative projects together. Promising teenagers are selected to receive a Creative Code Apprenticeship, where they are given the opportunity to learn Creative Coding fundamentals utilizing creative coding technologies such as Processing and Arduino. Through these tools, students explore how to use web development, data visualization, generative art, gaming, and interactive media to create new works of art that tell their own stories.


At Dolby Laboratories the apprentices see firsthand how new technologies are being evaluated for human responsiveness.


Apprentices learn about the Digital Ribbon Screen from Kevin Byrd, the Director of Curation & Visual Experience at Dolby Laboratories.

Gray Area’s education programs put the Art in S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Art, and Math) and help inspire careers in art and technology. Dolby’s Community Engagement efforts inspire the next generation of innovators in science and art, with a focus on reducing the female gender gap within the S.T.E.A.M. fields.


The students test the boundaries of Moment V.1 by Pablo Gnecco of Studio Studio.

In 2016, Gray Area called for applications to its Creative Code Apprenticeship program that was collaborated with Dolby Laboratories. The open call required the applicants to be girls whose ages are between 15-18 and who have some experience with code and are eager to learn. Six Bay Area high school girls were eventually awarded the apprenticeships to work alongside two Creative Code mentors and develop an interactive artwork for the renowned Dolby Laboratories’ Digital Ribbon Screen on Market Street in San Francisco. And Dolby and Gray Area hosted an evening event to honor the six inspirational and talented young women and celebrated the opening of an exhibition featuring their work The Organic Mécanique (2017).


The Organic Mécanique (2017), Apprentices: Omotara Oloye, Connie Liu, Grace Tan, Krystyna Olszewska, YahnaiJah Gilliam, and Erin Paige Woo. Mentors: Niki Selken and Chelley Sherman.

Using Processing and multi-channel audio, The Organic Mécanique explores the connections between cold mechanics and abstract nature, prompting a conversation about the cost of human innovation on the environment.

The piece was made using Processing, Ableton, VDMX. The group created a generative installation and programmed sound design utilizing Dolby's Atmos System.

With projections that the gender gap in computing will only increase over the next decade, these girls’ love of programming appears to be an exception, rather than the rule. But their passion also speaks to the power of proper initiating experiences, as well as the potential of computational curriculums that reward creative thinking.

Creative Code Immersive

Gray Area’s Creative Code Immersive is designed as a 12-week course in creative code and interactive art. The expert instructors guide participants through a sequence of topics that are designed to build a foundation of core techniques while strengthening students’ professional practice in the field of art and technology.

Over the course of the program, students learn the technical skills and gain the creative inspiration to design, prototype, and install an interactive artwork in a final public showcase attended by the creative community, industry, and museum professionals. Students explore a wide range of skills, techniques, and open tools over the course of 3 months. Instructors from different disciplines guide studio projects, group critiques, and theoretical discussions, setting students up for success throughout their major coursework.


Gray Area Showcase Spring 2020


Gray Area Showcase Summer 2021


GeoSynth was physically shown at Gray Area 2021 Spring Showcase

In spring 2021, Gray Area launched its first session of classes online using collaborative online tools, pushing the boundaries of online education this spring. The teenage student Zachary Leong’s work, GeoSynth, was presented in the virtual showcase.


Photo of Zachary Leong

Artist’s Statement:

Digitally synthesizers traditionally use knobs, sliders, and buttons to create and manipulate music. The only visuals provided are audio waveforms. GeoSynth combines fun visuals with synthesized audio just on your browser. My inspiration came from a Geometric Construction class from Michigan Math and Science Scholars. GeoSynth uses balls that move at a constant velocity, and when they collide with a shape, they reflect off and produce an assigned note. Having played three musical instruments, I implemented piano notes to keep things simple. In addition, I’ve added, drumbeats, duck sounds, and more. I hope to bring a smile to people’s faces when they compose with GeoSynth and stimulate their creative thinking.

Project UNArt 2020 #06:Imagine-Create 2021.10.01-2022.01.10
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