Musician, visionary artist and community organizer *bernadette* is truly living her bliss. Founder of a thriving artist community, live and workspace, The Box Factory, in the heart of the Mission District, she's not one to rest on her many accomplishments. You're likely to see her around San Francisco leading a band of musicians at the Great American Music Hall, orchestrating a peace performance in Golden Gate Park or, soon, on a tour of Europe. Her knack for facilitating collaborations between artists onstage and off makes sense when you meet her, after which you'll likely receive a '*bernadette loves you*' sticker. It's easy to love *bernadette* back! As she prepared The Box Factory for participation in the latest Mission Area Arts and Performance Project, she answered some questions about her creative life
DC: What inspired The Box Factory and how did you go forward and make the leap?
BB: The Box Factory came out of a vision and desire that I had to create a shared community space for artists, musicians, activists and community organizers to create, commune and celebrate their own, as well as our collective ideas, with each other and our community. I scoured the live/work spaces market for six months, about six hours a day, until I happened upon a space in the Mission, where I wanted to be! I was so excited when I walked through the door. [The person who showed me the space] told me that the place had been an old box factory. Flashes of Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground and scenes of "The Factory" flooded my head and my heart leapt with excitement. I immediately thought to myself that I was going to do whatever it took to manifest my dream at the now, successful and thriving art space called "The Box Factory."
DC: You're an artist, musician, activist and community organizer—how has living and creating at The Box Factory changed your personal work or perspective on what you create? Or has it changed?
BB:The Box Factory has created an incredible incubator for me and others to create, spread out, make noise, be free, express myself/ourselves. It is a place that helps me to authentically understand the creative process and the human condition and nurture that in others, altruistically and idealistically. Personally, I have tended to write the most music I have ever written here and am manifesting 'prolificism' with my art as well. This is an inspirational place that allows and challenges me to think as expansively as I can and proliferate the most positive creations/actions I can dream up. I love it here!
DC: In your musical life, you sing and play guitar in a rock band, have done many collaborations with other artists and have embarked recently on solo work. What's interesting you most now regarding your individual/solo music work?
BB: What is interesting me right now is just challenging myself to play without a band. It's an interesting process as it delves deeper into my fear of performing and being vulnerable and quite literally, all alone. There are so many levels to it that make it excitingly difficult like working with my own repertoire as a solo artist and finding my own voice singing and on an instrument. I watch my friend Garrin and how he expresses himself, what he plays, how he interacts with the audience, what to say (for me, mostly what not to say) and just the whole solo presentation of one's art and creating magic and sharing your heart with your audience. That is the most difficult and beautiful thing to do.
DC: Who do you look to for inspiration or mentoring?
BB: There are so many wonderful people that constantly inspire me in my life but I would say there are four folks right now that I look to for inspiration:
Art: My immediate inspiration for my art would be my vivacious, ever amazing Dad, Jim Bohan, a master wood craftsman making his own boutique violins and fine cabinetry. He continues to create at the young age of 83! As an Irish immigrant, he has made all of his dreams come true in his life and can do anything that he sets his mind to do. My Dad is my hero!
Music: My music influence would be dear friend and amazing musician, Garrin Benfield who has so graciously taken me under his wing to show me how to navigate a band, the music industry and continually challenges me to conquer my fears and has inspired me to play both electric and acoustic guitars on stage.
Community Organizing: Catherine Enny is one of the women in San Francisco that I admire the most. She has inspired me to bring and build community around thoughtful, well-produced events that continually build strong relationships around profound meaning. She's truly amazing!
Activism: I am greatly inspired by the work of Michael Franti and his global vision and activism around many important humanitarian issues such as peacemaking, social justice and our environment. His capacity to continually create and cultivate an idealistic movement, grounded in reality truly keeps me focused on my own important societal contributions.
DC: What next?
BB: Right now, I am getting ready to embark on a solo tour to Europe playing shows in Dublin, Ireland and Berlin, Germany. When I return, I will begin working on creating and recording my first record, which I am really excited to do!
The Box Factory will be a part of the monthly Mission Arts and Performance Project, Oct. 3, 7pm-midnight, featuring art exhibitions and live music performances.