California Forum

‘BEACON’ puts social issues of Sacramento in the spotlight

BEACON: Sacramento is a public art video display that will deal with different social issues we face every day for 10 weeks at the intersection of 10th and K streets.
BEACON: Sacramento is a public art video display that will deal with different social issues we face every day for 10 weeks at the intersection of 10th and K streets. Special to The Bee

No matter what side of the political spectrum you lean toward, you may be unhappy about the way our leaders and their policies are shaping our communities. We empathize and want to take action.

At the intersection of 10th and K streets, we are installing “BEACON: Sacramento” – a public art video display that provocatively deals with the social issues we face every day.

Outside of the building we are working in, we see a multitude of people who live on the streets. It’s infuriating and saddening that our lives are divided by a glass pane that allows some of us “inside” and leaves others “outside.”

As the art curator of “BEACON: Sacramento,” I had a startling conversation about Michelangelo’s painting technique for the Sistine Chapel with one young transient man, when he asked what we were doing.

Who is it for? The young man asked.

“BEACON: Sacramento” strives to build upon the creative momentum in our city. It’s an intervention, disruption and conversation starter about the community we are responsible for making.

As a young placemaker in Sacramento, Tre Borden was approached by Nikky and “Moe” Mohanna of Mohanna Development to inject some energy into their long-dormant commercial building at 930 K St.

Tre, well-known for transforming unused spaces into creative interventions, wanted to do something “big.” What could be bigger than converting a modern glass and marble building into a larger-than-life exhibition of moving images projected onto 18-foot window panes? I partnered with Tre to design and curate the projections, and Nile Mittow joined us as our project engineer.

But what would it all mean?

It’s alluring for visionaries, artists and creatives to broadcast their masterpieces in public arenas, forcing passers-by to assign meaning to these intrusions on their daily life.

Why should they care? As the homeless on K Street understand, the place already holds an identity. This is their home, their arena. There is an existing community with its own rules and customs. The making of a place has to take into account what is already here.

Forcing people out of their arena to create a commercial ideal shouldn’t be a goal. The goal should be to make things better for those who live there, and make it inviting for others to build, live and invest in these communities. That became the something “big.”

We’ve solicited artists who are normally excluded from these public art projects to discuss the social issues of our time. LGBTQ artists, women artists and artists of color have a platform to voice their perspectives.

Red, blue, white, black, nationalist or internationalist, we all deal in the matters of migration. We are all responsible for the problems of the undocumented. We are all accountable for water distribution, for black lives, for what “consent” means, for crises of faith in our institutions, for desiring to follow instead of leading.

We’ve partnered with the California Endowment to create a conversation about change. And we’re asking the public to take responsibility in defining our collective place. Every week, in addition to socially charged, powerful work confronting the issues of our time, the public will have the opportunity to act.

Times are tough, but the answer isn’t to shrug our shoulders and resign ourselves to our fate. It’s time to intervene. It’s time to act. It’s time to make our places work for us.

Jessa Ciel, a video artist and filmmaker, is art curator for “BEACON: Sacramento.” She can be contacted at