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  Wes Modes

Wes Modes



they, them, he, him

Baskin School of Engineering
Arts Division

Computational Media
Art Department




Computer Science

Engineering Building 2

Thursday 12:30pm - 3:00pm (Can't wait for Office Hours? Try the experimental WesBot above)

Art Department

Wes Modes is a California artist and educator focused on new media, social practice, sculpture, and performance. Their pioneering social practice work with the people who live in American river communities has been nationally recognized and reported worldwide. Their multidisciplinary work Secret History of American River People combines social practice, oral history, video, photography, sculpture, new media, and adventurous fieldwork on American rivers since 2014.


My research and scholarly creative work have and continue to focus on unique ways to explore the human experience, often highlighting the personal narratives of those whose stories are frequently excluded from the dominant historical narrative through the use of digital media. This interest emerges from the literary experience in which truth is often intimate, subjective, and deeply personal, leading me to explore other ways of truth-telling, including the telling of history, the grand narrative we use to justify the present. In the people's history tradition, narratives form a collage of experience, sometimes complementary and other times contradictory, a bottom-up exploration of a topic and a deliberate challenge to the modernist top-down historical tradition.


There are two deeply intertwined threads of my research. In one thread, research in river communities involves a dialogical practice rooted in the reflexive, mutuality of social history, an emphasis on listening to unheard voices with an awareness of the effects of privilege, class, race, and gender. In another thread, research presenting these stories involves interdisciplinary work spanning spatial art, photography, video, new media, social practice, and performance. Whether sculptural, performative or through technology, my research is centered on people's personal stories and lived experience.


"I see classrooms as democratic institutions, where all students should be encouraged to participate, but where the instructor must understand that not all students feel equally empowered to do so. I think it is critical that professors encourage students in their varied talents and experiences and give them equal weight within the classroom."

--Nikole Hannah-Jones, Knight Chair of Journalism, Howard University

My teaching interests, like my interdisciplinary work, tend to span spatial art, photography, video, new media, social practice, dialogical art, environmental art, history, storytelling, and performance. Regardless of the medium, my work centers on people's personal stories and lived experience.

  • Burning Man Arts Honoraria, 2020-2022
  • FCA Emergency Grants COVID-19 Fund, 2020, 2021
  • Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship, short-listed 2019, short-listed 2015, 
  • Ohio Humanities Quarterly Grant, 2019
  • UC Placemaking - Open Classroom Mini Grant, 2019
  • Arts Council of Santa Cruz County, Create Grant, 2019, 2017, 2015
  • Puffin Foundation Grant, 2019, 2017
  • Puffin Foundation West Grant, 2019
  • Foundation for Contemporary Art Grant, 2018
  • Haven Foundation Emergency Grant, 2018
  • Arts Council of Santa Cruz County, Support Grant, 2014
  • UCSC Art Dean's Excellence Award, 2015
  • Florence French Scholarship, 2014, 2015
  • University of California Institute for Research in the Arts Graduate Grant, 2014

  • Burning Man Arts Festival, Black Rock City, NV, 2022, 2023
  • We’re Still Here, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, 2019
  • East Bay Mini Maker Faire, Oakland, CA, 2019, 2018
  • New Richmond Historical Society, New Richmond, OH, 2019 
  • First Friday, Marietta, OH, 2019
  • bb & Flow, Santa Cruz, CA, 2019, 2018, 2017
  • Portland Museum, Louisville, KY, 2019
  • White Box, New York, NY, 2018
  • Waterfront Museum, Brooklyn, NY, 2018
  • World Awareness Children's Museum, Fort Edward, NY, 2018
  • Hudson River Maritime Museum, Kingston, NY, 2018 
  • Haverstraw River Arts Fund, Haverstraw, NY, 2018
  • Sacramento History Museum, Sacramento, CA, 2017
  • LAST Festival, San Jose. April 2017
  • In Conversation with UCSC Studio Art Faculty, R. Blitzer Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA, 2016
  • Radical Craft Night, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, 2015, 2014, 2013
  • San Francisco International Art Festival, 2015
  • DANM MFA Exhibition, UC Santa Cruz, 2015
  • FIGMENT Art Festival, Oakland, 2014
  • LAST Festival, San Francisco, 2014


  • Morven Museum and Garden, Princeton, NJ, 2021
  • Practice-Based Research Group: Sites, UCSC, Santa Cruz, 2021
  • East Bay Mini Maker Faire, Oakland, CA, 2020, 2019, 2018
  • Visual Culture, Arts, and Media at Haverford College, 2020
  • Kindling, Burning Man Project, Reno, NV, 2020
  • Tannery Talks, Panel Moderator, Santa Cruz, 2020
  • Endless Summer Paddle Company, Louisville, KY. 2019
  • Grave Creek Mound Complex, Moundsville, WV, 2019
  • Beacon Sloop Club, Beacon, NY, 2019
  • Portland Museum, Louisville, 2019
  • WhiteBox Artists Panel, New York, NY. 2018
  • Hudson River Maritime Museum, Kingston, NY. 2018 
  • Design Tech High School, Burlingame, CA. 2017
  • River Discovery Center, Paducah, KY. 2016
  • Kennedy Douglass Center for the Arts, Florence, AL. 2016
  • Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN. 2016
  • Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous, University California Santa Cruz. 2016
  • River City Revue St. Paul Yacht Club, St. Paul, Minnesota. 2015
  • 11th Annual Graduate Research Symposium, University California Santa Cruz. 2014

  • Bear Creek, Interactive Fiction. Author. 2012, 2021
  • "River People: A Shantyboat on the Sacramento River". Small Boats Monthly, 2018
  • “Knowing the Mississippi." Open Rivers: Rethinking the Mississippi, no. 1, University of Minnesota. 2015.
  • "Revisiting the Technical Achievements of Listening Post Ten Years On". NMEDIAC. 2014.
  • Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History. New York: Hill and Wang. 2008
  • "Times Square by Howard Zinn". Baltimore, MD: Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. 2008

ART 101/Programming for the Arts
ART10F/4D Foundations
ART 106E/3D Modeling & Animation
CMPM 169/Creative Coding
CMPM 147/Generative Design
CMPM 179/Game Design Practicum

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