Welcome to KQED Arts’ Women to Watch, a series celebrating 20 local women artists, creatives and makers who are pushing boundaries in 2016. Driven by passion for their own disciplines, from photography to comedy and every other medium in between, these women are true vanguards paving the way in their respective communities.
As the co-founder of San Jose’s School of Visual Philosophy, fine artist Dana Harris Seeger seeks to bring together arts education, culture and technology in Silicon Valley. Like other arts institutions in the Bay Area, the school is currently under threat of being sold, but Harris Seeger pushes on, driven by the community that she serves and her own deep love for the craft.
Where do you live?
San Jose, in the Delmas Park Neighborhood
Describe yourself in one word.
What did you do last night?
Made dinner for my family, knitted a little bit, read a story to my daughter, gave her a bath and put her to bed.
What can’t you live without?
Knitting. It’s my release.
If you could travel any where in the world, where would it be?
The Baltic countries — Estonia and Latvia (my ethnic place of origin) and Norway.
Who is your personal hero? Why?
My personal hero is my grandpa. He fought in WWII for a country that wasn’t his own. He was forced to leave his home, start a new family and build a home in a foreign country where he didn’t know the language, and managed to start several businesses. He was also really creative and funny.
How did you find your creative voice?
My parents gave me my creative voice when I was little. They made it super cool to make art, and encouraged me to pursue art as a career. When I was in grad school I had a great teacher (Gale Antokal) who helped me find my voice and a way of working that made my world make sense.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I am an identical twin.
What do you do when you feel uninspired?
I love going to local art museums and galleries when I need inspiration. It gets my creative juices flowing to find things unexpectedly inspiring.
What’s your biggest ‘learning moment,’ and what did you you take from that experience?
My biggest learning moment has been opening up a business. I never thought of myself as a “boss” or business person per se, and I have learned how to manage people who look to me for inspiration and direction — as well as how to get things done when dealing with city politics!
What’s your greatest achievement and how has it shaped you?
Other than opening up an art business in a struggling economy, my greatest achievement has been becoming a parent. My daughter is awesome, and has taught me so much about what to prioritize and what to let go of. Becoming responsible for the life of a magical little creature has shaped me into a more patient and appreciative human.
Coffee or tea? What kind?
I love both, but have been preferring coffee lately, mostly because I got a Keurig and it’s so damn easy to make. Peet’s medium roast.
What does a perfect day look like for you?
I wake up with my family, lounge in bed for an hour, my husband makes breakfast, we all go to the studio for a few hours and I make art (instead of doing business stuff), then we go home and hang out in the garden and chill with my sister and her family on the patio by the fire.
Who are your local inspirations?
I love Michael Cutlip’s paintings and prints, Squeak Carnwath’s huge paintings, and Stephanie Metz (one of our studio artists), who makes needle-felted wool sculptures.
Fresh bread, avocado, brie and a bottle of red wine (preferably eaten on the beach).
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself working here at Visual Philosophy, making art and exhibiting, raising my daughter (maybe another sibling as well), and growing my business into a full-fledged art school that will become an accredited MFA or PhD program.
If you could live in a book, TV show, movie, play or painting, what would it be?
I would live in Matisse’s painting The Goldfish. I love the colors, patterns and happiness that painting evokes.
Where and when can people see you or your art in action?
People are always invited to come by the School of Visual Philosophy to see my work up there and in my studio!
Curious about who else made the list? Check out the Women to Watch series page, including photo galleries, interviews, videos and information about our upcoming Women to Watch event at the SFJAZZ Center featuring artists from the series.