2009: Founding urbanSTEW

urbanSTEW was born out of two projects, Case Study and Rehearsal Assistant. These projects generated the inspiration for founding members Christopher Martinez, Meredith Martinez, Jessica Rajko, and Stjepan Rajko to create a non-profit organization under which they could continue to collaborate on projects that explored the intersection of art and technology through transdisciplinary collaboration. The original founders launched their first non-profit organization fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas, and thus urbanSTEW was born.

New Member on Board! Current board member Lisa Tolentino joined urbanSTEW’s board of directors.

2010: Curating for the Public – Installations, Performances & Education

Phoenix Fringe: For the 2010 Phoenix Fringe Festival, urbanSTEW curated and hosted works by twelve local artists across four of the festival venues. Each piece had a participatory or audience interactive element: one had wood blocks to play with, another used interactive projection, while yet another transformed a speaker’s voice into room of laughing audience members.

Change in leadership: Founding member Meredith Martinez stepped down from the board as she accepted admission into a graduate literary arts school. Though she was no longer with the board, Meredith continued to collaborate artistically with urbanSTEW through 2011.

Radio Healer: urbanSTEW worked closely with established performance art project Radio Healer. Radio Healer is a re-imagined ceremony demonstrating indigenous technological self-determination. This project was brought under urbanSTEW as an ongoing collaboration between the original project creators, Randi Kemp and Christopher Martinez, and the current artistic directors of urbanSTEW.

STEWshops: From September 2010 to March 2011, urbanSTEW hosted monthly, hands-on workshops that integrated film, sound, and visual arts techniques with circuit-bending, computer programming, and design. Over 100 local residents attended our STEWshops at downtown Tempe’s MADCAP Theater. STEWshops were taught in conjunction with local artists Byron Lahey and Casey Farina, and members of Mesa-based DIY-community HeatSync Labs.

2011: Expanding Our Reach & Leadership

New Member on Board! Current board member Robert Esler joined the urbanSTEW board of directors. Christopher Martinez steps down from the board of directors to pursue other projects and to continue work on his PhD.

Groovology: Groovology was created and presented in preparation for Maker Faire Phoenix. It is a skill-based game where people compete against themselves, and others, to test and analyze their ability to lay down a beat. The game is inspired by a post-“Guitar Hero” world – where good grooves can defeat evil.

Mind Reader: Inspired by our fascination with horoscopes, numerology, and astrological signs, Mind Reader asks questions inspired by the Myers Briggs personality test to “read” people’s futures. As participants answer questions, they slowly generate a unique image/sound collage inspired by their responses.

Maker Faire Phoenix: For Phoenix’s first Maker Faire, urbanSTEW presents two new interactive pieces, Groovology and Mind Reader.

2012: Arts Without Limits: Pivoting Perceptions of Disability 

PLAY! A Festival of Arts and Technology: urbanSTEW organized and produced its first art/tech festival held at MADCAP Theaters, downtown Tempe. PLAY is a festival of music, dance, and digital art that celebrates the union of the arts and technology. The festival theme for this year was disability perception.

2013-14: Building Instruments for the Future

Intonarumori: Commissioned by Mesa Arts Center’s spark! Festival of Creativity, urbanSTEW created 6 unique noise machines. Intonarumori was inspired by a futurist art movement fathered by experimental painter and composer Luigi Russolo. In 1913 he wrote L’arte dei Rumori, translated as The Art of Noises. Russolo built noise machines to recreate the sounds of the Industrial Revolution, so in honor of the 100 year anniversary of The Art of Noises, urbanSTEW built noise machines to recreate the sounds of our current Digital Revolution.

spark! Festival of Creativity: Mesa Arts Center (MAC) in Mesa, Arizona, commissioned urbanSTEW to build the Intonarumori for its second annual Festival of Creativity. The Festival hosted over 40,000 attendees in its 5-day run.

MAKE Magazine & MCM Electronics, Grand Prize Winner: urbanSTEW received Grand Prize in the first annual Raspberry Pi Design Contest, hosted by MAKE Magazine & MCM Electronics.

2015: Finding A Partner – In Search Of An Animal Companion

Heard Museum Commission for the Superheroes Exhibit: The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, internationally recognized for its dedication to the advancement of American Indian art, commissioned us to create an interactive, photo-booth experience for their Superheroes Exhibit. We were thrilled by the opportunity to come up with an idea that was culturally relevant and aware, sophisticated in technological and aesthetic design, and yet simple enough to invite a broad spectrum of participants. The result was Animal Companion, a motion-tracked, full-bodied interaction that you could trigger and perform with. Step into the environment and an animal companion is chosen. You can then interact with it, by moving, singing, and seeking it.

2016: A small break as we grow our families…

2019: Departing …

Change in Leadership: Jessica Rajko takes a new position at Wayne State, in Michigan, so we must say goodbye to Jessica and Stjepan, for whom we are grateful for your friendship, leadership, and the opportunity to make work together!

2020: Returning to the Helm