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Wes Modes


Introduction to Programming for the Arts

Wes' primary art research project is A Secret History of American River People, a project to build a collection of personal stories of people who live and work on the river over a series of epic river voyages from the deck of a recreated 1940s-era shantyboat. The project hopes to encourage an awareness of the issues facing current river communities, the long history of people who have lived on and adjacent to the river, and an understanding of river ecology. (

Using material from fieldwork on a growing list of other American rivers, Secret History is a dialogic and participatory art piece, firmly rooted in a People’s History tradition, that reexamine the issues currently and historically faced by people living or working on the river. Particular attention is given to the invisible stories of women, native people, working people, and people of color, to create a multi-perspective and multi-path take on historical narrative, exploring the importance of a public commons and to challenge dominant cultural assumptions about the role in society of people living at the fringe.

Outcomes of the project are expected to include a research archive, short and feature documentaries, and a series of books. These archives telling otherwise untold personal narratives are a significant cultural artifact with wide-reaching significance to people living and searching for solutions to shared challenges in river communities elsewhere on the continent.


Education and Training: 
MFA, Digital Art & New Media, UC Santa Cruz
BA, Computer and Information Science, UC Santa Cruz
Selected Exhibitions: 

Wes Modes is a Santa Cruz artist focused on social practice, sculpture, performance and new media work. He has exhibited and performed regionally since 1996. He has shown at the San Francisco International Art Festival, LAST Festival in San Jose and San Francisco, National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, and the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.


Selected Presentations: 

Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous at UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis, River City Revue in St. Paul, 10th and 11th Annual Graduate Research Symposium at UC Santa Cruz, and the SDS Comic Artists Panel at Brown University in Providence with Harvey Pekar.


Elena Baskin Visual Arts H4
Office Hours: 
Tuesdays and Thursdays 8:30am to 9:45am or by appointment