Campus Directory

Wesley A Modes

TitleAdjunct Lecturer
DivisionArts Division
DepartmentArt Department
AffiliationsArt Department
Phone831-704-6690
Email,
Web Site Professional Web Site
Project Web Site
OfficeArts Department
Campus Mail StopArt Department
MailArt Department
Santa Cruz, CA
95064
Wesley A Modes

Research Interests

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. (http://peoplesriverhistory.us)


Using material from fieldwork on a growing list of 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.

Biography, Education and Training

Wes Modes is a Santa Cruz artist focused on social practice, sculpture, performance and new media work. He holds a MFA from the Digital Art and New Media program at UCSC. He has exhibited his art and performed regionally since 1996. He is also a CSUMB and UCSC art lecturer and former curator at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. In other lives, he is a high-tech runaway, writer, community organizer, geek, and mischief-maker. For more information, please visit modes.io.

Honors, Awards and Grants


  • Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship, short-listed, Jun 2015

  • UCSC Art Dean's Excellence Award for Secret History, May 2015

  • Florence French Scholarship for Secret History of American River People, March 2015

  • University of California Institute for Research in the Arts Graduate Grant for Secret History, November 2014

  • Arts Council of Santa Cruz County Create Grant for Co-related Space, April 2014

  • Florence French Scholarship for Co-related Space, March 2014

Selected Publications


  • “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

Selected Presentations


  • Design Tech High School, Burlingame, CA. Artist talk about Secret History. Mar 2017

  • River Discovery Center, Paducah, KY. Artist talk about Secret History. Sep 2016

  • Kennedy Douglass Center for the Arts, Florence, AL. Artist talk about Secret History. Aug 2016

  • Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN. Artist talk about Secret History. Jul 2016

  • Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous, University California Santa Cruz. Talk about Secret History. Feb 2016

  • River City Revue St. Paul Yacht Club, St. Paul, Minnesota. Artist talk about Secret History. Jul 2015

  • 11th Annual Graduate Research Symposium, University California Santa Cruz. Talk about Secret History. May 2014

  • Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous, University California Davis. Talk about Secret History. Feb 2015

Selected Exhibitions


  • Sacramento History Museum, Sacramento, CA. Solo Exhibition with Secret History of American River People. July 2017

  • Ebb & Flow, Santa Cruz, CA. Group Exhibition with Secret History. June 2017

  • LAST Festival, San Jose. Group show with FOMOphobia. April 2017

  • River Discovery Center, Paducah, KY. Solo exhibition with Secret History. Sep 2016

  • Kennedy Douglass Center for the Arts, Florence, AL. Solo exhibition with Secret History. Aug 2016

  • Ditto Landing, Huntsville, AL. Solo exhibition with Secret History. Jul 2016

  • Knoxville Museum of Art & Volunteer Landing. Solo exhibition with Secret History. Jul 2016

  • In Conversation with UCSC Studio Art Faculty, R. Blitzer Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA. Group show with Secret History. Apr 2016.

  • Radical Craft Night, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Group show with Secret History. Nov 2015.

  • National Mississippi River Museum, Dubuque, Iowa. Solo exhibition with Secret History. Jul 2015

  • River City Revue, St. Paul Yacht Club, St Paul, MN. Solo exhibition with Secret History. Jul 2015

  • 9 Nights of Music, Minneapolis History Center, St. Paul. Solo exhibition with Secret History. Jun 2015

  • San Francisco International Art Festival. Group show with Co-related Space. May 2015

  • DANM MFA Exhibition, UC Santa Cruz. Group show with Secret History. Apr 2015

  • Radical Craft Night, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Group show with Secret History. Nov 2014.

  • FIGMENT Art Festival, Oakland. Group Show with Secret History. Nov 2014.

  • LAST Festival, San Francisco. Invited Group Show with Co-related Space. Oct 2014

  • GLOW: Festival of Fire, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Group Show with Co-related Space. Oct 2014

  • Ann and Mark’s Art Party, Santa Clara Fairgrounds, San Jose. Invited Group Show with Co-related Space. Sep 2014

  • Spastic Robots & Frankenthings, San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation. Facilitator. Apr 2014

  • Digital Arts and New Media Spring Open Studios, UC Santa Cruz. Group Show with Secret History. Dec 2013

  • LAST Festival, Zer01 Gallery, San Jose. Invited Group Show with Co-related Space. May 2014

  • Digital Arts and New Media Fall Open Studios, UC Santa Cruz. Group Show with FOMOphobia. Dec 2013