From the nerve-jangling juncture of art and technology to the dulcet beauty of Mozart’s chamber music, Bay Area art patrons were treated to a startling range of artistic expression this summer, thanks to two grants from the Hewlett Foundation.

But there’s one feature both grants shared. In underwriting ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge and Music@Menlo’s chamber music festival, the Foundation’s Performing Arts Program promoted one of its key goals: increasing the public’s access to, and participation in, the region’s arts.

“Offerings this varied are what help to make life in the Bay Area such a rich cultural stew,” said Performing Arts Program Director Moy Eng. “The festivals created by these two organizations each foster experiences that educate and tap into world-class talent.”

As the self-styled “Capital of Silicon Valley,” San Jose is a natural home for the merging of technology, innovation, and art. For seven days in August, the city hosted 250 artworks and 25 performances at the inaugural ZeroOne San Jose. Nearly 200 artists from around the world joined in the festival, which was paired with a scholarly conference on the merger of art and technology: the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts’ 2006 symposium. And almost 500,000 visitors watched-and sometimes were watched by-the multimedia exhibits.

In one exhibit, surveillance cameras snapped photographs of people and created their digital likenesses for the display called “SimVeillance.” In another, a message on a narrow LCD screen, implanted on an old rotary telephone, read “lift handset.” If visitors followed instructions, they were randomly connected with one of a number of strangers who agreed to have conversations at all hours. In yet another work, San Jose City Hall became the canvas for an abstract light show after dark.

For the San Jose Museum of Art, a cosponsor and home to many of the exhibits, the event helped establish its identity as a regional home for art and technology.  

About twenty miles north of ZeroOne, patrons gathered at Menlo School in the town of Atherton for a decidedly different celebration. The performances at Music@Menlo’s chamber music festival celebrated the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth with “Return to Mozart”-a collection of concerts that often concluded with a Mozart piece, lectures and informal discussions. Attendance averaged 99 percent capacity at the paid events, with an additional total attendance of more than 7,000 people at the free outreach events and programs.

Founded in 2003 with major seed funding from the Hewlett Foundation, Music@Menlo  includes a concert series, master classes, lectures, a young performers concerts and an open house, among other education opportunities. Advanced students have the opportunity to train with the festival’s faculty and performers.

Not to be outdone in the use of technology, Music@Menlo mailed compact discs called “AudioNotes” with all purchased tickets, enabling audience members to prepare for performances by learning more about the music before they attended the concerts. Additionally, the festival partnered with American Public Media to distribute and broadcast festival recordings on more than 300 radio stations across the country, as well as throughout Europe, Asia, and New Zealand.

The 2006 festival may be over but Music@Menlo is as busy as ever. Artistic directors David Finckel and Wu Han are now selecting about forty promising young artists between the ages of eight and twenty-eight for Music@Menlo’s 2007 Chamber Music Institute. Each year, the number of applicants to the program has nearly doubled, and as the festival begins to celebrate its fifth anniversary season, it will continue to provide a world-class music experience.

As for ZeroOne San Jose, the festival will be back in 2008 with exhibitions and performances throughout June and July. Once again, ZeroOne San Jose will partner with local arts organizations to survey the bleeding edge of art and technology, both local and international, with an emphasis on Pacific Asia and Latin America.