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In the middle decades of the 20th Century, the Modernist architecture of Modesto, California, was on the cutting edge of environmental and artistic design. The Heckendorf Residence, designed by John Funk in 1939, attracted national museum and press attention and is commonly believed to have started the movement in Modesto. Today these modern homes dot Modesto’s post-war suburbs.

Media artist Jessica Gomula-Kruzic, along with filmmaker Steve Arounsack, collaborated with the Modesto Art Museum to create a video, “Modesto Modernism,” a 13:49 minute film documenting the story of this important—now mostly forgotten—architecture, making use of original documentary footage. The museum and artists used the film as a catalyst for community conversations on livability and environmentalism—threading together discussion of urban design concerns of today with architecture of the past.

Gomula-Kruzic’s intermedia work employs video and large-scale installation environments which elicit viewer interaction and community participation. She is professor of Time Based Media at California State University, Stanislaus. The project allowed her to complete a high quality documentary narrative, a format that was different from her previous interactive and non-narrative works.

The Modesto Art Museum’s mission is to provide quality visual arts experiences and help people develop their aesthetic understanding so they can enjoy and find meaning in the visual arts. This project is part of Building a Better Modesto, the museum’s program responding to the city’s ranking as among the least livable or most miserable in the country.