Since 2008, Joel Slayton has served as Executive Director of ZERO1, the art and technology network that is responsible for the ZERO1 Biennial Festival and several large public arts projects in San Jose.

After Slayton served as a founding member of the board of directors for eight years, ZERO1 founder Andy Cunningham asked Slayton to run the company.

Slayton earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in photography and cinema at Ohio State, and has since spent his life exploring what happens when the arts are brought into a relationship with the tech industry. As an artist, his work has received international acclaim and has been featured at San Jose Museum of Art, Cantor Center for the Arts and numerous museums around the world.

Slayton is also a full tenured professor and director of the CADRE Laboratory for New Media at San Jose State, the second oldest university media arts center in the United States.

ZERO1’s next development will be the opening of the Biennial Garage, a space intended to serve as a platform for artists to collaborate with the tech industry to explore innovation and challenges to questions about social responsibility. The space will open at the ZERO1 Biennial Festival this September.

Name: Joel Slayton
Age: 57
Occupation: Executive Director of ZERO1

How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
I’ve worked in San Jose since 1985, and my family and I moved here 12 years ago after living in San Francisco for 13 years.

What brought you to San Jose?
When I moved out to San Francisco, I didn’t really know where San Jose was. I became a professor at San Jose State in the art department and soon I was tired of commuting from the city, and my wife took a job in Palo Alto. We had a kid and we thought it would be easier to navigate the school system in San Jose.

What was your first job?

My first job was working as a gas station attendant. But I ended up suing the company I worked for because they would deduct money out of your check if there were a shortage in the register. I sued my first company at 15. [laughs]

What do you like most about San Jose?
I really like downtown San Jose, but my favorite thing about San Jose is that it’s in Silicon Valley. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be here. I like the weather and I like the people, but it’s really because it’s situated in Silicon Valley and I really like Silicon Valley a lot.{pagebreak}

At what point did you decide to stay in San Jose and pursue your career?
I thought when I came here I would just be working for a couple years. I never really had a plan. After about 10 years, I became a full tenured professor at State, and I know I was in this for the long haul. I could never find anything better than what I was doing there. Working at a university and being a part of the art world, that was pretty rich.

What San Jose event do you look forward to most?
Probably for me it’s the Jazz Festival and Cinequest. I think Cinequest is amazing. It’s a really great program. And the Jazz Festival brings in really fantastic artists.

How do you like to spend your time outside of ZERO1?
I like to hit the road in my Airstream. I love my Airstream, but I also love traveling in general. It’s a way to disconnect and refresh. And I like to go fly fishing.

Where are some of your favorite places in San Jose?
My backyard. I like to be at home. I like my office. And I like South First Street; I think it’s amazing. You feel like something’s going to happen down there. And I actually think the San Jose State campus is really nice.

If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?
Well that’s what ZERO1 is about—we’re about changing things. I would like to see the expectation of the public match the reasons San Jose should be a world public center. I would like to see better architecture. Nobody expects the architecture or the performing arts here to be better; the expectations are really low. There’s no reason for San Jose to be the little brother or little sister of San Francisco. You have to be proud of where you’re from. It should be what it has the potential to be.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in San Jose?
Barbara Goldstein, the public art program director [for San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs.] I’ve known her for years and she’s made such an imprint on what San Jose looks like. She made the San Jose Airport what it is now. She’s amazing.

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