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CalArts Gift Shop     

“The CalArts Gift Shop” was an installation of a fake, unsanctioned gift store in the CalArts WaveCave from April 24 - 29, 2023. With the exception of a few select display items (records on top shelf, broken guitar, theremin), everything in the store was actually for sale, and I conducted transactions through a Square Card Reader. Items included bootleg CalArts 50th Anniversary merch (t-shirts, hats and tote bags), custom-made posters, books (LA/Santa Clarita-centric), easy-listening records, snacks, drinks, graduation souvenirs, and miscellaneous generic gift shop toys.

The installation was unique in that it was only open when I was working in it, and the doors were locked outside of normal business hours – differing from most WaveCave installations that are open 24/7 during their week of exhibition.


The music playing inside the store was a CD I made called “The CalArts Society of Freemasons: Demos, Oddities, and Rarities.” The genre-spanning retrospective of the fake group was a culmination of  the previous three months’ work in classes and in private composition lessons – meant to incomprehensibly switch between disparate genres from track to track. Though somewhat incomplete, the recordings and sketches were good enough to serve as in-store Muzak, ranging between ambient, shoegaze, honky tonk, early electronic music, 60s pop, dreampop, and more.

The album artwork was made with found photos from a real-life British Invasion cover group and intentionally garish font colors, made to look like a free CD by a sad, aging local community band.


The merchandise was an obvious play on the “CalArts 50” branding and promotion leading up to the 50th Anniversary Weekend celebrations coming up that same week. I lifted the branded png from the CalArts website and added “Grand” below the 50 – a reference to the yearly cost of tuition. The joke was so easy to make (borderline cherry picking), I hesitated to follow through with it. However there were tons of people – very smart people – who missed the alteration and took at face value that I was just selling CalArts shirts.

I proposed the gift shop concept to the WaveCave comittee in December, totally unaware of any school wide celebrations, and once I realized the coincidence I decided to try to co-opt the institution’s branding and promotion.

Gallery Night Performance 

The gallery night performance featured eight musicians inside the gift shop. We played to an open score instructing all of us to collectively and slowly move through each of these different genres, with no rehearsal:


CalArts 50th Anniversary Weekend (4/28 - 4/30)

        During the start of the main 50th Anniversary Weekend events on April 29th, and the last day of the installation, I placed an obnoxious “STORE CLOSING” sign over the entrance to the store, along with a 12-foot tall “GIFT SHOP” banner outside of the entrance to the music school.

Throughout the day, over 2,000 alumni visited campus, and the official School of Music alumni gathering was directly outside of the gift shop. My closing sign was an absolute eyesore. Scores of alumni entered the store, mostly confused and believing it was a real gift shop. I did my best to explain to most what was going on, and even then it didn’t prevent alumni from having mini-reunion moments inside the installation.

When traffic began to die down, I got anxious, because there was tons of merchandise left and I had yet to turn a profit. I took my rack out and went mobile – part pop-up shop, part Dodger game scalper – and shamelessly parked myself in high volume areas, desperate to make sales. It was immediately successful.


The project cost somewhere around $1,500, and was all out of pocket. I sold about $1,700 in merchandise (roughly 45 shirts, 10 hats, 10 totes + more) and received a $500 Student Project Grant from the Herb Alpert School of Music a few weeks later in mid-May, bringing the total revenue to about $2,200. Full financial documentation coming soon.