Sandow Birk

in conversation with Lori Wood

Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 7PM

Free for Montalvo members: call 408-961-5849 or email Chris Wilcox to RSVP.

VENUE: Lucas Artists Program Commons

Service fees may apply and are non-refundable.
Montalvo donor discounts are offered on select events; donors, please Log In to access special ticket prices.

About our moderator, Lori Wood:

Lori Wood has worked in the field of artist residency programs for 25 years and has curated a number of literary arts programs. For the National Steinbeck Center, she curated two NEA Big Read programs, created and ran the 2007, 2010 and 2011 Steinbeck Festivals, and founded the Steinbeck Festival International Fringe Fest, which over three years held programs in cities such as Nairobi, Aracataca, Prague, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Amsterdam, Fes, Port-au-Prince, Paris, and other locations.

Wood is the founder and director of an ongoing social venture project in Fes, Morocco that restores traditional properties in Fes’ medieval medina and supports non-profit artist residencies there. From 2009-2011, she initiated and coordinated a collaboration between the Alliance of Artists Communities and the Hay Festival’s Beirut39 project, in which artist residency programs around the world hosted 30 residencies for 18 writers in 18 residency programs, including in the Fes Medina, and the Lucas Artists Residency Program.

Lori Wood holds a BA in Literature from Harvard College, an MBA in Entrepreneurial Management from The Wharton School and the Lauder Institute, and a Masters in International Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the Residency Manager of the Lucas Artists Residency program.

This event is presented as part of Montalvo Arts Center’s program series, Open Access—your opportunity to connect with Artists Fellows and Guest Artists at the Lucas Artists Program. This program is designed to offer audiences a behind the scenes view into how artists generate ideas, as well as showcase works in process and fully realized new work. Open Access offerings include conversations, performances, screenings, and culinary events. It also has a virtual presence as an online blog and archive. Find out more at

Stay connected: Enter your email address to begin receiving Montalvo's weekly e-newsletters!


"Birk is pursuing one of the most fascinating, unpredictable careers in Los Angeles art" — New Times Los Angeles

When artist Sandow Birk takes on a book, he goes well beyond a close reading. Birk spent five years illustrating and translating the 14,000 lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy into contemporary slang, setting the action in modern urban America. His most recent project was nine years in the making: a hand transcription of the entire Qur'an, illustrated with relevant scenes from contemporary American life and informed by traditions of Islamic illuminated manuscripts. The project, which drew on a decade of extended travel in Muslim countries, was published as American Qur’an one year ago. 

In this conversation with the artist, entitled “Journeys of Understanding” we celebrate his exploration of humanity’s diverse world views through our seminal texts.

View images from American Qur'an here.


Los Angeles-based visual artist Sandow Birk is a well-traveled graduate of the Otis/Parson's Art Institute. Frequently developed as expansive, multi-media projects, his work focuses on social issues, frequently exploring themes of inner city violence, graffiti, political issues, travel, war, and prisons, as well as surfing and skateboarding. Birk was a recipient of an NEA International Travel Grant to Mexico City in 1995 to study mural painting, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, and a Fulbright Fellowship for painting to Rio de Janeiro for 1997. In 1999 he was awarded a Getty Fellowship for painting, followed by a City of Los Angeles (COLA) Fellowship in 2001. In 2007 he was an artist in residence at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2008. He is a former Montalvo Artist Fellow, and portions of American Qur’an were completed while he was in residence at our Lucas Artists Residency.

Official Site