People of Sacramento commenting on the news: Tre Borden

Tre Borden, placemaker, artistic consultant, entrepreneur and promoter. Photo: Kevin Fiscus.
Tre Borden, placemaker, artistic consultant, entrepreneur and promoter. Photo: Kevin Fiscus.

(This is the 24th installment in a weekly series with people who don’t work in journalism commenting on the news. Photography by Kevin Fiscus. If you’d like to participate, message or tweet me.)

Meet Tre Borden.

He’s 31, grew up in Sacramento, graduated from Yale University, lives in the R Street corridor, serves as a board member for the Sacramento LGBT Community Center and works as placemaking consultant and producer.

Since returning to Sacramento seven years ago, he has been a force in the artistic community. He collaborated with Danny Scheible on Tapigami, launched the Flywheel Arts Incubator, co-founded Exhibit S, helped curate the on-site art collection at the Warehouse Artist Lofts, served as co-producer of Portal and is now shepherding Bright Underbelly.

In June, Tre was named a TEDxSacramento Changemaker Fellow. In his TEDx Talk, embedded below, he speaks about how art can shape the future of communities.

“When we talk about placemaking,” he explains, “we’re not talking about just events. We’re not talking about public art projects. Those are a part of it. What we’re talking about is an approach. It’s a strategy that puts people first. It puts our needs first and it creates areas that really respond to what we need these places to look like.”

The month before we met, he wrote a California Forum piece for The Sacramento Bee that further addressed the term placemaking and the untapped potential of connecting innovators and civic leaders.

“Sacramento, long derided as a bland backwater for government and sprawl, is enjoying an urban renaissance that is putting it on the path to becoming a place – an intentional destination that has as much to do with our cityscape as it does our sense of pride and identity,” he writes. “We are seeing a shift in how people view downtown, and we are attracting interest from national media curious to see how this transition plays out.”

Tre has been one of the most-recommended contributors for this series and it was great to pick his brain about the city of Sacramento and his thoughts on the news. It seemed fitting that while we spoke at Bottle & Barlow in October, the neighborhood was buzzing with creatives. Visual artist Raphael Delgado said hello, Maritza Davis and Patrick Mulvaney were meeting for a future project and painter David Garibaldi was working on his War on Walls studio.

Tre describes Sacramento as diverse, beautiful, close-knit, up-and-coming and positioning itself as a “start-up city.” “We’re on the bleeding edge,” he says.

You can try things in Sacramento that you might not be able to accomplish elsewhere. There aren’t a lot of barriers to entry.

“You can see the impact you’re having,” he says. “It’s for people who know how to hustle.”

Sacramento has changed “by expecting more from itself” with a community no longer “resigned to be here.”

He expects the city’s momentum to attract more creatives, some priced out of bigger cities, who will in turn start new projects of their own. He envisions an emboldened community affecting change and “not relying on established groups doing it for them.”

“If you’re willing to shoot for something bold, and if you can muster the credible team that people believe can get it done, go for it,” he explained to Johnny Flores in a 2014 episode of the Serious Talk. Seriously podcast. “That’s what we’ve seen with Bright Underbelly. … We want to show Sacramentans that you can do something.”

A part of that will be thinking about new ways for artists to finance their work, he says, like using crowdfunding early in the development process. Creators can no longer solely depend on the same, established rich families to finance art projects.

The marketplace and support for creatives will need to grow, he says. Our culture needs to recognize the value artists and fairly compensate them for their work. How can someone like him (no house, no kids, no car) transition to a stable lifestyle?

“You can’t have amazing artists and no patrons,” he says.

Tre answered the following questions by email about how he gets the news. Text submitted October 8.

How do you get your news?
My news consumption is not straightforward, but definitely part of my daily routine. I don’t get any paper news and, while I have a TV, I don’t have cable or watch it. With the exception of PBS and Capital Public Radio, all the news I consume is online. It is probably worth mentioning that I am a 50/50 phone/laptop media consumer since I am usually on the move.

I start my day by trolling my news feed on Facebook to get a sense of what is going on around me and what my friends are up to. From there, I check more legitimate sources like The New York Times, New York magazine and The Daily Beast for world events, politics and culture. For more (creative) industry specific news, I regularly check sites/blogs like Colossal, Monocle, design boom magazine and The Atlantic’s – City Lab blog.


When I have more time I’ll check out The New Yorker or The New York Times Style Magazine for more curated and in depth editorial content. I also stay current on the latest sports and entertainment gossip on sites like Grantland.

I tend to think I am relatively plugged into what is happening in Sacramento from a combination of my job and social circles. Thus, I don’t go out of my way to closely monitor local news outlets. However, I do look to The Sacramento Bee and Comstock’s to monitor issues that I care about.

[Editor’s note: Tre is an occasional contributor to Comstock’s and Grantland was shut down after his responses were submitted.]


What’s the first news event you remember?
The first news event I feel like I remember from beginning to end was the whole O.J. Simpson situation.  I only knew O.J. from The Naked Gun movies so when I saw the white Bronco on the freeway I guess I didn’t really grasp what was happening. However, once the trial began, I remember thinking it should not have been as prominent as it was in the news but everyone was talking about it. I think it was so memorable because it was the first time my friends and I were talking about the news outside of a classroom environment and that made me invested in the outcome. When the verdict was announced I realized for the first time that people had differing, if not polarizing, viewpoints on the news.


What content do you pay for?

What’s the last great thing you ate?
South just started selling fried chicken buckets –so I’ve been all over that.

Who’s doing it right in news?
As an individual, I would have to say John Oliver. He is one of the few people who has been able to rally people around obscure issues in a very positive way. Traditional media outlets should be embarrassed that an entertainer is doing a better job representing journalistic integrity and creating social change.

Organizations that I think consistently get it right would be PBS and NPR. I always respect the topics they give air time to and they never talk down to their respective audiences.

Name the three most important issues facing Sacramento.
Lack of leadership transition strategies, skeptical popularity of weird/out of the box ideas, and people believing that Sacramento is a place to love living in.

What do you absolutely hate about the news?
I hate how everyone’s opinions get air time. If people can represent their viewpoints/opinions as facts than the discussion is already over. Not to mention that not everyone’s viewpoints deserve air time.

What’s the most important issue to you that’s not being covered well enough?
Who is making things happen. One of the reasons I wanted to take the time for this interview is that you are giving a voice to many of us who would not normally have access to media coverage as part of their job.

If you could be anywhere, an-hour-and-a-half drive away, where would you be?
I would probably go to Oakland. I feel like it has a lot of the culture and excitement that San Francisco used to have –plus it has a lot more diversity. Sure it has plenty to work on but it also does not take itself so seriously.

Follow Tre (@treborden) on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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