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Alameda with Kelsey McFalls

Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Follow Kelsey on Instagram – Photos by Bridget Badore for The Style Line

“I am motivated to work through long days because I feel like I am contributing to

something larger than myself,” says dancer and tech executive, Kelsey McFalls. “In our connected world, there is no value in isolating your voice for the sake of ownership or originality.” Words to live by indeed. The creative, ambitious, and stylish Alameda resident also knows a thing or two about connection – in fact, we were first introduced to Kelsey’s story thanks to our lead contributor Bridget Badore (did we mention the pair are longtime friends?). With roots in Upstate New York, the dynamic duo has shared an enduring friendship that now spans across two coasts, but even so, it’s clear that their bond is stronger than ever.

Enter this Neighborhood Story featuring moments from Bridget’s recent trip to Northern California captured for The Style Line. During her time out west, we were thrilled to find that Kelsey agreed to share some of her favorite local haunts around Alameda. There, we also learned that Kelsey expressed that at times the city feels as though it is a “utopian experiment” and when we asked about her fellow city dwellers she commented, “You have an intersection of innovative, forward-thinking startup folks who are applying a collective effort to build a small-town community that seems to intentionally reject city culture.”

So with our penchant for community, sustainability, and celebrating all that emerging cities, like Alameda, have to offer we’re excited to share more from our conversation with Kelsey. Discover the full interview below featuring Kelsey’s professional background, her thoughts on west coast life and how she hopes to see her city evolve.

*THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN OCTOBER 2016 AND REFLECTS UPDATED CHANGES TO THE LAYOUT

My name is Kelsey. I’m a 25

year old freelance contemporary ballet dancer and the COO of an educational technology company.  Recently, I’ve been enjoying a lot of Rebecca Solnit and I am always looking for new places to backpack and camp in California. I visited Desolation Wilderness and got lost on a hike with “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” stuffed in my backpack, it was laughable. I value the ability to step outside my comfort zone and often enjoy the discomfort found in uncertainty.

With reference to your endeavors as a dancer and working at a startup as your 9-5 why do you think the west coast is the best place to balance these two unique environments?

I had originally moved to the bay area for the freelance ballet opportunities. San Francisco and the surrounding areas are known for their arts and a handful of dancers have created careers by piecing together various seasonal contracts. I currently work for Dance Theater of San Francisco and had the great pleasure of dancing for Amy Seiwert’s Imagery this past summer. As a result of the unconventional business culture popular in Silicon Valley, the bay area often has a strength in valuing people over degrees and certifications. The technology company that I manage, Socos, is built around the belief that we have the ability to maximize human potential through the application of AI technologies (in this case, augmented intelligence not artificial intelligence).Because the co-founder has the philosophy that humans have the continuous ability to adapt and learn, she was more interested in my endogenous motivation to succeed than my degree, or lack thereof. I have always wanted to exist in both of these worlds and the nonconformist work environment here has allowed me to do just that. (It also helps to have flexible work hours where a day in “the office” can start at 5AM or 9PM).

What is one question you wish people asked you more often?

“What’s your favorite recipe?” Because I have one and it’s so good!

 

What is one thing you’d like to see change within the city?

The city is grappling with rental laws. It’s interesting to witness a community situated in the middle of Oakland and San Francisco take on a conversation that has already happened across the bay. I would love for local policymakers to look at the current state of housing in San Francisco and Oakland as evidence of what does and doesn’t work. It would be irresponsible if measures were not taken to halt the mass displacement of low SES families which is already occurring throughout the bay area.

 

 

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Park Street

Address: 2447 Santa Clara Ave., #302Alameda, CA 94501

“Park Street is the heart of Alameda with many local shops and restaurants. The old movie theater was built in 1932 and still has movies playing in the original theater. One of my favorite spots on Park Street is Rocket Reuse, a thrift store with books, clothes, and music. Beyond having great cheap records, I love that they allow kids to “purchase” free used children’s books.”

Shop Kelsey’s Look: Vintage Jacket, H&M Dress (Similar, $9.99) Necklace given to Kelsey by a friend, Franco Sarto sandals (Similar, $89)

Talk to us about your relationship to Alameda. Geographically it’s nestled in between two very prominent creative hubs (Oakland and San Francisco) but based on your experience how would you describe Alameda’s creative presence?

Alameda has a unique community since most of the people living here work in tech, but have chosen to live outside of the main cities. I read somewhere that it has been called “Kansas by the Bay.” You have an intersection of innovative, forward-thinking startup folks who are applying a collective effort to build a small-town community that seems to intentionally reject city culture. Their creativity is shown through inventive community events and sustainable small businesses. It sometimes feels like a utopian experiment. One Monday morning, I stepped out of my apartment to find people camped out on street corners with name tags, easels, and oil paints. They were painting in bus stops and lying on sidewalks. It turns out this was a part of a 30+ artist festival where painters were invited to capture different neighborhoods on the island. Just following this event was an island-wide bikeathon and two community block parties, I wasn’t remotely surprised.

“You have an intersection of innovative, forward-thinking startup folks who are applying a collective effort to build a small-town community that seems to intentionally reject city culture.”

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Bubble Soap Farm

Address: 933 Central Ave, Alameda, CA 94501

“Bubble Soap Farm is an incredible little shop that makes everything from scratch. The owners have a bee hive on the island that they use to make their products and the store smells amazing.”

Shop Kelsey’s Look: Reformation dress (Similar, $128) Necklace from Kelsey’s grandmother, Franco Sarto sandals (Similar, $89)

How much time would you say you spend in other emerging NoCal cities and where do you hope to travel to this season?

Socos has an office in Berkeley so I spend a good deal of time there and I really appreciate the efforts the city has made to make it more bike-friendly. It’s also the home to Little Gem Belgian Waffles, so maybe I’m slightly biased. 

I have a giant paper map of California (National Geographic Adventure Edition, Circa 2004) and on a rare day off, I love to pick random places to visit. California has so many State and National Parks that it will be a while before I make it through them all. Prairie Creek Redwoods and Fern Canyon are on my list for the Fall. 

Alameda doesn’t get much rain, much like the rest of the bay area, but somehow it still has a lot of lush gardens and green open spaces. I live across from Washington Park and love to work in the grass on a sunny day or walk down to the beach to take out a kayak.

“I am motivated to work through long days because I feel like I am contributing to something larger than myself. In our connected world, there is no value in isolating your voice.”

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Blue Dot Cafe 

Address: 1910 Encinal Ave, Alameda, CA 94501

“Blue Dot Cafe is a welcoming, quiet spot to work. They have great coffee and often feature talented local artists.”

Shop Kelsey’s Look: Reformation jumpsuit (Similar, $98) Donni charm blanket scarf $129, Adeline Stick Stud earrings $265 and $, Lauren Wolf pyramid studs $350 via ESQUELETO

We’ve noticed the city also has a lot of sustainability/green initiatives. Has that affected your lifestyle and generally would you say that it plays any kind of role in your personal and professional endeavors?

Alameda has made strong efforts to be green, but there is still some trash on the beach and along the sidewalks. It’s awful to see and I make a point of picking up litter everywhere I go. California has banned plastic bags and I try to stay away from disposable plastic altogether, using compostable trash bags and recycling everything else. You only live once, but litter lives forever. 

“I believe that the real impact an artist can make is by starting a conversation or contributing to a community that motivates them. Your voice is further refined as you share it with others…”

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Cafe Jolie 

Address: 1500 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501

“Cafe Jolie is my favorite restaurant on the island. They’re known for their brunch (lines on weekend mornings can wrap around the block), but they also offer dinner Thursday-Saturday with live jazz. Since most people only think to visit for breakfast, it’s usually very a cozy and quiet meal.”

Shop Kelsey’s Look: Everlane dress $88 and Donni charm scarf $58

How would you advise the next generation of creative thinkers/makers/designers to leave an imprint in the world simply by doing what they love? 

I am motivated to work through long days because I feel like I am contributing to something larger than myself. In our connected world, there is no value in isolating your voice for the sake of ownership or originality. I believe that the real impact an artist can make is by starting a conversation or contributing to a community that motivates them. Your voice is further refined as you share it with others; open it up to discussion, development, and transformation.