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The streets of downtown Santa Ana are barren on a cold Tuesday night, save for a space on Fourth Street where members of the Santa Ana art collective Konsept meet to discuss plans for the next Downtown Art Walk. The collection of pizza boxes, bags of chips and soda cans strewn around the snack table add to the relaxed vibe in the room, which serves as headquarters, studio and gallery space all in one. Founder and leader Tyson Pruong is wearing nicely ironed, office-appropriate dress clothes—seemingly strange apparel for a guy who mostly hangs around laid-back artists and musicians.
"I'm dressed up every day, except for days when I don't go out," he says. "I meet with artists all day and go to meetings in the city, so for me, it's really cool for people to really notice that you're serious about what you're doing."
Konsept has made an impression on OC's street art scene in the past year. Formed of artists, musicians, designers and videographers from college age to working adults, each member brings his or her strength to the collective and to art projects that range from conceptual to stuff that can hang in your living room, public flash mobs to curated collections. And Pruong, who started Konsept with two buddies as a hip-hop trio, is the captain, planning and networking for his talented crew.
"I do all the booking, promotions, organizing," he says. "And I also look for opportunities for gigs for the artists. Konsept is what I do full-time; this is my all or nothing. I used to work a regular day job, but I need to be in meetings with people and constantly be on social media. It's stressful, but it's the good kind of stress, so I'm happy."
A Santa Ana native, Pruong admits that as a youth, he wasn't attracted to the downtown art scene because of its lack of street art. Instead, he gravitated toward the hip-hop and breakdancing scene offered at Saint City Sessions, where he met Platinum Ink Art Studio owner Matthew Rios, who invited Pruong to curate his own art show. From there, he got his first taste of planning community events for his artist friends. "At that time, there wasn't much opportunity to get your work out there," Pruong says, "but Matthew provided me with a place for free, helped me build my own network and got me into helping out the community."
With several musical residencies and multiple art shows every month, Konsept has become a hot name in Santa Ana. Local businesses, bands and artists constantly hit up Pruong to be included in the next big Konsept happening, but Pruong remains dedicated to his original fan base.
"All of our events are different, so we draw in different people all the time, but we still have the same support system of family and friends," he says. "This city is home, so we want to stay true to the area and show that this is what our city is all about."