When JD Beltran and Scott Minneman started collaborating, they quickly discovered a mutual fascination with snowglobes.
Though their backgrounds are very different—Scott holds degrees in architecture and engineering from MIT and Stanford, while JD is an artist, writer and filmmaker—both had been making snowglobes, for projects and friends, for some time. Given Scott’s retro-futurist practice of imbuing traditional objects with modern technology and JD’s genius for creating novel, in-situ storytelling experiences, the Cinema Snowglobe was an inevitable collaboration.
“The decision to pursue the inspiration was one of those ‘right-project, right-time’ situations,” Beltran reflects. They presented their idea to the Workshop Residence, an arts and craft incubator based in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. The Workshop seeks to enable artists to be self-sustaining through studio space and seed money for creating art multiples (rather than limited editions). They were offered a residency, and the Cinema Snowglobe was born. The project also received support from Stochastic Labs in Berkeley, which enabled further refinements.
Creating the Cinema Snowglobes posed technical challenges in many fields—including fluid dynamics, materials science, electronics, programming and filmic content. “Perseverance and perspiration got us past some of those problems,” says Minneman. “Now we’re on to the fun stuff: authoring increasingly compelling content, and exploring the potential of this new interactive platform.”
So far, each one has been hand-assembled. With demand very high (and a long waiting list), the production process still needs streamlining. Nonetheless, the wildly popular Cinema Snowglobes are traveling the world— from their initial debut at San Francisco MoMA to their recent appearance at the 44th International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Videos of fireworks and the Golden Gate Bridge animate some of the early cinema snowglobes, which can be held as shown. Above, Scott Minneman and JD Beltran test the electronics for a work-in-progress.