Negin Singh’s 9-to-5 has her watching rollercoasters careen over the Pacific before the sun cracks the marine layer, playing with cotton candy, and curating cool art and music events from an office above a merry-go-around. It may not sound like work, but embracing fun and fantasy makes Singh ideal for her role as executive director of the Santa Monica Pier Corp.
Formerly director of inspiration at augmented reality startup DAQRI, the 31-year-old events producer is tasked with reimagining the popular Twilight Concert Series for a relaunch in the fall. Six months into the job, Singh is already making her mark. In June she brought in cool kids of music curation Brownies & Lemonade to deejay sets at the annual Pier360 Ocean Sports and Beach Festival. Earlier this week she launched SeaSaw, an immersive performance art series in collaboration with Think Tank Gallery.
“The experience I would like to give people is, ‘I went to the pier, I saw this thing, I can’t explain it. You should go,’” Singh said earlier this summer. “I wanted a space where artists who have a hard time explaining what they do — the ‘hyphen-artists’ — to come and showcase something in this cool environment.”
Back in college and shortly thereafter, she and her friends (aka the events production company cARTel: Collaborative Arts LA) threw some bashes you may have heard of, such as the No Budget Film Festival, Art | Party | Playground, and the indie music festival alternative Broke LA (aka “Brokechella”).
“My boyfriend, who’s now my husband, took the Coachella poster and put ‘broke’ on it,” she said. “We used to be just a bunch of dumb kids … just listening to music and being like, ‘I like this.’ But now those dumb kids have grown into becoming curators at major spaces or festivals.”
Just like Singh. Her time at DAQRI, where she led a team of 30-plus creatives and engineers to develop augmented reality products and experiences such as Crayola’s award-winning Easy Animation Studio toolkit, taught her “to move fast and break things,” as they say in tech, but now she’s appreciating the long view her new role allows.
“I think a lot about the Olympics,” she says. “What are the micro-steps that we can take, so that in nine years when the Olympics are here, we’re going to be ready and we’re going to be the best that we possibly can be?”
Singh hopes she can take a page from both the fast-paced startup world and her Indian-Iranian immigrant parents who developed business ideas with entrepreneurial abandon to reinvent the pier as a place where exciting ideas can take off, and where all who visit feel welcome.
“We want anyone who’s coming to the pier, whether they’re a local or they’re a tourist, to feel what it’s like to be Californian,” she says. “Just the general vibe, you leave it feeling like, ‘Oh, that’s what it’s like to live here’ … and you want to take a piece of that home and maybe make where you’re at feel a little more free and fun and accepting.”
— Christina Campodonico