Category Archives: Museums & Institutions

Sweater Weather

yarnbomb, streetcolor, yarnbomb install at OMCA

streetcolor, OMCA, yarnbomb, yarnbombing, oakland museum yarnbomb

I’ve been meaning to post these images for a bit now… ever since the weather turned cold, the sandals and summer shirts got sequestered to the back of my closet, and the warm, soft, comforting sweaters I love donning so much each fall were brought forth to their rightful place, front & center.

The pictures above and below are by the same artist, Streetcolor. I shot her a few weeks ago for Oakland Magazine while she was installing her yarn bomb pieces in various locations throughout the grounds of the Oakland Museum of California.  Oakland Magazine will be featuring her in their January/February issue so keep your eyes out for that… In the meantime, you can read all about Streetcolor and her installation, both on OMCA’s blog (Yarn Bombing OMCA) and Streetcolor’s personal blog:

You can also go visit the installation in person, which of course is the best way to experience these incredibly tactile pieces. The installations will be up until December 15th.

The photo below is of an earlier piece she installed at Lake Merritt. There’s a third one just out of frame to the right, but I love this shot so much with its shadows and perspective, that you’ll  have to head to the lake if you want to see the full set…

streetcolor, yarnbomb, yarnbomb bikeracks, yarnbomb oakland

I ♥ Temescal Tool Lending Library – please help save…

So everyone is talking about the potential library closures… you can read all about it

And lots of great points are being made… about the need for these neighborhood resources, providing accessibility to books and the internet for all residents regardless of income, providing social gathering spots and places of refuge from the neighborhood violence in some parts of Oakland, providing a suite of services and resources that once were offered by public schools but now have been cut from there as well.  The list goes on and on, and these are all incredibly important points.

But what I don’t hear anyone talking about is the Temescal TOOL Lending Library.

I have to admit that this is my most frequently visited branch/service of the entire Oakland Public Library system.  They know me by name, and I know most of theirs as I see them nearly weekly.

I’ve always liked fixing/building/making things. I was a born DIY’er before the term DIY even existed. You can see this was either instilled early (by my grandfather – pipe in mouth), or perhaps just came naturally, by this photo of my first home building project (I think I was 6).

projects with grandpa, early DIY training

For those who don’t know, and I’m always amazed when I meet folks who don’t, this is an incredible resource exclusively dedicated to Oakland residents. Modeled after the tool lending library in Berkeley, they house thousands of tools that can be “rented” FREE of charge for short periods of time. Everything you need to tend to your home and garden (carpentry & woodworking, concrete & masonry, electrical, floor & wall, garden & digging, ladders/dollies/handtrucks/wheelbarrows, mechanical & power, plumbing, etc.) plus books and how-to videos.

I think I’ve checked out tools in nearly every one of those categories from the early days in 2000 (this was when renovating my loft in West Oakland, photo left) to more recent projects on the home here in Dimond (photo right).

bathroom tiling project, kitchen painting project

This arm of the Temescal Branch library was launched in January of 2000 (thanks to seed money from a Community Development Block Grant).  It was an outgrowth of a small “Home Resources Collection” established at this branch after the Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991 to help residents with rebuilding and repairs following the disaster.

And it just makes sense.  In a dense urban environment where homes are frequently smallish apartments or “cottage” houses (read small!), who’s got the space to store all the things you need to care for your home? And more importantly, who wants to shell out the cash (tools are expensive!) for something you may use once or twice a year??

I LOVE the Temescal Tool Lending Library!  Please help save it.

According to the budget proposals currently being considered, the following library branches and resources would be slated for closure:

Asian, Brookfield, Cesar Chavez, Eastmont, Elmhurst, Golden Gate, Lakeview, Martin Luther King, Melrose, Montclair, Piedmont, Temescal, West Oakland, AAMLO, and the Tool Lending Library.

Is this not crazy?!? Especially after residents voted in 2003 for continued support of our libraries (Measure Q).

Here are five things you can do to help (from Save Oakland Libraries):

  1. Tell your friends and neighbors about the devastating funding cuts to libraries – Ask 10 of your friends to call or write the Mayor and City Council. Like the Save Oakland Library page on Facebook.
  2. Share your library experiences with city officials – Make sure that Oakland’s mayor, city manager, and city council know what libraries mean to you and your community.
  3. Attend Oakland City Council meetings – We need a big turnout. Bring signs supporting libraries. Bring children who love libraries. Request to speak. Speaker cards can be requested online one week in advance at the Office of the City Clerk page.  Next meetings 6/7 and 6/21 at 5:30pm
  4. Organize – Gather petition signatures and distribute fliers – These activities must happen outside the library locations–near branches or at community events. Fill our volunteer form and help save your library. Check our volunteer page for an activity near you. Download instructions on how to petition (PDF). Download the petition (PDF).
  5. Contact newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and local blogs – Call the media and ask if they are covering the proposed Oakland library closings. When you read related news coverage, write a letter to the editor with thanks and a message about why Oakland’s public libraries are needed

“Art in the Streets” – LA Style

zebra muralI took a quick jaunt to LA this week; the trip just happened to coincide with the opening of a much ballyhooed exhibit at MOCA – what was to be “a groundbreaking exhibition of street art, the most ambitious show of its kind ever mounted in the United States.” So of course, I went!

My girlfriend and I went to the members-only opening Saturday night amidst a buzz of press and paparazzi – the line for them nearly as long as the line for new members, both of which were dwarfed by the queue for existing members with invitations. As we all waited to get in to the Geffen Contemporary (a 40,000 square foot former police car warehouse in Little Tokyo renovated by the noted California architect Frank O. Gehry, and one of three museums housed under the umbrella of MOCA), the first piece of the exhibit, itself a whirlwind of controversy, loomed large above the crowd.

You can read all about it in the LA Weekly’s “Street Art at MOCA” by Shelley Leopold, but I will summarize… the director of MOCA, Jeffrey Deitch, was tasked with the challenge of boosting new membership to the flailing museum. One idea he had was to showcase the cutting edge world of street art, and to open the show with a bang, he commissioned the Italian muralist Blu to make the entire north wall of the Geffen Contemporary his canvas. Unfortunately, what Blu chose to paint (controversial imagery of coffins draped with money) was deemed inappropriate and was later painted over by Lee Quinones along with “a handpicked contingency of dudes”, producing a native American tribute titled We the People. I actually didn’t even see this mural as it was on the backside of the building.

Lee Quinones, MOCA Street Art, coffins draped with dollars

photo right by LindsayT on Flickr

Instead our introduction to the show was the piece below… a tribute to the innovative graffiti artist BLADE. Here’s an interesting blogpost by the artist commissioned to do the piece… (Blade Tribute at the MOCA).

Jersey Joe Art, Blade Tribute, Freedom sketch for Blade Tribute

The show was quite good, although I definitely had problems with several of the installations that attempted to replicate street environments inside the museum. One in particular was a movie-set-like construction of a back alleyway, dimly lit, strewn with trash, complete with a live character hobo huddling in the corner. I don’t know if this was the actual artist having a bit of fun, or just another out of work LA actor taking any gig he could get, but either way… it was just too damn contrived.

The show comprised over 50 artists’ works over the last few decades (including early visionaries like Jean-Michel Basquiat & Keith Haring to more contemporaries like Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, and even Banksy), and focused on “key cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Sao Paulo, where a unique visual language or attitude has evolved.” You can see a complete list of artists here.

I didn’t take that many pictures because there was so much art to try and take in, it was a little overwhelming, but here are a few…

Geffen Contemporary, Street Art, Los Angeles

Roa rabbit, ROA bird, MOCA street art

ROA

stelios, street art, stelios mural

Stelios

shepard fairey, obey giant, shepard fairey installation moca

Me shooting everyone shooting Shepard Fairey

os gemeos installation, os gemeos street art, os gemeos moca

The Os Gemeos installation was huge and included instruments for the crowd to play - I played the drums! (but not as well as this 10 year old boy)

Os Gemeos at MOCA, Os Gemeos LA installation

Os Gemeos

swoon paper installation, swoon installation moca

Paper installation by Swoon

MOCA Geffen Contemporary, street art exhibit los angelesMOCA los angeles, art in the streets

If you can get down to Los Angeles in the next few months, this show will be up through August 8th.

Mills College “Walk of Honor”

In February, I did a bunch of posts in honor of Black History Month. In March, I didn’t write a single word about Women’s History Month, which is odd, because afterall, I am a woman. I plan to make up for that oversight with this post…

I think it’s easy for young American women today to be blasé about their place in society… things seem pretty equal these days. We hear of glass ceilings and under-representation in boardrooms, but for the average Jane, these limitations likely don’t register much.  You can be anything you want to be, and you can do almost anything men can do (barring a need for certain male equipment of course).

There are certainly examples of the odd restriction… like my recent discovery that women are not allowed on U.S. Navy submarines, not because they aren’t capable, but because of the temptation they might pose to their male shipmates in close quarters. Ahem.

When I was five years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. Seriously. And did my parents discourage me from this idea? Hell no. They told me I could be anything I wanted to be, including President of the United States!

But for the women who came before, my mother, my grandmother, and earlier… options were limited.

We are lucky in this country, for we now have guaranteed rights and opportunities that women in other parts of the world are still denied.  But we should not forget that it wasn’t that long ago when our own country was plagued by similar forms of discrimination and male domination.

Remember, it was written that “All men are created equal.” At the time that was written, it meant all white men, and men alone.  Women in the United States didn’t receive the right to vote until 1920, which may seem a long time ago now.  But in the history of our democracy, it’s an appallingly recent development.

And one of the things I love about the relatively new series Mad Men is its portrayal of how blatantly sexist (and racist) our mid-century society was.  Women in business were for typing, and groping, and not much more than that.  At least for awhile…

History is easy to forget, if we don’t remind ourselves.  This art installation reminds us of the strides we have made, pushed forward by women of remarkable strength and courage…

mills college, walk of honor, sidewalk mural honoring women

Mills College Walk of Honor:  Celebrating a mosaic of women who have paved the way for a just and equitable future.

“The Mills College Walk of Honor is dedicated to all women who have served as role models, advocates, and trailblazers through their unwavering commitment to equity, social justice, and opportunity… these women of honor have demonstrated the power of the individual to effect change, influence others, and shape a more just society.  By their words, their actions, and their willingness to stand by their principles – sometimes at great personal peril – they have succeeded in advancing women everywhere.  These women, and others who stood alongside them, have paved the way for future generations of women to find their voice, realize their dreams, and make a positive difference in the world.”

From Halle to Hillary and Susan B. Anthony to Indira Gandhi, the sidewalk mural installation walks us through the accomplishments of an incredible diversity of women throughout history.

Susan Mills, Aurelia Henry Reinhardt, Janet L. Holmgren

Susan Mills, Aurelia Henry Reinhardt, Janet L. Holmgren

Eleanor Roosevelt, Beate Sirota Gordon, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Aung San Suu Kyi

Eleanor Roosevelt, Beate Sirota Gordon, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Aung San Suu Kyi

Ellen DeGeneres, Dolores Huerta, Wilma Mankiller, Rosa Parks

Ellen DeGeneres, Dolores Huerta, Wilma Mankiller, Rosa Parks

Equal Opportunity Employment

The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes. ~ Bella Abzug

mills college walk of honor

Gloria Steinem, women's liberation

Like art, revolutions come from combining what exists into what has never existed before. ~ Gloria Steinem

Elizabeth Blackwell, Antonia Coello Novello, Susan G. Komen, Susan Perrine

Elizabeth Blackwell, Antonia Coello Novello, Susan G. Komen, Susan Perrine

Christiane Amanpour, Katherine Graham, Oprah Winfrey

Christiane Amanpour, Katherine Graham, Oprah Winfrey

mills college art installation for commencement

mills college strike of 1990

Mills For Women. Again.

Hillary Clinton, Barbara Lee, Sonia Sotomayor

Hillary Clinton, Barbara Lee, Sonia Sotomayor

sidewalk chalk, italian street painting,

Nadia Comaneci, Amelia Earhart, Mia Hamm, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Billie Jean King

Nadia Comaneci, Amelia Earhart, Mia Hamm, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Billie Jean King

Marie Curie, Barbara McClintrock, Margaret Mead, Sally Ride, Chien-Shiung Wu

Marie Curie, Barbara McClintrock, Margaret Mead, Sally Ride, Chien-Shiung Wu

Trisha Brown, Pearl S. Buck, Frida Kahlo, Julia Morgan, Beverly Sills

Trisha Brown, Pearl S. Buck, Frida Kahlo, Julia Morgan, Beverly Sills

Lucille Ball, Halle Berry, Kathryn Bigelow, Mary Pickford, Wonder Woman, Michelle Yeoh

Lucille Ball, Halle Berry, Kathryn Bigelow, Mary Pickford, Wonder Woman, Michelle Yeoh

Nancy Pelosi

For our daughers and granddaughters, the sky is the limit. Anything is possible for them. ~ Nancy Pelosi

Commissioned by Mills College to commemorate their commitment to women’s education and celebrate the 2010 Commencement (last weekend featuring speaker Nancy Pelosi), the installation was directed and largely conceived by artist Julie Kirk-Purcell. The initial concept proposed to her was a series of individual portraits… but she expanded the concept to include a greater number of women based around themes, such as the arts, politics, and science.

The primary panels were created by her with the help of three additional artists: Lisa Jones, Genna Panzarella, and Melanie Van Latum with additional mosaic work contributed by Mills students and alumnae.

From her statement…

“With chalk as the medium, this collage has been drawn freehand based on historical imagery, photographs, and multimedia images. The mosaic pattern, which leads from one square to another, is meant to serve as a pathway for women’s achievement, conveying that one women’s success is inextricably tied to another’s.”

Working in chalk allows the images to materialize rather quickly, and many sidewalk chalk art festivals exist around the world, usually spanning 2-3 days during which the artists create masterful images from nothing more than a slab of concrete and a small box of chalk.  What’s significant is the process, rather than the end product.

Though in this case, the finished panels drawn on canvases, will be preserved (with hairspray no less!) to be repurposed on campus for future celebrations.

Oakland Museum of California

Did you check out the weekend long celebration at the newly reopened Oakland Museum of Art last weekend? Open for 31 hours straight, honoring California’s place as the 31st state in our union, activities were planned round the clock from Saturday morning till Sunday night, and while I can’t say we made it to the 4am rooftop tour, we did put in a pretty good showing on Saturday night…

new oakland museum logo, interactive art at oakland museum

The first thing you noticed as you approached the museum was the bold new logo, configured out of multi-dimensional retro-cool orange letters…. so much better than the stodgy old uniform brown lettering that used to announce your arrival. This sign alone is indicative of the larger changes incorporated within… more modern gallery spaces, more comfortable seating areas, and more interactive displays.

One example is pictured above right… a box constructed out of glass and a mirror-like surface that appeared and disappeared as one walked around the box, at times you could see through it to the person standing on the other side, at times you could see your own reflection, and if you both stood just right, you could see both, and even multiple images of each.

Another fun interactive station was incorporated below into the People of California exhibit. A wall of portraits of various periods, mediums, and styles included two framed digital screens that displayed visitor generated self-portraits, created on a slick touch screen (think Ipad!) with a wonderful little drawing/painting program allowing the use of various brush sizes and colors. Patrons could save their creations to be later displayed, both on the wall as framed art, and on a secondary screen that allowed other visitors to scroll through all the recorded portraits, viewing the sequence of brush strokes that created each one. This exhibit had a line of people waiting for as long as I was there. Nice job OMCA!

oakland museum reopening, oakland museum of art

The weekend activities highlighted the the completion of Phase 1 of the renovation plan with the re-opening of two main galleries: Art and History. (Phase 2 is slated for completion in 2012 and will comprise a new Natural Science wing.)

Art Gallery at Oakland Museum, oakland museum of art

The galleries are certainly more spacious and inviting, but the real changes are more conceptual than structural. While galleries used to be organized chronologically, now objects will be organized thematically, mixing various mediums and periods in order to tell complete “stories.”

art gallery at oakland museum, museum of art oakland

Another primary change is to make the galleries more easily transformable. The museum’s collection dates back to the early 1900’s, cobbled together from three older existing museums. “With nearly 2 million objects in its permanent collection, the museum is considered a leading resource for the research and understanding of California’s social, cultural and environmental heritage.” (The reinventing of the Oakland Museum of California by Angela Hill)

With a collection this large, only a small percentage is viewable at any point in time. “One of the key ideas of this whole renovation is to create a situation where we can change things out in a much easier way,” said René de Guzman, the museum’s senior curator of art. (The Oakland Museum Remixes Its Gallery Space by Rachel Swan)

Lori Fogarty, the museum’s executive director, further emphasized the shift… “We’d heard people coming through, saying things like, ‘Oh, I came here in fourth grade, and it’s just the same,'” Fogarty said. “We needed to do something about that, making the gallery spaces more flexible for changing exhibits, bring more programming like lectures and poetry readings directly into the galleries.”

art gallery at oakland museum, opening night oakland museum

From the scene this past weekend, it looks like their efforts have paid off hugely. The museum was packed!

opening night oakland museum

If you haven’t seen the new museum yet, it’s definitely worth checking out…  see their site for hours, directions, current exhibits, and more.  Oakland Museum of California

Random Ramblings…

I’ve been thinking about this awhile now… I’m looking for some guest bloggers. Anyone out there got a passion for Oakland, a camera, and some ideas to share?

I’m not exactly sure how it will work, but I’m open to suggestions… Could be once a week, once a month, or maybe a whole week at some point to give me a little break. The blog is simply a personal project right now and doesn’t have any advertising on it to generate revenue, which sadly means I can’t pay you. It would strictly be a volunteer effort… a labor of love.

Anyone? Please send in comments if interested…

In other news, and I’ll admit this is completely un-art-related, it’s Pickle & Pepper’s birthday! Here’s a shot of them resting up now, so they can party like crazy later. Just thought I’d share…

And last, but certainly not least, here are some mostly-art-related events coming up that you’ll definitely want to check out…

  • 4/23 FridayOakland Underground Film Festival kicks off (98 Broadway, Jack London Square)
    This festival will be running through August so do check their site for schedule details.  This Friday features Local Talent Short Films and I’m particularly interested in A Day Late in Oakland by Zachary Stauffer about the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey and the history of the Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland.
  • 4/24 SaturdayOakland Organic Plant Sale at California Hotel (35th St. @ Chestnut, West Oakland)
    This event is sponsored by People’s Grocery and related organization Ferment Change. Plants from local West Oakland organic farms (People’s Grocery and City Slickers) will be sold to raise money to hire low-income residents from the hotel to work in the newly established garden and greenhouse at the hotel.  Live music too.
  • 5/1-2 Saturday/SundayOakland Museum Re-opening Weekend Celebration (Oak @ 10th St., downtown) Well it’s been a long wait, but next weekend proves to be an exciting celebration of the newly renovated Oakland Museum.  The museum will be open for 31 hours straight and admission is FREE for the entire weekend.  Check out their site for all the groovy events planned… it’s gonna be a great party!

The rise of a black middle class…

I took a city walking tour about a week ago in honor of Black History Month… titled “New Era / New Politics” and offered by the city of Oakland free of charge, it’s one of eight walking tours covering different topics in Oakland’s history.  The tours typically only run during summer months from May through October, but this one exclusively is offered three times during February to celebrate the contributions of influential African American leaders to Oakland’s development.  In fact, this tour was developed and first offered in conjunction with the opening of the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) in 2002.  We met on the steps of the AAMLO to begin our tour…

Our guide, Renate, began with a broad statement…  that Oakland, as a medium-sized American city, is unique in its diversity, and specifically its history of diversity. And she attributed this difference primarily to the success of the Pullman Porters.

For those not familiar with the Pullman Porters, a bit of history… In the late 1800’s, Oakland was designated as the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railway.  This railway system connected the eastern portion of the United States with the new western states, and more specifically the burgeoning city of Oakland directly with the more established metropolis of Chicago.  Around this same time, George Pullman, an inventor and entrepeneur based in Chicago, developed railway sleeping cars, designed to offer trans-continental transport in a manner of luxury previously unavailable.  His first cars – containing sleeping berths, curtains, carpeting, upholstered chairs, and washrooms at each end – were called Palace Cars, and were marketed with the motto “luxury for the middle classes.”

To complement this experience of luxury, Pullman exclusively hired African American men to staff his cars as porters and wait-staff, believing that they were well-suited for these positions as “people who had been trained to be the perfect servant[s].” Though the jobs were not particularly well-paying and advancement was limited, they afforded many steady employment and income, as well as the ability to travel… novel concepts for blacks in that day and age in America.  By the 1920’s and 30’s the Pullman Company was one of the largest employers of blacks in America, many of whom lived and worked in West Oakland around the now defunct 16th Street Central Station.

When California joined the ranks of the “united” states in 1850, it did so as a free state with a constitution that abolished slavery.  But despite this, our tour guide Renate informed us that prior to the 1920’s, there were very few blacks in California.  It wasn’t until the railway system was completed and the relative prosperity of the early 20th century offered greater mobility that the first migratory wave of African Americans settled in California, many coming to Oakland in search of greater opportunities.  Throughout our tour, Renate emphasized the differences between this first generation of blacks in the Bay Area, those who had roots in the east and south, and the second generation, their offspring born and raised in California.  The opportunities available to the first generation would be fewer than expected… those coming with hopes of obtaining university educations to establish careers as doctors and lawyers were frustrated to find themselves excluded in ways that had not been expected in the reputedly liberal state of California.

But the Pullman Porters jobs allowed many families to settle in West Oakland… employees were actually required to establish residency within running distance of the train station. These early entrants into the formal blue collar workforce of America took hold of a rung from which they propelled themselves into the mainstream middle class of American Society (Rising From The Rails by Larry Tye).  One of my favorite quotes from the tour was something along the lines of the following:

Once you have an educated middle class,”historical consciousness” comes into being.

With that consciousness, a slew of early black leaders were able to assess the quality and context of their current station in life, and envision a different future possible.  A handful of these visionaries formed the East Bay Negro Historical Society, the remnants of whose archives now form the foundation of AAMLO’s archives.

There is much more to tell, but I am finding it exceedingly difficult to write this from Mexico.  Lo siento.  You can imagine how the gently swaying palms and lapping turquoise waters do distract… Forgive me.

For those interested in delving into this on their own (or too impatient to wait for my vacation-scheduled recap – can you say mañana?), the New Era / New Politics tour will be offered one more time this month… on Saturday the 27th, meets at AAMLO, starts at 10 am.