Category Archives: fruitvale

Dimond Wayfinding Mosaics

I hope you are digging the mosaics because we have a lot more ground to cover! I’ve been scoping out tons of amazing examples, inspiring me to visit parts of Oakland I’ve never been to before.

And this next batch is specifically designed to do the same… encourage exploration.

Produced by Gina Dominguez of Snapshot Mosaics, and commissioned by Councilperson (now Mayor) Jean Quan, five sidewalk mosaics were recently installed near the intersection of MacArthur & Fruitvale at the heart of the Dimond District.

They are called “wayfinding” mosaics as their intent is to direct passing pedestrian to nearby points of interest.  The designs incorporate imagery designed to celebrate the unique features of this very cool (as I am discovering since this is my new ‘hood) neighborhood.

I spotted the first of these outside the new mural at Farmer Joe’s while shooting updates of their progress (see original post here). Then I discovered there were more of them to be found so I spent some time walking the nearby blocks to find them all.

Dominguez has posted about this on Snapshot’s site under Custom Installations, and I’m going to be pulling some quotes from her site below (italicized).

Located near La Farine Bakery, 3411 Fruitvale Avenue the hummingbird was chosen as the main design element due to its positive symbolism in Native American culture.  This mosaic celebrates the Native American Collection housed at the Dimond Library and points visitors toward:

Dimond Library, Peralta Creek, Fruitvale District, & Sausal Creek

snapshot mosaics, dimond public art, sidewalk mosaics

Located at the Dimond Library, 3565 Fruitvale Avenue, this mosaic’s design was inspired by Sausal Creek, the movement of water and the Rainbow Trout that live there. It directs passersby to:

Chabot Space & Science Center, Sequoia Elementary School, Dimond Business District, & Sausal Creek

snapshot mosaics, gina dominguez, sausal creek mosaic

Situated at the base of “Hidden Jewels,” a mural being painted on the side of Farmer Joe’s Market, its design shows the native flora found in Dimond Canyon: California Poppy, California Fuschia, Morning Glory, and California Grapes. This mosaic directs people to:

Dimond Park, Peralta Hacienda, William D. Wood Park, & Glenview District

dimond public art, dragonfly mosaic, gina dominguez mosaics

Located near Bank of America, 2154 MacArthur Boulevard, this mosaic showcases the Leimert Bridge which spans Dimond Canyon, a landmark feat of its day. Also celebrated is the heron that graces the creek with its presence. This wayfinder will direct you toward:

Oakmore District, Laurel District, San Francisco Bay, & The Altenheim

oakland public art, city of oakland sponsored art, heron mosaic

The Redwood Grove in Dimond Park and Joaquin Miller Park are featured in this mosaic that is installed at 2450 Fruitvale Avenue [outside the Wells Fargo]. From here, visitors can find:

Joaquin Miller Park, Bret Harte District, Fruitvale District, & Dimond Canyon

sequoia mosaic, snapshot mosaics, sidewalk mosaics, oakland public art

Pretty cool, right? I think they’re awesome, and I know now there are some new destinations I need to seek out, like William D. Wood Park.

Snapshot Mosaics is located in Montclair Village in Oakland and offers classes for both adults and kids, as well as open studio time for those more experienced. In the coming days, I’ll be writing a bit more about technique and process, as well as some other instructional opportunities… Stay tuned!

Treasure Hunting – White Elephant this weekend!

So it’s been a bit quiet over here, mostly because I spent the bulk of last weekend stripping a mid-century coffee table purchased on a whim, rather than working on future blog posts.  Bad blogger.

I have to say though, I am really excited about my new (old) coffee table.  For starters, I love old things. Things with history. Things infused with untold stories. And things bearing an artistry and craftsmanship that doesn’t exist today… at least not in my price range.

And I love a good bargain. I’ve always been a garage saler, flea market peruser, and now, craigslist regular. I remember in my college days my friend Tory would grab the newspaper classifieds, I’d get the LA County Thomas Guide (yes, we are old!), and drive around Los Angeles from garage sale to estate sale looking for those incredible bargains and precious diamonds in the rough.

Even if we didn’t buy a thing, it was a fun and adventurous way to kill a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning. What random insights one gains by meeting total strangers through the prism of their discarded belongings.

I think this is why new shows such as American Pickers and Pawn Stars, and the old standby Antiques Roadshow, have gained in such popularity. They’re fascinating. Not just from the voyeuristic aspect of meeting quirky people with their quirky stuff, but also the incredible history that’s learned through these items.

But back to my coffee table…

I’ve been checking craigslist diligently for months now for just the right thing.  Our living room is oddly shaped – being somewhat small, and very long and narrow. The existing features of the room – a long built-in fireplace mantle with side by side bookcases, and our couch – tend to accentuate this length, so I’ve been looking for something special… something non-rectangular with a slim profile. Needless to say, this is not an easy thing to find, especially on craigslist. Mostly I would just type in “mid-century coffee table” and see what came up.

What came up last Friday was not a coffee table specifically, but rather an ad for an estate sale in Oakland, actually 7 estate sales, all under one roof. I thought, hmmm, that could be interesting… So on Saturday morning, since I was up early and everyone else in the house was sleeping (and sure to be sleeping for hours more), I made my way down to the Hudson Warehouse Sale and waited in line as a stream of people emerged from the warehouse bearing lamps, framed artworks, chairs, and more.

I have to say I’ve never been to an estate sale like that before.  It was pretty impressive and what I’ve since discovered is that it was heavily advertised in the local media due to the fact that one of the estates was that of an esteemed and long-time San Francisco interior designer. 

In any case, the coffee table was the last thing I found. It wasn’t even in the interior of the warehouse, but rather outside with a lot of the patio furniture and junkier items. It looked pretty rough with water stains, flaking veneer, loose legs, and generally just an ugly finish, but the shape was cool and the price was right… a mere $45. I grabbed the tag and scrawled SOLD on it. Here’s a pic…

estate sale find, mid-century furniture

I returned home, jubilant with my car full of treasures purchased for a paltry sum. I raced upstairs to inform Tim I had found us the perfect coffee table. He was annoyed that I bought something without his input, but I told him it was cheap cheap cheap and just needed to be refinished. And if it didn’t work out, I could always sell it on craigslist.

He said, “In all the years I’ve known you I’ve heard you talk about refinishing furniture pieces, but you’ve never actually done it.” And there it was… the superlative that you’re, ahem, “never” supposed to use!

So I got to work immediately, just to prove him wrong.

The truth is, I’ve refinished a number of pieces in my day, but I hadn’t done one recently and I actually kind of forgot how much work it is! I spent the entire Saturday afternoon working on it, which got me to here (right side)…

stripping varnish, mid-century coffee table And then most of Sunday afternoon too, at which point it looked pretty darn fantastic. Through the process of stripping all the snot-colored opaque varnish off the table, I had uncovered what looked to be a very very nice table.  Gorgeous grain matched walnut veneers, beautiful legs tapering from rounded square forms at the top to completely round pegs at the bottom, and more.

Unfortunately, the table was still in pieces, needed to be glued back together, cleaned up with one final wipe down, and then finished with a clear coat. The clear coat I could do, the glueing back together I was slightly less confident about.

It was at that point that I decided to take it to a professional. I knew I could do it.  I just knew someone else could do it better, and that it would likely be worth shelling out a few more bucks to have a really beautiful piece, perfectly finished piece.

I took it to Antiques & Modern in Berkeley because they specialize in mid-century restorations, have great reviews on yelp including information about very reasonable pricing, and my friend Jon just bought some stuff from them and was very pleased.

So there my coffee table sits… I have no picture of its fully restored glory for you.  You’ll just have to imagine, but I know it’s going to be a real beauty, and worth all the effort!

I tell you all this because there is another fantastic pseudo-estate sale opportunity coming up this weekend…

It’s the White Elephant Sale sponsored by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board. The sale only happens once a year, so if you miss it this weekend (like I did last year) you’ll have to wait another 12 months for this super-sale to come around again…

It’s free to the general public and all sales proceeds benefit the wonderful (and recently renovated) Oakland Museum of California. In fact, in spite of the recession, last  year’s sale raised $1.4 million for the museum!  That’s not chump change.

What treasures may be awaiting you?

2011 White Elephant Sale
Saturday, March 5 and Sunday, March 6
10:00 am- 4:00 pm
333 Lancaster Street, Oakland, CA
click for map

The White Elephant Sale is the biggest, the best and certainly the most enjoyable rummage sale in Northern California – presenting for sale an extensive offering of quality used vintage clothing, fine jewelry, Asian collectibles, tools, furniture, sporting goods, and more.

The annual sale is made possible by donations by the public.


More reading…

Oakland Museum of California White Elephant Sale on SFGate

White Elephant Sale Next Week Benefits Oakland Museum on Berkeley Daily Planet

Speaking of Dimond Public Art…

Here is the latest installation, completed just last week.  Titled, Dimond’s Hidden Jewels, this is actually just the first of five panels to be installed on the side of the Farmer Joe’s Market located at Fruitvale and MacArthur.

Farmer Joe's Mural, mural of dimond district

Created by Dimond artists, Debbie Koppman and Amanda Lockwood, both long-time teachers at nearby Sequoia Elementary School, the mural is based on hundreds of student drawings and sculptural puppet creations.  The idea is to portray this slice of Oakland “through the eyes of its youngest inhabitants.”

Looks pretty idyllic doesn’t it? Oh, to be five again…

The series of panels are planned to showcase the history of the area:

  1. The region’s first inhabitants – the Ohlone
  2. Farms, orchards, and redwood logging
  3. Historical development of Dimond
  4. Historical development of Dimond cont.
  5. Present day Dimond – this is the panel they painted first, featured here.

Though the mural has been in the planning for years, the real challenge has been funding.  What allowed this first panel to be created was an Oaklandish 2010 Innovators Award plus “Pay-Go” district funding committed by Councilmember and new Oakland Mayor-elect Jean Quan.  Thanks to everyone involved for this gorgeous addition to the neighborhood!  Can’t wait to see the next four panels…

Here are more shots of the work in progress…

Dimond Hidden Jewels

amanda lockwood, debbie koppman

sequoia elementary school art projects

And details of the finished product…

east oakland murals, dimond public murals

oakland mural, based on childrens' drawings

Dimond Mural Details

dimond public art, dimond public mural, east oakland public mural

I love it!

If you want to help support the creation of the future panels, you can donate funds or provide ideas and suggestions about what you think makes Dimond special, by contacting the artists directly… or

Open Call to Oakland Artists…

Listen up artists…. the Dimond District of Oakland is looking to install more public art projects in the neighborhood, and they’ve got some funding to make it happen!

Organized by Dimond Public Art (DPA), a volunteer-run committee of the Dimond Improvement Association, the goals of the overall project are the following:

  • To develop the cultural, artistic and physical identity of the Dimond District
  • To beautify the neighborhood through creative, attractive and unique artwork
  • To engage the community in the development and production of public art and related educational opportunities

They are seeking proposals for public projects ranging in scope from mini or temporary works ($500) to large scale permanent installations (up to $10,000) and anticipate funding approximately 4 to 6 projects by spring of next year.
dimond public art, dimond district map
Map above shows potential sites, though these are merely suggestions:

  1. The Bay Leaf Restaurant – MacArthur & Canon
  2. Empty Storefront (formerly Blockbuster) – MacArthur & Dimond
  3. Bienati Parking Lot – Bienati Way & Dimond
  4. Wells Fargo Pillars – Fruitvale & MacArthur
  5. Wells Fargo Parking Lot – Champion & MacArthur
  6. Champion Street Pedestrian Plaza – Champion & MacArthur
  7. Dimond Library Garden – Fruitvale north of MacArthur
  8. Dimond Park – Fruitvale & Lyman
  9. Fruitvale Presbyterian Church – MacArthur & Coolidge

Also, electrical boxes and chain link fencing throughout Dimond.

Here is the link for the Request for Proposal.

And here is the Application.

Note that preference will be given to projects involving members of the community, including children, since one of the goals is community engagement.  Any questions can be sent to

Submissions due by November 30th! Get busy.

Please share this with any Oakland based artists you think might be interested.

Weekend Fun ~ 3rd Annual Oaktoberfest!!

Tomorrow my new neighborhood of Dimond is hosting their third annual Oaktoberfest (note spelling) to celebrate the district’s German heritage with good ol’ fashioned beer drinking.  Yay!

The East Bay Express has a nice write-up in A Shining Dimond District by Ellen Cushing so I’m not going to repeat it all here.  But in a bottle cap, the central Dimond District was dense with a number of popular German-styled beer gardens from the 1890’s through the early 20th century, until Prohibition effectively shut them all down. The most famous was Charlie Tepper’s Hotel which featured music and dancing every Sunday and was located on Hopkins Street (now MacArthur Blvd) just west of Fruitvale Avenue. [photos below] The building still stands today at 2030-C MacArthur Blvd.

charlie tepper, dimond beer gardens, oakland's german beer gardens, dimond history

photo courtesy Oakland Tribune

The sign in front that read “Take Diamond Cars”  referred to the old streetcar line that used to run from downtown Oakland (13th and Washington) up to Fruitvale and MacArthur.  Oh how I long for that streetcar now…

german beer garden dimond, charlie tepper, oaktoberfest

photo courtesy DimondOakland

Other establishments included the Hermitage (actually French), Neckhaus, and Bauerhofer’s.  These family friendly destinations attracted not only local residents – apparently Dimond has a high concentration of German descendants – but also vacationers from San Francisco, Marin County, San Jose, and as far as Sacramento.  See Dimond’s Beer Gardens for more info and great historical photos.

Come check out Dimond Oaktoberfest tomorrow.  Festivities run from 11am to 6pm, centered around the Fruitvale and MacArthur intersection. There’ll be something for everyone… music, art, food, and of course, beer.

Dimond Oaktoberfest 2008 (the 1st!) on Flickr

Political Expression is an Act of Art.

I went to a community meeting in West Oakland last night to discuss some neighborhood issues that have been escalating to the point where many long term residents are, frankly, fed up.

I’ve ranted about a few of these issues from time to time… hopefully not too often, as I generally like to focus on the positive (“keep on the sunny side…”) But it always surprises me when people respond in a way that indicates that by choosing to live in marginal neighborhoods, we somehow aren’t entitled to the most basic quality of life rights as others.

I remember a particular incident one evening when a car full of young kids/adults was parked outside my window, partying with the stereo blasting at 3am on a school night. I threw on some clothes and went outside and very cordially asked them if they could re-locate the party. In a nutshell, they were snotty brats about it and as their car peeled out racing down the street, one of the girls shouted out the window… “you live in the ghetto! what do you expect???” Like somehow people in the ghetto don’t need to sleep like everyone else. I could forgive her because she was a kid and she was drunk, but it’s interesting how often adults have similar opinions.

The truth is, unless you happen to be a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer or a drug addict, which comprise a small minority of the people living in West Oakland, then you most likely are not a fan of these activities in your neighborhood. And even the people participating in these activities would likely choose otherwise if they had the means or resources to change their lives. They often have few other options…

But I digress.

I’ve been thinking more politically lately due to the upcoming election and was speaking with a local activist the other day who quoted our current Mayor about Oakland being a “model city.” She said in order for us to truly be a model city, we all need to be model citizens, which needless to say, is easier said than done. It requires time and effort. And in a rat-race society where many are working nose to the grindstone to get their slice of the pie or simply make ends meet, there’s not much time left over.

I applaud those who make the time. I am striving to make more time.

I walked to get coffee this morning because I was out of beans at home. In front of the cafe in the Dimond district, a woman wearing a volunteer vest was picking up trash along the retail stretch of sidewalk. I thanked her. She’s making a difference. And I can’t help wondering what a difference we all might make collectively, if every citizen of this city volunteered to do something. Anything.

These are a handful of political signs I saw as I made my way back home, through the lower hills of Dimond’s lushly landscaped homes… indicative of a community that seems to be really engaged.

women in politics, political signs, dimond district oakland

political signs, support teachers, oakland teachers, dimond district

political expression, political expression as art

support the troops, political signs, dimond district oakland

peace signs in oakland, dimond peace signs, political expression

Painted peace sign on garage, peace signs oakland

same sex marriage, support same sex marriage, no on prop 8