Category Archives: west oakland

Get Up et al

So here’s another installment of what, in the past, I’ve called “E-ville Wheaties.” This boarded up building on San Pablo at the Oakland/Emeryville border is a frequent spot for artist installations. See older posts here:

I just shot these on Friday, but unfortunately a drive by yesterday on my way to work showed they’d already been “buffed.”

My favorite pieces are the stencils by Get Up, and I plan to show another one of his excellent pieces tomorrow. Then hopefully, if I can get my act together, I’ll feature a short how-to on making your own stencils. So please stay tuned…
get up graffiti, get up shopping cart guy, get up graffiti art

This shopping cart guy is particularly relevant in this neighborhood. I’ve written frequently about the ubiquitous shopping carts in this part of West Oakland. Folks use them to collect recyclables to exchange for cash, some carry all their worldly possessions (ie my friend James who has been homeless for as long as I’ve known him), and some get even more creative than that (see below). The fact that this character is portrayed schlepping his phonograph and stacks of vinyl with great effort is particularly interesting.
West Oakland shopping carts, shopping cart people oakland
Here are a few other artists’ work, and the final image is another by Get Up (we’ve seen this one before too… Meaty Wheaties)

fox news tank graffiti, san pablo wheatpastes, oakland graffiti artists

West Oakland graffiti art, Emeryville Wheatpastes, oakland graffiti

San Pablo Wheatpastes, Emeryville Wheatpastes

Get Up Graffiti, Get Up Wheatpaste

Creature

I haven’t posted much street art lately so I thought for the next few days I’d focus on some new pieces I’ve seen recently.  Here’s the first…

oakland murals, west oakland graffiti art

west oakland mural, west oakland graffiti art, oakland murals

I don’t know who the artist is. If you can decipher the lettering between the two gargoyle figures, that is likely the artist’s name (or moniker). I think I can make out an ‘A’ in the middle, but that’s about it. Anyone good at reading these tags?

west oakland creatures mural, oakland murals, oakland graffiti art

It caught my eye last Friday as I was running errands in West Oakland/Emeryville. I’m pretty sure it’s fairly recent because I’ve been over there a bunch lately and this is the first I’ve seen of this. Located on 35th street (a prime dumping spot despite the cameras and signs that say dumpers will be prosecuted), I think it’s pretty excellent.

west oakland graffiti art, west oakland creatures mural, 35th street mural

Maybe with these guys keeping watch over the street, things will be kept a bit tidier, eh?

What’s your resolution?

So after nearly two weeks of traveling for the holidays… semi-invasive security scans, crappy airport food at exorbitant prices, too much chocolate (I didn’t think it was possible!), and too little sleep on too small and seriously uncomfortable beds (sorry mom)… we touched down at Oakland airport after making a glorious low swoop over Berkeley, the Bay Bridge, and then San Francisco at dusk, to loop back around and hit the runway from the reverse-of-typical direction.

It was beautiful. The city twinkling amidst its blanket of deep blue. The strand of lights stringing the bridge that stretches from one city to another, hitched at a small island in the sea, and paralleled by the new bridge, slowly but stealthily nearing completion.

And I had the feeling I always have upon returning home after travels, whether they be to frequent destinations or distant exotic places.  I’m so happy to be home.  And I’m so happy my home is here.

It’s interesting to describe Oakland to people who aren’t from here. During the holidays with my family, my brother quoted the statistic that Oakland was the fifth most dangerous city in the country.  Um… thanks Mike! And of course we do have our share of problems. Yes there is violent crime.  And blight. And devastating poverty, among other things.

But we have so much more than the grim facts delivered by sensationalist seeking so-called “news”. Thanks to smart stewardship we have plentiful protected green spaces that provide habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for us humans.  We have the best damn weather in the country (I do not miss the 6 month long New England winter!) We have a wealth of diversity of peoples and cultures that, frankly, exists in few other parts of this country.  And this diversity promotes a rich & complex smorgasbord of art and music and food that truly enriches our lives.  I really can’t imagine living anywhere else.

But times are tough these days, and I know our city is facing some serious challenges (as is our state, and our country at large),with the budgetary crises being pre-eminent.  If you listen to the news these days you hear a lot about sacrifice.  The impending “day of reckoning”.  And I’m not speaking religiously here, but rather, fiscally. Funds will be cut from schools, from health and human services, and numerous other places, but mostly from those who need it most.

People get greedy in times of strife.  The economist Benjamin Friedman identified this in his book “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth,” noting that in times of economic stagnation, voters become more concerned about protecting their own interests, more hostile towards outsiders, and less interested in social welfare. Everyone’s out to protect their own. But unfortunately, this mentality fails to recognize the obvious truth (and I wish I knew who to attribute this quote to but I don’t)… “we all do better when we all do better.”

Mayor Jean Quan, in her inaugural address, asked Oaklanders to dream.  She said that Oakland is a city of dreams and asked each and every one of us to dream big and then take concrete steps towards seeing those dreams realized.  She asked us to reject the individual protectionism rooted in fear, and rather reach beyond ourselves to promote growth and healing towards our extended Oakland “family.” She suggested the following actions:

  • Organize our Blocks (whether through a clean up, and crime watch, or general neighborly assistance) – I went to my block’s annual Night Out party last year and it was a great way to meet my neighbors. It really does make a difference when you feel connected to your community.
  • Volunteer for Oakland – she asked each of us to donate just 1 hour a week to a cause of our choosing, and there are many to choose from.  Park cleanups, youth mentoring, neighborhood watch groups, school fundraisers, the list goes on and on… And with shrinking government dollars to pay for services, volunteers can really make a huge difference.
  • Shop Oakland – this is a no brainer as dollars spent in local businesses stay in the community.  She said if Oaklanders increased their spending locally by just 25% it would increase revenues by millions of dollars that could pay for more afterschool programs, more police, and more parks.
  • Discover Oakland – she encouraged residents to step outside their comfort zones and discover new neighborhoods and new happenings in this city.  In a way, that’s partly what this blog is all about, and though I’ve been remiss during the last hectic month of December, I’m looking forward to getting back on the Oaktown express.  There’s much yet to be discovered.

What are your dreams for our city? And what will you do to help see them realized?

I got nothing. Well… a little.

You may have noticed I was nearly MIA last week… and I’m afraid this week may not be much better.  I missed Art Murmur on Friday, again.  It’s been crazy busy with work, home improvement, weddings, housewarmings, and more.  And I have to be honest, I don’t have a lot of material right now, nor much time to generate new stuff.  So this is my guilt-ridden disclaimer… near future will be sporadic.  But hopefully I can come up with some interesting photos if nothing else.

And if any dear readers out there have something to share, well… now is the time!

In the meantime, here are some photos from a guerilla art show anonymously installed on a boarded up building on San Pablo Avenue in West Oakland… who needs a gallery, eh?

public art installation, anonymous paintings san pablo ave

san pablo paintings, guerilla art installation, oakland public art

yellow green paintings, painting of boat, painting of trees, guerilla art

abstract primary paintings, abstract landscape paintings, oakland guerilla art

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