Tag Archives: mandela parkway

the wild wild west…

I’ve said it before… the thing I love about West Oakland is that you never know what you are going to find. On a recent sunny stretch down the Mandela Parkway, I came across this muraled building on an empty lot (determined to be an environmental clean up site upon closer inspection of the posted sign and related fine print), next to what appeared to be a small chicken farm… beautiful birds with their own fancy red house and a huge yard in which to strut their stuff.

west oakland, environmental clean up site, mandela parkway

For those too young to “get” the reference in the mural above… see the original photograph and a brief description in my post Diversity is the one thing we all have in common.

rooster in the hen house, red hen house, west oakland chicken farm

west oakland rooster, cockadoodle doo, west oakland chicken farm

west oakland art, mandela parkway mural,

west oakland mural, west oakland pink building with green robot, power salute

Bee Aware – Connected Worlds

Save the Honeybees…

After yesterday’s visit to Ghost Town farm and Novella’s bees, I thought I’d highlight this “bee conscious” mural along the Mandela Parkway. Though this area has seen a small amount of “greening” with the redevelopment of the parkway to a greenbelt including an extension of the Bay Trail, this is predominantly a heavy industry area. I love the fact that someone here is speaking for the bees.

BEE AWARE - CONNECTED WORLDS Mural

This piece is located at the same art compound where the giant human sculptures from my post Have you heard of this thing called Burning Man? reside. You can see a sliver of one on the left side of the shot above, which gives you a sense of scale. The mural is installed on a huge piece of curved concrete that is literally chained to the fence behind it. I’m curious if this piece was fabricated specifically for this art installation, or if it’s a salvage from something else that’s been re-purposed. Either way it’s unbelievably cool.

Honeybee Mural

Bee Aware - Save the Honeybees Mural

Below are the signatures of the artists…

Bee Aware Mural

Bee Aware Mural

Loma Prieta Earthquake – 20 years later

If you live in the Bay Area, it’s hard to not be aware of the fact that tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. It was the biggest earthquake in the Bay Area since the “big one” of 1906, and at the time, was the nation’s most expensive natural disaster (now grossly surpassed by Katrina).

I didn’t yet live here in ’89, but I was not far away, living in another earthquake-prone region, Southern California. I remember watching the images on tv… the fires raging through the marina, the collapsed upper deck panel of the Bay Bridge and the car that careened off where its support had once been, and of course, the images of the collapsed Cypress Freeway, built before the 1950’s and the use of modern seismic safety standards. This is where the highest number of fatalities occurred… 42 people on the lower deck were literally crushed to death.

The freeway was rebuilt years later in a different location, further west to provide access to the Port of Oakland, and what now remains where that portion of freeway once was, is the recently redeveloped Mandela Parkway, which I have featured in several other posts. Between 13th and 14th Streets is located Oakland Memorial Park, which is a beautifully rendered tribute to the events of that day.

Here is the actual seismograph from those 15 seconds…

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Designed by April Philips Design Works and artists Gilman and Keefer, the landscape work conveys the waves that moved through the earth that day, with undulating sections of native grasses, and plantings arranged in concentric arcs emanating from the “epicenter,” Story Plaza at the corner of 14th and Mandela. Here, three curved ladders represent both the literal ladders thrown up against the damaged structure that day by local residents to save those trapped within, and the symbolic hope of community spirit rising skyward from the dust of destruction. Excerpts from stories offered by local residents are imprinted into the concrete, such as “When the quake stopped, a rain of concrete dust obscured everything.”

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On this anniversary, it seems fitting to remember that we do live in an earthquake prone region, and it is extremely likely that we will see another earthquake of similar magnitude in our lifetimes. In fact, there is a 62% probability of at least one quake of this size within the next 20 years. This statistic and an incredible wealth of information on the science of earthquakes and what we can do to prepare for them is located at the U.S. Geological Survey’s site “Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country.” Please check it out. Strap those waterheaters. Get your disaster kits together. These things really do make a difference.

And by all means, go visit the Oakland Memorial Park… it’s a lovely spot to sit and remember.

The Crucible

How can I write about metal art in Oakland and not speak of The Crucible? It’s an institution, and one of my favorite things about Oakland. This is what makes Oakland cool. That you can throw a festival of fire next door to BART, in which a column of fire is sprayed 80 feet into the air, with the bart tracks & trains running right by. What do the people from Walnut Creek think?!!

This multi-disciplinary non-profit facility is responsible for a good chunk of art at Burning Man, the annual Fire Arts Festival in Oakland (which moved to a new location near Fruitvale this past summer), and a slew of classes at their West Oakland Bart oriented location… everything from blacksmithing (of course), to ceramics, fire-dancing, moldmaking, and much more. Please check out their links, because I simply can’t tell you enough to truly do them justice.

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The word ‘crucible’ refers to a vessel or container used for heating substances to high temperatures. Below is an example of one they have sitting out front… It’s comprised of thick steel wrapped around an interior of concrete, and it is huge!

Another meaning of the word is “a place, time, or situation characterized by the confluence of powerful intellectual, social, economic, or political forces.” (dictionary.com) The Crucible truly is this, for they define themselves as a collaboration of Art, Industry, & Community, and rightfully so.

Their location in a historically depressed part of West Oakland rejuvenates the area with art, commerce, and education, accessible to all through classes, community events & service projects, and more..

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They recently received an NEA grant that allowed them to install a new ramp, making the facility wheelchair accessible. See below all the intricate metal work adorning it, icons of bay area history, glossed in fire-engine red enamel … our current city logo (the oak tree), the Port of Oakland, the Fox Theater, the Tribune Tower, the Bay Bridge, the Black Panthers, Rosie the Riveter and more.

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Have you heard of this thing called Burning Man?

So you had to figure I’d get around to talking about Burning Man during my discussion of metal art, right?

Let me begin by saying I am not an expert on Burning Man. Nor do I play one online.

But I have been to this incredible festival more than once, and one of the most magical things about it, is unbelievable amount of truly fantastical art that folks spend months (or years!) creating, to haul out the desert for this week long spectacle, described as “the world’s biggest party”. It really is.

While cruising down the Mandela Parkway in West Oakland a couple weeks ago, I spotted something looking like an art compound… a fenced in lot filled with trailers and sculptures and some really amazing art. There were walls covered with gorgeous murals which I’ll have to cover in future posts, because for now, we are talking about metal.

Check out these two characters towering over the fence… the tall one must be 30 feet high, if not higher. Huge human figures welded together out of small rings of metal. If my memory (and research) serves me correctly, these were part of Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusalito‘s Crude Awakening sculpture at Burning Man in 2007, in which 8 human figures in varying poses of reverence, led to a 99 ft tall oil derrick that would ultimate blow thousands of gallons of fuel and fire into the air. It was clearly a critique of our consumption of fossil fuels, yet in its critique, it devoured a rather sick amount of fuel in mere seconds. Illogical perhaps, but quite a show!

I was there. We’d positioned ourselves on the front lines, just outside the fencing surrounding the derrick.  But when the guys in the fire retardant suits told us it was going to be “quite intense“, we decided to move back a good 50 feet.  Even so, it was like nothing I have ever experienced (or likely will ever experience again) in my lifetime.  Phew.

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Here’s a brief article about the piece by Brian Doherty (with photo by Lane Hartwell)… http://www.wired.com/underwire/2007/08/crude-awakening/

And here’s a short clip of the explosion:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj3mWMdv978&feature=related

Obviously the derrick was destroyed (did you catch the sinister laugh that accompanied it’s demise?), but the human figures, or at least two of them, clearly live on.  I wonder where the other 6 now rest…

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Same artist again… I’m runnin’ with it because I’m under the gun and headed out of town… Who knew this blogging stuff would be so time consuming?! Jeeeeezz….

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This is the first one I’ve seen that’s titled. How does the title impact your experience of the image? What does it mean to you? Do you like it? Send me some comments. Pulleeeeezzz.

This one spotted outside Brown Sugar Kitchen on Mandela Parkway, which has the most delectable melt-in-your-mouth waffles you’ll ever taste. Chef/Owner Tanya Holland opened a couple of years ago in this very industrial neighborhood where few restaurant options existed, then or now. I’m happy to say this venture’s been a huge success, garnering various east bay awards and plenty of regular customers. As the name says, it’s a sweet spot!