This is a happy story. It’s a win-win. It’s a collaboration between art and business and it’s a boon for the local community and our beloved city. We’ll start at the beginning…
Wrist Ship Supply is the business. According to their website they are “the world’s largest ship supplier,” providing goods and services to support the shipping vessels & crews that transport goods around our planet. Pretty cool. About two years ago they acquired a new location in West Oakland on Peralta Street (between 16th & 17th) and it looked like this:
As you can see the building was a bit of a mess. Through a desire to be good stewards of their new neighborhood, they decided to invest in a building makeover that would honor the spirit and tradition of Oakland.
This is where Sage comes in. Sage is the founder of Fuming Guerilla Productions (FGP), a production company that specializes in “matchmaking” between artists and clients wishing to commission works. Sage was the middleman: developing the proposal, handling the budget, and managing the project so Wrist could rest easy knowing their makeover would come in on time and under budget, and, of course, finding the right artists for the job.
Meet Oakland graffiti artists and members of TDK Crew, Norman Chuck (aka “Vogue”) and Mike “Bam” Tyau. Vogue was the lead artist for the project and the mural concept and design is all his. A long time Oakland resident, he knew of the neighborhood’s important railway history, and chose that as the driving theme.
I wrote a bit about this here, but basically in the late 1800’s, Oakland was designated as the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railway. The trains ran all the way across the country to land in West Oakland, turning Oakland into a major transportation hub early in its development. Just blocks from Wrist’s building, the old 16th Street station was built in 1912 and served as the major disembarkation point for a large population of African Americans migrating from the South for jobs and better lives. It resulted in a major transformation of the city, and it’s that history that’s being honored here.
The mural is huge, spanning three sides of the building, and has been several weeks in the making, with work still continuing. While Vogue and BAM are leading the effort, several guest artists and interns are contributing as well, adding a level of complexity to the project, as Vogue noted it’s important to assess each artists’ skill level and determine how best to put their talents to work. Additionally, this work is all done with aerosol spray paint which is typically applied to relatively smooth surfaces, so the building’s walls of textured brick and metal screened windows proved challenging. But the results are absolutely beautiful!
Here is the 17th Street side of the building which features a massive ship and the iconic Oakland shipping cranes as a nod to Wrist’s industry and Oakland’s importance as a major port. The top reads “Oakland is… ” which is a series the TDK Crew has begun in an effort to highlight the history and unique flavor of our great city. This is the third installment of the “Oakland is… ” series.
The first was painted across from Brown Sugar Kitchen on Mandela Parkway and is an homage to the old Cypress Freeway that once existed there before being damaged by the ’89 Loma Prieta Earthquake. It reads “Emerging from the rubble and dust clouds of tragedy is the spirit of Oakland: bright, abundant, and relentless!”
The second was painted in Jack London square near Kimball’s as a tribute to the Oakland A’s and in an effort to sway the team to “STAY” here in Oakland, which thankfully, is now resolved. Go A’s!
These efforts are the TDK crew’s way of showing that graffiti isn’t just a nuisance. It really is Art (with a capital A) that can be used for positive purposes such as beautifying neighborhoods and building civic pride. Their goal is also to act as role models for young graffiti artists, showing that aerosol art can be used for much more than simple tagging.
And on that note, let’s see the rest of their latest homage to Oakland… The longest wall (running down Peralta) features a series of railcars, complete with graffiti tags for “authenticity”.
And here’s the 17th Street side:
These guys will be putting the finishing touches on the mural over the next couple of weeks. Stop by and check it out…
Also, there’s an event happening tomorrow called Dream Day 2014 to honor the life and legacy of Mike “Dream” Francisco, an original member of the TDK crew. There’ll be live painting, music performances, DJ’s, food, and more. Here’s the scoop:
Saturday, August 23rd from 2pm to 7pm
955 7th street, Oakland