I was in my old hood the other day and passed a fenced in triangle of property at the intersection of 32nd and Union streets. I’ve driven or biked past this spot hundreds of times over the years.
It’s right in front of a couple loft developments, an older converted building called West Clawson Lofts (the building once housed the Clawson Elementary School ) and a newer development called Magnolia Row, built from scratch on the neighboring empty lots in the early 2000’s.
There once was a community garden installed in the small lot. I thought it was wonderful. I never knew who installed it there, but it existed for a year, maybe more, and consisted of raised vegetable beds surrounded by more ornamental flowering plants. One of the cool features was the reuse of old bicycle wheels (without the tires) along the chain link fence. They were used as trellising to encourage climbing plants (like morning glory) to obscure the ugly fence. I thought it was a lovely addition to the neighborhood.
But soon after it was established it was removed. My information is only hearsay so I can’t verify its validity, but someone told me that there was a dispute over the ownership of the lot and that, apparently, the rightful owner was intent upon installing a coffee stand/shop there.
I thought, well it’s a shame the garden is gone. But a coffee stand could be cool too.
It never came.
Years went by, and at one point it seemed promising as a small wood shack was erected inside the fence. But nothing ever followed.
And so for years, we West Oakland neighbors were deprived of our pretty little community garden, and instead, were left with a ramshackle hut inside a weed and litter strewn lot locked inside a chain-link fence. sigh.
But recently some artists have taken measures to reclaim the lot, repurposing the walls of the hut as outdoor gallery space for their art. It currently houses a number of pieces but it looks like the bulk of it was jointly installed by a number of artists working collaboratively: Ras Terms, Dead Eyes, and Safety First included. I’m not sure about other participants.
I hope more artists follow suit.
And who knows… maybe one day we could have our garden back too. A peaceful green space to sit and reflect upon the art…