This guest blog post was written by Suzanne L’Heureux, an Oakland resident, artist, and art historian with an interest in community building and art as social practice. She is a cofounder and organizer of Temescal Street Cinema, which she views as part block party, part public art intervention.
I think many readers of Living in the O will agree that in large part, it’s the lively, creative community events and small businesses that make Oakland a rich and wonderful place to live in spite of some of our larger problems as a city.
This is why four years ago, my neighbor Catarina and I started Temescal Street Cinema – a free outdoor movie night featuring films by Bay Area artists. We wanted to highlight the work of Bay Area artists, while bringing people together in a dynamic community event that fosters connections in our community.
Our series has run for six Thursdays every summer for the last four years. Since we began, we have steadily grown to an audience of 200+ per week. We have received a great deal of positive press and we have supported the work of 100+ artists through a combination of live music, shorts and feature length films. This past season, we were voted Best Local Film Event by The East Bay Express.
In addition to short and narrative-driven feature length documentaries, our “Opening Shorts” series, which is independently curated by the Temescal-based Royal Nonesuch Gallery, presents experimental opening short films and videos of two to three minutes in length each week. As one Bay Area blog writes, “Rather than showing boring major blockbusters, these are strange and interesting films by Bay Area artists and filmmakers that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else.
Themes of our films have included; the life and work of poet Gary Snyder, the rise to fame of a young rapper named P-Star, the story of a young woman transforming her experience of being raped through her participation in a youth theater company, a beauty contest held at a women’s prison in Colombia, people with facial hair (The Beard Club), the empowerment of girls at Girls Rock! camp, a quirky story of a man who takes a road trip with his dying pet hamster, a story following three schizophrenic men and their alcoholic caregiver after being evicted from their home, urban homesteading, and more!
Sadly, the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District, which has funded Temescal Street Cinema since our inception, has informed us that it will no longer do so, due to other financial priorities (Thankfully, they will still continue to lend us the audio-visual equipment!). We are working hard to rebound and are currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for 2012 (which will cover operating expenses and artist stipends).
Temescal Street Cinema is currently run by a small nexus of artists and neighbors committed to bringing the Cinema back next year. If you would like to help make that happen, please visit our Kickstarter page to make a donation. And, please forward our link widely. All donations, combined with the many volunteer hours that go on behind the scenes will help keep the series alive and in these times, more than ever, we need free community events that support the arts!