Uptown art park to open this fall, City puts out call for art

7 Sep

Throughout my blogging hiatus this year, I’ve many times been tempted to blog about things happening in Oakland (particularly upcoming decisions at the Planning Commission and City Council). I’ve stopped myself because I just don’t have the time to start blogging again while I’m campaigning for BART Board and maintaining my full-time job. But I came across news on Facebook yesterday that was far too exciting not to share, since this blog, other Oakland blogs, and dozens of blog readers made this news possible.

The Uptown lot that we saved from becoming a parking lot back in 2009 is finally becoming a public arts space!

I know, I know, I’ve shared this news a couple of times here already. Unfortunately there were major delays due to funding issues after the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency. But now it really is happening. And by now I mean that construction should start this month, and if construction stays on schedule, the art could be installed as early as mid-late October.

The City of Oakland Public Art Program has put out a call for art, with applications due on September 18th. With such a short timeline for submission, acceptance, and installation, they’re currently looking for existing artwork, to be displayed for 6-12 months. After that, they might commission some new artwork. From the call for art:

The City of Oakland Public Art Program seeks existing sculptures from Bay Area artists for display in the opening exhibition at the Uptown Art Park. Sculptures incorporating light, media arts, and/or kinetic elements are particularly desired. Six to nine sculptures, in addition to one work already committed, will be selected for the exhibition. Each applicant may submit up to three sculptures for consideration. Works will be installed in October, 2012, and will remain on display for 6 to 12 months. Artists chosen to participate will receive a stipend of $1,500 per work…

The Uptown Art Park has up to nine (9) opportunity sites still available for sculptures in the opening exhibition on concrete sculpture pads ranging from eight (8) to eighteen (18) feet in diameter… This Call is seeking sculptures to be displayed on the six (6) art pedestals indicated along 19th Street. Additional lightweight sculptures may be considered for installation along the perimeter of Henry J. Kaiser Park, located immediately west of the Uptown Art Park site…

Electricity will be available onsite for sculptures with intrinsic and extrinsic lighting, or kinetic elements requiring an outside source of power.

Here’s the planned layout for the art park:

Artists must live or work in the Bay Area region, and Oakland artists are encouraged to apply.

If you’re considering applying, know that you’ll be in good company, as one incredible project has already been selected for the space – Michael Christian’s Bike Bridge. From the Black Rock Arts Foundation webpage about the project:

The Bike Bridge is a collaboration with the youth of Oakland, artist Michael Christian, and with partner organization The Crucible. The twelve enrolled participants, all young women, began the project with classes in welding and art-bicycle creation, generously hosted by The Crucible. The program culminates in the collaborative creation of a large-scale sculpture made of reclaimed bicycle parts, led by Christian, which will be installed publicly in 2012, funds permitting.

N.E.A.’s grant of $10,000 sets this ambitious project in motion. We still need funds to install this project publicly. Help us share this artwork with the greater public, so that all may appreciate and celebrate the achievement of these talented young women. Fundraising efforts are underway to meet the project’s overall budget of $60,000. Help us reach our goal!

If you’re a local artist, please consider applying. And if you have artist friends or know of amazing art pieces that you want to see in Uptown, please forward this on and encourage artists to apply.

To everyone who advocated for the art park, to the City staff who have worked so diligently to make this happen, to the councilmembers who approved this, and to the artists who are applying to display their work – thank you! This art park will be a huge improvement and a fantastic addition to Uptown. Check back here for updates on the art park opening, as that will be a time to celebrate the work we started on this three and half years ago and the work that’s continued over those years.

Previous posts on the Uptown surface parking lot/arts space:

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3 Responses to “Uptown art park to open this fall, City puts out call for art”

  1. Tim September 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Well the upside of a parking lot is it would be a prime target for development as soon as there’s demand. With an art park there, that’s impossible now. Whatever the value of art, it’s not going to add any jobs or housing or restaurants or people

    • V Smoothe September 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      Don’t we all wish it were so, Tim! Unfortunately, experience has taught us that things tend not to play out that way in Oakland. Just look at the dozens of surface parking lots scattered throughout downtown and then go check how many of them got entitlements during the last building boom, and you’ll see what I mean.

      I’d love to see the lot get developed eventually, but I know that’s a long way off. Aside from the less than stellar market, there are also some issues with the space that makes it hard for projects there to pencil out. The art park definitely does not preclude any future development on the lot (although if anything does eventually get proposed, expect a major battle getting it approved for reasons unrelated to this use).

      Ultimately, the choice here was between a use that discourages pedestrian activity, reduces pedestrian safety, and adds to neighborhood traffic issues (the parking lot) and one that draws people in and enhances the vibrancy of the area (the art park). Of course it would be great to have housing/jobs/restaurants whatever on the lot, but that was never on the table. But we did get something that will improve the neighborhood for the existing residents/workers/restaurants that surround the space. As an Uptown resident, I’m definitely grateful for that.

    • dto510 aka Jonathan Bair September 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

      When advocating for the art park in 2010, we were very clear that this is a temporary use. The resolution creating the park was a condition of approval for an extension of development rights to Forest City. The artworks will be sourced as revolving or short-term installations. In SF, the Black Rock Foundation (Burning Man) places large-scale sculptures on public land for short terms. Development will come, but in the meantime we can build a better street in a different way.

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