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

7 Sep glowing balls

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: Continue reading

We did it! The Uptown sculpture garden will soon be a reality

7 Oct

Longtime readers of this blog (or just about any Oakland blog) will remember that a year and a half ago a bunch of activists, including many bloggers and blog readers, joined together to prevent Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency from building a parking lot in Uptown Oakland next to the Fox Theater.

Don’t remember that? Well that’s ok because I recently wrote about it in a 500 word essay for an application to a program I’m applying to be in (excuse the focus on me – it was the nature of this essay assignment):

In March 2009, an issue came before the Oakland City Council that inspired me to organize Oakland residents and community leaders to work together to make change. The City had leased a large parcel in Uptown Oakland to a developer and most of it had been turned into apartments and a park. Part of the parcel that had been slated to become a condominium complex sat empty because the housing market had tanked and the developer asked the City for a two year continuance on its permit. As a condition of the continuance, the Redevelopment Agency asked the developer to contribute funding to build a temporary parking lot to fill the space.

I opposed this proposal because the parking lot was proposed for the heart of Uptown, an area of Oakland that had recently become vibrant after being nearly empty for decades. Part of what made this area so vibrant was its walkability, and adding another parking lot with dangerous curb cuts would have endangered that.

Together with three other Oakland residents – a motley crew of smart growth advocates and historic preservationists – I attended a committee meeting to speak against the parking lot and urged the committee members to consider other uses that would be more pedestrian and eco friendly.

The committee members listened and directed redevelopment staff to return with alternative proposals. We knew that staff were pushing hard for this parking lot and were unlikely to return with serious alternatives so I wrote a blog post about the situation and asked for readers to chime in with their ideas for the empty lot.

In nearly 50 blog comments, Oaklanders shared their ideas for the lot, including a solar panel array, community garden, soccer field, mini-golf course and large scale Burning Man art. I and other Oakland bloggers posted action alerts urging Oaklanders to email committee members and to attend the next committee meeting. Dozens of people sent emails and nine of us testified at the meeting (in the middle of a workday).

Staff stated at the meeting that there was no alternative to the parking lot, and the committee members listened. They unanimously approved the parking lot and put the item on the agenda for the next Council meeting (just one week away).

I and a few other bloggers wrote action alerts. A resident inspired by our blog posts wrote an op-ed in the Oakland Tribune. I and a colleague urged councilmembers to consider using the lot to display large-scale Burning Man sculptures. My colleague talked to the Oakland Arts Department and I contacted a Burning Man artist to discuss logistics and to ask him to come to the Council meeting.

More than a dozen Oaklanders turned out to speak – several of whom had never spoken at a Council meeting before. Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente carried our proposal and the Council voted unanimously to direct staff to pursue it and not to build the parking lot. City staff fought this directive for months so the sculpture garden was never built. However, the parking lot was also never built and the fence around the lot is now used to display beautiful murals by local artists.

Well as of yesterday, the end of the story has changed.

The City of Oakland has secured a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to make our dreams come true! From the NEA website, the Cultural Arts Division:

plans the creation of the Uptown Arts District Park, a historic and re-emerging arts and entertainment district. Development of the park will transform an unused vacant lot into an outdoor cultural space for at least four years. The park will include rotating temporary exhibitions of public sculpture, newly commissioned public art projects, and an amphitheater for events by arts and community organizations. The park will complement the Fox Oakland Theater, the Oakland School for the Arts, and new restaurants and nightclubs, all within two blocks of the proposed park site. The division is partnering with Black Rock Arts Foundation to exhibit works of public art, many by Oakland artists. The park is expected to become the core of the downtown arts scene.

So yeah, we’re getting art, and not just a lot with art that is fenced off, but a gathering space too!

I could not be more excited about this. Many of us worked for months to make this happen, and I’m so proud of what we accomplished. Instead of a parking lot with dangerous curb cuts that blights this vibrant neighborhood, we’re getting a huge space filled with art that will attract even more people to the arts center of Oakland.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen – especially to dto510, Naomi Schiff, and Joyce Roy, who joined me at that first committee meeting when few thought we had a chance at winning. And thanks to the City’s Cultural Arts staff for pursuing this grant.

I look forward to the day when instead of looking at that empty lot, we’ll be standing in the middle of something like this:

OK, well, that minus the dust and with buildings instead of mountains in the background, but you get the picture. See you on the playa… I mean in Uptown.

Previous posts on the Uptown surface parking lot saga:

March 15-21 Oakland Political & Community Events

15 Mar

Tuesday, March 16th – AC Transit Service Change Information Table

As you may already know, on Sunday, March 28, AC Transit will be implementing major service changes that affect almost every bus line in its service area. To give you an opportunity to pick up helpful materials about the changes and to ask questions, AC Transit has set up a series of Community Information Tables at public locations from Richmond to Fremont. This Tuesday, there will be an information table set up from 4-7pm at the Asian Branch Public Library, 388 9th St. It’s accessible by lines 1, 1R, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 51, 62, 63, 72, 72M, 72R, and 88.

Tuesday, March 16th – Oakland City Council Meeting (Note new time)

At this week’s meeting, the Council will continue its budget discussions, considering reducing the general fund budgets of all elected officials by 15%. They’ll also be discussing delinquent taxes and fees, a report on the Rockridge Business Improvement District, instant runoff voting education, and providing loans to affordable housing developments. See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The non-ceremonial parts of the meeting start at 6:30pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Thursday, March 18th Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meeting

Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meets monthly to discusses bicycle and pedestrian issues. This month’s agenda includes discussions of improving bicycle locker security, recommended bike/ped improvement projects for 2010-2011, E 12th St/38th  Ave Bikeway Design Review, and voting for BPAC Chair and Vice-Chair. The BPAC is extremely inclusive – any Oakland resident who attends three consecutive meetings becomes a voting member of the committee – so if you’re interested in bike and ped issues, you should consider attending. The BPAC will be meeting from 5:30-7:30pm in Hearing Room 4 of City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Thursday, March 18th – Oakland Food Policy Council Meeting

The mission of the Oakland Food Policy Council (OFPC) is to establish an equitable and sustainable food system in Oakland, California. OFPC will discuss and finalized our chosen priorities, review the outline of our first Strategic Plan for Transforming the Oakland Food System, hear reports from each Work Group, hear about a few upcoming opportunities, then hear a presentation from an outside speaker, and take public comments. The meeting will be held from 5:00 – 7:30 pm at 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 3rd Floor, Mayor’s Large Conference Room. Find out more about OFPC at their website.

Friday, March 19th – Ecstasy Reception (San Francisco)

It’s rare that I promote San Francisco events here, but this Friday there will be a reception for Ecstasy, the incredible sculpture created by Oakland artists Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, who I’ve written about here several times before. Join the community in celebration with live music by IGBA MMOH African Drummers and Gaucho Gypsy Jazz, light refreshments and more! The reception takes place from 4-7pm at Patricia’s Green, at Octavia and Hayes St, San Francisco. If you can’t make it on Friday, you can check out the Black Rock Arts Foundation funded sculpture anytime between now and June 18th. Here’s a photo from a collection of photos of the installation of Ecstasy:

Friday, March 19th – 3rd Annual We LOVE Old Oakland Fundraiser

Come out, support and celebrate Old Oakland’s amazing live/work neighborhood, multi-generational families, local businesses and community partners! Meet the founders of 10,000 Steps, an urban parks stewardship & history project including Lafayette Square & Jefferson Square Parks. Purchase food & drink specials sponsored by Linden Street Brewery, Metro Bay Realty & La Borinqueña Mex-icatessen benefiting Old Oakland Neighbors, a grassroots community group. Early Bird attendees will receive a packet of It’s a Grind French Roast coffee (makes 40oz). This event takes place from 5:00pm – 9:00pm at La Borinqueña Mex-icatessen, 582 7th Street @ Jefferson. For more info and to RSVP, see the Facebook event page.

Friday, March 19th-Sunday, March 21st – Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company production of Asylum

The internationally regarded model of youth arts and violence prevention organizations, Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, marks the beginning of its third decade as a creative community epicenter with the world premiere of Asylum, a movement/theater work created by the young artists of the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company. Created in collaboration with Artistic Directors Sarah Crowell and Rashidi Omari and acclaimed Bay Area performing arts professionals, the full-length work features hip-hop dance and music, theater, spoken word, modern dance, aerial dance, video backdrop art, rap and a cast of over 40 talented youth ages 7 to 18. Asylum frames the current state of world affairs as a circus turned inside out, where heroes are questionable and villains run free. It is a powerful glimpse into how young Americans see  the state of the world and what can be done about it. Shows start at 7:30pm on Friday and Saturday, and at 2pm on Sunday at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St, Oakland. For more info and to buy tickets, visit the Destiny Arts website.

Saturday, March 20th – AC Transit Service Change Information Table

As you may already know, on Sunday, March 28, AC Transit will be implementing major service changes that affect almost every bus line in its service area. To give you an opportunity to pick up helpful materials about the changes and to ask questions, AC Transit has set up a series of Community Information Tables at public locations from Richmond to Fremont. This Tuesday, there will be an information table set up from 9am-2pm at the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market at the corner of Grand & Lake Park Aves. It’s accessible by lines 12, 13, 57, and NL.

Leaving for Burning Man…

1 Sep

I’ll be leaving in a few minutes to head to Burning Man and won’t be back for a week, but you won’t be left without blog posts from me. At Burning Man, I’m always comparing the Black Rock City to Oakland – I even wrote a blog post comparing the two cities. So I thought it would be appropriate to re-post four posts from 2007 and 2008 comparing Oakland’s urban space to that of Los Angeles, DC, Berkeley, and San Diego.

I hope you enjoy the posts. Feel free to comment, but if you’ve never commented here before, your comments won’t be posted until next week when I return.

Also, don’t forget about the Oakland Airport Connector contest. There’s $400 on the line here, and while we’ve received several haiku entries, Gene from Our Oakland is the only one who’s submitted image entries. So get your creative juices flowing and send in your entries by September 12th.

Bringing the playa to Oakland’s runway

28 Jul

I have several heavy, substantive posts that I really want to get to this week, but those will have to wait until at least tomorrow. I didn’t think I’d get to write anything this evening because of the long council meeting, but you’re in luck, since they’re discussing the Army Base yet again, and I doubt there’s anything new that can be said. I just hope they make a decision tonight. (But if you do want to hear more about the Army Base, check out the entertaining tweets from V Smoothe and dto510.)

So while I have the meeting on mute (one of the joys of watching from home instead of at City Hall), I thought I’d discuss a not so heavy topic. Last Wednesday, I went to the Oakland Airport to fly to LA. As you might know from my previous posts on this subject, one of my favorite features of the Southwest terminal is the art. Unless I’m rushing to catch a flight, I usually walk slowly through the terminal and stop to look more closely at the most interesting art.

I had plenty of time last week so as I walked past the Pyramid bar, I looked to my left to see if a new exhibit had been installed. To my dismay, the wall was entirely empty! At first, I thought hopefully that maybe they were in between exhibits, and by the time I returned in August for another flight, they’d surely have some new art up.

But over the past week, I’ve thought about it some more and have become less hopeful. Maybe the Oakland Museum of California no longer has the funding for the exhibits. Or maybe the Oakland Museum can’t maintain an exhibit during its renovation, which will close the museum from August 23rd through May 2010. Or maybe the Port thinks the Oakland Museum exhibits aren’t good enough so they’re spending half a billion on a fancy exhibit from Paris (ok, ok, that wasn’t a serious thought, but I couldn’t resist).

I looked around online a bit and couldn’t find an explanation so if you have one, I’d love to hear it. But if the Oakland Airport is looking for a new exhibit, I’ve found it:

reno airport bm exhibit

reno airport bm exhibit tickets

The above images, via the Black Rock Arts Foundation blog, depict “From Playa to Runway – The Art of Burning Man,” which air travelers can view at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport through September 14th. This exhibit is full of gorgeous photos and interesting artifacts from Black Rock City. There are also a couple of interactive sculptures featured.

Now it makes tons of sense for this exhibit to be unveiled at Reno’s airport, the closest airport to Burning Man and one through which so many Burners travel. And it makes just as much sense for Oakland to be its second stop because so much Burning Man art is created here and so many Oaklanders attend Burning Man year after year. So if Oakland Airport is looking for its next exhibit, this should be it.

Monday Morning Distractions: Fire Arts Festival 2009

20 Jul

This year’s Fire Arts Festival was just as spectacular as it was in 2008 and 2007, but it was much bigger. That meant more art, more space, and much more fire. Here is some of what I saw:

a

It's a bit unclear above, but this creature is what its creator, Rebecca Anderson, calls a fishbug. I talked to her for a bit and found out that this is just the frame for the creature, which will be filled in with various materials in time for Burning Man. It already looks great, so I can't wait to see it finished. You can find out more info at http://fishbug.net/

There were strange creatures featured throughout the festival, including ones without fire elements.

There were strange creatures featured throughout the festival, including ones without fire elements.

There was also fire flora and fauna, like this field of fire flowers.

There was also fire flora and fauna, like this field of fire flowers.

And one of my favorite pieces of the night was these hanging flowers, which lit up and played music when you touched them. It was great to see strangers interacting with the art and each other, with huge smiles on their faces.

And one of my favorite pieces of the night was these hanging flowers, which lit up and played music when you touched them. It was great to see strangers interacting with the art and each other, with huge smiles on their faces.

Of course, there were other ways to interact, like at the flame shooting gallery, where anyone could get a brief training and then shoot fire....

Of course, there were other ways to interact, like at the flame shooting gallery, where anyone could get a brief training and then shoot fire....

At these poor innocent men.

At these poor innocent men.

2PiR, one of my all time favorite Burning Man pieces, was back. I can't tell you how much fun I've had on this creative, Oakland made art piece. You stand on the platform and dance, and the motion sensors on the platform set off fire. The mom and daughter above looked like they were having the time of their lives.

2PiR, one of my all time favorite Burning Man pieces, was back. I can't tell you how much fun I've had on this creative, Oakland made art piece. You stand on the platform and dance, and the motion sensors on the platform set off fire. The mom and daughter above looked like they were having the time of their lives.

Of course, there was plenty more fire just to look at, some which was quite beautiful and artistic.

Of course, there was plenty more fire just to look at, some which was quite beautiful and artistic.

And the pendulum of fire that swung back and forth.

And the pendulum of fire that swung back and forth.

One of the most memorable parts of my night was seeing the gnome, which was made by a group of East Bay residents, including a friend of mine. Pictured above is the small fire that came out of his head, which anyone could activate by pressing a button.

One of the most memorable parts of my night was seeing the gnome, which was made by a group of East Bay residents, including a friend of mine. Pictured above is the small fire that came out of his head, which anyone could activate by pressing a button.

But that fire was nothing compared to the hourly fire show Team Gnome did. They produced colored fire that shot 50 feet up into the air. This photo shows the orange fire, but earlier in the night they featured green and then purple fire. This creation is also unfinished, since the gnome doesn't look very gnome-like yet, but they'll have it complete by Burning Man.

But that fire was nothing compared to the hourly fire show Team Gnome did. They produced colored fire that shot 50 feet up into the air. This photo shows the orange fire, but earlier in the night they featured green and then purple fire. This creation is also unfinished, since the gnome doesn't look very gnome-like yet, but they'll have it complete by Burning Man. You can watch their progress at http://thegee-gnomeproject.blogspot.com/

July 13-19 Oakland Political & Community Events

12 Jul

Monday, July 13th - BART Police Department Review Sub-Committee Meeting

The BART Police Department Review Sub-Committee will meet on Monday, July 13, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. in the BART Board Room, which is located in the Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall, Third Floor, 344 20th St., Oakland, CA. If anyone attends this, I’d be very interested in hearing a report of what happens.

Monday, July 13th - Summertime in the East Bay Mixer, EBYD Style

East Bay Young Dems are hosting a summertime mixer on Monday. If you made it to our awards gala or inauguration party, you know that EBYD knows how to put on a good party. Join us for a cool summertime drink with fellow young leaders and organizers, local elected officials, and meet candidates in the 10th Congressional District race. Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan will also join us to update Oaklanders about the city’s vote-by-mail election coming up and the city’s package of proposed measures.This happy hour is FREE for members. (We request a $5 donation from non-members, though no one will be turned away.  All are welcome!) If you’d like to become a member, you can do so at www.ebyd.org. The mixer will be held Monday, July 13th from 6:30-8:30pm at the beautiful and new Grand Tavern, 3601 Grand Avenue, Oakland. Food will be provided for early arrivals and our brief program will commence at 7:15. Please find more details and RSVP on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 14th – Public Works Committee Hearing on Oakland Airport Connector

The Oakland City Council, via the Public Works Committee will finally have a chance to review the Oakland Airport Connector this Tuesday. This project has changed significantly since they last reviewed it so it is incredibly important for the Council to have another opportunity to weigh in. Please come to the meeting on Tuesday to voice your opposition to the current project and to ask the Council to support a study of a rapid bus alternative. The meeting will be held at 9:00 am in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. For background on why the City Council should weigh in on this project, check out my previous post on the subject. If you plan to attend, please RSVP on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 15th – Planning Commission Hearing on Pleasant Valley Safeway/Longs Project

This Wednesday, the EIR Scoping Session will be held for the Safeway Pleasant Valley project. As was abundantly apparent from my two posts on this project, many readers here care a lot about this development and have strong opinions. Whether your main concern is retaining the offerings of Longs or improving pedestrian access, this will be your first opportunity to weigh in. The meeting will be held at 6:00 pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza and the full agenda can be read here.

Wednesday-Saturday, July 15th-18th – The Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival

If you like fire and art but don’t want to deal with a week on the playa at Burning Man, the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival is what you should check out instead. The past several Fire Arts Festivals have been incredible, more fantastic year after year, but this year’s should be the best yet since they’re moving it to a MUCH larger location. That means more art, more entertainment, and most importantly, more fire! Out of 40 art installations, 35 of them will involve fire. Plus, there will be fire dancers and other fire performances. The festival will be be held Wednesday-Saturday, from 8pm-Midnight at 2020 Engineer Road in West Oakland. There will be a free shuttle from West Oakland BART, which sounds like the most convenient option, since free parking is a couple blocks away from the event. You can find out all the other details and buy tickets at the Crucible’s website. For photos and write-ups of the past two years of Fire Arts Festivals, check out my posts on the 2008 and 2007 festivals.

Thursday, July 16th – Temescal Street Cinema

This Thursday will be the last opportunity this year to enjoy the Second Annual Temescal Street Cinema at 49th and Telegraph (Bank of the West Building)! There’ll be live music and free popcorn, with the event getting started at 8 PM. Movies will start when it gets dark, no sooner than 8:30 PM. Come early or bring a chair! This Thursday will feature Migrations, a series of shorts: “Everyone’s moving from place to place, so travel from a border crossing simulation in Mexico to a giant Chinese mall, the biggest in the world.” Find out more details at the Temescal Business Improvement District’s website.

Thursday, July 16th – Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meeting

Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meets monthly to discusses bicycle and pedestrian issues. The BPAC is extremely inclusive – any Oakland resident who attends three consecutive meetings becomes a voting member of the committee – so if you’re interested in bike and ped issues, you should consider attending. The BPAC will be meeting from 5:30-7:30pm in Hearing Room 4 of City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Saturday, July 18th - BEAST Bloggers Camp

“East Bay” is Pig Latin for “beast”, a name that has all the power of bloggers in the SF Bay Area who are the eyes and ears of the East Bay community. In honor of all the East Bay bloggers, Spot.Us, Tech Liminal and A Better Oakland are hosting their first BEAST Bloggers Camp. A BarCamp is an international network of user generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants. The day consists of sessions proposed by attendees and the schedule is created on site the morning of the event. BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn from each other in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants. The camp will be held from 8am-5pm at at TechLiminal, 268 14th Street in downtown Oakland. You can find out more details at A Better Oakland.

Sunday, July 19th - JC Cellars Summer Beach Party

JC Cellars is holding its annual summer beach party this weekend. Pouring over 13 different blends and vineyard designates. Embracing our urban environment with a taco truck (spicy salsa is optional). DJ Brett will be spinning groovy beach beats. A children’s craft table will keep the little ones entertained. Admission costs $20 advanced or $25 at the door and includes plenty of wine, snacks, and fun. Sunglasses and flip flops are encouraged! The event will be held from 1-4pm at JC Cellars Winery 55 4th Street, Oakland. Take BART to Lake Merritt, the ferry to Jack London Square or drive to the winery. Find more details and buy tickets at the JC Cellars website.

July Parties Part 2: Celebrating Fire & Arts

11 Jul

Though I don’t entirely understand it, I realize that Burning Man is not for everyone. Maybe you don’t like the idea of braving extreme weather conditions in the desert, or you don’t have the money to spend, or maybe you’re convinced Burning Man is full of hippies and that scares you away. Well, it’s ok, because in Oakland you can get so many of the benefits of Burning Man without so many of the troubles. Check out the events below this weekend and next to get a taste of the Burning Man arts scene and support Oakland artists.

Saturday, July 11th – Sand by the Ton

Part of an art piece by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, two of my favorite artists who create their recycled metal based work in Oakland.

Part of an art piece by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, two of my favorite artists who create their recycled metal based work in Oakland.

Tonight, Big Arts Studio presents Sand by the Ton, a night full of art, music, and what sounds like a spectacular atmosphere. It’s being organized by Karen Kusolito and Dan Das Mann, the artists who helped stop the Uptown parking lot from being built. The night will showcase some of the best Burning Man artists, including the Flaming Lotus Girls, Michael Christian, and Kinetic Steam Works. And then there’s this – “4 live music stages, 4 electronic music stages, full boardwalk carnival midway with rides, 200 tons of sand with 5 swimming pools (swimwear encouraged), a quarter million square feet of space under one roof, thousands of your best friends, more lights blinkin’ than ever blinked… bookoo (6) bars….you thought you knew the drill till you came here.”

Sounds like an incredible night to me. The party will be held Saturday, July 11th from 4pm to “late” at the American Steel Building, 1960 Mandela Parkway. Tickets are  $25 presale, $30 @ door and $125 VIP (check the site for VIP info, includes a 50 ft. yacht suspended from the ceiling). Close to BART~LATE NIGHT BUS SHUTTLE TO SF! and ample secure parking. Find more info @ www.thebigartexperience.com.

Wednesday-Saturday, July 15th-18th – Fire Arts Festival

If Sand by the Ton sounds a bit too adventurous for you, the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival is what you should check out instead. The past several Fire Arts Festivals have been incredible, more fantastic year after year, but this year’s should be the best yet since they’re moving it to a MUCH larger location. That means more art, more entertainment, and most importantly, more fire! Out of 40 art installations, 35 of them will involve fire. Plus, there will be fire dancers and other fire performances.

If you’re having a hard time picturing what this looks like, there’s some of this:

acrobats-1

And this:

And a bit of this:

fire

If you’re still having a hard time visualizing, check out my posts on the 2008 and 2007 festivals.

The festival will be be held Wednesday-Saturday, from 8pm-Midnight at 2020 Engineer Road in West Oakland. There will be a free shuttle from West Oakland BART, which sounds like the most convenient option, since free parking is a couple blocks away from the event. You can find out all the other details and buy tickets at the Crucible’s website.

AC Transit could learn a thing or two from the new Burning Man bus route

27 May

routemasterbusToday, the AC Transit board is meeting to discuss declaring a fiscal emergency so that they can cut service without going through a lengthy EIR process. And as V Smoothe explained, there are going to be some serious cuts made to keep the agency solvent. But as bus service deteriorates in Oakland, bus service is being planned for my second favorite city, Black Rock City.

Some crazy burners from the UK have decided to bring regular bus service to Burning Man this year:

The project is focused on an actual London Transport RMT Routemaster bus in traditional livery, with an operating crew of 2 – a driver and a conductor – and a cast of thousands. Seven modified London Transport bus stops, with route maps and timetables, will be placed on The Esplanade at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 ‘o’clock and at The Man.

The Nowhere Omnnibus will run a scheduled bus service hourly around this route, for eight hours, every day, for the duration of the event. The service will be split across morning and evening service enabling passengers to enjoy journeys during the busier, cooler parts of the day.

I’m not just sharing this because I think it’s the best thing to come to Burning Man in years, but because I think AC Transit can learn from this project. The Nowhere Omnibus team had to make some very similar decisions about their route. They needed to decide where to run the bus, how often to run it, and on what time of day on which days of the week. And they needed to make these decisions within an extremely constrained budget.nowhereroute

Significantly, they chose to focus on one trunk line that would hit the densest parts of the city. As you can see on the map, the route will circle the Esplanade, which is the main thoroughfare in the center of the city. If you’ve never been to Burning Man, this might be hard to imagine, but sometimes the traffic is so heavy on the Esplanade that I hop off my bike and walk because it’s just too difficult to get around so many bicyclists, pedestrians, and art cars. From the Esplanade, the bus will go to the temple, the man, and then back to the Esplanade.

I think this route is a great choice (actually, in my many fantasy descriptions of a Burning Man bus, this was almost the exact route I had come up with). But the truth is that it doesn’t come very close to most camps, which are located on the grid of the map above. My camp mates and I tend to camp out in the suburbs, near the far edge of the map so I’ll have to bike or walk about a half a mile to get to a bus stop. But that’s ok because I realize that it’s not realistic to run the bus in the far flung suburbs. If the route attempted to serve every camp, it would take forever to get anywhere and would compromise the trunk line service.

AC Transit directors would do well to look to the Nowhere Omnibus plan when thinking about service cuts. And if you want to let the directors know what you think, take the service reduction survey.

Lots to do this weekend – art, music, parades, and… fungus?

5 Dec

I think I’ll be staying in and recuperating this weekend, but if you’re looking for something fun to do, there’s no shortage of great events to attend:

Tonight (Friday): Oakland Art Murmur

The monthly evening of art gallery shows and entertainments in Uptown. Read my review of the art murmur here. If you’re coming from anywhere south of Uptown, I encourage you to stop by Awaken Cafe first, where they have an art showing every first Friday of the month, complete with music, snacks, and drinks. You can find out about tonight’s show here.

When: Friday, November 5, 2008 from 6:00pm-10:00pm (individual art gallery times vary)
Where: Uptown Oakland, mostly between Broadway and Telegraph, and Grand and 29th
How Much: FREE!
More Info: http://www.oaklandartmurmur.com
Accessible by 19th Street BART station or by AC Transit lines 1/1R, 51, 72, 11, 12, 59.

Tonight (Friday): Fundraiser Party for the Flaming Lotus Girls

The Flaming Lotus Girls are some of my favorite Burning Man artists. Every year, they create an interactive fire sculpture that usually becomes one of the favorite gathering places out on the playa. They also like to share their artwork with Oaklanders, often bringing their art installations to the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival. Here’s a photo I took at the 2007 festival of the Serpent Mother, my favorite piece the Lotus Girls have created:

Well, making this incredible art is not cheap so they’re hosting a fundraiser to fill in their budget gap for their most recent piece, Mutopia. Early in the evening, they’ll be having a cocktail party and gallery showing, and later in the night they’ll be a huge party with three rooms of electronic music. It should be an amazing party.

When: Friday, November 5, 2008 from 7:00pm-6:00am (that’s not a typo – it really does go all night long)

Where: Location TBA – call 415-963-3555 (my sources tell me it’s likely to be in West Oakland)
How Much: $10 before 11pm, $15 after
More Info: http://www.flaminglotus.com/party.html

Saturday: Oakland Holiday Parade

V Smoothe raves about the Oakland Holiday Parade every year, and if it’s as good as she says it is, you won’t want to miss it. I hope they bring back this AC Transit float that V Smoothe photographed a couple years ago:

When: Saturday, December 6, 2008 at 2:00pm
Where: Broadway and 11th Street to 20th Street, to Harrison Street
How Much: FREE!
More Info: http://oaklandholidayparade.com/
Accessible by 12th Street BART station or by many AC Transit lines.

Saturday-Sunday: Fungus Fair

The Inadvertent Gardener wrote a hilarious post about how she found out about the Fungus Fair, and you really should go read the whole post if you’re looking for a laugh. She reminded me about the annual Fungus Fair, which takes place at the Oakland Museum every year. I’ve been meaning to go to this for years and have heard good things about it so if you like learning about mushrooms, check it out.

When: Saturday & Sunday, December 6 & 7, 2008 from 10:00am-6:00pm
Where: Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak Street@ 10th St.
How Much: $8 general/$5 seniors and students with ID/members and kids under 5 free
More Info: http://www.museumca.org/exhibit/exhi_fungus_08.html
Accessible by Lake Merritt BART station or by many AC Transit lines.

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