The power of the blogoaksphere

6 May

Last night the blogoaksphere won the battle over the surface parking lot. The Council voted unanimously in support of Ignacio De La Fuente’s resolution, “To spend the next two weeks confirming a plan to use the subject lot for a temporary public art installation space at no additional cost to the Redevelopment Agency…”

V Smoothe saved me the trouble of recounting the long struggle we engaged in to get to this point so if you’d like to read the history, head over to A Better Oakland. Her post was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read and it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks V!

Reading her post this afternoon helped me reflect on the process. Going into this fight, it really did seem hopeless. When dto510, Joyce Roy, Naomi Schiff and I spoke out at that first meeting, we thought the parking lot was a done deal. But we did it anyway. And throughout the process, no matter what the Council and RDA threw at us, we responded.

You know why? Because that’s how activism works. When you truly care about something, you have to keep trying, even if it seems like a lost cause. The hard part of activism is that sometimes you try your hardest, rally as many people as you can, do all the research needed, and you still lose. That doesn’t mean that you should stop trying or that you didn’t make a difference.

Because once in a while, the hard work pays off, and you win BIG. Just think about this for a minute. Our win means that instead of having to walk by an eyesore of a paved lot filled with cars, worrying about one of them running into you, you’ll instead be able to gaze at gorgeous, large-scale artwork. Like these great pieces by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito:

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.

Another figure in the same art piece.

And when you sit in the Uptown park or on the second floor of the Den and gaze out at these beautiful art pieces, you’ll be able to think: WE DID THAT! The blogoaksphere came together to fight an uphill battle, and we won. That is the power of activism.

Thanks so much to everyone who spoke at a meeting, sent an email, made a phone call, or wrote a blog post. Your voices made a profound difference.

I want to especially thank Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito. Not only did they come to the City Council meeting last night to speak, but Dan guided us through this process, offering advice and figures on displaying large scale public art. His expertise was a huge help in showing the Council that an art display was a viable option for the space. So thanks!

I hope this is only the beginning of wins from the blogoakshpere and that you feel as empowered as I do from this experience. We made a difference and can continue to do so. Tomorrow, I’ll be asking you to join me in taking action once again on the Oakland Airport Connector, another battle that everyone told me was a lost cause. Well if we work together, it won’t be.

Until then, continue daydreaming about what this art space will look and feel like. Almost two years ago, I wrote a post about how Oakland’s a lot like Black Rock City. And soon it will be so much more similar…

Previous posts on the Uptown surface parking lot saga:

17 Responses to “The power of the blogoaksphere”

  1. Scott Lund May 6, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    The work you guys did to make this happen was simply awe inspiring. Thank you for showing what is possible. Thank you for not giving up. Thanks for giving us all something to be smiling silly about!

  2. Joanna May 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm #

    I don’t know who made the call to Dan Das Mann or Karen Culito to get them involved, but THANK YOU! It’s very exciting! I’ve been seeing them on Mandela Parkway peaking from their storage spots and feeling like they needed to be somewhere where they can be seen all the time. Very cool!

    • Becks May 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

      That was a team effort by dto510 and I.

  3. Jim T May 6, 2009 at 4:21 pm #

    Well done, Becks. Keep up the excellent work, and thanks for helping us all get involved.

    • Becks May 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

      Thanks Jim, and thanks for coming and speaking on Tuesday. It was great to meet you!

  4. tagami May 6, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    I am a neutral to leaning on the other side of the issue of the temp lot. In one sense owning a lot down town I would not like comp but in the same breath I would like to build a new structure on one of two sites under consideration …with a bowling alley, and other activities …

    I am energized by the voices that have emerged from the blogs and have changed my view in a number of issues becasue of the chance to listen to another perspective

    As a CTC comissioner I have to tell you that the OAC is a “trainwreck” pun intended. I would be interested in getting more active in getting that project stopped and a better alternative found

    anyway thanks for being engaged and caring about our town

  5. das88 May 7, 2009 at 7:56 am #

    Most awesome. I mentioned you were due a victory and you and dto510 worked to get one. I did forget, though, getting CC to place the marijuana business tax classification on the ballot.

    Maybe I am getting a little ahead of the action, but it might be fun to have a street festival to celebrate these two victories — an “Upsterdam Fest.” It would be awesome to close off a couple blocks of telegraph one night when the sculptures are installed, so lots of people can come admire them. Adding in live music, family activities, and food vendors would complete the picture.

  6. Andy K May 7, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    Reading this and the account on ABO is inspiring. Thanks for everyone’s hard work.

    Now let’s stop the OAC.

  7. Frankie D May 7, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    Thanks for all your efforts in helping to improve DTO.

  8. Joyce Roy May 7, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    Did one of the speakers on Tuesday night that works with outdoor art installations say that a fence would not be needed? That would be even nicer.

    I have been calling the proposal a “sculpture garden” but maybe that is a misnomer because I don’t mean green things would be growing. It would just have gravel on the ground.

  9. masb May 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm #

    Thanks very much for this – I emailed Nancy Nadel about putting art in the space and never got a reply. Aren’t these people bored with themselves yet?

  10. Georgia May 9, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    Congrats Becks et al.

  11. newoaktown May 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm #

    Becks, can you loop me in please on any future work on the “alternatives” for the lot?


  12. Sarah May 11, 2009 at 10:27 pm #

    Thank you and congratulations!

  13. das88 May 17, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    Is there any update on the Art Space? I didn”t see anything on the May 19th Council Agenda. Is it going through some other committee.

    • Becks May 17, 2009 at 10:00 am #

      I don’t believe it has to go back to council – it’s just up to staff now. DTO spoke with arts staff on Friday and the planning seems to be going well. I’ll hopefully have a more concrete update in the coming days.

  14. Joyce Roy May 19, 2009 at 9:33 pm #

    Check out today”s John King’s Places in the Chronicle: Block off cars, add trees – presto, it’s a park. An inspiration for Uptown!!

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