Tag Archives: Dan Das Mann

Our dream of an Uptown sculpture garden is becoming a reality

16 Mar

Last month I went to a special presentation about Parcel 4, the large Uptown lot we saved two years ago from becoming a parking lot and that Cultural Arts and Redevelopment staff are now working to turn into a public arts space. I promised afterward that I’d follow up with some images, and since Cultural Arts Manager Steven Huss was kind enough to send me images that were visible (unlike the ones in the staff report), I can now deliver on that promise.

First, I’d like to detour a bit and say that I think the Oakland Cultural Arts department is awesome. While certain other city departments seem to be stuck in the 80s (or worse), Cultural Arts is on the cutting edge, sponsoring events like Uptown Unveiled and art projects like the light based art piece planned for the 18th Street alleyway entrance to the 19th Street BART station. And their plans for Parcel 4 are equally exciting. Continue reading

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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.

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.

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:

Monday Morning Distractions – Burning Man 2008

6 Oct

Burning Man may not be directly related to Oakland, but it really wouldn’t be what it is without the many contributions of Oaklanders. Here are some pictures from this year’s event to distract you on this Monday morning.

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.

Another figure in the same art piece.

Another figure in the same art piece.

There are plenty of zoning codes in Black Rock City, but one thing that's not regulated is height limits. So this year a group of artists built this 10 story building at the outskirts of the city. The view from up top was phenomenal.

There are plenty of zoning codes in Black Rock City, but one thing that's not regulated is height limits. So this year a group of artists built this 10 story building at the outskirts of the city. The view from up top was phenomenal.

Regular cars aren't allowed to drive around Black Rock City, but you'll run into lots of mutant vehicles like this snail.

Regular cars aren't allowed to drive around Black Rock City, but there are plenty of art vehicles like this one.

It's about as easy to find a taxi in Black Rock City as it is in Oakland, but unlike in Oakland, they're free. (It's much easier to hop a ride on an art bus, but unlike in Oakland, you usually have no idea where it's headed.)

This viewing tower was a block away from my home, and I'm sure they had a nice view of this smoke ring.

This viewing tower was a block away from my home, and I'm sure they had a nice view of this smoke ring.

The weather in Black Rock City is a lot less predictable than in Oakland, and a lot more harsh. This dust storm lasted literally all day on Saturday and delayed the burning of the man.

We might have Black Rock City beat on weather, but the sunsets in BRC cannot be beat.

Replay 9/5/07: Crude Awakening

27 Aug

Crude Awakening

Over the past couple weeks, several people have found my blog by searching for Crude Awakening or for its creator, Dan Das Mann, so I thought I’d finally give everyone what they’re looking for. And I promise, this will be my last Burning Man related post for a little while.

You might ask, how does this massive Burning Man art piece connect to Oakland? Crude Awakening’s creator-couple, Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito have been toiling away in a West Oakland warehouse for years now, creating some of the most awe inspiring pieces of artwork in Black Rock City and beyond.

Passage

They even spent their honeymoon in West Oakland, creating Passage, a 30′ mother and 20′ child sculpted out of scrap metal, walking next to each other with hands stretched towards each other. Walking? Yes. Well, they didn’t literally move, but 50 concrete flaming footsteps followed behind them. I learned at the Crucible’s fire arts preview in 2005 that the couple had hoped to have 100 footsteps following the figures but realized that the weight of these footsteps would mean that their trucks would not have room for the metal figures!

So back to what you came here to read about… Crude Awakening. Imagine nine metal women, over five times the size of a human being, knealing, crouching, standing, praying before a 99′ tall oil derrick made of wood. Day and night, hundreds of burners climb the oil tower to look out from the top at a city the same size (distance wise) as San Francisco. After the sun sets, the art crew begins to light each of the figures. One has a flaming rosary. Another holds fire in her hands. Every where you look, you can see metal, flames, and people standing in awe.

I have to admit that I biked several miles, usually twice a day, just to look at and interact with this art piece. But all of that was overshadowed by the grand performance that took place on Saturday night.

After the man collapsed in flames (never my favorite part of the week), I grabbed my friends and walked across the desert to Crude Awakening. We sat down in the second row, the closest I’ve ever been to such a large burn, and proceeded to wait for an hour and a half. Luckily, we were in the good company of some sweet people from Toronto, who I proudly informed that the piece had been created in Oakland.

Again and again, rangers approached us and warned us that the explosion was going to be large and intense. We might want to cover our faces or duck down. It would last about 30 seconds. Oh yeah, and when the oil derrick collapsed, we were supposed to stop the crowd of tens of thousands of burners from rushing to the burning embers because there still could be some unexploded fire works lying around. But not to worry, the crew had assured them that we would be safe. As the artists at Dance Dance Immolation say, “Safety Third.”

The long wait was well worth it. The performance started with a truck circling around the art piece, sirens wailing, spreading a thick fog that soon entirely engulfed the nine figures and the oil derrick. For a minute, all lights were turned out. Then, out of the fog, a line of small yellow and blue fireworks emerged from the ground and music began playing. Strobe lights illuminated the figures, creating the illusion that they were moving towards the tower.

This was followed by 15 minutes of the most beautiful and varied fireworks I’ve seen in my life. But why tell you about it when I can show you?

You’ll see at the end of this video that that at the end of the fireworks show, the oil derrick lights up. Soon after, it started burning slowly. It needed some help. So why not create the largest explosion ever seen at Burning Man? Apparently, that wasn’t enough. The tower still burned slowly. So why not create a tornado of fuel, fire, and wind in the middle of the structure? The fire was so hot that it was white and blue:

Amazed is not a strong enough word for how I felt that night. Moved, elated, awestruck – those come closer.

There was a lot of talk after the explosion about whether it was worth it. Did Dan and Karen and their crew of nearly 200 helpers make their point? Or was it a worthless explosion that just polluted the environment?

I know Crude Awakening made me think, and considering that the amount of oil used was no more than a single driver uses in a couple years, I think it was worth it. Here’s an explanation from the artists, via a blog post on the Underwire:

The artists realize that it might seem indulgent to burn so much fuel for art meant to dramatize our warped relationship with fuel. They understand those concerns. But they stress the personal conservation efforts about environmental and carbon impact that working on the piece created in all the 180 people involved, which they expect to continue.

The fuel the piece consumes only amounts to an ounce or so of fuel per attendee at the event, they note. Cusolito… says she thinks of Crude Awakening as if “all the energy I have not consumed by living the way I do, it’s almost as if I get credits” to use the fuel to “make the biggest environmental statement I could make in my lifetime.” The pair hopes the message will reach far beyond the 45,000 or so who might see the finale at Burning Man.

I know their message certainly reached me, and I’m proud to see such awe-inspiring art being created in Oakland. Now, if we could just convince our city to commission some of their art, like San Francisco commissioned Passage

Replay 7/22/07: Fire Arts Festival

25 Aug

Every year, the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival in West Oakland brings the Bay Area a preview of the best part of Burning Man: lots of great art, tons of fire, a mixture of people, and man-made beauty in an unexpected place.

Athena, BART, Cranes

Photo by Dave Wright, courtesy of thecrucible.org

This year was no exception. I went on Friday night and enjoyed fire arts with thousands of others from the Bay Area and beyond.

Though I go most every year, this year I knew I had to go because the Flaming Lotus Girls brought back the Serpent Mother, which was my favorite art piece on the playa last year. The Serpent Mother is a nearly 170′ long skeleton of metal and fire, its tail wrapping around and protecting a precious egg in the center, and its robotic head moving up and down spewing fire. But the best part is that it’s interactive. Approach its spine and press buttons to shoot flame throwers in the air off various vertebrates. At both Burning Man 2006 and the Fire Arts Festival, it was the communal gathering place. The location where you could be assured to run into your closest friend and an acquaintance you haven’t seen in years.

serpent-mother.jpg

But amazingly, the Serpent Mother was not the most over-the-top attraction at the festival. Imagine this: an opera in an empty lot in West Oakland, with BART trains passing by, the faces of incredulous onlookers pressed up against the windows. And this was not just any opera, it was “The Fire Odyssey,” the Crucible’s interpretation of Odysseus’s story. Zeus and the gods were perched in several story high metal sculptures of the female body, created by Karen Cusolito and Dan DasMann, the artists who brought us Passage in 2005. (These 4 figures are just half of the figures that will be featured in this year’s Crude Awakening at BM.)

trojan-horse.jpg

On the stage, all the familiar characters of the Odyssey appeared, including the Trojan Horse (above), the Cyclops, the Sirens, and Calypso. Every scene featured fire and/or water, moving from graceful to jarring. When Odysseus travels to Hades, lines of fire engulf the stage and surrounding set. Odysseus moves on to do graceful dances with the Sirens and then Calypso. And in one of the final scenes, Odysseus and his son draw swords and shields to fight off Penelope’s suitors, and the suitors fight back with fire. One spins poi, another fights with a fire hoola-hoop, and yet another plunges upon Odysseus from a tight rope on fire.

While the Fire Arts Festival is no substitute for Burning Man, it’s really great to see this annual event becoming part of the larger Bay Area culture. Oakland residents who might never be able to afford Burning Man (or who might just not want to spend a week in the desert) are able to appreciate the awe inspiring fire and arts that burners have been appreciating for years.

And it’s a great reminder that Burning Man is less than a couple months away and I need to start getting ready. Which I really should be doing right now…