downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Category — construction

Public art update for downtown

July 8, 2011

Much of this blog’s and other outlets’ coverage of downtown reflect cultural endeavors leading neighborhood revitalization. Fine arts, fashion design, music and the culinary arts are many of the drivers of the DTO’s much-ballyhooed Renaissance. But not all culture takes place behind closed doors, or even outside on a certain day of the month. Public art has enriched every part of downtown and continues to grow. Today, a review of the public art installations recently completed or currently planned for Downtown.

10,000 Steps: Walking the Invisible City

The MarkSearch husband-and-wife artistic team has worked for several years with the Old Oakland and Chinatown neighborhoods to celebrate Oakland’s original “Square” parks and ensure they are valued by new residents and businesses moving downtown. From videotaped legacies to new signage to recruiting park maintenance volunteers, MarkSearch has been caring for parks with names like Madison Square. The project reaches its zenith this summer with a new installation: sidewalk stamps to lead Oaklanders from commercial centers like Ninth and Washington to nearby historic parks like Lafayette Square. Look down for the 10,000 Steps tour, and visit their website at

Oakland Illuminates an Alley

A light and movement-based art installation to spruce up the grim BART alley between Telegraph Ave and Broadway near 19th Street is proceeding apace, with cooperation from BART and private property owners. Walls of rippling, color-changing plastic with unique light installations will greet downtowner residents and visitors by August 2012.

Park Renovation includes Art

Snow Park, the sadly under-utilized green space near Lake Merritt at 20th and Harrison, is undergoing a major renovation funded by Measure DD. Most exciting is the creation of a safe pedestrian crossing from the Kaiser Center to the Lake and landscaping that will create more lakeside seating areas. A tot lot and putting green are under consideration. But there will also be a significant public art component. The City of Oakland will issue a call for artists in August or September, and the selection of an artist will determine the vision for art in the new park. I hope the original use of the park, as a natural history museum, will inform both the art and the park design!

Layers of the Lake

A self-guided audio tour of Lake Merritt, combining geology with history to illuminate many facets of this man-made lake, is currently available at the Rotary Nature Center. Medallions at creek mouths mark the natural sources of the Lake’s water, and signs explaining different layers of the history of the lake are to be installed this summer.

Temporary Sculpture

Thanks to pedestrian advocates including myself who fought the Redevelopment Agency’s plans for a subsidized parking lot next to the Fox Theater at 19th and Telegraph, the Public Arts Department of Oakland has secured funding for a temporary sculpture garden to edify and entertain Uptowners. The design of the space is complete and a call for artists will be issued next month. Excitingly, the Black Rock Arts Foundation is preparing a proposal to contribute to the park. Completion of the sculpture space is expected in March of 2012, with the works of art to change every six months or so as long as the temporary space is available.

The Oakland Museum Forages

This Sunday sees a new installment of the Oakland Museum’s Oakland Standard arts and cultural events, called Forage. It begins at 1pm with a bike tour led by Forage Oakland, includes a presentation and panel discussion with artists, foragers, and restauranteurs, and concludes with a film. Read more under the Forage header at

A Festival of Art (and Soul)

Finally, one of downtown’s most fun public and artistic events happens every year around Labor Day – the Art & Soul Festival thrown by the City of Oakland Cultural Arts and Marketing Department. This year’s schedule was just announced: headlining artists include Tower of Power, the Kev Choice Ensemble, and Goapele. You can find the full list here.

To keep track of Oakland public arts, bookmark the Public Art page at

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Lessons from Librarians

May 27, 2011

Some of downtown’s oldest institutions and newest ventures made the news this week.

The Swig Company’s approval to build the tallest building in Oakland less than a block from Lake Merritt, replacing a fifty-year-old, publicly-accessible garden, was approved and the deadline for appeal has passed. When the job market improves, Oakland will see serious investment in the Lakeside area.

Hundreds of Oaklanders rallied to save the Oakland Library, which runs two downtown branches as well as the Main Library. Although Councilmember Nancy Nadel, who represents most of downtown, didn’t seem to care about decimating the library system, the majority of Councilmembers appeared to get the message and library supporters are hopeful the service will be spared the budget axe – especially since Oaklanders already pay a dedicated parcel tax for library services.

Speaking of the library, the Main branch is offering a Japanese calligraphy class tomorrow.

Today is the deadline to submit a vegan cupcake recipe to the Rock Paper Scissors annual bake-off.

DTO-headquarted Pandora announced strong revenue growth before its IPO.

Rock Block Oakland reviews Hawker Fare on Tumblr.

The Chronicle reviews sweet and pretty West DTO spot Hibiscus.

After meeting fierce resistance from business interests and cities including Oakland and Alameda, the appointed Bay Area Conversation and Development Commission is revising proposed rules that would reduce elected officials’ ability to plan for waterfront development in places like Jack London Square. Meanwhile, tea partiers crashed a downtown regional planning meeting.

The California Assembly passed a bill to give Oakland (and San Jose) a greater voice in regional transportation planning and funding decisions.

With the aforementioned regional transportation body scheduling severely reduced service on both the Bay Bridge and BART this weekend, it’s a great time to explore Oakland! See you at the library.

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