downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Posts from — October 2011

Revealing the Invisible Downtown

October 14, 2011

This Sunday, an Oakland Museum docent and the marksearch artist team will lead a bicycle tour of downtown Oakland’s historic “Square” parks. After three years and countless stories, it is the last event of a community art project called 10,000 Steps: Walking the Invisible City, an exploration of the role of Oakland’s first public parks in today’s downtown.

In the summer of 2008, the husband-and-wife marksearch team, Sue Mark and Bruce Douglas, began encouraging stewardship and community appreciation of the parks, which all have very 19th Century names: Jefferson, Lafayette, Madison and Lincoln. The parks are in Old Oakland and Chinatown, very old neighborhoods with commercial centers. Both saw significant new housing built in the last decade or so, and Old Oakland in particular has visibly transformed since Jerry Brown’s 10k Plan began. Referencing both the 10k Plan and the number of steps the Surgeon General recommends for a healthy lifestyle, the 10,000 Steps project is about placemaking, community, and public space.

Reviving Oakland’s first public parks

In cooperation with neighborhood groups, marksearch drew attention to the parks, helped renovate and improve them, and encouraged long-term park stewardship among neighbors. The artists, who specialize in place-based art revolving around walking and biking, researched the cultural and social history of Oakland’s first parks to imbue their legacy on the countless new and old residents in the center of our city. The project’s own legacy is a self-guided walking tour of brass markers in commercial districts pointing the way toward the parks, and a video of contemporary history and impressions of the park.

You can experience the project at Sunday’s bicycle tour leaving from the Oakland Museum at 10am. A cellphone-based self-guided tour is available until the end of the month. The video of the parks’ neighbors (including yours truly) isn’t available online but I will let you know if there are future opportunities to see it. You may also be interested in marksearch’s prior project, in which they pedaled around town in a tandem bicycle and asked the question, where is East Oakland?

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First Friday leads to Saturday revelry

October 7, 2011

For some it’s the High Holy Days. For others it’s Fleet Week. In Oakland, we call it First Friday. Here are the highlights of this weekend in the DTO.

To celebrate Fleet Week, photographer Eric Murphy honors the humanitarian work of active servicemen at Old Oakland’s Sticks + Stones gallery, 831 Broadway. Nearby, Oaksterdam Tattoo hosts live music at 811 Washington St.

The author of novel WTF Moment will read and sign copies of his book at Paradiso Lounge with music by Maya Songbird and art by Joanne Ludwig.

The Cathedral of Christ the Light is one stop on a roving tour of the Mobile Plant Ambassador, an artist terrarium known as the Wonderarium. Eventually the artists behind this project hope to plant a large terrarium in the middle of Lake Merritt. Find out more on Facebook.

Era Artbar hosts LA-based soul group Chicano Batman with DJ Joe Quixx, and Foxtail Brigade plays a free show at the Uptown. The Starline Social Club, an new music venue from Adam Hatch of the Hatch Gallery, holds a post-Murmur show featuring Shock, Range of Light Wilderness, and Antonian.

Saturday in Uptown

Saturday sees more action in Uptown. The Art Murmur continues to promote its quieter gallery stroll on Saturday afternoons, with extended hours into the evening. Several bars and restaurants will participate in the second annual Uptown Block Party to raise money for Oakland schools – check out East Bay Loop for more information.

And a bit further up town, the Gardens at Lake Merritt hold their annual Bonsai show for fans of the diminutive trees.

On a more academic note, the City Auditor released a report this week criticizing Fox Theater project – but developer Phil Tagami and the City of Oakland fiercely contest every one of its conclusions. In the end, one can’t argue with success – the Fox has sold out every show since it opened. Go to for a list of upcoming shows.

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