Last week, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan joined ArtPlace director Carol Coletta in touring the Oakland neighborhood that was designated one of America's Top 12 ArtPlaces. As she announced the award at the press conference, Carol made the point of saying this award was data-based and in fact entirely statistical. Since it’s not biased or subjective, the selection carries even more weight for many in the Oakland community.
Mayor Quan proudly accepted the award on behalf of the city that has become, in her words, "cooler than San Francisco!" And she emphatically credited a public-private-nonprofit partnership for the incredible turnaround of several depressed neighborhoods ranging from Old Oakland to Uptown. It's clear that the vibrancy brought to the areas by the emergence of arts nonprofits, in conjunction with for-profits, had economic and human impacts.
ArtPlace, an initiative of national and regional foundations, federal agencies and major banks to accelerate creative placemaking, identified the top ArtPlaces in the nation’s largest U.S. metropolitan areas. An array of data and other factors were considered in selecting the neighborhoods, which were successful at combining art, artists and venues for creativity and expression with independent businesses, retail shops and restaurants, and a walkable lifestyle to make vibrant neighborhoods. Other California neighborhoods that joined Oakland in the Top 12 were San Francisco's Mission District and Central Hollywood in Los Angeles.
Irvine has provided $5.75 million to ArtPlace since its inception in 2010 to support California projects, with an emphasis on arts engagement consistent with our Arts strategy. The primary work of ArtPlace is to integrate creative placemaking policies and practices into broad and complex systems of community and economic development that build healthy, vibrant and durable communities. For Irvine, partnering in this effort helps to advance our strategy and spotlight California projects that are using the arts as a creative placemaking strategy.
I was excited to be asked to join the walking tour of Oakland and to see how ArtPlace and the city showcased the local activities that led to its designation as one of America’s Top 12 ArtPlaces.
As an Oakland resident myself, how could I not be proud to see my often dissed and disregarded community recognized as an international capital of diversity in the same breath as Tokyo and London? While the arts alone haven't solved the city's ills, they have helped bring to life beautiful Art-Deco buildings and filled sidewalks with locals, other East Bay dwellers and —quite notably — San Franciscans.
The walking tour began at Betti Ono Gallery in Frank Ogawa Plaza and continued on with stops at the Joyce Gordon Gallery and popuphood, a retail incubator for artist spaces. The tour was followed by a discussion with local arts leaders, including Oakland Museum of Art director Lori Fogerty and Art Murmur director Danielle Fox, about how best to unite the Oakland art scene and use creative placemaking to drive transformation.
On our walking tour of the city, everyone responded enthusiastically wherever the news of being selected as a Top 12 ArtPlace was received.
As Alfonso Dominguez, popuphood co-founder and owner of Tamarindo Antojeria so eloquently put it: "The creative capital is here already, there’s just a lack of resources, a lack of connection. If we join together, we will be a force."