Sustaining Cultural and Creative Spaces

Joyce Gordon and Christine Joy Ferrer, Joyce Gordon Gallery © 2015 Jarrel Phillips

"So here I am! I get to be around all the kinds of people I like and enjoy, and who inspire me, motivate me, and make me happy. But I am also the poorest, the brokest, I’ve been in my whole life. In the beauty business, I made money because I was really good. This is a challenge, but I made the sacrifice and I’m probably the happiest that I’ve been in my life!” - Joyce Gordon

A Conversation with Joyce Gordon

Interview by Christine Joy Ferrer and Jarrel Phillips

You're listening to a conversation with Joyce Gordon on black identity, black-owned business, diversity, commitment to the arts, and owning a fine arts gallery in Oakland.

Reimagine Everything

"The time has come for us to reimagine everything. We have to reimagine work and go away from labor. We have to reimagine revolution and get beyond protest. — Grace Lee Boggs

From a Speech by Grace Lee Boggs

I’m a very old woman. I was born in 1915 in what was later known as the First World War, two years before the Russian Revolution. And because I was born to Chinese immigrant parents and because I was born female—I learned very quickly that the world needed changing.

But what I also learned as I grew older was that how we change the world and how we think about changing the world has to change.

The time has come for us to reimagine everything. We have to reimagine work and go away from labor. We have to reimagine revolution and get beyond protest. We have to think not only about change in our institutions, but changes in ourselves. We are at the stage where the people in charge of the government and industry are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s up to us to reimagine the alternatives and not just protest against them and expect them to do better.

Beyond Public/Private: Understanding Corporate Power

There never has been or will be an unregulated market.

By john a. powell and Stephen Menendian

Who inhabits the circle of human concern? Who counts as a person or a member of the community and what rights accompany that status? In a democratic society, there is nothing more vital than membership. Those who inhabit the circle of human concern, who count as full members, may rightfully demand such concern and expect full regard. It is they who design and give meaning to that society’s very structures and institutions; they have voice. This is the ideal of democracy. But there is an important question: Who inhabits this circle?

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Democracy vs. Development Oakland Wins a Round

"Even where communities take affirmative steps to set aside open space parkland and waterways, the attempts to subvert that set-aside to private, commercial use can be both enormous and insidious."

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Lake Merritt © Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau Oakland has always had a decidedly mixed relationship to its waterways. The city retains one of the largest working shipping ports in the nation but elsewhere along its extended waterfront, the East Bay’s gateway city has largely neglected its shoreline. That longtime neglect is more than made up by Oakland’s care for its most popular attraction, Lake Merritt. Created at the same time as the city itself, the lake was carved out of a fetid, marshy tidal pool. Today it is the home of a string of pleasant lawns, walking and jogging tracks, and the nation’s oldest wild bird habitat, the place where Oakland residents go to relax, and where they bring out-of-towners to show off. The lakeshore could be a prime spot for high-rise residential development butting up to the edge of the water. But over the years, the city and its public and politicians have fiercely protected both the view from the lake and public access to its environs, refusing to give in to the box-in builders. It is one of Oakland’s greatest success stories.

Six years ago, Oakland residents decided to extend that preservation success all the way out to the bayshore waterfront. But the initial aftermath of that effort showed that even where communities take affirmative steps to set aside open space parkland and waterways, the attempts to subvert that set-aside to private, commercial use can be both enormous and insidious.

Lake Merritt empties into the San Francisco Bay waters through the 3,000 foot long Lake Merritt Channel, a lovely but poorly-named little creek, much-loved by ducks and other waterfowl, bordered along some of its stretches by grassy banks and shadetrees. But many decades ago the channel was cut off from the lake by a high-speed throughway, so that only a spelunking adventure through an underground passage of uncertain safety makes it possible to walk from the lake to the channel.

Public Money from a Public Vote Expands Park Access
In 2002, in a $198 million municipal bond measure called DD, Oakland residents decided to correct that problem, voting to spend $80 million of the bond money in large part to dismantle the throughway, connect the lake to the channel through a series of bridges and pedestrian walkways, and landscape the channel banks into a more parklike atmosphere.

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How We Play: Play as a Form of Cultural Resistance

How We Play is a photography exhibition curated by Jarrel Phillips (featured at the CCSF earlier this year), focusing on three art forms—Acrobatics (Circus), B-Boying (Break Dance), and Capoeira.

Prescott Circus Theater © Jarrel Phillips
Editor’s Note: How We Play is a photography exhibition curated by Jarrel Phillips (featured at the City College of San Francisco earlier this year), focusing on three art forms—Acrobatics (Circus), B-Boying (Break Dance), and Capoeira—that are a culmination of art, culture and resistance. These art forms are brought to life through play, a universal phenomenon as innate to life as breath. All three began as forms of resistance in response to oppressive environments. If play were given the cultural significance it deserves, civilization as we know it would allow us the much needed opportunity to review and reimagine our cultural values, traditions and processes in reference to what we do and how we do things.

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Creative Placemaking—A Cautionary Tale

While additional funding opportunities for artists and arts organizations are a greatly needed resource, project-based funding, such as creative placemaking initiatives, are a matter for concern.

Courtesy of Megan WilsonBy Megan Wilson

The term “creative placemaking”[1] is the latest spin on a decades-old strategy[2] of incorporating the arts into economic development models, the idea being that art can inspire shared economic prosperity while energizing the overall community. However, as I’ve learned from working closely on development and planning with many community-based organizations (CBOs) in the Bay Area over the past 18 years, if existing neighborhood stakeholders–i.e. longtime residents, CBOs, small businesses, social services, and public agencies that serve them–are not driving the process, community development (or revitalization, as it’s often characterized by city planners) can also be highly problematic. Outside interests (developers, real estate agents, corporations, policy makers, or new residents) without long-established roots in a neighborhood can end up destroying years of coalition-building, networks of trust, and community frameworks proven to be successful and integral to the health of a neighborhood and its residents.[3]

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