this time for real

Beth Lisick surprised me by asking if I would tell a story at the renowned Porchlight Series. I attempted to exhibit key no-storytelling qualities right then and there, but, well, that failed. Spirits were high. Lots of background noise. She mentioned the theme as she moved off: I Quit! and I said o! for sure, not a problem!

As I left the house I thought: what a problem. I’ve never quit anything in my life. And that, I was so happy to start the New Year with, was also a problem. Quitting might have been, at several points in my life, a most excellent choice. Alas, etc.

There was no story in not quitting. In fact, I should have immediately called Beth to quit the I Quit! and gone on record as being meta. But no, I am not a quitter. And so days later I was pacing in the packed, throwback Verdi Club with a story I had never told to anyone in my life, much less a hall filled with experienced story listeners, who, with their kindness, would shine a light on my total inexperience, which, I think, the series touts as authenticity. And it seemed very likely that everything about this story was about to vacate my mind at any second. I actually didn’t want to tell it. I didn’t want to reveal. Even the story I told Beth when she stopped by to hear my story was not quite this story, so uncertain was I of how to tell it at all. Yet Beth gave excellent advice:

Start with the episode of fake french in kindergarten.

Which I did.

meeting moved! – and annotated

Save oakland arts mtg moved to oakland art gallery at 150 frank ogawa plaza bottom floor. Thanks to Nicole, gallery director and Oakland Cultural Affairs Commissioner for emergency hosting. Some people actually brown-bagged.

notes [also in pdf here]:

The Oakland City Council begins their FY2010 & 2011 budget process in early January 2009. We are organizing, crafting our message to policy-makers, and activating the Oakland Art Community. Be part of the solution in this budgeting process!

Contact Group Leads to join a Task Group– see contact emails below.

Oakland Arts Advocacy: Next Steps Planning Meeting
Tuesday, December 16, 12-1:30pm
Relocated to Oakland Art Gallery, 199 Kahn’s Alley, Oakland, CA 94612

  1. Introductions
    Representatives from Arts Organizations = 8
    Individual Artists = 3
    Arts Educators = 1
    Journalist = 0
    City Staff = 6
    Business Leader= 1
    Total Attendance= 19
    A sign-in sheet was circulated. See contact emails below
    (Meeting chaired by Margo Dunlap-Pro Arts, facilitation provided by Amy Kweskin – Arts Advocate)
  2. Presentation from the Chamber – Karen Engle, Director of Business Development
    • Oakland Partnership: Private/ Public Partnership setting Mayor’s Economic Development Platform; Creative Arts Industry identified as a key growth sector; Oakland Arts Advocacy Activities win/win to work with the Chamber within the Creative Arts Cluster;
    • M.Dunlap-Pro Arts and Samee Roberts-City of Oakland, Cultural Arts & Marketing to serve as liaisons with the Chamber and Partnership
    • Opportunity for Chamber to reconvene an independent Budget Advisory Committee to participate in City Budget Planning- to represent industry; Invitation to Oakland Arts Advocates to be part of that process;
    • Chamber opposition in previous TOT increase initiative
    • Recommendation to workout larger funding initiative with Chabot, Oakland Museum, Zoo- (a la Regional Assets Districts)
  3. Report from the City- Steve Huss, Cultural Arts Programs Coordinator, City of Oakland
    • Measure OO-Council interest in blocking approved ballot measure.
    • 1% on Private Development for public art- time is now to begin dialogue and prepare case to policy-makers;
    • Working with Cultural Affairs Commission/ Lori Zook, Chair, Cultural Affairs Commission on identifying funding for Arts Councils, and Municipal arts programming- research for grant-writing;
    • ‘Leadership in Tough Times’, Americans for the Arts tools and information on arts advocacy;
    • City Council Retreat on budget planning scheduled for early January.
  4. Discussion Items:
    • Cultural Data Project- Get the word out for Oakland Arts groups to participate to build a database of long-term information on Economic Impact of Oakland Arts
    • Structure: Models- Berkeley Cultural Trust, others?- more next meeting
    • Objectives for January-Meet in smaller task groups to plan activities- report back at January 13 meeting.

Meeting Schedule and Times
Encourage multiple conversations on activating the arts
From Suki O’Kane’s online correspondence

“… the conversation to build support of Oakland’s arts has to be taking place all over town as part of many agendas…. many moments inside many meetings to make many constituencies aware of the work and how to support it. Over time we can build the constituency that convenes with critical mass… the “work of the work”: small groups, research, drafting of legislation, forging of alliances with policymakers, usually happens outside of meetings……… Meetings can then function to create moments of accountability to the community this initiative serves……. If every arts organization in Oakland started developing an advocacy agenda, and we simply shared our resources for that message, that would be powerful.”

Communications- get the word out about meetings and task groups;
Breakout Task Groups: see contact emails below.

  1. Alt Funding:
    Research and compile information on alternative funding mechanisms for arts programming; i.e, Ticket surcharges (Warriors Community Foundation [suggested by Suki O’Kane], TOT Tax – Transient Occupancy Tax (Researched by Councilmembers Nancy Nadel and Jean Quan’s Offices), Pittsburg Regional Asset District (50% to cultural arts from 1% sales tax), $$ from Community Benefit Districts or Business Improvement Districts??; Funding from Oakland Business community- Arts Champions- e.g Shorenstein;
    Lead: Suki OKane, Artist
    Participants: Steve Huss, Kathy Littles, other City of Oakland Staff
  2. City Council Communications: Plan official communications strategy to communicate arts agenda to elected officials in budgeting process; Plan response, if any to January 12 Council Budget Retreat; timeline/response/content; Relationship building; letter-writing campaign? emails? constant drip or hammer, or coordinated effort over time utilizing multiple strategies;
    Lead: Margo Dunlap- Pro Arts
    Participants: Anyka Barber- ALICE Arts; Nicole Neditch-Oakland Art Gallery/Cultural Affairs Commissioner; Shawn Roland- Artist
  3. Economic Impact White Paper: Research and compile specific information on economic impact of Oakland Arts; Prepare key talking points on the arts industry for distribution;
    Lead: Lori Zook- Cultural Affairs Commissioner (From 11/18 Meeting)
    Participants: Nicole Neditch-Oakland Art Gallery/Cultural Affairs Commissioner; Anyka Barber- ALICE Arts, Kristen Zaremba- City of Oakland-Public Art
  4. Setting the Arts Agenda: Key messaging for budget campaign- “Maintain a healthy Oakland through the arts,” “Make a case for the cultural economy,” Demonstrate that the arts are a part of every successful solution for the City,” Make an institutionalized commitment to Cultural Equity,” “Arts and Cultural Diversity is embedded in the identity of Oakland.”; bring budget solutions to the table;
    Lead: Margo Dunlap, Pro Arts
    Participants: Mollie McFarland-AXIS; Sottol Weng-CUE (Children United by Experience/ Gregangelo and Velocity Circus); Nicole Neditch-Oakland Art Gallery/Cultural Affairs Commissioner; Jais Booth-Red Door Gallery& Collective;

For updates contact:

Margo Dunlap, Executive Director
Pro Arts
550 Second St. Oakland 510-763-9425, or ping the ArtVote blog

Notes from December 16, 2008 Meeting (.pdf Download)
Notes from November 18, 2008 Meeting (.pdf Download)

Note the upcoming meeting schedule:
Next Meeting: January 13, 2009
Conference Center, East Bay Community Foundation

Schedule of Meetings:
Tuesdays, 12-1:30pm at Conference Center, East Bay Community Foundation

January 13 | February 17 | March 17 | April 21 | May 19 | June 23

The Conference Center and other offices are at 353 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in the Dalziel Building, at the roundabout at the end of San Pablo Avenue.

Contact Emails for 12/16 Meeting

Name E-mail Organization / Affiliation
Janet Austin Oakland Film Office
Jais Booth Red Door Gallery & Collective
Shira Cion Kitka
Jody Collen East Bay Express
Margo Dunlap Pro Arts
Karen Engel Oakland Metro Chamber
Jeanne Fahey Oakland Inter Faith Gospel Choir
David Huff Pro Arts
Steven Huss City of Oakland
Jason M. Jong City of Oakland
Kathy Littles City of Oakland
Mollie McFarland Axis Dance
Nicole Neclitch Oakland Art Gallery
Suki O’Kane Illuminated Corridor
Matais Pouncil
Shawn Rowland Visual Artist
Arlene Shmaeff Mocha
Sottol Weng CUE (Children United by Experience)
Kristen Zaremba City of Oakland
Ami Zins Oakland Film Office

Not in Attendance:
Lori Zook Chair, Cultural Affairs Commission

artVote community convening: dec 16

this time a brown bag lunch:

Tuesday December 16, 2008
Oakland Conference Room
Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
475 14th Street
A preliminary agenda from Margo Dunlap at Pro Arts:

Presentation from the Chamber – Karen Engle, Director of Business Development
RE: Oakland Partnership
and TOT Tax (background information and process)
Follow-up/ Update from the City (Steve Huss)
Follow-up reports on Alt. funding
Follow-up reports on White Paper- Economic Impacts of Oakland Arts (progress)
Other Reports
Priority of Next Steps
Structure: Models?
Objectives for January.

Pro Arts is building an Advocacy List, subscribe here.

My unfiltered notes from the last meeting held on November 18 are available here. Amy Kweskin is about to thread them through her facilitation filter. Probably a good idea.

arts town hall dec 2

continue the conversation
continue the conversation

This just in….a link to the arts town hall blog as captured by Carla Light:

My take? A good step on a long road to addressing some of the issues facing us.  There were a good many people there for a work day; there were also a good many people missing. The World Cafe format of dialogue was provocative and made it necessary for people to mix – a good thing! We could have used more time. Kudos to all the folks that set it up, and here’s hoping the conversation continues and the word spreads even farther. Paul Flores did some amazing pieces that hopefully got everyone thinking! LZ 12/3/08

oh snap! in our backyard!

continue the conversation:
join bay area artists, organizations, and leaders thinking and acting around cultural participation.

build upon recent convenings in san francisco, san jose and oakland

tuesday december 2

oakland scottish rite center
first floor ballroom
1547 lakeside drive | oakland

event is free but space is limited
rsvp by nov 18 to

for questions please contact

collaborators include east bay community foundation, san jose office of cultural affairs, theatre bay area, the san francisco foundation, grants for the arts / san francisco hotel tax fund, helicon collaborative and the wallace foundation

cultural art dept responds to budget cuts

More qualified good news from Cultural Arts: faced with the elimination of one of two positions dedicated to administering the grants program, they are proposing cutting the baby in half. Check it:

From: “Littles, Kathy”
Subject: Cultural Funding Program Update
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2008 13:48:10 -0800

Thank you to all who have written and called during the past few days regarding the future of the Cultural Funding Program and staff. I want to fill you in on the decisions that have been made regarding these two issues.

The Cultural Funding Program will continue with Kathy Littles as Coordinator and Jason Jong as Assistant Coordinator. As of Monday, November 17, staff will go to part-time status; our work days will be Monday, Thursday and Friday.

2009-2010 Applications:
All applications for the 09-10 Individual Artist Project, Organization Project and Art in the Schools are due in January (see below).

All October and November district workshops are still on (see below). A make-up Art in the Schools workshop and Organization Project workshop will be scheduled for the month of November. This meeting will take place in City Hall. I will email you once the dates are set.

I want all of you to know that your energy, spirit, enthusiasm and activism have energized all of us to move this program forward. Staff will work hard to continue to provide you with a quality grants program that celebrates the vibrant Oakland arts community. You deserve only the best.

Thank you and we will be in touch.
Kathy Littles

**Please note that all 08-09 contracts are due in the office by Monday, November 3, 2008, no extensions will be granted.

artVote community convening: nov 18 at pro arts

Thanks to all of you who took action in one form or another: by contacting your council member, signing the petition, showing up to the council meeting on October 21, and helping to spread the word!

We had a record turn out at City Hall – more than 2,776 people signed the petition in only three days, about 200 people signed up for speaker cards, and the people were heard! Your efforts resulted in saving cultural funding for this year…congratulations, thank you, and way to go!

There is still work ahead of us: we lost a staff position and funding for parades and festivals. The grants that were restored are for this year – not next year or the following year – so we will need to come together again early in 2009 to ensure that Oakland’s budget will include the cultural funding program, parades and festivals, and enough staff to administer the program.

If you are interested in being part of the planning team to develop our response, advocacy and lobbying efforts, please attend a November 18 meeting at Pro Arts. The meeting will go from 6:30-8:30pm. Please rsvp to if you will be attending.

If you aren’t able to be part of the planning efforts, but you do want to be kept informed of upcoming actions to take, including calling and emailing your council person or attending a council meeting, please opt-in to our announcement list.

In this blog we’ll continue to add links to articles, announcements and information about what’s going on with funding for the arts in Oakland. Let us know what you’re doing and we’ll get the word out.

Thank you for helping to save arts funding in Oakland!


Lori Zook
Acting Chair, City of Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission

npr redux

This moribund blog pressed into service coincidentally has the perfect entry from May 2004, a reflection on Neighborhood Public Radio. On my way to NYC to their installation at the Whitney Biennial I edited House of Zoka’s 2004 NPR appearance into a one-minute (and change) snapshot o, clearly an improvement, except you don’t hear the performance of The Public Toe Problem by Daniel Popsicle. You don’t need to. Just say it out loud and you can pretty much guess what it sounds like.

That Light Condom Thing Was Pretty Brilliant

…so said A4 last night as he watched me coil the last of the rope, the extension cords, and triple-check the number of edison pig tails to be returned to the rental yard.

Last year we started closing streets and showing movies with live music soundtracks. The chief enemy of film projection is… light, meaning light from places not strictly coming from the projector. So we find ways of suppressing it: polite requests to shut it off, commandeering of utility boxes and altering of timers with needle-nose pliers, training of flashlights on electric eyes, and scaling of lamp posts armed with butterfly nets made of 55-gallon trash bags.

For this last friday, one lamppost threatened to ruin the show: 35 feet tall, 8 foot cantilever over the street, sodium. I begged the hosts to permit me to cover it with an air rifle. Verboten.

So I avoided it. I spoke with the VW mechanics about dousing their sign. I plied the saturn dealership with certificates of additional insured and hip, zen security dressed like black panthers in order to get them to switch off the lights on a couple three four million dollars of inventory. And, periodically, I would look up at that light, then look at the sky, which was going to darken in an hour, then back at the light– D and I threaded several poles onto the butterfly net and attempted to walk over the streetlight. We were off by a good 10 feet. So I suggested standing on top of the van and driving toward the light. D pointed out all the wiring springing from the lamp post’s transformer, kindly not mentioning how stupid it is to stand on top of a moving van with a 25 foot pole with a garbage bag butterfly net on it.

The 24 foot extension latter went up against the pole, meeting the foot pegs and we chit chatted about what it would be like to climb up to the light and attempt to sheath it’s eight foot tumescence. Neither of us went up the ladder during the chat. Artist M arrived and we chatted some more. He said he would go up and if he felt uncertain he would just come back down. Artist M put his super 8 movie projector down, shed his back pack and started to climb, and I wordlessly handed him a 50 foot rope end which he put in his teeth.

At the 35 foot mark he embraced the pole and fed the rope over the cantilever. I grabbed it at the 20 foot mark, my limit, I do believe, and climbed down. Artist M followed. We tugged and dragged and angled. The net wouldn’t go onto light. We chit chatted some more.

Artist M went back up the ladder with our extension poles, made, sadly, of metal. He hugged again and threaded the pole between the transformer, the lines, the rope, the bag. Below, we moved like butoh dancers, a post-modern three-dimensional wallenda family, ushering the bag onto the lamp with deliberate, delicate steps. No breathing. No talking. Once it slid on a westerly wind inflated it into a dark phallus. I just stared.

I held the ladder for Artist M until he was quite down on the ground and I could look right in his eyes to thank him. What I saw there stirred me a bit and, um, I was delighted to be called from somewhere on my right so I could change my focus. It wasn’t just being an easy mark for someone unafraid of heights (who knew? and who can blame?). There was something in the well-timed arrival, self-possession, and success of Artist M that made me wonder if he was, well, special. Like. Maybe he could also fly and wasn’t going to brag about it. Maybe he visualized the differential equation while he was embracing the lamp post, like a frisbee dog from another planet. Maybe D and I were hallucinating that Artist M was present, the collective hero drawn from our personal shortcomings. I mean. Could he actually be a celestial walking this earth?

The night went on. Illuminated. Another story.

And then back to the studio 36 hours later:

You can’t really be calling it a light condom, attempting to chastise A4’s semiotic selection and beat down my own sensational recollection. What else was it? he said, moving onto other things.

life on the water

Ask any 5th Avenue studio artist what the Oak to Ninth project is and you’ll get an earful. For years now the City and Port of Oakland have had their eye of improving the waterfront from Oak Street to Ninth Avenue… and maintaining a place for the long-established arts community on Fifth Avenue was not an explicit concern, despite the good counsel of their own staffs, dozens of community groups, and scores of public hearing attendees.

Now that Oakland’s City Council has annointed the deal with Signature Properties to place highrise housing and commercial space along the estuary, a group of community activists is snowballin to stop it… at least until Dellums can take office as the Bay Guardian suggests.

Where’s the Art Vote?

Three things should be of concern to local artists on this one:

  1. The fate of fellow artists and arts enterprises on Fifth Avenue. It’s not surprising that the role of the arts in redevelopment is little understood, but it’d be nice if a white hot light of community involvement made it difficult for the City to put these people out on the street. No plans to do so at this point, but please. How many times do we have to see this to know it’s coming? more >>
  2. The loss of the 9th Avenue Pier to potential arts and community use. This historic building, already a City landmark, would, if Oakland were in Canada, be redeveloped into working artist studios, performance space, dining and shopping flanked by the Art Ship (remember that? It ended up like this.). Instead it may be simply in the way so 90% of its 164,000 square feet has got to go. more >>
  3. The obligation to retain a percent for public art in the development of civic space. Typically the City reserves 1-1/2% of the cost of every build-out, from sidewalks to refurbished city halls, to fund public art commissions. The system works and debates are lively about the results. The Port of Oakland is subject to a more miserly 0.5%, but realized when it was designing projects in the $300 million dollar range that spending $1.5 million on art would be… fabulous, no not fabulous, sorry, it would be insanity. So it used a loophole to cluster 30 projects on the waterfront into a single one, which subjected the public art component of all that madness going on from JL2 to Quinn’s to a cap of $150k. If the Port won’t pay it, not likely Signature Properties will either, but it might be worth a polite question.

Get Involved is going to start hanging with A Better Deal Coalition to see if they can get this one in front of Oakland voters. Naturally we’ll be trying to remind everyone about the role of the arts in these solutions, or, in this case, reclamations. You should too.