Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Oakland’s Arts Explosion at the Non-Profit Roundtable

By Jerry Metzker, Co-Chair
Development & Marketing Manager, Biotech Partners

The September 18, 2012 Oakland Chamber Non-Profit Roundtable was bittersweet. First, the members bid a fond farewell to Oakland Chamber Membership Director and committee liaison Triche Christmon. After shepherding the Roundtable for four years, Triche has left the Chamber to pursue new opportunities. Attendees thanked Triche for her dedication to the Chamber and Roundtable with memories and well wishes, as well as cupcakes provided by Accountant Iryna Oreshkova (www.irynacpa.com).

The focus of the meeting featured three of Oakland’s prominent figures in the City’s massive and continuing arts growth over the past several years.

Lonnie Lee, the proprietor of Vessel Gallery (www.vessel-gallery.com) on 25th Street, took attendees through the history and growth of the Oakland Art Murmur/First Fridays from its humble beginnings as an art gallery crawl on the first Friday of every month to a several block party of arts, music and food that draws thousands to Oakland’s Uptown to Civic Center districts. The arts—galleries and music, primarily—have fortified Oakland’s fantastic restaurant and nightclub scene. After several years of growth, Lee shared, the City has seen to it to transform a number of blocks of Telegraph Avenue into a massive street party, beginning in September. Lee continued to note that the arts growth includes a guided Saturday stroll through various galleries on the third Saturday of the month, as well as many special events. In fact, October 3-13 has been designated as Art Gallery Week with 36 galleries in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco participating. For more information on the many happenings, go to www.artgalleryweek.com.

By the way, the next First Friday is this Friday, October 5, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Check it out: www.oaklandfirstfridays.org.

Lee further noted that Vessel Gallery is available as a site for events and parties, a great opportunity for non-profit organizations.

Margo Dunlap, Executive Director of ProArts Gallery (www.proartsgallery.org) is one of the City’s premier arts champions. Founded in 1974, ProArts has been encouraging and supporting visual arts in Oakland with great fervor. The organization has grounded its mission in community arts. While it has many accomplishments, including a gallery and education space in Frank Ogawa Plaza/City Center, one of its largest projects is Open Studios which takes place every spring in Oakland and throughout the Bay Area. For two weekends in June (and at other times), visual artists of all types open up their studios to art enthusiasts. In that brief period, art sales account for between $300,000 and $400,000 added to the local economy.

ProArts also hosts an active arts program with residencies in Oakland schools. Through this program, young people create about 5,000 artworks annually.  In addition, the organization leads a growing arts advocacy group that rallies the City for arts funding.

Dunlap also spoke about the importance of arts participation for all of us, whether it is singing in a church choir or making quilts. She concluded by inviting all of us to think about creating a cultural plan for our community.

 The third presenter was Steve Young, Executive Director of The Crucible (www.thecrucible.org), Oakland’s unique industrial arts education and professional studio. Founded in 1999, The Crucible offers more than 20 different programs for artists of all ages in its 56,000-square-foot facility in West Oakland. Its focus is on large-scale works of art that require multiple artists and occasionally interaction, turning its audience into users, not merely viewers. Each year, The Crucible offers $100,000 in scholarships to young people to engage them in the arts. Currently, Young and other industrial artists are engaged in developing and promoting an industrial arts corridor in West Oakland, currently featuring a Peralta Junction Project (www.peraltajunction.org, where Mandela and Peralta intersect) a creative arts community space that has its grand opening on October 5 & 6, 2012. Working with local artists, the Peralta Junction Project will create an arts-based gathering space, autumnal activities and exciting economic opportunities.

The Crucible’s contributions to Oakland’s economy, notoriety and art scene are palpable. The organization employs up to 150 people annually and spends more than a million dollars locally on supplies. Its classes and activities, including a new Corporate Team Building opportunity draw hundreds of people to Oakland from throughout the Bay Area, and as far away as the Silicon Valley. The spectacular Fire Arts Festival draws 20,000-30,000 people to Oakland over the course of several days.

While all three presenters had several commonalities, including their vision to continue to expand Oakland’s arts culture, their focus was on the positivity of creativity and arts on individuals and the community. As Young stated, “We want to inspire creativity in everyone!”

* * * * *
Every month, the Oakland Chamber Non-Profit Roundtable holds pertinent discussions and addresses issues and opportunities for growth and to connect with For-Profit businesses, all in the effort to strengthen the greater Oakland metropolitan community. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 16, from 2:30-4:30 pm, in the Oakland Chamber board room. The group is a great introduction to the Chamber as well as a great networking opportunity for all Oakland businesses.


Co-Chair Âna-Marie Jones, Executive Director of CARD (amj@cardcanhelp.org)
Co-Chair Jerry Metzker, Development & Marketing Manager of Biotech Partners (jerry.metzker@bayer.com)

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