"Creativity takes courage"
Street art can talk and share its town’s tales. Oakland has many walls speaking vividly and there are new stories yet to be told. Professional or armature, brush strokes and spray paint trace a narrative about what makes this town art-prolific, outspoken. Long-time inhabitants as well as newcomers, transients, nomads diverse as that of the murals themselves - they all confront Oakland’s fast-paced gentrification and redevelopment similarly and in their own way.
Vessel gallery, one of the hubs of Oakland arts and culture, organizes mural tours around the downtown area. And who knows the routes around the ever changing local cityscape better if not the artists themselves? We were lucky to have one of them, David Burke, as our tour guide. Seeing the murals leaves a bittersweet aftertaste. Hours, days, sometimes weeks of work about to be gone forever. Several murals were painted purposefully in the locations slated for redevelopment. The artists must have known about the plans, and yet decided to complete their projects even in the face of potentially partial or complete obliteration or visual obstruction of the future artwork. I believe that at some point of time, many years from now, the hidden murals will be revealed unexpectedly and to great amusement of the discoverer. Evanescence of these beautiful wall paintings make them an even bolder, grander expression of cultural resistance, points out David Burke. He is right. Knowing that many murals are to be gone, makes the experience very intense. Colors stand out even brighter against the clear blue sky. Lines seem sharper. Muralists like to “play” with the urban viewer, some monumental works are painted in the direction opposite to car traffic, thus preventing the motorist to ever see the mural, unless they are on foot. Such moments of discovery are what make Oakland murals intriguing, curious and awe-inspiring. While on the tour, I ”met” my new favourite muralist - Zio Ziegler. His wall work is exhilarating. Walking around Oakland reminds a scavenger hunt with many hidden gems to discover and many more to come.
On this website, there is a growing catalogue of the Oakland treasure: https://localwiki.org/oakland/Murals