Project: Jerry Brown's Inaugural Murals - 1999
Dimensions: (15) 10’ x 10’ panels with over 200 people volunteering        
Medium: Acrylics on Canvas

Location:  Most destroyed, a few are around, some were reused

 

I'm hesitant to bring any more attention to this story than it has already received, but nobody's perfect:

 

When Governor Jerry Brown announced years ago that he was considering running for Mayor of Oakland, I was enthusiastic. His radio broadcast from the We the People headquarters in North Oakland had fooled many people, including myself, into believing that he was the solution to the decades of hard years and tough times in Bump City, especially for the arts.  

A year or so earlier, I'd painted some large canvases for Willie Brown's campaign, for an inaugural event similar to what was planned in Oakland. I'd spoken with Jodi Evens, Brown's campaign manager, about painting some murals for the event, and had gotten the green light. Oakland's Tribune building was being renovated, and we had gotten permission to use the second and third floors to lay out the big canvases that were to be used at the Henry J. Kaiser auditorium to help people understand the vast, complex geography and character of Oakland. A massive map, with the murals along the outside, would guide people to many of the city's districts, and the national spotlight would shine on our celebrity Mayor.

 

I was working through one of the roughest bouts of flu/pneumonia (flumonia?) that I'd ever had, which was difficult, to say the least, but somehow the murals were finished in time for the event. I realized that I'd made a mistake in soliciting this commission when the event director began putting up the canvases randomly, all around the room. There was an attitude of unconcern with the intended, linear map geography and the message was clear: just shut up and go with the program. The canvases were haphazardly displayed, and Brown was elected.

Later, the murals were used all around Oakland for different events, like the fantastic Blues Festival in the produce district, and the Claremont folks used them for their home tours. St. Elizabeth's church purchased their mural. But overall, I felt that I'd made a mistake in contributing, even in this relatively small way, to ushering in an era of large-scale change that has dovetailed with the whole gentrification disaster that has taken place in the intervening years, and permanently altering the indigenous character of Oakland.  At least the painting part was fun.

 (inside the Henry J. Kaiser auditorium during event with Julie Lucchesi)

(inside the Henry J. Kaiser auditorium during event with Julie Lucchesi)

 (Painting the murals in the Tribune Tower during it’s renovation)

(Painting the murals in the Tribune Tower during it’s renovation)