Project: Oakland Gems - 1995
Dimensions: Approximately 8' x 500'
Medium: Acrylics on plywood fence
Formerly located at the State Building construction site 13th/14th & Clay Streets (three sides of a city block)
People tend to forget now, but 30 years ago, the core section of downtown Oakland had been severely neglected, vandalized, and all but abandoned.
In the early 1980s, Gary Graham and Jack Green demonstrated the power of construction-site fence murals. Their four square block mural was located at 11th-14th Streets from Broadway to Jefferson. which was on public display for close to a decade, while structures like the Wells Fargo and American President Lines buildings took shape within.
Oakland Public Works was looking for something eye-catching that would act as a kind of visual band-aid for the street until the new State building was completed. They knew that it was going to be at least two years until the building even reached partial construction. I suggested paying tribute to Oakland's architectural heritage in bright colors on this eight foot high fence. I created some brief sketches in sort of a stained-glass window style that would be simple and almost "paint-by-numbers" so that the public could join in.
Over 100 people were a part of the painting. Many put in dozens of hours of time and effort during the weeks we worked on it. Each of the 25 panels was about 20 feet wide, and I worked with dozens of volunteers who enjoyed doing something positive to brighten up the downtown area. I selected well known gems to portray, like the Belleview-Staten building, the Dunsmuir Estate, Preservation Park, and the Paramount & Fox Theaters.
After 3-4 years, the panels started disappearing one by one, and then suddenly they were all gone. I was told by the folks in Public Works that the workers at the construction site simply took many of them home. In the end, I chose to see it as a kind of compliment.