Oakland Arts Coming of Age

Bruce Beasley of West Oakland is an internationally known sculptor who bequeathed his two-block cluster of studios and sculpture gardens to the Oakland Museum of California.

His gift also includes many of his own massive abstract works, personal archives of his illustrious career and an endowment for future sculpture-related events and programs.

I asked him why public art was important.

My question got him thinking.

“All art is an expression of the celebration of the Human Spirit,” said Beasley. “It connects us to each other and it celebrates those feelings we have for the non-practical side of life.”

“Public Art does what all art does, but it does so in the public arena where the experience is shared,” he said. “Public art speaks publicly for the importance of the Human Spirit as a shared value.”

“Cities that support public art demonstrate that they believe in the importance of enriching the lives of their citizens, and the result is that those cities are more vital and exciting to live in,” he concluded.

His comments are central to the arts as the new administration goes forward under our new Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Mayor Schaaf set the stage for Oakland arts when she backed legislation as a city councilmember that enacted a Public Art in Private Development policy.

Fees will be assessed from new private development projects and may be spent on public art at the site of construction, deposited to an in-lieu to be allocated for public art at other civic locations, or used to create cultural space in new development for community use.

“This is a big deal,” said Steven Huss, cultural arts manager for the City of Oakland. “There is tremendous potential benefit for the Oakland arts sector and the community as a whole. This is very progressive legislation.”

“Art not only provides a vehicle for creative expression but allows those who experience it to see the world in a new way and to even be transformed,” he said.

“As a vital center of creativity with an enormous diversity of cultural identities represented here, Oakland is the ideal location for public art to be fostered and celebrated,” said Lori Fogarty, Oakland Museum of California Director and CEO.

Oakland is a city with a creative spirit,” said Mayor Schaaf. “We are lucky to have an incredibly talented and diverse community of local artists and makers. Art is something that all Oaklanders should have the opportunity to enjoy.

“Public art gives us the opportunity to improve the basic quality of life in our city by making sure art is a vibrant and accessible part of every neighborhood.”


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