The Funktown Arts District was created by the Community Rejuvenation Project in 2009 at the Parkway Theater. The theater’s sudden closure devastated the community and led to immediate blight and disrepair. CRP’s painting of the Parkway and three other walls in the immediate area with dedications to musicians and cultural icons have supported the growth and success of local businesses. CRP routinely paints new works on the theater, such as a portrait of Trayvon Martin, to keep the area vibrant.
In 2011, CRP was approached by the San Pablo Avenue Golden Gate Improvement Association (SPAGGIA) to create a series of murals on San Pablo Ave between 60th Ave and Alcatraz. The first mural out of five has been completed on Golden Gate Liquors on 60th St. called “Pedal Power to the People.” A second project called “Sacred Seeds” was also commissioned on Stanford and 60th. SPAGGIA will be holding a series of fundraisers throughout the summer of 2012 for the next three murals.
CRP’s partnership with Phat Beets and People’s Grocery began in 2011 with a garden mural in Dover Park painted live during the Cesar Chavez celebration. CRP was then invited to contribute portraits of local heroes at the Chestnut Green Corridor behind the California Hotel. In total, CRP has painted 7 portraits on Chestnut and added a mural in the People’s Garden during the Corridor dedication in April 2012. CRP’s next project will be painting the People’s Grocery headquarters on 7th and Market.
In the summer of 2011, CRP was hired by Youth Radio to conduct a 4 – session mural workshop with students in its summer program. Over the course of four weeks, the group designed and painted a full color mural on two 4′ x 8′ wood panels that were placed behind Youth Radio’s altar on their first floor to augment a space set aside to remember the community’s loved ones.
CRP has had an ongoing relationship with ARISE High School, beginning with several small indoor murals in classroom and hallways. At the beginning of 2012, CRP artists lead a team of 20 youth on a large scale mural on a blighted auto shop at 8th Ave. and Fruitvale. Despite experience in the aerosol medium, the students took on exceptionally difficult tasks of drawing sacred geometric patterns, accurately rendering the Mexica Sunstone (Aztec Calendar), and drawing the magnetic field of the heart. The resulting “Heart and Mind” mural was a source of pride for everyone involved.
CRP began its collaboration with ACGAN in 2010 by painting a live community mural at its 10/10/10 event held in conjunction with a nationwide day of action with 350.org. This project was followed up with another mural the following year highlighting the role of bees called “Pollinate Your Community.” CRP remains involved with this grassroots program to transform the blight in Ashland and Cherryland.
The murders of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi have capped a recent spate of attacks on unarmed people of color which also include Rahmarlee Graham, who was unarmed when shot by police in his own home, and Kenneth Chamberlain, who was shot in his home by police responding to a medical call. Trayvon’s murder has sparked massive outrage due to the Stanford (Fla.) police’s unwillingness to arrest his admitted shooter, George Zimmerman. Shaima Alawadi was a mother of five children, murdered with a note beside her accusing her of being a terrorist simply for being Iraqi. No one in any of these cases has been charged with a crime.
Blight is a major problem in urban environments like Oakland.