West Oakland’s Culturally Enriching Creation Zone
On an early Friday spring morning, with the makeup and clothes still on from the much need night out before, I found myself on the other side of the bay aimlessly exploring Oakland’s west side. Stumbling from one adventure to the next I started by retracing Thursday night’s steps around Lake Merritt, followed by coffee in the sleepy mountain town of Montclair, the island of Alameda, the view from the Berkeley Pier and American Steel Studios’ sculpture garden. A little lost and trying to find the highway, I had just turned onto Mandela Parkway when I eyed these large industrial sculptures. I recognized from a friend’s Instagram photos, so I slammed on the breaks causing a very screechy turn onto 20th Street.
And then I stared up at the colossal metal bodies standing in front of me. These huge industrial sculptures made of found industrial parts resemble humans in different physical forms.
The sculptures were made by Karen Cusolito and the sculptors at American Steel Studio, the studio Cusolito manages. Cusolito graduated from RISD and Massachusetts College of Art, where Cusolito focused on public art, specifically transit environments and the long term benefit of the percent-for-arts program for cultural enrichment.
Even though there were “No Parking” signs, we parked without bother nor were we shooed away. We walked, touched and photographed the sculptures in the cement rubble park. I noticed other drivers slowing down as they passed by the statues, but none of them stopped. Looking at all the different pieces used to create the statues, I was inspired to create from just what is around me. The industrial warehouse setting of west Oakland further energized me by reminding me it’s possible to create, but that’s if you actually want to. The real choice is; to create or not create? I want to create!
Established in 2006 in a virtually vacant area, a strong, diverse and creative artist community has emerged in just 6 years. Already in this industrial playground that has high clearance, bridge cranes, drive through truck asses and roll-up doors are painters, photographers, steel fabricators and sculptors, soap-makers, a compost worm farm, water re-use management, urban greening, vertical aerial and trapeze performers, graphics designers, jewelers, glass artists and furniture designers… and hopefully me!
I’ve always wanted to live or be a part of an artistic and industrial community. As a little kid I set up a studio in our basement, I love large studio apartments because there are no walls and I always like having different spaces where I do different things but have them all at one place.
When I see this West Oakland community that’s filled with a variety of artists from all sorts of industries, I feel excited and full of possibility but am faced with reality that I’ve never tried to be a part of such community. I can’t avoid that I haven’t made it happen and I wonder, why? More exploration into myself, such as my reservations, needs, motivations and desires and such said artist communities are necessary. However, the more I think about it, the more I think it would be a great next move, experience and documentable process. I’m thinking I need a live/work warehouse space, but where?
For more information on American Steel Studios, visit their website: http://www.americansteelstudios.com/
American Steel building is located at 20th Street and Madela Parkway. The American Steel building provides studio and gallery space to over 100 artists, innovators and small green businesses, ever since. American Steel is an incubator of creative cross-pollination and inspiration for innovators focused on art, sustainability and cultural enrichment.
Below are found snippets on three of the sculptures. See the photos for sculpture names.
“Mumbatu” 2007 (Burning Man)
Mumbatu is deep in a posture of introspection. His height is exaggerated, emphasizing his strength and lean musculature. Yet despite his imposing size, he is crouching down, with deep regard for the smaller nuances of life; the delicate balance between nature and humanity. Presently on exhibit at American Steel Studios.
Achmed bows to and is grounded to the Earth in a posture of humility. His connection to the Earth is magnified in the exaggerated scale of his hands. His form is executed with delicate and dynamic patterns along with illustrative symmetry. He debuted at Burning Man in 2006 and returned in 2007. He has been on exhibit at Symbiosis, 2009, Nocturnal, 2009 and Electric Daisy Carnival, 2010. He presently is on exhibit at American Steel Studios, Oakland, CA.
Eileen revels in the emotion of joy as she reaches exuberantly toward the sun, rejoicing in its energy, warmth, and light. She features a flame effect in each hand. Eileen was first exhibited at Burning Man in 2006 and again in 2007. She was then on exhibit at The Institute for Solar Living, Hopland, CA from 2008 to 2010 and is presently on exhibit at American Steel Studios, Oakland, CA.
“The romantic image of bohemian artists doing drugs, running around and sleeping with everyone —it’s played out. That’s for the superhuman and the people who want to die young.” -Austin Kleon
Chrysler Eminem Superbowl Commercial 2011: Imported from Detroit
If you’ve lived in Detroit, you know how much this speaks to your soul.
Detroit Love. Detroit Pride.