One of the wonderful benefits of living in Oakland is that you never know what or whom you’re going to meet up with when you venture outside. Last week, like an apparition, a brightly colored school bus materialized in front of the vacant Footlocker. The Hoop Bus has been traveling all over the U.S. for the past several years helping to Get Out the Vote, supporting the Black Lives Movement, and improving existing basketball courts by repairing them and then turning them into works of art (as they did at the FM Recreation Center back in 2019). Inside the bus, we introduced ourselves to Nico Ansom, the guy behind the wheel who is also the founder of the organization. Leading that week’s tour of the Eastbay was Meaghan Maples, an Oakland resident and accomplished singer who it turns out was a top contender for last year’s “Tiny Desk Music Award.” She didn’t win, but she did score an interview on NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday” which you can listen to at this link. By the way, we should be pitching a new TV weekly called, “Oakland’s Got Talent”–especially since another Oakland resident, Fantastic Negrito, won the Tiny Desk Award in 2015, helping him launch a string of successes that has included three Grammy Awards.
Inspired by our brief encounter with the Hoop Bus, we headed out to the City of Oakland’s Rainbow Recreation Center in the geographical center of East Oakland at the corner of 58th Avenue and International Boulevard. We focused initially on the basketball courts which have been totally revamped and decorated by the 2K Foundations in partnership with Project Backboard and well-known Oakland-based muralist Muzae Sesay. You can learn more about the project at this link. Beyond the basketball courts, the entire complex is amazing. It has a playground, recreation center, and smaller building that houses a Digital Arts and Culinary Academy. We got a peek inside the Academy’s kitchen, which is spacious and well-equipped. The young man we spoke with said the Culinary Academy typically has about twenty students enrolled ranging in age from early teens to eighteen. The City of Oakland gets a lot of flack from all sides (much of it deserved), but we should all be proud of what’s been accomplished at Rainbow with a tip of the hat to Recreation Specialist Clayton Richardson who supervises the Digital Arts and Culinary Academy.
Speaking of local artists and the talents that surround us on all sides, we’ve been admiring the mural painted on the plywood panels protecting Good Vibrations for months but last night, for the first time, we stopped and took a closer look at the signature. It’s the work of Adrian Arias, a poet, painter and performance artist whom we first met in 2017 when we was the resident artist at Studio Grand.
Our cup runneth over this month with two more artists worthy of mention. On Friday, two artists had easels set up in the Splash Pad Plaza. Jirsa, the Urban Plein Air Artist on the right, lives in Oakland and has been returning to this very same location for years. In the process, she has been able to document the many changes that have occurred over the years. Her friend, Selina Lee, a painter, illustrator, designer and art teacher, came over from San Francisco for the afternoon. Hopefully, we’ll be able to share their completed works in the December Splash Pad News.
In other news, Miya Saika Chen, City Council President Nikki Bas Fortunato’s Chief of Staff has announced her resignation effective this week. While we’re going to miss having her as our liaison and favorite problem-solver, we respect (and admire) her desire to spend more time with her children. Happily, she said this in a message to the Grand Lake Neighbors leadership: “I’m sure I’ll see you around the neighborhood–I will join the clean-ups, the winter stroll along Lakeshore, and hope to stay involved with the work you all are doing.” We’re looking forward to meeting and working with Miya’s replacement as Chief of Staff. Cinthya Muñoz Ramos has a strong background in community service and most recently served as the Legislative Director in the Board of Supervisor’s District 2 office.