Chalk It Up To Splash Pad Park’s History

 

If you’re at all curious about the  history of the plot of land now occupied by Splash Pad Park, We’d highly recommend SplashPad.org’s About page which includes information about landscape architect Walter Hood, the California Native Plant Garden, and a summary of the site’s long-term history starting in the late 19th century.

Peter Lee Poster

One very special event that isn’t mentioned on the About page took place in September 2000. By way of introduction, in late 1999 the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum was formed at the tail end of a long, divisive battle over the future of the park CalTrans had constructed in the early 1960s as part of the new MacArthur Freeway. With the park sadly neglected and unused, SPNF launched its efforts to lobby for a new park by circulating a brief survey that primarily asked area residents whether they supported the strip mall (supposedly Trader Joe’s) that then Councilmember John Russo had proposed. An overwhelming majority agreed with the petition that the Eastshore Park Preservation Association (under the leadership of Caroline Kim) had been circulating. Namely, park space should never be converted to commercial use. A significant minority, however, were of the opinion that major park improvements would be fruitless due to the looming presence of the adjacent freeway. At one of the SPNF meetings, someone suggested a chalk festival following the Field of Dreams – build it and they will come – model as a way to demonstrate the viability of a new park.

According to archived materials, two bands performed; approximately 100 kids showed up with their parents and enthusiastically dug through boxes of sidewalk chalk for their favorite colors; and approximately 20 adult artists participated. Of that number, Dan Fontes, Karen LeGault, Randolph Belle, Peter Lee, Andrew Keating, Karin Turner, and others we haven’t been able to identify used the sidewalk adjacent to Lake Park Way – the street that was later removed as part of the Splash Pad project as their “canvas.” With sidewalk space limited, six other artists headed for the pillars under the freeway.

The finished artwork far exceeded all expectations. Unfortunately, it wasn’t feasible to preserve the sidewalk art but, after a lengthy appeal, CalTrans finally gave permission for the artwork on the pillars to be varnished and made more or less permanent. Two decades later, the artwork by Alan Templeton and Matt Maddox have been painted over – apparently due to overzealous efforts to cover up adjacent graffiti. The condition of the four remaining pieces ranges from very good to only fair, but their continued presence serves as a tangible reminder of SPNF’s successful campaign to build a new park and the community support that made it a reality.

About the artists: 

Peter Lee painted a multitude of murals in Oakland and in the Grand Lake District in particular. He has since relocated to Southern California where he’s now painting in oil and watercolor on much smaller canvases offered at extremely reasonable prices.

Lila Warhaftig was a highly respected Oakland artist, who we’re sorry to report passed away last year.

Yvonne Browne‘s view from her apartment window was her inspiration for her Chalk Talks pillar. According to her online artist statement, “Yvonne has been an illustrator, designer and an art director for such prestigious book publishers as Crowell Collier and Harcourt Brace Jouanovich, both in the Bay Area and New York.” Thus far, we’ve been unable to find her current contact info.

Karin Turner is still quite active in the Bay Area art scene and reports that she just closed a one-person show at Creative Framing and is in the process of opening another in Marin. She has fond memories of the festival noting, that she was just then establishing herself as an artist and the “opportunity to interact with people was a really nice experience.”

Andrew Keating is the Head Teacher at the Berkeley School and author of The Navigator, a novel about the early childhood experience from the child’s point of view. Apparently, he still lives in the neighborhood.

Olga Margot has only two pieces of artwork pictured online and that’s in an account that has been inactive since 2002.

Alan Templeton is an Art History graduate at UC Davis and over the past two decades has become a distinguished art historian, collector, and philanthropist.

Dan Fontes has been painting murals in the Bay Area since 1981 including his signature giraffes under 580 at Oakland Avenue.

Karen LeGault was one of the artists we featured in the News last year. Her specialty is florals and botanicals.

Randolph Belle was an Oakland arts pioneer  going back to 1991. He owns RGB Creative which offers graphic design and public affairs consulting services.

Thus far, we’ve been unable to connect with Matt Maddox or Deborah Quay or find an online presence.

Editor’s Note: A big thank you to Jeanette Sayre who shot all the photos and provided recent scans. She was also involved in planning the event, created the flyer, and recruited several of the participating artists. We both apologize if you were at the event and aren’t included on the above list. Please use the comment tab below to add your own info or to fill in any missing blanks regarding participants.