Place It! Workshop

A week or so ago, one of my coworkers gave me her ticket to attend an American Planning Association event with James Rojas, the founder of Place It! Place It! is a design and participation based urban planning firm that uses model-based workshops and on-site interactive models to help engage the public in community development. He has used toys as tools to empower immigrants in Los Angeles to share their ideas about how the neighborhood should be designed. The concept was simple, yet profound. We used toys to share our favorite memory from childhood and then we worked in groups to address a conceptual problem.

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James Rojas – Place It! Founder
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Pile of toys for us to play with!
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This group worked on tackling economic development. Their solution was automated robots.
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This group dealt with mobility, they created zip lines to connect businesses and homes, as a way of transporting people through the air.
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My group tackled sustainability. We made an urban city based on Singapore, it had water recycling, wind mills for energy, compost which went to the large farms, rooftop gardens, and people lived next to the river, so they had easy access to water. It was paradise.

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Hidden in Plain Site – Oakland Street Art

During the first weekend of June, I met up with Tess to have lunch at a nice crepe restaurant in Oakland and catch up. On my walk home afterwards, I saw the most amazing art work hidden in plain site across the neighborhood. Its crazy to think that this was all within two or three blocks of each other. Check it out.

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First Friday Art Walk in Oakland, CA

Hi everyone,

To kick off the first week of June, I went to First Friday Art Walk in Oakland with Abhinaya and Johnathon. We walked through a street filled with live drumming, music, artists painting works, hand-made jewelry, and of course Pete’s Coffee and Tea was giving away free samples of their coffee. While at the Petes stand, I saw a woman pedal a bicycle blender.  Enough said. Here we go.

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Pete’s Coffee and Tea Bike Blender!
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This was the first art gallery we walked into. I didn’t get the name of it, but it was pretty cool. On the inside, there were flyers and posters in support of #blacklivesmatter. I’d love to check this out again at some point during the summer.
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This was the first big art mural we saw on our walk. It looks like a cross between a lion/wolf and ducks with upside down faces. I love the vivid colors and repeating patterns.
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The next exhibit we entered was the Johansson Projects. This place had some really interesting art work patterns. You can check out more on their website: http://johanssonprojects.com/
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This was one of the art works on the wall of the Johansson Projects exhibit. They did a lot of monotone repeating patterns. The variation in the patterns makes it really interesting to look at. I could have stared at the intricacy of this work for hours.
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The next place we went to was very different. It featured a lot more playful and child-like pieces. This one was my favorite. Its two friends walking together. In the bodies of the two friends is a painting of the universe.
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On our way back, we saw a huge variety of murals painted on the businesses. This one conveys a lot of intricacy. I love the message on top of the door, “Give & Love”
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This one was right across the street from the “Give & Love” mural. In stark contrast, this conveys a more sad, contemplative image of life in Oakland.
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Lastly, across the street from both of those murals was this image of animals, jungles, and flowers.

My First Concert at the Fox Theater

Last Thursday, Abhinaya bought tickets for us to go to a Spoon concert at the Fox Theater in Oakland as an early birthday present (Yes, I know, she’s awesome). It was the first time I’ve ever been at the floor of a concert hall, listening to a band I enjoy playing a line-up of their best songs. If you haven’t heard of Spoon before, they play music like The Way We Get By, Do You, The Underdog, and Don’t You Evah. We managed to get there early enough to get in the second row. The entire theater was sold out. The experience of watching one of my favorite bands play live in concert was amazing!

Abhinaya and I at the concert!
Abhinaya and I at the concert!
Spoon singing the first song!
Spoon singing the first song!

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Lead singer =)
Lead singer =)

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Here is a video of Spoon playing “Do You.” This is currently one of my favorite songs from them. =)

East Bay Music Festival

As mentioned in the previous post, I went to the East Bay Music Festival with Abhinaya last Saturday. The festival was located near Lake Merritt and the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in downtown Oakland, amidst many residential and commercial buildings. The festival was home to local bands and Bay Area food trucks and start-up food businesses. Here is what the festival looked like:

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While I was checking out the food trucks and food stalls, Abhinaya informed me that there is an ongoing movement in Oakland to re-open the Kaiser Convention Center. According to a Facebook group supporting the movement, “since 2005, this nearly hundred-year-old gem has been sitting on Mothballs, doing nothing. Not serving the community, not hosting cultural events, and being basically ignored by the City of Oakland in favor of glitzier theaters downtown.”

The City of Oakland transferred the building into the hands of the redevelopment agency before Governor Brown eliminated funding for all redevelopment agencies back in 2011. Here is what the building looks like right now:

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View of one of the entrances to the gated building.
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Side View of the building.

Abhinaya bought some iced coffee and some apricot donut holes from the Red Bay Coffee stall while we were there. I spoke to the owner of the business, Keba, about his experience at the festival. He was having a good time, and told me a little bit about his kick starter campaign to build a coffee shop out of a shipping container. Abhinaya and I sat down afterwards and tried the donut holes, which were pretty delicious. You can learn more about his business here.

The festival made Oakland feel like home on my first day back in the Bay Area. There was a sense of community culture among people and the locally grown businesses. It would be exciting to see free community events like these happened more often in Downtown Los Angeles to encourage the same kind of culture. If anyone knows of some, please share in the comments below.