The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the symposium “ART/CITY” on March 16, 2012. Participants have been invited to respond to the prompt “in relation to the arts and civic life, the question I am wrestling with right now is…” in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Plinio Hernandez, founder of Pueblo Nuevo Gallery.
In October of 2011, I was asked to come on board as the public relations manager for a urban renewal pilot project called popuphood. This project gave six months free rent to five local groups of people to start businesses in previously empty storefronts located in the historical Old Oakland neighborhood, a few blocks south of downtown Oakland. Through a cross sector partnership (civic, private and community based) as well as a rebranding and marketing plan for the neighborhood and groups of stores, popuphood has become one of Oakland’s homegrown jewels. The success of popuphood comes from what I believe is a grassroots effort from the conception of the project to the consumer that shops at each business.Calling myself the only artist involved in popuphood is far from the truth, every merchant as well as the founders of the project are well known in various creative communities in the East Bay; from bicyclists, to jewelry makers, gallery owners and visual artists, popuphood is a melting pot of creativity.As a result, I am interested in how artists, particularly artists that are invested in a given community, can be agents of change in projects that are outside the creative space of the studio. This is beyond the idea that artists can change communities because they have a unique aesthetic perspective, or because the artist studio is located in economically marginalized community. It is the idea that artists, like any other person, are interested in a livable, healthy and economically viable community.