A thriving population of homegrown neighborhood artists has emerged in Oakland’s San Antonio, encouraging community participation in the arts through after-school training programs, events for young adults, street banners and murals, community exhibitions, and special events like the annual Malcolm X JazzArts Festival. The EastSide Arts Alliance (ESAA) draws these energies together in a collaborative that has begun to establish a visible presence in the San Antonio.
But despite ESAA’s early successes, a significant impediment to its members’ work is a lack of permanent space properly configured to accommodate studios, classrooms, and community performances/gatherings. Meanwhile, related businesses find it difficult to stay on 23rd Avenue due to the volatile rental market.
Eastside Arts Alliance can harness the neighborhood’s significant cultural assets and local creativity to revitalize the 23rd Avenue district, but not without a permanent space for arts programming and culture-based activities. A permanent cultural center would provide a centralized home for ESAA’s members and their array of after school programming, adult classes, workshops, performances and community forums. It would also help established, local businesses share resources and thrive. Finally, it will provide a space for diverse San Antonio ethnic groups to celebrate and pass on cultural traditions. Securing an ownership position for Eastside Arts Alliance is critical to allowing them to whether future development in the rapidly gentrifying community that they are committed to work with.
Working with neighborhood artists, Urban Ecology’s staff architect played a pivotal role in the financing, design and construction of the $5.5 million Eastside Cultural Center in the 23rd Avenue neighborhood. The cultural center is under construction at present, and will open in the fall of 2006 and offer a gathering spot for local artists, youth and families. The top floor of the center will have 16 units of affordable housing (including units dedicated for pregnant teens and young mothers attending classes and job training), while the bottom floor offers offices for a local graphic design firm, space for Oakland Ready to Learn’s early childhood literacy programs, as well as a performance space, conference room, audio and digital studios, printmaking studios, and an administrative office for Eastside Arts Alliance.