Today, the City of Oakland released a new Cultural Plan, its first in thirty years. Titled “Belonging in Oakland: A Cultural Development Plan,” the document provides a roadmap to support and lift up the role of culture in building a just and equitable city – so that every Oaklander in every neighborhood has access to cultural amenities. The Plan was adopted by the City Council after a robust community engagement process. The final Plan is now available on the City’s website at www.oaklandca.gov/resources/cultural-plan.
The tagline for the Plan “Equity is the Driving Force, Culture is the Frame, and Belonging is the Goal” indicates how the plan was developed and suggests the foundation needed to strengthen Oakland’s cultural ecosystem and the city. The Plan offers up a new lens for supporting culture in Oakland, recognizing that an alignment of culture and equity is required for Oaklanders to realize their potential – and offers specific strategies for getting there.
“The Cultural Development Plan illustrates the vibrant and diverse ways our city understands itself as a community of creativity and care – and how we envision the path forward to maintain our unique identity,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “It gives voice to the idea that we all belong to each other as Oaklanders, and affirms that our civic well-being is deeply rooted in Oakland’s long-term artistic and cultural health. It is a wonderful achievement.”
Building on the Plan and its vision, the City’s Cultural Affairs unit will launch two new initiatives in 2019:
- ) The “Neighborhood Voice: Belonging in Oakland” grant program will support art-based civic engagement projects throughout the city that will enliven a healthy, just and vibrant civil society.
- ) An Artist-In-Residence (AIR) program in City government designed to bring new approaches to civic challenges and service delivery by engaging Oaklanders in unique ways, advancing the missions of various City departments and benefitting neighborhoods.
“For the last 18 months, we have listened to and learned from Oaklanders about their concerns, hopes and priorities and what they value about the cultural vitality of this city,” said Roberto Bedoya, the City’s Cultural Affairs Manager. “I am thankful to the hundreds of Oaklanders who shared their passion, insights and desires with the Cultural Planning team. Their thoughtful comments have illuminated the pathways that will advance the cultural life of Oakland and inform the future work of the Cultural Affairs Division.”
Launched in April 2017, development of the Cultural Development Plan included a research and discovery phase as well as robust community engagement with a series of 14 meetings throughout Oakland, about 450 responses to an online survey, the creation of a draft cultural asset map and two community meetings to garner comments on the initial draft document which informed the final plan adopted by City Council.
Oaklanders made it clear that they value the role culture plays in our city and in their communities with 91% of people surveyed responding “Essential” or “Very Important” to the question: “How important are arts and cultural activities to your life?” While one would expect artists, makers and arts professionals to respond with those answers, it’s significant to note that 50% of the respondents said that they were not professionally involved in the arts.
The Plan comes at a moment when two feature films (“Sorry to Bother You” and “Blindspotting”) by native Oaklanders and a national bestseller (“There There”) also by an Oakland native are bringing attention and acclaim to our city’s unique culture and the phenomenal works of artistic expression originating here. Further national exposure of our dynamic cultural scene will come as Oakland hosts the 2018 Grantmakers in the Arts Conference in late October.
The Plan was prepared by the City’s Cultural Affairs Division and a team of local planning experts, using an equity lens in engaging the community and researching best practices to create a cultural development plan that recognizes and embraces the diversity of Oakland. The team was led by Vanessa Whang, an independent consultant with over 30 years of non-profit arts/culture/philanthropy experience at the local, state and national levels and included Communities in Collaboration | Comunidades en Colaboración, a community engagement consultancy led by Susana Morales. Data
research was provided by Alex Werth, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography at UC Berkeley focusing on the regulation of expressive culture.
A celebration of the Cultural Plan and the City’s most recent round of cultural funding grants to local artist and arts organization will be held in early October.
# # #
About the Cultural Affairs Division
The Cultural Affairs Division is housed in the City’s Economic & Workforce Development Department. The division includes the City’s cultural funding program, which provides approximately $1 million in grants to support the arts in Oakland; the public art program, which has more than $1 million in funds currently dedicated for public art installations across Oakland and staff working on special events, film production permitting and a walking tours program.