Oakland, CA – The City of Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) community-powered street mural program, Paint the Town, is back! Oakland residents are invited to engage with neighbors, friends, and community organizations to create murals directly on neighborhood streets. This program aims to leverage partnerships with local nonprofit organizations EastSide Arts Alliance and Safe Passages to beautify Oakland streets, bring neighborhoods together, and advance racial justice goals.
Gather your friends, neighbors, and community groups to paint directly on your neighborhood street. All levels of experience are welcome! This is an opportunity to beautify your community and enhance interactions with your neighbors. For the full guidelines and application, go to https://www.oaklandca.gov/projects/paint-the-town. There are no fees associated with the application process and support is available for community groups based on financial need and funding availability. Murals by community groups in historically underserved neighborhoods will receive the highest priority for funding.
Paint the Town launched as a pilot program in 2017, resulting in twelve street murals painted across Oakland. You can find photos of the murals and painting events at https://www.oaklandca.gov/resources/paint-the-town-overview-presentation and see a map of the murals with photos at https://www.oaklandca.gov/resources/paint-the-town-project-locations.
“Every time I see one of our vibrant street murals I am overwhelmed with pride,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “Watching communities come together for the common goal of making art is what makes Oakland special. ‘Paint the Town’ aligns with our four core values for Oakland’s local government: safety, trust, sustainability, and at its heart - equity. We are dedicated to empowering each neighborhood of the Oakland community to work together to develop their own ideas and apply their own creativity to create a more beautiful Oakland together.”
The Scraper Bike Team, an East Oakland-based organization that introduces youth to cycling, made a block party out of their mural painting day during the pilot program. Tyrone “Champ” Stevenson, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of the Scraper Bike Team, reflects on his experience, “Paint the Town was a fun community project that brought a lot of neighbors outside. After the mural was installed people made comments that this was needed in Deep East Oakland and they were happy to be a part of it."
This time around OakDOT has the privilege of partnering with EastSide Arts Alliance and Safe Passages, two Oakland-based non-profit organizations working to empower underserved neighborhoods through art. They will support the program by facilitating community outreach, and helping applicants through the process, and providing technical assistance.
“EastSide Arts Alliance and Safe Passages’ concrete social justice work is invaluable to the health of our city and the communities we all serve,” OakDOT Director Ryan Russo said. “It’s an honor to work with such transformative nonprofit organizations. We are excited to formally launch this program after a successful pilot, and we look forward to seeing what the community can do when the City cuts back on some of the red tape and centers our residents’ voices.”
EastSide Arts Alliance is a collective of cultural workers who live and work in East Oakland and offer free art classes, cultural programs, and admission into gallery exhibitions with a mission to tear down the barriers that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) youth face when entering the art community and unite art with activism.
“Painting murals brings people together, empowers and creates safe spaces,” EastSide Arts Alliance Visual Arts Director, Leslie Lopez said. “This program is a way for neighbors, community groups, and cultural hub sites to come together and claim and activate public space. Through cultural strategies such as this we are engaging communities who have previously been underserved and under-resourced. This is an opportunity not only to connect established and emerging artists with rooted community groups and cultural hubs in Oakland, but to beautifully contribute to the work that's already happening.”
Safe Passages is committed to achieving social justice for the most vulnerable members of our community through broadening access to education, mental and medical health services, and economic development for children, youth, and families. “This project can have a deep resonance and impact on our community when we can own the narrative.” Jonathan Brumfield, a program manager for Safe Passages said. “Being able to create a true representation of your culture, community, and self has a profound influence on our youth and families. When our community can realize their full potential, access the educational opportunities, health services, and familial support the programs involved in this project can provide, we will see the true effect that Paint the Town has on our people.”
Paint the Town, in partnership with EastSide Arts Alliance and Safe Passages, is helping residents and local groups to foster their own imagination and creativity in reimagining Oakland’s neighborhood streets as spaces of art, vibrancy, and community ownership.