Creative Work Fund

Creative Work Fund/Walter and Elise Haas Fund

Funding Received: 2011
Multiple, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
December 25, 2011

A strong community is built from its members’ attentive care.

Oakland poet Kristin Palm asks what if the people of Oakland, California—not city planners—were invited to identify to identify the most vital and important qualities of the city? And what if those individual views were shaped through conversations and community mapping workshops? One could create Interstices: Oakland, a community-engaged mapping process structured by Palm with conceptual/performance artist Hiroko Kikuchi.

At the end of that process, the artists will exhibit maps, notes, and ephemera created by themselves and other community members, and publish a multi-media book.

Kristin Palm is one of eight literary artists to receive an October 2011 Creative Work Fund grant for a new work developed through a collaboration with a nonprofit. Palm’s organizational partner is East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), a nationally recognized and innovative community developer working in Oakland and East Bay neighborhoods. Palm and Kikuchi will involve people throughout the city, but focus attention on neighborhoods where EBALDC works.

The artists are beginning their project with a long walk though Oakland, collecting observations and refining the questions that will focus their investigation. These will not be questions that are typically asked in a city planning process. Palm writes, “We aim to create a platform for conversation that is rooted in the artists’ and community members’ unique interests, experiences, concerns and desires. We anticipate that Interstices: Oakland will help us uncover overlooked, but essential, characteristics of locales.”

I asked my own questions of Kristin:

--Why are many artists now interested in the concept of mapping?

--I wonder if we’re feeling more and more removed from the land. And I also wonder if, in part, it’s a reaction to technology, like GPS, which finds the way for us. But I like the paper map. And I believe if we don’t create our own mapping projects, we’re going to lose the ability to orient ourselves completely.

--Why drew you and Hiroko to this idea?

--Neither of us grew up here, so we had to look for ways to connect ourselves with people, neighborhoods, and the city. And we share a belief in a community-engaged approach. We don’t see ourselves as authorities. We want to process our understanding of Oakland with others.

--What will be on your own map of Oakland?

--The birds at Lake Merritt, for sure. My map will trace how they change, which ones are where at what time of year. They are my anchor to the place.

--What might come from Interstices: Oakland?

--My big dream is that this project could inform city planning going forward. It is hard to say what that means. We don’t go out with an agenda. Sometimes subtle impacts are the more persistent ones—just connecting people to one another in conversation can lead to change.