Today I have two important things to tell you about. Both are exciting! Both are library related! Both are beautiful! So, what are we waiting for?

First, graffiti. I know that the library has been in the news in a pretty terrible graffiti-related story recently, and I just want to take some time to counter that story and share with you some of the amazing things that we are doing with young Oaklanders and the urban arts. Our Teen Services Department has paired up with the Estria Foundation to exhibit youth-created murals and to offer urban arts programming.

The Estria Foundation’s mission to “create art in public spaces locally and globally with artists, youth, educators, and activists in order to raise awareness and inspire action in the movement to resolve human and environmental issues” is a natural fit for the library and the work we are interested in doing, in particular with young people around Oakland. We are so excited about this partnership and about our role in working to empower young people through art and activism.

The murals are spectacular, representing work from the Youth Mural Arts Battle portion of the Estria Battle, and each deserves an in-person viewing.  I can’t recommend highly enough a trip to the four locations where these murals are on display: The Main Library TeenZone, The Cesar Chavez Branch, The Eastmont Branch, and The 81st Avenue Branch.

In addition to the murals, we are offering free urban arts workshops for youth held monthly through March, 2014. The first of these workshops was this past Saturday at the Main Library TeenZone and it was a huge success. The young participants got a real hands-on art experience with a lot of guidance and a lot of education about the context and history of urban arts. They also had a great opportunity to express themselves artistically. Further workshops will take place around the library system over the coming months, and details are available on the library’s website.

So, art is beautiful. Community conversation is also beautiful, and the library is pleased to be welcoming Rich Harwood of the Harwood Institute to our Rockridge Branch on Wednesday, November 20th, at 7:30 p.m. to help direct just such a conversation. Rich Harwood has decades of experience teaching and leading communities toward positive change, and with his talk, “Living on Main Street: How to Stay More Connected and Relevant,” he plans to work with Oaklanders to bring about positive change in our own community — change that we want! In order for this to work, though, we need you to participate.

The library is a great place to gather, and a perfect starting point for community discussion. What challenges do you see in this community? How can we make changes? What is the library’s role? What is your role? Come out on Wednesday night and let’s talk together. With your help, positive change can come for us. I really hope to see and meet some of you there. It should be a good opportunity for us to get to know each other.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

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