AC Transit held three Artist Enhancement community meetings last week in Oakland, where a team of four local artists selected from a national search pool presented their conceptual ideas for renovating the station stops between 20th Street and Broadway and San Leandro.

Dubbed the “Cultural Corridor Urban Flow,” artists Johanna Poethig, Mildred Howard, Peter Richards and Joyce Hsu are focusing on the word “flow” and what it means to connect a part of Oakland where people are constantly moving. Their primary goal is to create a sense of place at each station, using icons and visual symbols that represent the community to help people identify where they are. Additionally, the artistic team has called on members of the community, specifically youth, to aid them in developing a running haiku comprised of words and thoughts that reflect the flow of the community and the character of each station.

One community member who was present, Miles Brown, is part of one of the youth focus groups the artististic team is working with to develop the bus line’s narrative. Brown described the gentrification that has run rampant in the East Bay since he was a child and believed this project will be another source of pride for Oakland residents.

“Oakland is the center of everything,” Brown said. “This is a stepping stone for bringing the community together and having us become one instead of breaking up into pieces.”

Gilbert Gong, center director for the Lincoln Square Recreation Center, had some concerns about the development of the narrative’s language, pointing out that not only are the communities in Oakland different from one another, but there are also community members who speak different languages or use slang and therefore, understand their community differently.

“Public art is great, but we need to be sensitive to all the folks riding that bus line,” Gong said.

A major feature in the art installation will be a honeycomb paneling made of expanded aluminum metal and clear or frosted polycarbonate. The idea for the honeycomb at every station, artist Peter Richards said, is to create a physical manifestation of their “flow” idea by allowing AC Transit riders to experience a cinematic play of light, color and movement by looking through the holes, which will reflect the changing color spectrum.

Artist Mildred Howard said the honeycomb paired with the narrative flow they are developing will function as a representation of how communities change over time. While the artists are only in the pre-concept phase of visualizing their project, their primary objective is to beautify each station and make visiting it meaningful to AC Transit riders.

“Each small cell provides a lens, and I thought about kids and people in wheelchairs,” Howard said of looking through the honeycomb. “This is not just for able-bodied people, it’s for everyone.”

Lead artist Johanna Poethig emphasized the transformative power of a project like theirs and the artistic value this has for not only AC Transit, but the city of Oakland as well.

“People can move and flow in their own environments safely in a way that adds meaning and inspiration to their day,” Poethig said. “It’s art. It’s the food of life.”

About The Author

Natalie Meier is currently writing about issues in public health, tech and small business innovation as a freelance contributor for Oakland Local. Meier is a senior at Mills College studying English and Journalism and is also cross-registered at UC Berkeley. She currently interns for ABC7 News in San Francisco and has written for The Daily Californian, Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), StuVoice, and KALW.

One Response

  1. Nicole

    I don’t understand the phrase “local artist from a national search.” How can they be local if the search was national, and why in the world wouldn’t AC Transit do a local search, given the rich array of local artists?


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