While street art is too often used as an avenue to gentrify neighborhoods, it can also serve – as depicted in Spencer Wilkinson’s award-winning documentary film ALICE STREET– as a tool to empower, energize and unite members of diverse communities in their struggle against gentrification.
In 2013, Chilean studio painter Pancho Peskador joined forced with Chicago-born aerosol artist Desi Mundo to create a four-story mural at 14th Street and Alice Street in downtown Oakland. Painted directly across from Hotel Oakland Village, a facility that provides affordable housing and services to hundreds of Chinese seniors, and the noted Malonga Center, a venue for African drumming, culture and dance performances, the mural — designed with direct input from the folks served by the neighboring sites — represented downtown Oakland’s diverse cultures.
But by then gentrification had aggressively reared its ugly head. Local folks were concerned about being economically and culturally displaced as rents feverishly increased, along with condominiums to house the wealthy. And soon after the hugely impressive mural was completed, the news came that another development would be under way that would block the its view.
ALICE STREET brilliantly documents the people’s fervent and largely successful struggle against unbridled corporate greed, as they fight to preserve their culture and their neighborhood. It is an ode to the power of public art to not only enhance but to transform our lives.
Photos courtesy of ALICE STREET