Telegraph Ave runs for several miles from Downtown Oakland to the UC campus in Berkeley. Its character changes as you pass through different neighborhoods. There is a stretch sandwiched between Downtown Oakland and Temescal beginning at 20th Street and ending at 35th Street festooned with hanging banners. Kono is boldly written on the banners, an acronym for Koreatown Northgate.
In 2008 the Kono CBD (Community Benefits District) was formed in this area, home to Korean American businesses and residents, to improve the quality of their community life and make it more attractive to visitors. The area lacked easy identification so the organization christened the area Kono. Since their inception Kono CBD has taken steps to make the community safer, livelier with events and visually enriched with trees, litter containers, street banners and an ongoing graffiti abatement program. Since 2006 thousands of people congregate every month in Kono to attend and participate in the Oakland Art Murmur.
Last year Kona CBD worked with utility box owners and the City of Oakland to set up a community art project to paint the utility boxes that line that section of Telegraph Ave. In March, 2012 they sent an email blast to artists who live or work in Oakland and posted flyers on all the boxes. The artists were invited to submit designs of their own choice for review by a committee comprised of curators and artists who presented a selection to the City for final approval. The artists received a commission and supply budget for each box. The community was in turn rewarded with a very eclectic street art collection that was officially rolled out the next month.
Initially there were 13 boxes by a mixture of professional and amateur artists. Recently four more boxes were painted by other finalists from the original call to action, bringing the total to 17.
Each box has a QR code you can scan with a smart phone to learn more about the artist and their inspiration. The boxes are located within a 15 block range where there is street art on nearby buildings, several art galleries and some inviting cafes and restaurants. I would say that is worth an outing any day of the week. Check out this pdf with the locations of the original 13 boxes and plan your day.
See the PDF map here: KONOArtboxMap2sm
Learn more about how this non-profit organization with a voluntary Board of Directors is working to transform Kona from a place you drive through to a destination.