This Spring, Oakland’s largest public mural of approximately 240 feet long by 30 feet high (7,200 square feet) was painted on the back wall of a warehouse located in the artsy neighborhood of Jingletown on 333 Lancaster Street, bounded by the Oakland Estuary and Alameda and within walking distance to the Fruitvale BART Station.
When the mural was painted it drew mass attention from locals and visitors who stopped by daily to watch the progress and discover the theme of the piece. The resulting mural pays homage to the essence of Oakland’s eclectic beauty of nature blending into a growing urban landscape. It features several prominent characters including a larger than life white elephant with its trunk raised high, oak trees, a chameleon, exotic birds, California Golden Poppies, and a family of raccoons (apparently there’s a large raccoon family that’s long been living in the neighborhood).
So what’s the story behind this mural situated on a quiet dead-end street tucked away in the little known area of Jingletown? We asked Fuming Guerilla, the person who dreamed up the idea and had the tenacity to make it happen.
Fuming Guerilla is a Jingletown resident who actively photographs and follows street art. Having moved to Oakland in 2012, he began noticing Oakland’s vibrant and prolific art community. Much of the street art paid tribute to the city and clearly defined the artists’ love for their community. The artwork and murals also portrayed the pains of Oakland’s past as well as the growing pains of the city’s future. Fuming Guerilla wanted to be a part of keeping Oakland’s historical beauty alive while helping to secure the city’s future as an art mecca.
While walking and biking around his neighborhood he noticed the warehouse, which is owned and occupied by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board and is the site of their annual White Elephant Sale, was regularly tagged. He therefore approached the building manager last summer to pitch a mural, explaining that these young taggers (not graffiti artists) tend to be more mindful when a building has artwork painted by respected artists, especially with graffiti roots like Vogue has. The building manager enthusiastically embraced the idea. Many conversations and meetings ensued with the Women’s Board to determine the appropriate wall to be painted, the required funding, which artists would be involved, and the mural subject matter.
Fuming Guerilla asked Oakland-based artists Vogue, Griffin One and Ernest Doty to take part in developing a general design and concept that could be presented to the board.
After almost 6 months of planning, the final presentation was laid before the OMWB, a California non-profit public benefit corporation, whose sole purpose is to provide services and funds to the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). The board members gave it a resounding approval and provided funding from an auxiliary fund. They designated the mural as their gift to the donors, shoppers and volunteers who, for over 50 years, have made the White Elephant Sale possible. On a broader note, the mural was also their gift to all of Oakland’s residents.
We truly felt the powerful presence of this treasure the day we dropped by to see it in person. During our time there, we noticed several cars parked on the block just for passengers to sit there for a while gazing at the mural. Several people were walking along the estuary to come admire the piece while others were sitting on benches peacefully meditating or reading. The mural is one of many within Oakland that are transforming the city, bringing it back to life, and making it a place not just to visit but to call home. We look forward to seeing what other treasures Fuming Guerilla has in store.
Oakland-based professional artists Vogue, Griffin One and Ernest Doty were commissioned to paint the mural. The entire mural was done using aerosol (spray paint), a medium with graffiti roots. While Griffin One and Ernest Doty have collaborated on other pieces, this was a first for the three. Each artist brought his own recognizable style and technique that was skillfully honed by decades of painting on the streets all over the United States. They are gifted “writers” whose impossibly intricate and colorfully written names make them street typography specialists. They are muralists who like to paint large pieces that incorporate characters, lettering and scenes unlimited in imagination, often relaying social messages and provoking thought.
Annual White Elephant Sale
Often called the Bay Area’s biggest and best rummage sale, the annual White Elephant Sale is the primary fundraising event for the Oakland Museum Women’s Board. Now in its 56th year, the Sale is held the first weekend in March and attracts a corps of over 1,000 volunteers from around the Bay Area. Proceeds from the Sale benefit the Oakland Museum of California. Donations from the public make the Sale possible, with donations accepted year round and a van available to schedule a free pick up. The White Elephant Sale returns to the Bay Area on March 7 and 8, 2015. Visit White Elephant Sale to learn more.
About Fuming Guerilla
Fuming Guerilla chose Oakland as his community. He wants to support Oakland’s ascent to an artist friendly city. He believes street art, murals and some graffiti can be an interesting and positive basis for a city’s vibe. Paint on walls is more accessible and a surprise gallery waiting to be discovered.
Fuming Guerilla owns his own company and is an avid supporter of public art. He’s currently working with various artists as a broker and collaborator. Fuming Guerilla’s art is the art of negotiation.(firstname.lastname@example.org)
Follow him on Instagram fuming_guerilla