City and arts leaders in Oakland are looking ahead to a more hopeful future, even as authorities work to identify victims of the fire that killed at least 36 people at an underground dance party on the night of Friday, Dec. 2.
On Tuesday, Oakland officials announced the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation are providing Oakland with a $1.7 million grant to help arts groups stay in Oakland in a viciously competitive real estate market.
At the heart of the initiative is the idea that the arts help make a city great. The most recent study, from 2010, found that Oakland arts groups generate an impact of $53 million a year.
But cultural activity doesn’t just fuel the local economy. It’s part of the very fabric of Oakland.
“We’re trying to get the cultural arts in there as a survival program just as essential as housing and health care and jobs,” says Elena Serrano, who runs Oakland’s Eastside Arts Alliance in the San Antonio neighborhood. Serrano is hoping for funds to develop a Black Arts center in Deep East Oakland.