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New artists' store celebrates Oakland history

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: New artists' store celebrates Oakland history
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By chris_d on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 12:08 am:

November 29, 2003

'Oaklandish' store opens in downtown
Artists of Nonchalance Collective continue to spread their vision of Oakland's story from Jack London Square

Paul T. Rosynsky, STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND -- Jeff Hull began showcasing his pop-culture based history of Oakland by illegally plastering posters on vacant buildings. When the city began covering them over with paint, Hull and a group of like-minded artists created a movable and temporary slide show they projected on the walls of downtown skyscrapers.

Slowly, they developed a reputation.

People gathered, the city took notice and Hull's vision of Oakland and its history gained a momentum and a title: Oaklandish.

Now the group, the Nonchalance Collective, is trying to capitalize on that momentum in hopes of ensuring its movement doesn't become what it celebrates -- history.

Hull and his crew have opened a store in Jack London Square selling the creations they once spread through the city for free.

"People just kept asking me where they could get a T-shirt or a poster," Hull said from his one-week-old store in the midst of the city's produce market. "It's kind of ironic, after doing all this free public art, in the end, people just wanted to buy a T-shirt."

The Oaklandish shop will offer T-shirts, posters, magazines and hats. Hull hopes it becomes more than just a store.

Perched atop a produce warehouse just off of Broadway, Hull envisions a gallery/exhibition space dedicated to promoting a history of Oakland many city leaders choose to avoid.

The Black Panthers, the Hell's Angels and graffiti artists are among those the collective views as positive contributors to the city.

The Symbionese Liberation Army's connection to Oakland is not hidden and neither are reminders of how the city's downtown was once a bustling commercial corridor of quirky mom-and-pop shops.

"Oakland's connection to popular culture has been key to its history, but some of it has been less than positive, so some people try to ignore it," the 34-year-old Hull said. "But our generation connects with history through this popular culture."

Not all of Hull's collection focuses on Oakland's "bad boys." There are reminders of other famous Oaklanders, such as Bruce Lee and Julia Morgan.

Hull has spent about $35,000 putting the store together. About half of the money came from his own pocket and the other half from grants and donations, he said.

While Hull admits his store lacks the inventory typically found in a retail outlet, he hopes more goods and funds will be donated. Right now, however, Hull said he will focus on creating a space in which people can gather to promote Oakland in a less than mainstream way.

"Oakland has a lot of hidden gems," he said. "I'm just trying to recognize them."

Oaklandish is at 411 2nd St. It is open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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