Once the estate of Frederick William Delger, considered Oakland’s first millionaire, the lot at Telegraph Avenue between 19th and William streets degenerated to become the site of a drugstore and a Sears parking lot, before lying dormant. Now it has been restored to its original glory, as the Uptown Art Park.
“We remind the world that we are our best and most elevated selves when we get to create, and to think, and to aspire,” says Oakland city councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents the park’s district, speaking at its dedication April 5.
The inaugural exhibit, Repurposed, is expected to remain on display through March, but the future of the park—officially a temporary outdoor gallery—remains uncertain. “We’re hoping we’ll have the space for five years or longer,” says Tomas McCabe, executive director of Black Rock Arts Foundation, which worked with 12 young women from Oakland high schools on the centerpiece, “Bike Bridge,” crafted from recycled bicycle parts. “But it’s all at the whim of development, unfortunately.”
Currently, nine sculptures ring the lot, while its center remains empty. “We’re hoping that this will kindle enough interest that there might be another community drive, just like there was one to have this not be a parking lot, to help us raise money to go further,” says Samee Roberts, Oakland’s cultural arts and marketing manager.
Project manager Steven Huss calls it an “urban arts laboratory,” and says that the $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts—which the city matched—“tipped the scales, and transformed the park from a beautiful dream to an achievable reality.”