In the Mix

Ready for Prime Time


    The next Ted Turner may be getting his start right here in Oakland.
Filming has begun in a waterfront warehouse on a new 24-hour television network dedicated entirely to arts and music news. The AMN, as it will be called, is based on the Cable News Network model but will focus entirely on news about the arts and music.
    “I know people will want to watch this. It is useful TV,” says Darcel Walker, the creative force behind the new channel. Walker is also the owner of FunkyTiki, a local audio/video production house. “People are burning out on shock TV. I want to focus on an artist community that has been under-served.”
    And Walker is putting his money where his channel is, investing more than $60,000 of his money in the project to produce an initial product that is very professional in look and feel. He has hired news anchors and plotted out the 24-hour schedule, which includes art news from anchors at a desk, talk shows, instructional programming and live performances.
     “If you are going to compete on a CNN level, it has to look professional,” Walker says. That’s why AMN has well-dressed sets, 3-D logos and microphone flags featuring the show name and, of course, a little star power. Hosts include Dwayne Wiggins from Tony! Toni! Tone!, former Music Television VJ Lorelei Suarez and a team of local broadcasters, Walker says. American Idol star LaToya London and Oakland city councilmember Nancy J. Nadel have filmed guest spots, too.
    Walker has filmed several shows in their entirety, as well as teaser spots for most segments, and he is using the material to attract funding. He intends to launch the network in 2007, and funding dictates how widespread the debut will be.
     “When CNN started, they laughed Ted Turner off the block,” says Walker, who believes that he has found a powerful niche and a good market in the Bay Area, the fifth largest television market in the nation. More than four years of research on arts, news and Bay Area facts has also helped convince him that the new network is viable. “Oakland has the most artists per capita, after New York,” he says.
    According to Walker, viewers are hungry for news and features that celebrate community through art, culture, community events, music and entertainment in a tone more serious than standard prime time entertainment coverage.
    “People are disappointed and disillusioned with network news and the way they talk down to you,” Walker says. “Music has been taken out of public school. People are happier when they have music in their lives.”
—By Daniel Jewett

OAKLAND MADE

Class Glass

    Glass blowing is an intimate and tightly choreographed art form. “Even the smallest little motion just makes a huge difference,” says artist Terrill Waldman.
    Waldman, 35, designs and makes glass vases, cups, pitchers, lighting fixtures and practically anything else her customers request at her Oakland studio, Terrill Waldman Glass Design.
    Working with a furnace burning at 2,100 degrees, Waldman uses metal, wood, paper, graphite, gravity and centrifugal force to shape and mold the glass while it is still hot. As it cools, the glass stiffens and is harder to work with. “It’s not something you can walk away from,” she says of the process. “You have to go with it while the getting’s good.” 
    “Everything I’m inspired by is color,” she says. Her most recent pieces are a mix of rich, food-inspired colors—chocolate, avocado, raspberry and radish. Many of her designs are sophisticated, like her tall, elegant vases, while others are more fun and toy-inspired, like the Tiddly Winks and Slinky styles.
    Most items in Waldman’s collection range from $300 to $1,200. In Oakland, you can find Waldman’s glass by appointment at 957 63rd St., Suite N. Call (510) 595-3733 to set up a time to visit, or stop by the studio’s open house 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 13 and 14. Pieces from the collection can also be purchased online at www.terrilldesign.com.
—Ellen Keohane

Modern Parenting

    You are not alone.
    That’s the idea behind Using Our Words: Moms and Dads on Raising Kids in the Modern Neighborhood, a new book that explores the “bumpy ride of parenthood” through 38 short essays from Bay Area parents.
“We wanted essays that reflect the impressive range of family types we have in our community,” editors Kathy Briccetti, Lysa Hale and Donna Jaffe say.
    The pieces convey a sense of camaraderie as they discuss the trials and joys of parenting.
    The publisher of the 168-page book is the Neighborhood Parents Network, an online nonprofit offering support for families with young kids in the East Bay. The NPN Web site, www.npnonline.org, lists information on schools, advice for parents and suggestions on books, destinations and classes. Using Our Words is $10.95 and is available at independent area booksellers or through the Web site.


ABOUT A DESIGNER

Clotheshorse

    It first occurred to Jamie Tibbetts that “you are what you wear” as a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2002. The campus had erupted in protests over a line of Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts that featured derogatory images of Asian-Americans (the retailer eventually pulled the shirts from stores), and Tibbetts was inspired. “I wanted to make something that was a positive alternative to a lot of the negative, offensive, stereotypical stuff that’s out there,”says Tibbetts, 24, founder of the Albany-based Like Minded People.
    After graduating and returning to his native Berkeley in 2003, Tibbetts purchased a four-screen press from Craigslist.org and launched a line of shirts sporting statements like “I Love People Who Vote” and “I n my two moms,” intending to promote activism and acceptance and give a voice to the marginalized. His most popular shirt, “Everyone Loves a Mixed Girl,” gives multi-racial people like Tibbetts (he’s of Chinese and European descent), an alternative to Urban Outfitters’ line that singles out specific ethnicities, like Irish, Italian and Jewish girls. “It’s my activism,” says Tibbetts, who prints all shirts by hand on domestically made American Apparel garments. “It’s a way to raise consciousness, celebrate underrepresented communities and make socially sensitive issues approachable.”
    Tibbetts’ spring ’06 line features two Oakland-inspired products. The first (pictured) is a collage of Oakland landmarks, both historic and personal, in which the Tribune Tower, Paramount Theater and other classic images are joined by an old AC Transit bus, reminiscent of the ones that ran by his grandfather’s Fruitvale district pharmacy. The second shirt imitates the Oakland A’s logo, replacing “Athletics” with the word “Activist.”
    Like Minded People clothing for men, women and children can be purchased for $20 at eight retailers nationwide, including Bienvenue in Berkeley (1508-A Walnut St., 510-849-9566). For the complete line, visit www.likemindedpeople.us.
—Amanda Cherrin

 COOL MOMS

    We honor mothers in May, and Oakland has a rich legacy of moms whose maternal instincts have enabled them to make a major impact on the community. Here’s a short list of a few “mothers” worth celebrating.

Janet Merilyn Frager
    We have Janet Merilyn Frager to thank for such classic movies as Big, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan and Philadelphia. Why? She is the mother of legendary actor Tom Hanks, a Skyline High School graduate who brings The Da Vinci Code to life in theaters this month.

Tiki the Giraffe

    After 15 months of pregnancy, this fertile denizen of the Oakland Zoo gave birth in February to her fifth calf, a 6-foot-2-inch, 150-pound baby boy, Chioke. Tiki is essentially a single mother, because her mate, like all male giraffes, shirks parenting responsibilities, procreating throughout the herd while she raises their offspring alone.

Susan Tolman Mills
    The founding mother of Mills College and president for 19 years, Susan Tolman Mills created a women’s college with Ivy League academic standards, helping to bridge the gender gap with a vision of educational equality.

—Erin Rech

Walkabout

    There’s an easy way to get to know your Oakland neighborhoods—walk them.
    It’s simple with the Walk Oakland! Map & Guide, produced by the Oakland Pedestrian Safety Project and San Francisco-based Rufus Graphics, initially with funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety. The map lists street grades, bike lanes and routes, pedestrian paths and walkways, parks, walking tours, historic sites and general points of interest. Need a thorough reference guide to neighborhoods, civic destinations, shopping centers or commercial districts? All that and more make their way onto this mighty map.
    The coolest thing about it, says OPSP coordinator Jason Patton, is that it’s the first document that integrates walkways, neighborhoods and historic landmarks into an easy-to-use, consumer-friendly map. OPSP promotes pedestrian safety and access in Oakland, working with city agencies and community organizations to develop solutions to pedestrian problems.
    You can buy the map ($3 to $5) at local bookstores and bike shops throughout Oakland (many are identified on the map, but call to make sure), or you can order it by mail from the Oakland Museum of California by calling (510) 238-6305.

Decade of Asian Aid

    For the past 10 years, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center’s Chinatown location has played host to art exhibits, cultural classes, emerging Asian artists, Lunar New Year celebrations and anything and everything of interest to the East Bay’s Asian community. This May, California’s only pan-Asian Pacific Islander center celebrates Asian Pacific Heritage Month and a decade of service.
    Founded in 1984 OACC didn’t move into the spacious complex in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza until 1996. “Ten years ago, there was really no place in the East Bay for Asian Americans to call home,” says executive director Anne Huang, an Oakland resident who’s been with OACC since 2001. “Within the Asian community, it’s very important for us to have a home to hold our public celebrations, showcase our culture and incubate various Asian American artists.”
    In addition to offering classes such as Middle Eastern Belly Dance, Mandarin Conversation and Korean Martial Arts, OACC also nurtures artists like the Asian American Orchestra, offering financial and marketing assistance in addition to a performance venue. The orchestra, which now tours internationally and has received two Grammy nominations, will premiere an original piece based on stories of Chinatown at OACC on May 13.
    Other Asian Pacific American Heritage Festival events include an exhibition, Images of America: Oakland’s Chinatown, featuring the photos of William Wong (through August) and the launch of an ongoing intergenerational oral history project. “A hallmark of OACC’s cultural programs is that we never forget where we come from,” says Huang. “We’re always reaching back to pay tribute to the community of Oakland Chinatown.”
    For more information drop by the center at 388 Ninth St., Suite 290, call (510) 637-0455 or visit www.oacc.cc.

DIALOGUES

Mannequin Madness

    Judi Townsend-Henderson has found her niche recycling body parts. This University of Southern California grad and saleswoman owns Mannequin Madness, a thriving Oakland-based business founded in 2001 that sells and rents new and gently used mannequins. In January, Townsend-Henderson won The World of Difference contest, a big-time competition by The Small Business and Technology Institute and Intel Corp.

How did you get into mannequins?
    I was looking for garden art on Craigslist and discovered a visual merchandiser who was selling his inventory of 50 mannequins. I bought his entire inventory on impulse and thought I’d start a part-time business renting mannequins.

Were you always interested in them?
    As I child I played with dolls a lot. I think I’m still having fun with life-size dolls.

Why did you think this would be a good business?
    My gut instinct told me that it would do well in the Bay Area, where people are so creative. But never did I envision that it would grow to the level that it has.

Are there many other businesses like yours in the area?
    I’m the only business that rents and sells used mannequins, but there are two vendors that sell new ones in the Bay Area.

How did you make a living before Mannequin Madness?
    I was a manager of strategic partnerships for a dot-com company. That’s where I honed my online skills. 

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
    Yes and no. Fifteen years ago, I had a business venture that failed, so I gave up for a while. But working at the dot-com rekindled my entrepreneurial juices, and I’ve been practicing Buddhism for 20 years, which helped me develop a strong inner-resolve to fulfill my dreams.

Why are you considered an environmentalist?
    I not only recycle mannequins, but I also am a community drop-off point for recycling Styrofoam peanuts. I use the peanuts when I ship my mannequins. If I weren’t doing this, both mannequins and the packaging materials would otherwise pile up in the landfill. My recycling contributions are very important to me.

How much does renting or buying one of your mannequins cost?
    The prices range, but generally, to rent a mannequin is $50 a day, and a torso is $50 for four days. Depending on the age, style and condition of the mannequin, they can run from $50 to $500 for purchase.

Who’s your typical customer?
    You name it: event planners, artists, Burning Man attendees, fashion students, exhibit builders, lawyers (for court room demonstrations), clothing boutiques, even Prada from Italy.

Do you have mannequins in different ethnicities, shapes and sizes?
    Yes, we’re very proud of our diverse selection.

Where do they come from?
    Large retailers who are changing their visual merchandising strategy.

You have a basement showroom of mannequins; do they show up elsewhere?
    Yes, both my husband and I have our own personal favorites that we use to display our clothing.

Does it ever feel creepy to have so many “bodies” in your basement?
    Occasionally it does, when there are loose arms or legs lying around. But we’re used to it now, although new customers and children remind us of how strange it is.

By Gina Fawal Jaber
Photography by Jim Dennis