Off the newly manicured Mandela Parkway in West Oakland, within cavernous warehouses that once belonged to the nearby Port of Oakland, artists are welding and shaping industrial scrap into art. A pretty serious industrial-arts scene is burbling, with their pieces seen at Burning Man, the Oakland Museum of California, the San Francisco and Miami International airports, as well as in Germany, Brazil and Australia. But how do you see it in Oakland?
You would think it wouldnt be hard to find the very tall landmarks to American Steel Studios. After all, founder Karen Cusolito displays her 30-foot sculptures in the backyard of the six acre Am Steel. Believe it or not, though, they are kind of hidden. Cusolito, whose works appear all over the world and who has been featured in Smithsonian, has created a community of 170 artists who work within the warehouses. If youve been to Burning Man or seen vids of it, you would have caught some of the works built here. To see the fire and power first hand, Am Steel opens to the public during Art Murmur (first Fridays of the month). Also, it operates an 8,000 square foot gallery, gives tours and holds special events. Check the events calendar.
Nearby, The Crucible is another forum for the industrially and artfully minded. Students here learn how to weld, glass blow and blacksmith in classes that can last three hours or three months. The art of fire dancing, for example, is 10 weeks long. For tours and open houses, check the events calendar. Another artist working in the neighborhood is Bruce Beasley. You can see his 30-foot high bronze sculpture at the Oakland City Center. The artists work is also in many museums around the world. A sculpture garden is available by appointment. A block away from West Oakland Bart is Lost & Foundry Oakland, a collective of studio spaces as well as a gallery located in a former foundry. The gallery features the sculptures of many local industrial artists, like Jeremy Mayer who uses typewriter parts to build human and animal sculptures.
Nearly a dozen towering sculptures have found a home in what was once destined to become a parking lot turned Art Park, including Trumpet Flowers, a piece by Karen Cusolito. The Bike Bridge was created by students of a welding class at The Crucible, under the direction of artist Michael Christian. Art Park is next to the Fox Theater in the Uptown neighborhood.