Alcatraz 2.0

Rain or shine?
Rain or shine?

As a Richmond Arts and Culture Commissioner, had the opportunity to visit Ai Weiwei’s Alcatraz exhibit for the second time thanks to the RYSE organization.  Brought my Academy of Art University class to meet community activists, artists, and to view an amazing show before it leaves San Francisco.  Thanks to their generosity, the trip was free of any charges.  However the experience was invaluable for all.

Light in material but heavy in meaning.

According to their website: “RYSE was born out of a youth organizing movement initiated in 2000 in response to a string of homicides amongst youth near Richmond High School that galvanized students to take action to address the violence and lack of safety at school and in the community.  Students organized vigils and community forums with over 1,500 youth and community members, met and worked with local officials and stakeholders on a comprehensive assessment of youth-identified priorities and solutions, culminating in the RYSE Youth Center (RYSE), which opened its doors on October 18, 2008.”  Born out of injustice, RYSE and Ai Weiwei advocate for positive societal change.  The connection is stunning.

Art etched into the cell.
Art etched into the cell.

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist whose work is beautiful, powerful, and political in nature.  He has been arrested, detained, and currently works out of his studio in Beijing with no passport to leave.  Weiwei co-designed the Serpentine Pavilion for the Summer 2012 Olympics, was commissioned for the Beijing National Stadium, received honorary degrees from many prestigious institutions, and won numerous impressive awards.  His Alcatraz exhibit investigates its troubled history through artwork installations that shed insight on past, current, and future human injustices.

Ai Weiwei artwork.
Ai Weiwei’s With Wind.
Legos with a new meaning...
Stay Tuned.
Trace: lego portraits of political prisoners…

California has been experiencing an epic and historic drought.  The trip to Alcatraz was positively welcomed by dramatic storm clouds and a challenging commute.  Weather didn’t wreck the visit.  Overall, the day was spent with creative instigators and individuals.  Ultimately, the sun and exhibit prevailed despite the weather and political predictions.


Clouds departed and sun checked in..
Clouds departed and sun checked in…

This visit delivered clarity and questions.  Starting and continuing a conversation is the beginning of change.  Many people have died, been punished, or are currently imprisoned for “freedom” of speech, protecting human dignity, and living an honest and authentic experience.  Hopefully, the pieces will find a permanent home.  Peace, security, and freedom of expression can be found in organizations like RYSE and globally through Ai Weiwei’s artistic endeavors.  Hope continues to be more powerful than hate.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz on view from September 27, 2014 – April 26, 2015.

The links: