On Friday Dec. 2nd, thirty six individuals lost their lives in a warehouse filled with artist studios located in Oakland. A fire broke out during a 100% Silk concert attracting artists, musicians, and creatives. According to The New York Times: “The building, known as the Ghost Ship, in the Fruitvale neighborhood, was the site of an event that was to feature a range of experimental and electronic music, performed by a synth musician drawing from the ‘black, queer diaspora’ and others, as well as a visual installation.”
California Fire News declared this tragedy as the largest mass casualty incident since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.
For almost eight years my art studio was located West Oakland near the BART station and post office. The neighborhood housed residential, commercial, and mixed-use spaces. This attracted artists like myself because the rent was barely obtainable in an unobtainable market.
Funky, alternative, and leftovers are the only option for the majority of artists then and now. My West Oakland studio days included no heat, lacked hot water, sewer rats, raw sewage, questionable infrastructure, shootings and police swat teams. Despite the obvious challenges, the location allowed the freedom to create on an artist’s budget.
I see my younger self in these victims.
The San Francisco Bay Area consistently brags about its power to attract innovation and artists. But how do we foster this commitment? We have a responsibility to provide spaces that encourage freedom of expression in safe and affordable environments.
From the Los Angeles Times: “People who previously lived there recalled a building that lacked fire sprinklers and had a staircase partly made of wooden pallets. Partygoers recalled a rabbit warren of rooms crammed with belongings — pianos, organs, antique furniture, doors and half-finished sculptures.”
Sustaining the arts for future generations is needed now.
Please donate to the Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghostship Oakland Fire:
“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.”