Some of who we are is accidental. It’s the book somebody lent us, the school we attended, the luck of our genes. Some of who we are is the unexpected collision we’ve had with brilliance, joy, and creativity we could never have predicted, and can never forget.
Artists, musicians, dancers, activists, poets, and other cultural workers are as burdened by the skyrocketing Bay Area rents as anyone else. But they’re also saddled with additional exotic issues; where can you practice the drums, rehearse the band, work with a blowtorch or spray paint, work out choreography, or hold an arts event.
Where do you meet others who share an interest in traditional arts, or original works, either of which might be too old or too new to interest a conventional art gallery or music venue? Where can you create opportunities to stretch, invent, and simply play?
Our arts communities are way ahead of our planners. The best settings for creative, connected arts groups have spaces where there’s room for our unpredictable imaginations to experiment with the almost magical intersection of unexpected ideas. This is what many artists build together naturally, and what the Oakland warehouse known as the Ghost Ship, at its best, was before the tragic fire.
Our best tribute to the talented young lives from all over the world lost to us that night is to realize the vision they had of art spaces where creative communities can come together to nurture and inspire unique expression. There is no reason this can’t be done safely.
If Bay Area wants to keep its creative communities, it needs to plan for them. We are talented, inventive, and we can afford to support safe harbors for creative self-expression. What we can’t afford is to lose even one more precious, creative life.
With a perspective, this is Carol Denney.
Carol Denney is a musician and housing advocate, living in Berkeley.