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Four cities jointly launch new website

on October 2, 2009

The mayors of Emeryville, Berkeley and Richmond, along with Oakland city council member Rebecca Kaplan, together cut a virtual ribbon with the click of a mouse this morning to launch, a collaborative website for the four cities to promote the East Bay arts.

The website features regional arts events and news and serves as a portal to each city’s own arts-related site. positions the East Bay’s diversity at the forefront of the campaign with its “World Culture in the East Bay” tagline.

The East Bay Cultural Corridor (EBCC), a publicly and privately funded organization, produced the marketing and informational site. Following in the footsteps of the East Bay Green Corridor, a multi-city environmental partnership plan for green industry and development, the Cultural Corridor continues the trend among the four cities to join resources and increase the East Bay’s visibility and vitality.   Readers clicking on the  new site, which went live today, will for example find details about Oakland’s 36th annual Black Cowboy Parade this weekend, as well as the city’s call for an artist to work with Oakland on transforming the 17th Street BART entrance.

“It’s time people really recognize arts culture in the East Bay,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, kicking off the mayoral speeches at today’s launch press conference in downtown Oakland.  Bates went on to highlight Berkeley’s arts community and attractions, including its gourmet restaurants and 130 arts nonprofits.

The speeches continued in this vein, with each speaker both highlighting the venues and events that distinguish his or her city from the other Cultural Corridor members and fostering a sense of an East Bay arts community greater than the individual cities.

“We know that our future depends upon strengthening the bonds within our region,” said Oakland Councilmember-At-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who represented Oakland in Mayor Ron Dellums’ absence. “It’s true for art. It’s true also with transportation. It’s also true with economics.” arose from the request of local artists and the recommendation of the Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission to create a website that would attract more arts patrons to the area and stimulate local economies, said Samee Roberts, Manager of Cultural Arts and Marketing for Oakland.

In January 2008, Roberts said, online surveys were sent to 2000 Oakland artists and arts-related organizations.  Nearly all of the 300 responses said the greatest impediments to the Oakland’s arts community were the public’s lack of arts information and its perception about the city, Roberts said.

Bates passed the podium to Emeryville Mayor Richard Kassis, who thanked members of his staff for their hard work on developing site and called the project, over two years in the making, like “herding the cats.”

Arts managers, city staff and community members from each of the four cities contributed to creating the site, which cost $74,000, according to Diane Sanchez, East Bay Community Foundation Director of Grantmaking & Donor Services.

The East Bay Community Foundation granted the EBCC funds, as did the San Francisco Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and Leveraging Investments in Creativity.  All four cities originally pledged funding but had to withdraw financial support due to budget cuts, said Sanchez.

The East Bay boasts one of the highest per capita artist populations in the country, with the presence of more than 6000 artists, one of the largest per capita public arts collections, 5532 arts-related businesses and over 21,000 arts-related business employees, said East Bay Community Foundation President and CEO Nicole Taylor, who opened the conference.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin closed the city representatives’ speeches. “Art is so much more than pieces locked in museums,” she said. “It’s living and breathing in the streets.”

Dellums had been advertised as one of the four mayors who would be kicking off the new site today, but he was replaced by Kaplan. One EBCC representative who declined to be named expressed upset with  Dellums, who cancelled his appearance yesterday evening without explanation.  When asked during a phone interview about Dellums’ whereabouts, his chief of staff Marisol Lopez said the mayor was “conducting other city business,” but declined to elaborate.

Over the next few weeks, posters and post cards promoting will plaster stores and coffeehouses throughout the East Bay.

A steering committee of local artists will guide the EBCC on its next steps, said Sanchez. The organization plans to do something in the spring, she said, provided it has the necessary funding.

The launch today coincided with Oakland’s Art Murmur, California Arts Day, and the start of National Arts and Humanities month.  Events celebrating the reveal are being held in each of the four cities tonight and continuing throughout October.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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