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Oakland youth bring spirit to South Berkeley

on May 20, 2010

Economic hardships are affecting communities throughout the Bay Area—communities like the working class neighborhoods of South Berkeley. Many residents there have often struggled to make a living, but with the recession, 20 percent of the population is now living below poverty level. Like Oakland, unemployment is up and many of South Berkeley’s stores have been shuttered.

But, before you get too down, this isn’t a sad story. Something has recently changed in South Berkeley—big colorful paintings are popping up in formerly vacant storefront windows. Images of women with flowered dresses, molten volcanoes and even abstract expressionist paintings, a la Jackson Pollock. They were all made by low-income youth, mostly from Oakland, paid to paint by an organization called Youth Spirit Artworks. This organization is working to get young people off the street, give them a job, while also trying to beautify this neighborhood.

The program is now planning to expand into Oakland and Richmond and have teens from all over the East Bay creating art for their neighborhoods. 

This story previously aired on KALW’s Crosscurrents radio show.

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Listen in on this audio piece to hear about how local youth have created art for vacant storefront windows.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

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