Monday, October 1, 2012

A Pop-Up Event Blooms in West Oakland, Food Trucks in Tow

by Luke Tsai
Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Peralta Junction, a new pop-up event kicking off this weekend in a vacant lot at the intersection of West Grand and Mandela Parkway, transcends easy categorization: It’s a three-month experimental art installation. It’s the site of a 1920s-style traveling carnival. It’s an outdoor performance space, an artisan retail market, and — of particular interest to What the Fork — a weekly gathering of mobile food vendors.

During the project’s grand opening weekend, the site will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Subsequently, the event organizers will host kid-friendly after-school workshops on Thursdays and Fridays, Thursday night community movie nights, and a variety of other community events and performances on Friday nights.

Mural artists have painted the fence surrounding the Peralta Junction site.
  • Marcus Guillard
  • Mural artists have painted the fence surrounding the Peralta Junction site.
Leslie Pritchett, a public art consultant and one of the pop-up’s organizers, explained that she and her collaborators have been using the term “pop-up creative commons” to describe the project — ”pop-up” because of the event’s temporary nature, from October 6 until December 15; “creative commons” because the idea is to have all kinds of creative people bringing that shared space to life.

Indeed, when Peralta Junction opens this weekend, it will the result collaboration between many different artists and performers. But it started out as a partnership between Pritchett’s Commonplace Productions and a San Francisco-based designers’ and artists’ collective called One Hat One Hand that had been looking for a new home for its ambitious interactive art installation, M.T. Pocket’s Traveling Midway of Curiosities and Delights (The Midway, for short) — basically a riff on an old-fashioned traveling carnival, complete with tented booths and custom-designed games.

Many of the tents have already been raised.
  • Lauren Slone
  • Many of the tents have already been raised.
The Midway’s retro carny theme established the overall visual aesthetic of Peralta Junction, and before long more community members (from West Oakland and beyond) signed on to contribute additional performance and retail elements to a project Pritchett envisioned as an “experimental model for urban space activation.”

Pritchett noted that although she doesn’t expect this initial venture to make a profit, if well received it would lay the groundwork for a longer-term project at the site — one that would be self-sustaining and able to actually pay the people working there.

According to Pritchett, food has always been a central part of the concept: “Food is communal. Food’s the glue that helps people connect in some way.”

Toward that end Pritchett brought on Karen Hester, the proprietor of the Bites Off Broadway Friday night food pod, to curate Peralta Junction’s lineup of food vendors. In accordance with Oakland’s interim “food pod” policy, food trucks are only allowed sell at the site during a designated time slot once a week (on Saturdays) for no longer than a four-hour period.

So each Saturday, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. (though the starting time might be pushed up to noon), about four food trucks will be parked on Mandela Parkway in front of the site. Given Hester’s involvement, it’s no surprise that the rotating list features several Bites Off Broadway regulars: Roderick’s BBQ (the four-wheeled descendent of a respected, but now-closed, Pleasanton barbecue joint) and Blue Saigon (serving Vietnamese fusion cuisine) are both confirmed for Saturday’s grand opening.

In subsequent weeks, familiar favorites like Doc’s of the Bay, Sunrise Deli Falafel, and Fist of Flour will make appearances. You can check out the full list of trucks on the Peralta Junction website.

Meanwhile, a variety of non-mobile food vendors will sell their wares on site all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Those popping up this weekend include Angel Cakes, Espresso Express, Pepples Donuts, and Peter's Kettle Corn.

Got tips or suggestions? Email me at Luke (dot) Tsai (at) EastBayExpress (dot) com. Otherwise, keep in touch by following me on Twitter @theluketsai, or simply by posting a comment. I'll read ‘em all.

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