Letters for January 28 

Readers sound off on the Oakland arts scene, Mayor Dellums, and recycling.

"Death of the Salesmen," Visual Arts, 12/24

We're Still Here

I am really annoyed and actually also pretty angry about the article about the Oakland art scene published this week by Rachel Swan.

The premise of the article rests on the assumption that Oakland art galleries have been surviving on sales somehow all of this time? Seriously? I am not sure where the author got that idea because, even Industrielle, one of the venues she highlights in her article, wasn't an art space but a shop that sold books and cards and candles. While it was a lovely venue, it was never supposed to be a true gallery space and Dana never expected to make ends meet by selling paintings.

The gallery scene over here in Oakland is thriving despite the loss of Esteban and Industrielle, and before those two losses, there have been many excellent and not so excellent galleries that have come and gone over the years for a variety of reasons. Esteban's space has been taken over by a new owner, so it's not like the doors are boarded up and nothing is happening there.

The First Friday art event continues to be a spectacularly attended and thrilling grassroots community event. There are some great shows, hundreds of people everywhere, and amazing up-and coming-artists to discover. The gallery scene is wonderful for the city of Oakland, the entire East Bay, and for all of the artists that participate and network at these events. Plus it's a really fun party and it's free!

So, sales have never been the main point, and aside from a select few, most galleries in the area already have alternate income sources. For example, Mama Buzz is a coffee shop, Front Gallery is a photography studio, Mercury Twenty and Rock Paper Scissors are both artist-run collectives, Kuhl Frames sells frames, and Creative Growth and Pro Arts are nonprofits that have been around for ages. Chandra Cerrito has been a successful art consultant for years. Kim Johansson is one of the only true gallerist/dealers, and she is definitely the exception to the rule. Even the article points out that Swarm makes a portion of its income from the rental of studio space.

So, what's the deal Express? Isn't it your job to promote the East Bay and get people excited and interested in what's happening over here? I wish Rachel had written something about all of the incredible and positive aspects of the scene and promoted those things. The angle she took was so seriously off the mark.

Maya Kabat, Mercury Twenty Gallery, Oakland

"Oakland's Part-Time Mayor," News, 12/24

Recall Dellums

Folks, we should be outraged. Who wants to take their vote back?

Doug Johnson, Oakland

"Don't Recycle That Plastic," Eco Watch, 12/24

We're Pissed, Not Misinformed

I object to the somewhat pedantic tone of Robert Gammon's article on recycling plastics. He seems to assume that well-meaning people put the "wrong" plastics in the recycling because they are misinformed. Maybe they are just pissed. Pissed off that the recyclers apparently pull only high-dollar-value material out of the waste stream. Maybe a way to reuse all types of plastics already exists, but it isn't done because there is no profit in it. Maybe people are pissed at the wasteful food industry.

Maybe people are sending a message that all plastics should be reused. I agree with Mr. Gammon that we should use less plastic, but we don't need yet another article explaining what the numbers on the bottles mean. Instead, how about telling us what it would cost to really fix the system?

Jim Willson, San Leandro

A Lesson From Over the Hills

Many Contra Costa cities are able to recycle all plastics except 6 (styrofoam and the like). Styrofoam "peanuts" are frequently accepted for reuse by shipping stores such as The UPS Store. Lamorinda cities can put food waste and food-soiled paper into green bins with yard trimmings for high-temperature composting. Our small household generates almost no "garbage."

It will be interesting to see how the recession (depression?) affects recycling. Prices for recycled goods such as paper have already dropped dramatically.

Linda Landau, Orinda

Recycle for Good, Not Profit

Almost every thing on your list can be recycled with EASE.

The problem is not that, it is the price and offering the alternative of just throwing it away. Do the folks who cherry-pick our trash for profit have to pay for the cost of throwing the rest away? Of course not, and neither does the company that produces the packaging that cannot be recycled at a profit. That bill is promptly given to the public and we pay to bury the stuff.

This idea that we should only recycle when some private company can make a profit off of it is sending us down the wrong path. Free Markets are not going to fix this for us. What is needed is regulation of what kind of packaging is produced in the first place and regulation of garbage collection to put it ALL into the recycle. The cost needs to be spread around to all those who benefit, not just the public.

Don Macleay, Oakland

"The Jonah Kit: American Songbag," Local Licks, 12/31

You're Off Key

I suspect that this need, for reviewers to compare to Bob Dylan every singer-songwriter with balls hanging between his legs and an acoustic guitar hanging from his neck, is a virulent strain of cultural rigor mortis. Someone unusual surfaces, writes and sings unique songs that are funny, serious, entertaining, and moving, and the vampires come out of their creaking coffins to tell the rest of us that there is no escape from cliché, that singers who stray from the status quo should be discouraged because the sound of their "off-key" voices will cause hacks everywhere to recoil.

Jonah Watchman is an artist. We should be grateful he performs for little thanks and even less remuneration. His band-mates, Taylor Still and Dave Herman, are musicians. Together they created one of the most original and thoroughly American albums recorded this year. They deserve better than a three sentence vacuous blurb by a tone-deaf "critic."

Dan Weber, San Francisco


The January 21 Full Disclosure, "A Bad Start for the Oakland School Board," misstated the last name of Vintage Foster, spokesman for the Bryant and Brown law firm.


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