(Literally) Painting the Town in Oakland

The story of our Ayala/Hermann mural (codename: The Oaks), and what’s coming up next.

Gabe Kleinman
4 min readJun 21, 2018

We started with nothing, and ended with a mural that has transformed the southwest corner of Rockridge into a beautiful gateway to our community.

It began with a one-sentence email in October 2017 from Andy Waggoner to a small group of us.

We gotta do this!! https://beta.oaklandca.gov/services/paint-the-town

Andy, a Rockridge resident since 2010, had for years been eyeing the sprawling Ayala Avenue and Hermann Street intersection as an artistic canvas. When Oakland announced its Paint the Town initiative last fall, Andy knew what to do. Enlisting the help of neighbors on 57th, Hermann, and Ayala, 12 of us began the process of determining what we wanted and how we were going to make it happen: permits, logistics, fundraising, volunteering, and creative.

Erin Lenhert handled an overwhelming amount of the nitty gritty (120 gallons of paint anyone?), Adam Fishman took on marketing and crowdfunding (and bookkeeping!), Andy made magic happen with the city, and Molly Dickens — along with her father Harry, the Renaissance Man — went for the creative.

Over the following eight months it came into shape with everyone chipping in, from bake sales (thank you, Heather Dodge) to GoFundMe campaigns, raising over $1500. The Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC) came in at the 11th hour with a cool $500 to ensure this mural — hopefully the first of three key intersections — got fully funded.

We had two short weekend days — a total of 20 hours — to transform the concrete slab for speeders into a traffic-easing tapestry. Beyond the beauty, there were extraordinary results in how this community came together.

Over 40 volunteers power-washed, swept, blockaded, chalked, measured, and yes — painted. We had visitors from Albany, friends brought donuts from Temescal (‘sup Courtney, John, Maya, and Stella) and even one volunteer from Santa Barbara (Uncle Rick!). All generations were able to participate. Pre-schoolers were painting poppies, elementary-schoolers took to the trees (thank you, Zentaro Matsui Hernandez), middle/high schoolers and college coeds made big headway with big rollers (looking at you, Zach and Noah Beyer), and the rest of us — parents, empty-nesters, retirees, and more — just tried to keep up. (The Vaughan-Brekke’s really set the pace…)

We’re seeing the effects already: more smiling from more neighbors and slower traffic all around, all thanks to this:

In the coming months we’ll be exploring our next two intersections: Ayala & Martin, and Hermann & 58th.

Stay tuned!