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Oakland in Saint-Denis: empowering artists in our cities

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Throughout two learning expeditions, French and American professionals (urbanists, artists, architects, scholars, urban planners) shared their experiences and points of view concerning new ways to imagine cities. From gentrification, displacement, stereotypes and prejudices... to liveliness, sense of belonging, affordable and permanent places, diversity, social equity, community engagement, public/private partnerships, etc. Because we strongly believe that we should keep artists and arts places in our cities, amplify the role of the cultural sector in urban development, in order to build more inclusive and creative cities. Let’s build inclusive and creative cities together!




Empowering artists as catalysts of change


The Oakland-Saint-Denis cooperation project is primarily based on the numerous similitudes observed between the two cities: both are historical places of innovative artistic communities but also two outlying cities facing major metropolitan development and common prejudices. Hence the idea of connecting those cities much more similar than expected at first glance seemed obvious for the various partners of the cooperation project. This cooperation project, which takes various forms such as artistic exchanges previously mentioned in this blog, will be further materialized with this U.S. learning expedition to Saint-Denis.

The learning expedition, which promises to be rich in meetings, discussions and visits, will be placed under the sign of urbanism, with the American team comparing both cities, assessing the role artists and artistic institutions play in our cities and finding out models that could be transplanted and scaled up in the U.S. The ambition of the project is clear: build more inclusive and creative cities by keeping artists, arts places and local communities in our cities and amplifying the role of cultural sector in urban development.


Learning Expeditions in Saint-Denis and Oakland


Through workshops, visits, conferences and more, the two learning expeditions were the opportunity for their participants to exchange with their French counterparts, but also to learn from the initiatives implemented in both territories.


First Expedition (10/01 to 10/05): A look back at Oakland in Saint-Denis program:

▶️ Participated to a symposium on Arts and Urban Planning organized by Plaine Commune ▶️ Visited Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, from the City Hall to the Basilica and Street Art Avenue ▶️ Performed community engagement through storytelling with Kaimera Productions and Maison Jaune - Saint-Denis ▶️ Explored new real estate tools with Atelier La Main 9-3.0 and Baluchon ▶️ Experienced a speed dating session with artists from Le 6b ▶️ Envisioned Grand Paris Express and its 68 upcoming stations ▶️ Shared a collective debrief at the American Embassy in the United States ▶️ The Gray Area Art + Technology carte blanche at La Gaîté Lyrique for the Nuit Blanche, along with 3,700 people! Stay tuned to learn more about what’s next: the "Saint-Denis in Oakland" learning expedition in November, a short documentary, and a collective publication in early 2020!.


The American team schedule



Second Expedition (11/12 to 11/15): A look back at Saint-Denis in Oakland!


▶️Discovering the City’s transversal approaches on othering & belonging by City of Oakland

▶️Touring numerous vibrant artists’ studios and cultural places in Oakland with Burning Man Project, Lost & Foundry Studios, MoreLab, Shadetree, American Steel, Flux Foundation, Five Ton Crane, YR Media & Destiny Arts Center

▶️Discovering local public/private collaborations with real estate developers on urban development & arts communities with Orton Development, East Bay Asian Local Development and ArttHaus Studios by SPUR

▶️Attending a conference on community development through arts and culture by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

▶️Reflecting on translating key words to explain urban planning and arts communities by University of California, Berkeley

▶️Gathering with the US partners at the French residence to share the first impressions

▶️Exploring how to keep space for cultural stakeholders and places with Safer DIY Spaces by Community Arts Stabilization Trust

▶️Meeting with local artistic communities: screening East Bay documentaries in presence of the filmmakers: Romeo is Bleeding with Donte Clark, Dogtown Redemption with Amir Soltani, The Force with Peter Nicks presented by California Humanities

▶️Measuring social impact on arts and community engagement by Oakland Museum of California




Filmmaker Camille Servan-Schreiber was part of the two learning expeditions to produce a short documentary to be released in 2020, in addition to a publication that will gather the various findings, experiences and propositions of both teams.


The Oakland-Saint-Denis cooperation project is made possible thanks to the support of California Humanities, the Institut Français, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States and the French American Cultural Society.


Thanks to the collaboration with American partners : City of Oakland, UC Berkeley, Burning Man Project, CAST, YR Media, Oakland Museum of California, Spur, Oaklandish,

US Embassy in Paris and MoreLab.


And French partners: City of Saint-Denis, Plaine Commune, Société du Grand Paris, 6b, Ateliers Médicis, APUR, Légendes Urbaines, La Maison Jaune, Baluchon, Paris VIII University and Kaimera Productions.

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