Julien Beller, founder and president of 6b, a space fostering creation and diffusion in Saint-Denis, and Bénédicte de Montlaur – Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States – visited San Francisco and Oakland last March to exchange with local stakeholders.
The Oakland/Saint-Denis cooperation project was officially launched on February 5, 2019 at UC Berkeley’s Global Urban Humanities Department, with a lecture given by Dominique Alba – director of Parisian urban planning studio APUR – to the Global Urban Humanities PhD students.
The project, which questions the metropolization of our territories and the role of cultural actors in urban development, aims at broadening the public debate by giving voice to the French and Californian suburbs and sharing the models that are being invented, and to compare them to other territories. That is why the presence of architect Julien Beller was so paramount: the place he founded, the 6b, located in Saint-Denis, is an innovative solution for artists looking for an affordable place to work within a community. Similarly to Oakland, in the last few years Saint-Denis has experienced an amazing artistic liveliness as well as a wave of gentrification.
Beller's visit is a reminder that this cooperation project is built on shared expertise, an approach which was initiated in 2018 when Didier Coirint – director of Cultural Affairs in Saint-Denis – and Laure Gayet – an urbanist working at studio Approche.s! – were invited in Oakland. If Coirint and Gayet's visit was more focused on comparing the different territorial public policies, Beller and Montlaur's was aimed at studying the French and Californian models when it comes to public/private partnerships and social impact in temporary urbanism.
For Beller and Montlaur to meet Burning Man Project was therefore an evidence, insofar as Burning Man succeeds every year in building a temporary city which rests – for the most part – on participative, inclusive and groundbreaking art. Similarly, it made sense to meet Kelly McKinley, Deputy Director of the Oakland Museum of California, who supported the museum's strategy to redefine its social impact statement and to make community engagement its number one priority.
Julien Beller and Bénédicte de Montlaur also visited The Crucible in Oakland, an industrial arts school which offers classes for every age and level in rare crafts such as blacksmithing, enameling, foundry, glass blowing, glass flameworking, kinetics, moldmaking, and welding, to name but a few.
Oakland/Saint-Denis: what's next?
In June 2019, French cellist and jazz composer Vincent Courtois will be coming to San Francisco-based artistic residency A Room with a View to work on his next creation, inspired by Oakland artist Jack London’s Martin Eden. While in residency, Courtois will also give concerts in the city’s libraries and record his current creations in Oakland 25th Street recording studio in partnership with DoubleOone. Stay tuned to learn more about his program.
Read Deputy Director of the Oakland Museum of California Kelly McKinley's inspiring article published on Medium: “What is our museum’s social impact?”
Read Oakland Museum of California's Associate Director of Evaluation and Visitor Insights, Johanna Jones' article "What problem in our community is our museum most uniquely equipped to solve”