|Three Richmond Locations Chosen
for Best of the East Bay
April 6, 2005
East Bay Express publishes annually a list of the “Best of
the East Bay,” an eclectic assortment of people and places
selected in a process that is not entirely clear. This year,
Richmond rang in three winners, shown below. Last year, I was
selected as “Best Local Politician” (see
Best Local Politician
From www.eastbayexpress.com, originally published by East Bay Express Apr 06, 2005, ©2005 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved:
Friendliest Community Theater
Don't blink or you'll miss it; Point Richmond is a cheerful green gem floating in a grayish sea of freeways, heavy industry, and low-slung buildings where one suspects terrible things might be happening. How such a small community, which has exactly one grocery store, can support a theater company with a five-show season is a mystery. But Point Richmonders love the Masquers, and it's mutual -- scrapbooks in the lobby attest to fifty years in the Playhouse's tiny space. The ticket holders patiently queuing to get in all know each other -- probably having sat at adjacent tables over at Hotel Mac for a preshow dinner -- and the actors always ring the lobby after the show to accept kudos from their friends and neighbors. With bright, riotous little excursions like this season's Macbeth spoof and last season's Ten Times Table that make good use of limited resources, and a taste for saucy modern musicals such as Victor/Victoria and Ruthless, we won't be surprised to see Masquers making its neighbors laugh for another fifty years.
Proudest Feminist Monument
During World War II, millions of American women worked industrial jobs to help the war effort. At the height of the war, about 27,000 of those women were working at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, which had been tapped to supply ships to Britain. "Rosie the Riveter" has become the icon used to describe these wartime laborers. The name came from a popular 1942 tune; later came the famous recruitment poster of a woman in work clothes and flexing her muscle while declaring, "We can do it." Richmond is home to the Rosies' national memorial. The installation at Marina Bay Park -- onetime site of Kaiser shipyard number two -- is an interactive piece commemorating the women's contribution to the victory. It begins with a sculpture designed to evoke the image of a ship's hull under construction. A walkway, roughly as long as a warship's keel, with a timeline of important historic events leads to the edge of the water and looks over the Richmond marina. The armrest at the edge reads: "You must tell your children, putting modesty aside, that without us, without women, there would have been no Spring in 1945."
Most Visionary Artist
The best art is one part imagination and 150 parts perspiration. So when we heard about the Richmond Art Center asking Oakland installation artist Erik Groff to quickly whip up something interesting, and how he worked for three weeks straight until the pale human termite had erected a twenty-foot-tall shantytown cityscape replete with interactive caves -- we said "Kickass!" Then Groff did a similar number on the LoBot Gallery with St. Peter's Church and Bones, a seventy-square-foot shanty church built from Oakland debris and Groff's a priori sense of construction. Visitors literally left the installation on their knees. "I've just gone psycho with the architecture, or anti-architecture thing," the 29-year-old former painter says. Good thing. Groff takes an arresting, original sense of form and color and welds it to a refugee's sense of zoning. The painstaking result is comic, complicated, and gleefully one-of-a-kind. One in five people in the world live in urban slums and shanties, and their numbers will double in our lifetime. The East Bay's most visionary artist sees that future and gets back to work.