Following an underground graffiti event that drew thousands of people to a vacant west Berkeley warehouse on Saturday, September 8, many buildings in the area were tagged leaving their owners and local residents dismayed.
The event, called “Special Delivery” and organized by Endless Canvas, took place in the Carbon Warehouse in the old Flint Ink building at 1350 Fourth Street between 6 p.m. and midnight on Saturday. Over the past few weeks, the interior of the 36,000 sq ft building has been covered with tags and street art by dozens of local graffiti artists. The warehouse, which has been vacant since 1999, has been a draw for graffiti artists for years, but this orchestrated “happening” was seen as a last gasp before the building is cleaned up and put to use by its owner, Alan Varela, owner of ProVen Management.
But on Sunday, the neighborhood also woke up to the sight of graffiti on many exterior walls of buildings across several blocks. The back walls of 1360 Fifth Street, which houses photovoltaic testing lab PVEL, and 1321 Fifth Street, home to Gingko Press, now sport dozens of multi-colored scrawls. There are tags on the Trumer Pils building at 1404 Fourth Street, on the Donkey & Goat winery, on the walls of expedition gear retailer SlingFin on the corner of Fifth and Gilman, as well as on many doorways of small businesses in the area. According to the Berkeley Police, they received reports from 13 victims of vandalism, and an investigation is under way.
The 1300 block of Fifth Street is owned by Orton Development (whose owner Eddie Orton is known to be interested in buying downtown’s Post Office), and most of its buildings were hit. James Masden, who runs business development for Orton, said finding out about the tagging was a shock. “It was not a pleasant Sunday morning,” he said. He said the police have filed a report on the graffiti, and that he had been unaware of the Endless Canvas event. “If we had been, we would have been concerned about the consequences,” he said.
Masden has been in communication with Alan Varela, owner of the Flint Ink Building, who, according to the East Bay Express, gave his blessing to the “Special Delivery” event. Varela told Masden he will make sure the graffiti is cleaned up, starting tomorrow. Attempts to reach Varela and the Endless Canvas organizers had been unsuccessful at press time. Graffiti on private property is generally the responsibility of the property owner, while the city is responsible for public buildings.
Kathleen Fahey, who lives on Fifth Street at Camelia, said she was intrigued by the Endless Canvas endeavor, but feels the organizers may not have considered the potential ramifications of such an event.
“It’s a cool idea, inspiring,” she said. “But this is home to a lot of people and, once buildings get tagged like this, it tends to increase the chance of it happening again and again. A lot of the people who came here probably had never seen the neighborhood in daylight. They thought it was a ghost town. Conveying the message that because there is a vacant, dilapidated building that can be used for a ‘throw-away’ art project does not mean the whole area is free canvas for random acts of ‘art’.”
Fahey said some owners had done a good job of restoring buildings in the area over the past few years. She describes the neighborhood, with its small businesses, including architects, a pre-school and artisans, as being “tidy” and expresses hope that the organizers and sponsors of the gathering take responsibility for the aftermath. “They should take ownership of it somehow. Even if they have no money, they should acknowledge it happened.”
Jared Brandt, owner of Donkey & Goat winery on Fifth Street, estimates 5,000 people came out to the “Special Delivery” opening which was flagged up in the local media and through social media. Berkeleyside pointed to it on our It List on Thursday, and updated the story with the event’s exact location which was kept secret until the day before.
According to Matt’s Writing blog which reported on the event, almost every inch inside the Flint Ink building has been decorated, including airshafts, windows, balconies, and staircases. Tags and artworks on show include a Vincent Van Gogh portrait, a mural featuring Fox News, and another work depicting the White House under attack by UFOs. Artists include Enor, Sad Could, Skul and DWT. Berkeley’s Ear Peace Records produced a live hip hop show for the gathering. Endless Canvas held a similar “Special Delivery” event in Portland, OR, last year.
According to the Endless Canvas website, the organization is “working on cleaning up” and hopes to have the exhibition of the interior of the Flint Building open next Sunday from 12 noon till 6pm.
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