Artship: Riding the Waves of Art and Redemption Oakland, California
Floating safely at anchor in a hidden Oakland cove, tucked among the burgeoning Internet startups and upscale businesses that surround it, lies ARTSHIP, a decommissioned warship of the art deco period. Liberated from its forced retirement as a member of the so-called "Mothball Fleet" in Benicia, California by Congressman Ronald V Dellums, the ship awaits the whims and fancies of the visionary, gifted, creative people in whose possession it now finds itself: The ARTSHIP Foundation.
Headed up by Slobodan Dan Paich, a theater director, choreographer, and visual artist, the Foundation is seeking sponsorship from businesses that understand public benefit ventures to fund the innovative project. They plan to use the ship to provide the Bay Area with a rich array of visual and performing arts offerings. There will be two theaters, cafés, a tearoom featuring tea served in handmade pots by artists in the area and office space for non-profits looking for an exciting community in which to be incubatedŃsuch as the Ujima International Cultural Foundation and Travel Beyond Borders Magazine, both non-profit projects on the cutting edge just as ARTSHIP is. Staterooms will be renovated to become live/work spaces for artists-in-residence and the ship will act as the American home of the International Peace University from Berlin. "We see the ship as a symbol of redemption," says Slobodan, "The ship has served in times of war. Now it will serve in times of peace. In this way it redeems itself of its rather confrontational past."
It shall also be the place where peace is taught. ARTSHIP has been chosen as the American campus of the International Peace University, currently based in Berlin, Germany. The IPU is supported by some very prominent people including 13 Novel Peace Prize laureates. Names like Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and FW DeKlerk are to be found on the list of sponsors. People who truly know the value of "Peace" and what a valuable commodity it is. "Peace is like oxygen," remarks Slobodan,"We need it to survive. But we must practice it in order to keep it."
The ship will be re-won from its dilapidated condition over the next several years through the hard work of dedicated volunteers as well as skilled craftsmen. Raw and beautiful, it is a behemoth of possibilities that begin to be fleshed out. The renovation process is already underway with great care being taken to preserve the art deco style of the ship: the cafs will be tricked out with furnishings and fixtures of that age and the staterooms left with as much of their current structure in tact as possible.
Infected with the spirit of rebirth currently sweeping through Oakland, the Foundation is not waiting until the ship is ship-shape to begin their activities. They have already proven themselves successful with their "Windows" program filling the windows of unused offices in the downtown Oakland area with works by local artists. It has brought a new visibility to the city, an invaluable contribution to a town that is redefining itself with each passing second. Not unlike another metropolitan city on another continent with which Oakland will have a bond through the ARTSHIP; Berlin, Germany is undergoing the same sort of renaissance that Oakland is currently enjoying. That city, once separated, struggles to provide unity where there was once a large rift. In Berlin-Mitte, the former East, where the buildings were run-down and riddled with holes, there is new life spurred on by the large contemporary art scene that has taken hold there. The presence of the International Peace University from Berlin aboard the ARTSHIP in Oakland makes unofficial sisters of these two cities, so much alike in their contemporary struggle. When the Peace University takes up residence in two years time it will play host to a Peace Conference that has already secured the support of several great artists. This will be a powerful joining, stirring up waves of culture at the once forgotten cove.
Movement is a fundamental element of ARTSHIP and all that it entails. As the Ship rides the waves with its ever-present promise of visiting far-off lands, so too there will be movement aboard the ship led by the Augustino DanceTheater, the founding organization of ARTSHIP. The Augustino Dance Theater, with lead choreographer Augusto Ferriols, allows for ultimate expression in the works they present, not afraid to cross over into rather risqué frontier.
Once quietly rusting away, a relic of the past ARTSHIP will find itself more than restored, it will be regenerated through the unlimited efforts and energy of the community surrounding it. With a mixture of fashion, art, artisan-ry, and performance, ARTSHIP will receive a brand new "Coat of Paint."
ARTSHIP makes it possible for artists of every medium to create without the boundaries that are so often imposed. With the vision and dedication that has given birth to so many Internet companies in the same region, its hatches are open to one and all inviting members of the community to come and take part. ARTSHIP will be will also be wheelchair accessible and will feature a dance company of those with diverse mobility ranges.
Oakland, California 2000