D'art Lloyd sets up one of his sculptures at MLK Civic Center Park. The sculpture is comprised of three metal poles that are arranged in the shape of a pyramid, with a circular metal hoop around them. All the bars plus the hoop are painted, stripes of red and blue. In the middle of the pyramid shape a two large pieces of driftwood hang from a string.
At the exhibit on February 19, participating artist D’artagnan Lloyd sets up a sculpture he made out of found materials in MLK Civic Center park. (Mark Leong)

THE PEOPLE ARE THE PLACE is a multi media community art project undertaken by eight artists living in the Berkeley/Emeryville area,: D’artagnan “D’art” Lloyd, Ashley Frankum, Brandon “Grimm” Mercer, Raymond “Ray” Leichter, Patrick “Pat” Thomas, Laura Berry, John Benson, and Suzi Garner. Six of the participating artists are current or former residents of the Ashby/Shellmound encampment located at the I-80 interchange. This encampment area, occupied by unhoused individuals on and off for at least the last 20 years, is currently undergoing a process of evictions by Caltrans and will be completely cleared by March 2022. In light of these evictions, this project seeks to explore the following questions: By what means do we remember or understand who we are (as artists, individuals, and a community) if we become displaced? 

What role does the environment of the encampment and surrounding neighborhood play in creating a sense of place and community for encampment residents? 

How can the intra-community relationships between individuals, creative practices, and the environment be mapped? 

How can this information be effectively conveyed and shared with the larger community? 

The project began with a group of artists wanting to find a way to share their artwork with the larger community. This artwork had nearly all been created while living in the Ashby/ Shellmound encampment community, often with artists inspiring each other. As project collaborator D’artagnan Lloyd put it, “It’s kind of a group consciousness. You can see the influence of your own art reflected back to you.” 

The project can be broken down into three phases: 

Phase one (August- December 2021) 

Using video and photography, art created by the six artists from Ashby/ Shellmound is extensively documented. This is especially important as many artists lose their work in the process of displacement from their encampments. Seeking a way for the artists to continue to connect with each other creatively as the neighborhood is cleared and the community dispersed, the project has undertaken to create an interconnected map of artworks. This consists of each participating artist selecting works from their own portfolios and pairing this work with the work of another person in the project. Through this process, a web of connections formed. While the reasons for pairing each work were personal and incredibly diverse, the process of creating this art “map” provided a way for the artists to stay connected with each other through inspiration and to reflect upon the value of the relationships and the environment at Ashby/Shellmound and its impact upon their own creative processes. This map can be found on the project website: www.thepeoplearetheplace.org 

A photograph of the Ashby/Shellmound offramp that has with a filter on it that makes the colors in the photo shades of bright pink, orange, purple, and blue.
Grimm’s art practice often involves taking and manipulating photos to represent his internal experience of the world. (Brandon “Grimm” Mercer)

Phase two: (August 2021-February 12 2022) 

Artists worked together to curate and create a 360-degree video projection installation. They projected their artwork onto the circle of trees surrounding the fountain within Civic Center Park in an exhibit that was displayed on February 19. The projections were accompanied by three kinetic sculptures, created by participating artists, which incorporate audio recordings of the Ashby/Shellmound environment and its residents. This multi-media installation will immerse the viewer in the visions and experiences of individuals currently or formerly living at the camp. The chosen location centers the creative expressions of this marginalized community within the civic heart of Berkeley. 

Phase three: (October 2021-March 2022) 

This phase began with walking the land and drawing maps. In collaboration with Street Spirit, each artist spent time walking the land of the Ashby/ Shellmound camp, both before and after eviction, reflecting on the land and the people who have passed through it. In connection with these discussions, each artist created an individual drawn map of their knowledge, history, and patterns of use for the geographic area of the encampment. These maps are digitized, layered together, and collectively form both an artwork and an interactive document to highlight and preserve a community’s intangible heritage that is lost at the time of eviction. This issue of Street Spirit is devoted to sharing these maps and accompanying reflections. An interactive version of the maps is also available on the project website. 

Land acknowledgement 

The Ashby/Shellmound encampment sits on Huichin, the home territory of Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone people, which stands on unceded Lisjan Ohlone land. The Ohlone community is not federally recognized, has no land base, and has been politically and economically marginalized. We recognize that Street Spirit and Youth Spirit Artworks, along with every member of the Berkeley community, has and continues to benefit from, the use and occupation of this land. Please join us in honoring the sacrifices and invaluable contributions made by the Indigenous culture bearers who came before us and are here now, including those with Indigenous heritage participating in this project. 

Suzi Garner is a multimedia artist who uses recycled materials, light and shadow, and found or natural objects in her work. She is the facilitator of THE PEOPLE ARE THE PLACE, and often collaborates with community members in her art practice.