Abandoned warehouse reveals graffiti mecca

Eric Ocasio

Staff Writer

Throughout September, the Bay Area’s urban art culture was broadcasted to the masses.

Owner of “Proven Mangagement” contractors, Alan Varela, purchased the property at Gilman and 4th St. in Berkeley for renovation. The former Flint Ink building had been abandoned for more than 10 years. To Varela’s fascination, however, the ruined lot was under new management—by local graffiti writers.

“There was incredible art on some of the walls,” said Varela, member of the board of the Oakland Museum of California, “and I wanted to preserve it.”

The crew at Endless Canvas, the Bay Area’s premiere street art/graffiti blog, volunteered to host a sanctioned exhibition of the graffiti at the Flint Ink buildling, now dubbed “Carbon Warehouse.”  Special Delivery 2012 is the third large-scale urban art gallery put on by Endless Canvas.

Over the past decade the “Carbon Warehouse” garnered notoriety as the mecca for Berkeley’s graffiti art. The endless, thankless and dangerous task of graffiti writers is considered by its practitioners, such as featured artist G.A.T.S. (Graffiti Against the System), as the community’s last-stand to preserve public space.

In an age where the appreciation of and access to art is waning, these urban innovators are keeping alive a time-honored, though-often-vilified tradition. The exposure of the warehouse’s art to the general public is the last grass-roots movement in the Oakland and Berkeley area since last year’s “Occupy Movement.”
Beginning this summer, over 80 artists retouched and reinvented the 36,000 square-foot property.

Provocative masterpieces of unique style crowd every wall, floor, ceiling, pillar, corridor, and staircase with arresting color and detail.

Special Delivery 2012 was scheduled for a final public opening Sunday the 30th of Sept. from 12 to 6 pm at 1350 4th St. in Berkeley.

On Sept. 8, the opening night of Special Delivery, the line to enter the noisy warehouse wound around the block. Several local news reports, including CBS, had expressed concern about potential fallout from the exhibition. The massive crowd at the exhibit, however, maintained an uncompromisingly positive and sociable attitude.

All types came through to confirm the hype. The who’s-who of the local art scene strolled in with friends and associates, flanked by small groups of grade school students.

College-aged folks of every culture engaged parents who had brought their entire family to the spectacle.

Local DJ’s, MC’s, dancers, and art enthusiasts all flexed for the electric, monumental spectacle. What was originally touted as a shrine to vandalism quickly became a cultural movement. And a block party for the books.

“People in the area are satisfied with the clean and the responsible measures taken by the owner [Alan Varela] and Endless Canvas,” said Dead Eyes, a veteran street artist of two decades who was a co-organizer and featured artist for Special Delivery. “I talked to long-time residents in the direct area and they were enthusiastic about the show. Down the road, the main thing people will remember is it was a great show.”

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