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Oakland has long had a robust and diverse arts community — and like many other sectors, it took a hard hit during the pandemic. With no live shows, galleries, concerts, and other cultural activities open, earning a living as an artist became even more difficult. But it also became a time when people got creative in their own homes and found new ways to share their work online. 

Now that the state has re-opened and people are venturing out again, what does the future hold for the Oakland arts community? 

The Oaklandside’s arts and community reporter, Azucena Rasilla, sat down with two local figures heavily involved with the arts to get their perspective: Kev Choice, a musician, activist, educator, and vice chair of the City of Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission; and Favianna Rodriguez, an artist and activist. Choice and Rodriguez are also part of the Artists in Action coalition, leading the conversation around the future of arts and culture in Oakland and the need for the city’s budget to include more robust and equitable funding to support the arts. 

The conversation touched on which industries could come to town to help revive the arts, how Oakland residents can support efforts to better fund the arts, and the importance of equitable distribution of power and resources for artists. 

The video discussion was streamed on June 17 as part of The Oaklandside’s first-anniversary event, Live-ish, a three-day celebration of our newsroom’s first year, featuring community conversations, short documentaries, panel discussions, and musical performances by local artists.

Blue Shield is the presenting sponsor of Live-ish.

Azucena Rasilla is an East Oakland native, a bilingual journalist reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.