Initiated by Oakland-based artist Scott Oliver Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After… is a site-specific, collaborative project that takes Lake Merritt, located just east of Downtown Oakland, as both subject and setting. Often referred to as the “Jewel of Oakland” Lake Merritt comprises one of the city’s most significant centers of public life. Centrally located and relatively uncommercialized, the lake and it’s accompanying parks and attractions are a democratic space within the city where the diversity of Oakland’s citizenry is both visible and dynamic. More broadly a multitude of artificial and natural forces are at play in and around the lake at any given moment. Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After… will explore how these forces converge, overlap, intermingle and coexist.
With the goal of raising awareness and deepening the commitment to preserving and enhancing a cultural heritage that belongs to all the people of Oakland, Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After… seeks to inspire curiosity in visitors to Lake Merritt by asking them to look more closely at the world around them—to see and listen with imagination and intellect, question why and how the city they inhabit came to be, and become active participants in shaping its future. With that in mind Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After… offers a variety of opportunities for public engagement.
There are three major components: an audio walking tour will guide listeners around the perimeter of Lake Merritt, focusing attention on points of significance along the way while spinning a meandering narrative of place; watershed awareness signage will show how Lake Merritt and the surrounding city are intimately connected through ecological phenomena and a complex network of storm drains; and a series of Lake Merritt souvenirs being developed with local students and artists will highlight different aspects of the lake from individual perspectives.
Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After… will debut in early summer of 2010.