Rock Paper Scissors Collective
A community arts space
RPSC is Moving

Eleven years ago, downtown Oakland was home to mom and pop shops, socio-economically diverse, occasionally dangerous; a sometimes eccentric, sometimes wonderful, and always dynamic community. A group of artists, crafters, organizers and makers found a vacant little storefront among a sea of vacancies. With a little volunteer elbow-grease and fundraising effort, the Rock Paper Scissors Collective (RPSC) was born — a destination where the community could come together, organize, share skills, knowledge and create. ALL were welcome in the space.

In the following years, a group of underground and outsider galleries, including Rock Paper Scissors Collective, created the First Friday Oakland Art Murmur. Artists could showcase their work to an organized audience and share promotional materials, local crafters could sell their work, experimental performers could establish and gain recognition for work with little bureaucracy. Payment was on a sliding scale so no one was left behind because they were unable to pay. These types of intentional and inclusive actions drew international attention as First Friday grew to be one of the best-attended arts events in the country, drawing upwards of 20,000 visitors to the area every month who spend tens of thousands of dollars on art, music, and food supporting Oakland businesses and artists.

Oakland became a city known to foster creativity thanks to the work of so many collaborating individuals and groups. The Downtown, Uptown, and KONO districts became more attractive for tourists, restaurants, and independent shops. While the original spaces that created the artistic explosion in Oakland have closed down, RPSC continues to foster the spirit of building community through the celebration of art, skillshare and performance.

Now, after more than a decade in the same location, we are being forced out of our space on Telegraph and 23rd to make way for a new vision of the transforming neighborhood. The Collective’s long time landlord plans to charge market value for the space, well beyond what we can afford as an all-volunteer run nonprofit. Eleven years ago we could afford market value for the space, but thanks to our success in building a vibrant community in downtown, market rate is now far out of reach. The increase will more than triple our current rate.

Building an exciting, creative, and challenging neighborhood has been a long term project. Telegraph Avenue is rapidly transforming, and enjoys its current attractiveness due in large part to the events started by Rock Paper Scissors Collective. We are the only founding gallery that remains in business despite First Friday’s massive success, and we receive no money from the event beyond what sales we make. First Friday is a locus of Do It Yourself (DIY) and Do It Together (DIT) art, but we are one of the few galleries in the area that fully embraces emerging and outsider artists. We provide a space for everyone to feel comfortable and invited.

This space has become attractive to wealthier tenants BECAUSE of the years of hard work we have put in building a community of engaged artists, musicians, and performers, and as a reward we are being kicked out to make way for a wealthier class of renters. Will they share RPSC’s dedication to making art accessible for everyone? Will they be as community focused? Will they stand in solidarity with the people of Oakland, as we have?

We have been a reliable, consistent tenant for over ten tumultuous years, as businesses opened and closed, as the country went through war and recession, as Oakland and the Bay Area went from boom to bust and back again. We have hosted thousands of shows, concerts, and classes, on everything from Street Art to programming, from activism to zines, featuring artists and musicians from around the East Bay. We are being priced out of our space not because of anything we have done, but simply due to the cold calculus of gentrification. There is more money to be made in this space from something other than community-driven art, and that is enough and more than enough to push us out the door.

Rock Paper Scissors Collective will continue, despite this. We remain committed to fostering an inclusive artistic community accessible to everyone regardless of their income level, perceived ability, or socio-economic status. We will find a new space here in Oakland, and continue to build and support a diverse community of artists, crafters, performers and makers. We will continue to provide space, materials and time to all residents of Oakland, and to forge connections and solidarity between movements, people, and organizations. The only way to push back against the rising tide of inequality and injustice is TOGETHER.

Please contact us with any suggestions or ideas about our current circumstances. Only with the help and support of the community can we continue to ensure a safe and open space for everyone.

—Rock Paper Scissors Collective

8 Comments to “RPSC is Moving”

  1. Craig says:

    Join us in Detroit. Not only do we have low rent and ample space, it will take decades for the city to recover to the point that all neighborhoods could ever gentrify.

    Left the Bay last fall and have no regrest. Sometimes change means looking elsewhere for a community that will welcome you (despite all the flaws in MI it’s on the mend).

  2. Dear Rock, Paper,Scissors,
    KONO is currently in a similar position and is seeking space in the footprint of the district. We are temporarily in a space at 3003 Telegraph Ave sharing space with the Telegraph Health Center. However, we must be out of here by Aug 31, 2015. I think we should discuss sharing a space since we both serve the same community. I have some possible locations that we are considering but nothing for certain at this point.
    Thank you,
    Shari Godinez
    (510-343-5439

  3. […] a statement released July 10 and signed by the RSPC, it’s revealed that the buildings longtime landlord wants to charge […]

  4. Karma says:

    Have you considered Omni Commons? That place is huge and far from full. I met a woman there who used to run a screen printing shop on Telegraph, and like you she got pushed out.

    https://omnicommons.org

    PS sorry for any errors, writing on tablet.

  5. Lori Koenig says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your coming rent hike/eviction. Oakland needs dedicated folks like you more than ever. This is truly a sad sign of the times, and your important space would surely be missed from uptown art scene! Is there any petitioning that could be done? Would the landlord ever reconsider? What a shame that money rules everything around us now.. sad.

  6. Annamarie says:

    I found out about this from an article in the East bay Express and was especially stricken by this part: “A lot of people are just saying, ‘Well it’s gentrification.’ [They’re] throwing their hands up like, ‘What do you do? This is what happens,’” said Holohan, referring to responses to RPS’ recent announcement. “No. That’s not what you say. You fight this shit.”

    Yes, yes, yes, and more yes! We absolutely CANNOT keep throwing our hands up and allowing ourselves to be steamrolled. At some point you have to stand and fight.

  7. Kristi says:

    Thanks for the comments of support folks! It is always a little weird to be quoted with cuss words but there is so much passion!

  8. dragon says:

    I work out of Omni Commons. There is a re-visioning meeting there sunday 8/9/15 2-6pm. come thru, introduce yourselves, and lets see how we can accommodate RPS collective within our humble walls!