Public Art in Oakland

Public Art enlivens, enriches and enhances our visual environment and public spaces. The best public art creates a focal point for activity, a meeting place or a landmark -- and lets residents and visitors enjoy the tremendous creative talent found in our city.


Public Art

The City of Oakland's Public Art Program commissions original works of art for public spaces throughout Oakland. The program enriches the city’s visual environment, integrates the creative thinking of artists into public construction projects, and provides a means for residents and visitors to enjoy and experience cultural diversity. Public Art projects are funded through a 1.5% allocation from all eligible City of Oakland capital improvement projects, eligible grant revenue as well as private contributions.

Current News

  • Note: All staff are working remotely during the state-mandated shelter in place order, and all Public Art Advisory Committee meetings are held virtually using Zoom until further notice. Visit the City's dedicated COVID-19 Arts Resource page for more information and assistance.
  • We are saddened to report that the public art sculpture, Shifting Topographies by artist Dan Corson, was damaged in a fire on March 8, 2020. We are working with our community partners and BART to address any immediate concerns and damage repairs. Please contact if you have questions.

Recent Projects

Gates for the Gardens at Lake Merritt by Shawn Lovell

Lakeside Green Streets: Snow Park: Makkewekes by Wowhaus (Scott Constable and Ene Osteraas Constable)

Rainbow Recreation Center: Rainbow Power by Johanna Poethig and Light=Color=People by Peter Richards

Two artists' works were integrated into this recreation center renovation for East Oakland. Johanna Poethig created a glass tile mosaic to celebrate community youth within a rainbow landscape, in homage to local resident and famed cartoonist Morrie Turner, who coined the term "Rainbow Power". Peter Richards, in collaboration with the project designers Byrens Kim Design Works and Pete Stephens, designed a series of artist interventions within specific architecture elements, including holographic/multi-color clerestory windows, a welcoming arch with diffraction grating and a functional sundial.

Golden Gate Recreation Center: Joining Circles by Joaquin Alejandro Newman and Eduardo Pineda

Joining Circles celebrates the circles of friends, family and community that come together in this North Oakland recreation center. The artists incorporated images of community users and historical figures to introduce the cultural roots of the Golden Gate neighborhood to newcomers and frequent visitors alike, through permanent artwork included at the building entrance, in the lobby and the teen lounge.

Many other exciting Public Art projects funded through local bonds and state grants are underway throughout Oakland. These include:

  • Mosswood Recreation Center
  • Measure DD: Lake Merritt - Estuary Channel, Estuary Park
  • Fire Station 4

To learn more about these and other recently completed Public Art Projects, visit our Public Art Projects page.

Public Art Calls for Artists

To learn more about current City of Oakland Calls for Artists and other artist opportunities, visit our Public Art Calls For Artists page and sign up for email announcements with the link at the top of the page.


In 1989, the City of Oakland adopted an ordinance authorizing the allocation of 1.5% of municipal capital improvement project costs to commission and acquire public art. In 2014 the City adopted a new requirement for .5% of residential or 1% of nonresidential private development project costs for freely accessible public art on site or within the public right of way.

Public Art staff, with guidance from the Public Art Advisory Committee, administers these funds and provides vision, planning and project management for Oakland’s public art collection. Gifts of art offered for placement on City property are reviewed through a public process managed by staff for approval by the Committee and City Council.

The Public Art Advisory Committee is an advisory body to the Office of the Mayor, Oakland City Council, and the City Administrator's Office on all matters related to public art in Oakland. Its members are appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council. The Advisory Committee supports City staff in the development and operation of the City of Oakland's public art program. For more information, visit the Public Art Advisory Committee page.

Public Art Program Goals and Objectives

  • Develop and implement plans and budgets for all public art projects annually.
  • Develop and maintain a list of potential jurors and panelists and develop a maintenance survey/work plan.
  • Coordinate the selection of artists or artworks for the Public Art Program, with a majority of public art commissions awarded to Oakland-based artists (i.e., those with residence, studio or primary professional employment in Oakland).
  • Serve as liaison between the Public Art Advisory Committee, City Administrator's Office, Mayor's Office, City Council and other City departments.
  • Solicit funds from foundations, corporations and public agencies for public art projects in Oakland.

The primary objectives of the Public Art Program are to:

  • provide opportunities for artists which advance their art forms and which broaden the role of the artist in the community;
  • develop for the City of Oakland a collection of the highest quality artwork which reflects its culturally diverse community and its ever-changing needs;
  • enliven, enrich and enhance the quality of Oakland's visual environment and public spaces;
  • integrate the work and creative thinking of artists into the planning, design and development of the City of Oakland by promoting and facilitating collaborations between artists, architects, landscape architects, engineers and other designers in all public construction or urban design projects and by encouraging such collaborations in the private sector;
  • provide employment opportunities for artists through the commissioning of artwork;
  • provide opportunities for residents and visitors to participate in, experience and understand the process for creation of public art.

Public Art Ordinance and Documents

In 1989 the City of Oakland adopted the Public Art Ordinance (11086 C.M.S.) which authorizes the allocation of 1.5% of municipal capital improvement project costs for commissioning of public artwork. These monies are set aside in the Public Art Project Account for administration by Public Art Program staff. In July of 2019, the Percent for Public Art Ordinance (13562 C.M.S.) was amended and restated to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Public Art Advisory Committee and the Cultural Affairs Commission.

In 2014 the City adopted a new requirement for .5% of residential or 1% of nonresidential private development project costs for public art. In June of 2018, the municipal code was amended to adopt Chapter 15.78, Public Art Requirements for Private Development (13491 C.M.S.).

The Public Art Advisory Committee reviews all public art projects funded in whole or in part by the City as well as projects proposed for placement in the Public Right of Way, and on City or Caltrans property. The proposal requirements are detailed in the policy documents listed below.

The City charges an fee for review, facilitation and approval of these projects, according to the City's Master Fee Schedule, page L1, Economic and Workforce Development/Public Art Program.

Please contact Public Art Program staff for further direction and with any questions.

Oakland Public Art Ordinances and Guidelines

State and Federal Documents

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