With the support of the campus, a group of low-income, at-risk youth in Berkeley is beginning a project to convert a dull parking lot into a vibrant community space.
Transitional-aged youth at Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA, a job-training program in South Berkeley, launched Friday the construction of a parklet and art lot in the Lorin district meant to connect the community — painting doors lined around the space and gardening plants in an attempt to liven up the communal atmosphere.
The project is one of four neighborhood improvement projects funded by the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund, which has supported programs since 2006 that foster links between the campus and the city. Other winners this year include Kala Art Institute for its Print Public project, Solano Avenue Business Improvement District for its parklet project and Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar Project for a project to recreate a calendar based on the sun’s rays.
In addition to the four neighborhood improvement projects, the fund also announced grants for 13 other community service projects for the 2015-16 academic year. Approximately $247,000 will be used in total to fund the projects. Since the fund’s inauguration in 2006, the organization has awarded $1.86 million in total funding to 111 community and university partnerships.
“This is one of those bright spots between the city and the campus that both gives students something to experiment with and benefits the city,” said Ruben Lizardo, UC Berkeley director of local government and community relations.
YSA will be using grant money toward funding a parklet and art lot in the Lorin district in order to connect the community by providing additional space for both visual and performing arts. YSA works to empower homeless and low-income youth in the Bay Area, and this project, along with others, is primarily youth-led.
YSA will work with students and professors from the campus College of Environmental Design to see that its project comes into fruition. YSA plans to begin construction in the spring, in part with the help of campus students, such as Arami Matevosyan, and a campus alumnus who is leading a DeCal regarding small public spaces, such as parklets.
Youth leaders and Berkeley High School seniors Carena Ridgeway and Rayven Wilson are spearheading the community outreach process in hopes to receive residents’ input by hosting community meetings about the development in October.
“I like to be a leader, at least at places I feel comfortable. I feel really comfortable here,” Ridgeway said, referring to being a member of YSA.
Another recipient, Kala Art Institute, has funneled its campus funding toward a two-year public art project called Print Public in West Berkeley’s San Pablo Corridor. The program is an intersection between urban planning and street art, with pieces such as murals and art installations scattered across the district.
Grants manager Ellen Lake said the group was “grateful” for the grant because it assisted in leveraging funding in order for the project to expand in the community.
The 2016-17 grant cycle launched Wednesday and includes changes to the process, such as a focus on the goals of the 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth, and a community-wide effort to bridge the gap in disparities in academic success between races that exists in Berkeley youth. The effort is supported by Berkeley Unified School District, UC Berkeley, the city and several community partners.