Oakland/Saint-Denis Cooperation Project

Oakland/Saint-Denis Cooperation Project

Villa San Francisco and Légendes Urbainesare proud to announce the release of Translating Cities and Cultures. Following the documentary Empowering Culture in Our Cities produced by California Humanities and directed by Camille Servan-Schreiber, this bilingual 72-page publication is the latest production of the cross-cultural Oakland/Saint-Denis Cooperation Project.

Based on two learning expeditions in 2019, this book advocates two ideas: first to reaffirm the central role of culture in the making of our cities (to better meet the community needs, and create a city narrative) and second, to resist real estate pressure through joint public and private forces that will protect and reclaim cultural places. This is a collective and enthusiastic call to action for both public and private city stakeholders to embrace the best practices presented in this book and scale them up.

The two coeditors of the publication Juliette Donadieu, Cultural Attaché in San Francisco at the Cultural Services of the Embassy of France in the United States and Laure Gayet, founder of Légendes Urbainesexplain« In the midst of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis and the Black Lives Matter Movement, urban and social issues are exacerbated. Already engaged in the transformation of their cities, a group of artists, urban planners, entrepreneurs, elected officials and researchers embarked on a journey to examine the process of city-making in France and California. The Oakland/Saint-Denis project was born under a common conviction : our cities must be built collectively.» Julie Fry, President and CEO of California Humanitiesadds: “Not only does it amplify the stories of the people who are part of the rich fabric of these incredible communities and value the resources that have been here in Oakland and in Saint-Denis all along, it also highlights the crucial role that artists and cultural organizations play in shaping more inclusive and creative cities.

From combating racial inequality with the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan to empowering communities at the Destiny Arts Center and the Maison Jaune or offering models for artistic land use at Mains d’Oeuvres, Le 6b, SAFER DIY Spaces and CAST, the publication offers a rich panorama of the cultural and urban landscapes of each city. Based on concrete case studies, Translating Cultures and Cities shares economic, cultural, and legal solutions and innovations that could be modeled on a large scale.

Moy Eng, CEO of CASTsays: «Through our efforts with artists, we hope to make creative places durable and viable and therefore break the inevitable cycle of displacement that occurs when real estate becomes prohibitively expensive.»

Julien Beller, founder of Le 6badds: «We must create conditions for a dynamic dialogue between the 6b association, its residents, its neighbors, the developer, and local authorities, guided by the shared desire to participate in a new way of developing a city.»

Gaëtan Bruel, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States,concludes: « More than ever, we must look for common ground and foster opportunities to come together. Here we have a laboratory of sorts, where questions have been asked and answers are emerging. Perhaps this will encourage other cities to carry out similar projects and enjoy positive results».

The release of the publication will be accompanied bya series of public conversationswith artists, real estate developers, and policymakers from other cities to enlarge the conversation. Co-organized by Villa San Francisco and California Humanities, they will be launched on October 13th. On November 12th, the project will be presented at the National Humanities Conference.


Villa San Francisco is a project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy with the French American Cultural Society, the Consulate General of France in San Francisco and the Institut Français, Paris.This new cultural institution renews the original concept of Villas by going far beyond artists in residency. The Villa was born from the vision that artists should play a central role in our changing world and aims at leading a future-driven and transdisciplinary dialogue between artists and communities. www.villasanfrancisco.org

California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, promotes the humanities – focused on ideas, conversation and learning – as relevant, meaningful ways to understand the human condition and connect us to each other in order to help strengthen California. California Humanities has provided grants and programs across the state since 1975. www.calhum.org

Légendes Urbaines supports the implementation of creative and inclusive approaches in art, urban planning and local development. The agency offers contextual methods to city stakeholders to support artistic, urban and social experiments adapted to the specificities of each place. http://legendes-urbaines.com

Partner Institutions

In France: Pierre-Emmanuel Becherand, General Manager/Grand Paris Express, Julien Beller, Founder and Director/Le 6b, Juliette Bompoint, Director/Mains d’Oeuvres, Didier Coirint, Cultural Affairs Manager/City of Saint-Denis, Louise Fourquet, CEO/Baluchon, Simón Adinia Hanukai, Artistic Director/Kaimera Productions, Ben Lamyne, Artist, Julia Lopez, Artist & Founder/Maison Jaune, Emilie Moreau/APUR – Atelier parisien d’urbanisme, Valentine Roy/Territoire Culture et Création, Plaine Commune.

In California: Roberto Bedoya, Cultural Affairs Manager/City of Oakland, Benjamin Burke, Founder/Shade Tree, Sarah Crowell, Artistic Director/ Destiny Arts Center, Moy Eng, CEO/Community Arts Stabilization Trust, Lori Fogarty, Director/Oakland Museum of California, Ben Frost, Music Director/Youth Radio Media, William Gilchrist, Director/ Planning and Building Department/ City of Oakland, Shannon Jackson, Vice Chancellor Arts + Design/UC Berkeley, Kelley Kahn, Policy Director, Art and Economic Development/City of Oakland, David Keenan/Safer DIY Spaces, Robert Ogilvie, Director/Spur Oakland, Kelly McKinley, Deputy Director/Oakland Museum of California, Matthew Passmore, Artist & Founder/Morelab and Steven Raspa, Associate Director/Burning Man Project.