As part of a class project, I worked for free, alongside the rest of my cohort, to promote Pleasanton’s Big Draw chalk art festival using various social media marketing techniques. That said, I don’t feel like anything I, or the rest of the class, did raised awareness or attendance to the event in any discernible way. Why I believe this to be is what I hope to explore ahead.
The East Bay Fallacy
Sometime in the recent past the Tri-Valley area has been included in geographic make up of the East Bay region. This has troubled me because the suburban environs of the Valley are so unlike the cities that actually touch the Bay. Including the Tri-Valley as part of the East Bay is like calling Aerosmith hip-hop legends because they happened to release a popular song with Run DMC. This sentiment has kept me away from the cities like Dublin and Walnut Creek, except for the occasional expedition, engagement, or errand into those suburbs over the hills. But, yesterday I was compelled to venture into Pleasanton for something other than the county fair, The Big Draw–a street art festival put on by the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council.
My GF and I ventured out from Oakland at just the right time to reach Pleasanton’s quaint downtown by noon. Strolling through town we noticed signs for the event on strategically placed pianos that were decorated for the occasion and invited whomever to play them. We entered a busy farmers market that we mistook for the art festival. Yet, despite our mistake, we felt encouraged that if the market was a regular occurrence, the Big Draw would be a blast in comparison. But, the heat of the day was starting to build and the busy local restaurants began to call to us. So, we joined the rest of my class for lunch and decided to find the art festival after.
The Let Down
Lunch was good! Good food, good company, good times; my feelings for this tiny suburban haven were beginning to shift. But, heading back out into afternoon sun was brutal. The temperature had reached the mid-nineties and I missed the cooling stability of my beloved Bay. Despite the oppressive heat we pressed on two blocks to the actual Big Draw, hoping the town’s charm would outweigh our discomfort.
Upon reaching the event we walked down the first side street, whetting our appetites with the chalk art emblazoned about on the road. We encountered the artists commissioned by the city and watched them work away. There were a smattering of other pieces, mostly completed, checkering the street. The crowd was small and I wondered if maybe the heat had turned people indoors, maybe it had been a busier scene that morning. In 15 minutes we reached the end of the short block and anxiously turned the corner to see what else Pleasanton had to offer!
No more art. Just a few vendors selling stuff and a middle school band enthusiastically playing the Mos Eisley Cantina Theme, despite the heat (which was a plus for me, it was only chance that kept me from wearing by Chewbacca tee that day).
Why I Stay by the Bay
Last Summer, I attended another chalk art celebration, in Berkeley–in the actual East Bay. The GF and I ventured from Oakland to North Berkeley and parked the car, it was a little past noon and the sun was shining bright on that mildly warm day. Within two blocks we encountered artists working on the sidewalk, they were scattered on both sides of the avenue for over a mile. Every few yards we would have to stop to take in a new piece of art or check out a restaurant or watch a street performer. We stayed for a couple hours enjoying all the sights, sounds, and tastes; it was a good day.
I don’t hate Pleasanton or its neighbors. In fact, I think it is a perfectly nice small town, and I’ll probably be back someday. But, it’s not for me. The heat; the suburban homogeneity; its uncanny knack to be inviting and discomfiting at the same time; these are all reasons a city boy from Oakland tends to stay away.
It would take a major marketing campaign to build The Big Draw into an actual draw for Pleasanton. Unlike the county fair, which has a lot to do for everyone, this chalk art block party had little to do, even for the locals. The perception of the Tri-Valley as sleepy suburbs is kept intact by those that live there and will remain so no matter how its re-branded to fit in meta-scheme of the Bay Area.
A Final Thought
It being Mothers Day as I write this, I called my mom up today. She noticed all the chalk art I had posted to Facebook yesterday and wished she could have come along. “No,” I said, “You’ve seen everything there was to see.”