Burner-built Peralta Junction brings a West Oakland lot to life

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Bay Area artists and other creative types have been building cities from scratch in the Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for two decades now, forming their culture and honing their ability to fill blank spaces with unique and wondrous offerings. In recent years, they have increasingly turned their energy and vision toward their own backyard, with the latest manifestation being Peralta Junction.

The long-vacant triangular lot near the corner of Mandela Parkway and Grand Avenue in West Oakland (2012 Peralta St.) has now blossomed into an old-timey midway, where visitors can play twisted adaptions of carnival games, check out cool sculptures, shop at artisan craft boutiques, paint personal artworks on a central wall, take in free live entertainment or the weekly movie night (they’re showing Men in Black this Thursday), or just hang out and enjoy the time-warp feel of this communal space.

And, like much that burners build, this temporary installation will enliven this sleepy corner of West Oakland and then disappear into dust in mid-December. The project is produced by Commonplace Productions and One Hat One Hand and sponsored by The Burning Man Project (the nonprofit offshoot of the LLC that stages Burning Man), the Crucible, Stageworks Productions, CASS Recycling, and American Steel Studios – all vaguely burner-related crews.

In fact, Peralta Junction is sort of an annex to its neighbor across the street, American Steel Studios, the behemoth workspace that has birthed some of the biggest projects ever built for Burning Man, from 2007’s Crude Awakening (whose worshipful figures are now bound for a permanent home in Brazil) to this year’s Zoa by the Flux Foundation. Many of the artists involved in Peralta Junction work out of American Steel, which has been developing an increasingly public face with cool, semi-permanent installations like the Brothel and Front Porch projects originally developed for the playa.

Peralta Junction aims at the local West Oakland neighborhood as much as the larger community of burners, and so far it's been well-received by both. “I think people are responding really well and positively,” Leslie Pritchett, with Commonspace Productions, told us. “The response we're getting from the people who have been there is just fantastic.”

But after a strong initial surge of people in the week after its Oct. 4 opening, Pritchett is concerned that the lack of foot and car traffic past this low-key spot will make it challenging to support the vendors, food trucks, and other offerings she's bringing in. That would be shame, because I thought it was super cool when I checked it out last weekend. So get on down there, support the local artist community, and have a great time.