by Lee Hubbard
The Presidio was once an Army fort that the military controlled for over 200 years. It was signed over to become a national park in 1994 and it has been home to a host of cultural events throughout the years.
Over the past year, during the Covid-19 outbreak and shutdown of most of the country, many people did many things to keep themselves busy. While a lot of establishments such as restaurants, movies, amusement parks and places where people gather were closed, one of the few places people were able to enjoy themselves was at parks, such as the Presidio.
The New York-based non-profit Photoville wanted to highlight this. Partnering with the San Francisco Presidio Trust, they presented the “My Park Moment” photo show, which celebrates people loving parks. The photo show features pictures of people from throughout the United States at different parks.
The photos are featured on tunnel tops – huge cargo-like containers spread out around 14 acres of new parkland with trails, scenic overlooks and picnic sites all over the Presidio in a dramatic display of public art. The show will be up from now until August 2022.
From professional photographers to people with cell phones, 400 were selected.
“This exhibit is a celebration of community,” said Michael Boland, chief park development and visitor engagement officer at Presidio Trust. “It shows how we as Americans can enjoy open spaces. How people can have fun, get fit, fall in love and do a lot of things outside at parks.”
There were 7,000 photo submissions, from professional photographers to people with cell phones, and 400 were selected. The photos were picked by a committee of artists, photographers and cultural critics from throughout the Bay Area. Outside of the 400 pictures used in the photo show, four photographers, who submitted multiple works, were given stipends and highlighted for their work as Visual Story Award winners.
Marissa Leshnov had her work featured in the Presidio exhibit as one of the Visual Story Award winners. Her work profiled the Oakland OMies, which shows a group of Black women practicing restorative yoga in the Presidio.
“These women came together as Black women, supporting each other and promoting wellness,” said Leshnov. “It’s important that people see themselves reflected in the art and I hope this brings people out to the Presidio to see the exhibit.”
Another of the Visual Story Award Winners was Shielby Macene, an Oakland photographer who has 12 pictures in the “My Park Moment” exhibit. Her work focuses on the citizens of Oakland, specifically the merchants at Lake Merritt during the pandemic.
“My work comes from the exhibit ‘Black Joy at Lake Merritt,’ which shows Black people at the lake during the pandemic, particularly along sellers’ row,” said Macene.
Sellers’ row was a row of food and clothes vendors who posted up along Grand and Lake Shore Drive in Oakland. It would be anywhere from 20 to 50 vendors out selling things along Lake Merritt on hot summer days as people hung out at the Lake. This scene would often conflict with many of the new residents along Lake Merritt.
“My pictures showed Black life, and it was a great way to document folks. It was a fun time, but you knew it wasn’t going to last,” continued Macene.
It didn’t. Local residents complained and complained, and media attention was brought to the lake. Today, vendors at the lake are required to have permits and there is a heavier police presence then what was taking place during the pandemic.
“The pandemic was hard on people and parks,” added Boland. “Parks were the only outlet for some people.”
Lee Hubbard is a Bay Area journalist who earned his masters’ degree in journalism at Northeastern University. Well known to longtime Bay View readers, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.