DIY Arts Community Unites To Create Safety Guidelines Following Oakland’s Ghost Ship Tragedy

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The tragic fire in Oakland this past weekend hit very close to home for anyone that has ever been involved in the DIY arts community. It caused many people to take a step back and examine their spaces to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

In the wake of the tragedy, a shared Google Doc called Harm Reduction For DIY Spaces has been making rounds across DIY-centric social media groups, encouraging people to collaborate on a simplistic how-to guide to make spaces more safe, accessible, and accommodating.

However, this 20-page document is not a be-all-end-all to ensure the safety of attendees in your space, with every page adorned with a header that reads:

Harm Reduction For DIY Venues is currently an incomplete, evolving draft of suggestions for fast, free and low-cost harm reduction strategies that venues can implement immediately. It is NOT a comprehensive manual for safety or a replacement for involving licensed experts and meeting building codes… It is a group effort that is being created and edited with input from community and professional experts who span a range of DIY/lived experience to credentialed professionals.”

The document, created by S. Surface, a Seattle-based unlicensed architectural designer and long-term member of the Northwestern DIY music community, has amassed more than fifty contributors, some of which have identified themselves as licensed builders willing to be contacted with space-specific questions. It was recently closed and made available only to view, while it is being reformatted for organization and ensuring easy accessibility.

Topics covered include “Immediate Low-Cost & Free Building & Safety Modifications,” “Actions To Take – For Venues & Promoters,” as well “Actions To Take – For The Public,” which encourages attendees to take into account the role they can play in building and maintaining safe arts spaces. The document concludes with a list of organizing efforts, resources accepting donations to benefit the victims of the Oakland fire, and relevant other tips and information.

It was also announced that the city of Oakland will make available $1.7 million in philanthropic funds to support affordable and safe spaces for the city’s artists and art organizations, combining funds from arts-focused grantees, including Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST). In a news release, Mayor Libby Schaaf addressed the tragedy and the need to enable safe artistic spaces:

“The arts are at the center of vibrant and diverse communities, and are critical to neighborhood health and well-being, yet artists and cultural organizations are increasingly vulnerable to instability and displacement. This public-private collaboration and investments are aimed at preventing displacement, growing the capacity of the city’s artists and cultural organizations, and enhancing municipal resources for the cultural sector over the long haul.”

Harm Reduction For DIY Venues can be viewed in full here.

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