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Briefs: Square Pegged, Green Waters

Square Pegged, Green Waters


Square Pegged

The Museum of Art History (MAH) has been awarded $250,000 from ArtPlace America, a grant-giving organization based in Brooklyn, New York. With this new grant, the MAH has now attained over half of the $1 million in required funding for the redesign and construction of downtown’s Abbott Square.

“I’m psyched,” says MAH director Nina Simon. “I’m excited because [the grant] really takes us to a place where this is going to happen. The momentum is building and growing.”

The goal of redesigning Abbott Square—an unremarkable concrete outdoor seating area nestled between Lulu’s at the Octagon and the MAH off Cooper Street,—is to bridge the gap between the museum and the public, Simon says, and maybe even provide a cultural landmark downtown.

“It’s really important for a museum to be a community place. You have to have those connectors that are beyond your walls,” Simon says. “The ways we can share art history in an outdoor space really amplifies and expands the ways we celebrate creativity and culture, in a way that we could never do indoors.”

The MAH will host a prototype launch of the Abbott Square design, including a hoisting of red buoys up into the air, on Thursday July 10.

After three years of applying for the grant, along with over 1500 nationwide applicants, it’s a moment of validation to be one of the 50 grant recipients, says Elise Granata, the MAH’s marketing coordinator.

“To be among those people and to be one of the organizations in California who were picked is just super energizing and a really big confidence boost for all of us,” Granata said.

The design for Abbott Square is approximately halfway completed by the Oakland-based architecture firm Gyroscope, and is due to be finished by the end of summer 2014. Simon expects square reconstruction to be completed by end of summer 2015. DANIEL BECKER

Green Waters

Move over, Monterey Bay? As part of a huge environmental push by President Obama, he’s announced a new plan to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary. The unveiling came shortly after a biting commencement speech at UC Irvine, in which he berated congressional conservatives for dragging their feet on climate change issues. With the newly created Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud to oversee it, the plan bans commercial fishing, mining, and oil exploration in the expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument—a marine sanctuary established in 2009 that spans the Pacific between Papua New Guinea and the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.

In another move that could get some buzz among environmentalists here, Obama also announced a separate plan to create a task force that will investigate the decline in bee populations across the nation. Recognizing the enormous role honeybees play in agriculture, the White House issued a memorandum which cited the loss of more than $15 billion in crops every year as a determining motivation for the task force. Regulators will assess the effects of pesticides and other chemicals on pollinators. They will then have 180 days to formulate a plan to prevent further bee loss.

The president’s announcements were met with threats of a lawsuit from House Speaker John Boehner, but he’s pledged to stand firm, saying “We know how fragile our blue planet can be. If we ignore these problems, we won’t just be squandering one of humanity’s greatest treasures, we’ll be cutting off one of our major sources of food and economic growth.” ANNE-MARIE HARRISON

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