Cleaning up West Oakland

US Military vets and local artists came together to clean up over 2,000lbs of trash in West Oakland as part the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service.  The cleanup was organized by Petty Officer Second Class Thom Heavey, US Coast Guard Reserve, the head of the newly formed Veterans Arts group Oakland ARTillary, a project of American Clothing Experiment.

“Community Cleanups are a great first place for people to get involved, have a direct community impact, and meet other community members.” Thom chose the public areas on Mandela Parkway and Grand Avenue for two reasons: need and opportunity.  “West Oakland has become a dumping ground and small piles of garbage attract big piles of garbage.  By organizing the clean up near American Steel studios, we had the opportunity to help maintain the beautifully landscaped corridor of Mandela Parkway while introducing the vets to the American Steel artists.”  Thom speaks passionately about the healing power of the arts for the vet community, having been inspired by the veterans who create large scale fire sculptures at American Steel.  Large scale art utilizes skills learned in the military while providing a creative and constructive outlet, helping define a sense of identity and purpose.  Oakland ARTillary also heavily stresses the “of service” aspect of their work.  “Vets are so dedicated to the concept of service that they were willing to give their lives for it.  By reestablishing positive ways for vets to be of service in their own communities and encouraging creative construction and positive outlets in vets lives, we build stronger communities and help build a better, healthier, stronger America.”

Next projects for Oakland ARTillary? A Spring Art Exhibit featuring veteran artists is scheduled for April and the next Litter Patrol Project is February 18th, Presidents Day, in Fruitvale.  Connect with them on facebook ( and find out more at

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