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NIMBY a new DIY space for art and creation in East Oakland

Helena Guan

Just a few minutes from Coliseum BART, the industrial arts “DIY space” NIMBY is filling in its new warehouse home at 8410 Amelia St. DIY-if you don’t know by now-means do it yourself, and what you can do at NIMBY is metal work, fire arts, mosaics, electronics, textiles, jewelry-making, screen-printing, glass-blowing, bicycle and art-car building, stone carving, painting, sculpting and more.

Michael Snook, who just goes by Snook, co-founded NIMBY in 2004 in West Oakland to provide resources, assistance and space for artists and hobbyists to unleash their creativity on “re-purposed” materials and create jaw-dropping art in a collaborative community. With a background in property management and construction, Snook turned on to industrial arts when he joined the Burning Man Department of Public Works (DPW), the crew that builds and then tears down the week-long art festival’s “city” in Nevada’s Black Rock desert every year.

A lot of Burning Man art gets built at NIMBY, from art cars to massive, mobile monuments that tower over Black Rock City. And since Snook is the only paid employee of an organization that serves upwards of 200 artists, volunteers from the community and many of his Burning Man friends pitched in to move all the art pieces, equipment and boxcar-like containers that serve as studios to the new 64,000 square foot space in East Oakland.

A bright-eyed man called Cowboy Bob, who actually was a cowboy, he said, worked with Snook in the DPW for years and is now doing whatever he can to help Snook get the new space up to full speed.

“He’s a guy that’s always trying to help people,” he said.

As the “daily operations manager” of NIMBY, that’s certainly true-anyone can use the space and equipment for free, and artists can rent a container studio for $300 a month. NIMBY will also resume their monthly fundraising parties, Snook said, which celebrate the community with installations, live music, and performance art.

Some projects built at NIMBY include: an electric hot tub and bar-car that you can drive from inside the hot tub by Tom McCarthy, a 25-foot nose-picking machine powered by humans running in a giant hamster wheel called the Disgusting Spectacle, and Dance Dance Immolation, where people wear “proximity suits” that trigger flame throwers when you dance correctly, and blasts the fire in your face when you dance incorrectly (the suits are fireproof).

At the former West Oakland location, NIMBY’s warehouse was sometimes open 24 hours, but Snook said, “We have to cut back a bit so nobody tries to live here.” A surveillance system will help with that, since Sprocket, the would-be junkyard dog, trots over to a newcomer and nudges their hand to be pet.