Oakland Maker Space American Steel Sold To Seemingly Horrible New Corporate Owners

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When it was established in 2006, the West Oakland maker space American Steel served as an art gallery and studio for large-scale industrial works, like giant Tesla coils and 20-foot tall metal sculptures. But when the place sold in 2016 for $29 million, many of the artists left because of a strict new set of “house rules,” among them a new ‘zero tolerance’ policy for drugs and alcohol, and other ticky-tack rules that the creators suspected were meant to drive them out and create a “new culture” about the place.

Still, many of the makers remained, as American Steel was still an incredibly unique place that allowed tenants to work on large-scale industrial art they simply could not make elsewhere. But now, it appears, even the watered-down American Steel is dunzo. The American Steel property has just been sold again to a $5 billion corporate real estate speculator called ScanlanKemperBard (SKB).

The dollar amount of the sale was not disclosed.

Do you think SKB will allow American Steel to remain an alternative maker space? Ummm, listen to these assholes describe themselves on their website:

We acquire, manage and transform commercial properties into profitable, risk-adjusted returns for select high-net-worth individuals, family offices, trusts, and institutional investors…

Our success is the result of practiced intuition and rigor, trusted partnerships and a single-minded commitment to create and preserve wealth for those who partner with us – and SKB – in that order.

In other words, American Steel will probably become a Walmart, an Uber headquarters, or a private, for-profit prison before long. (Or maybe a combination of all three! “Select high-net-worth individuals” would eat that shit right up.) But this is the latest sign that corporate real estate overlords are determined to cleanse the Bay Area of any and all creative spaces, because there are plenty more millions to be made by squeezed out the artists.

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  1. WO Res
    September 28, 2021 at 10:42 am — Reply

    Fucking terrible article.

  2. Mikell
    September 29, 2021 at 10:34 am — Reply

    It will probably turn into a housing complex or turned over to pot growers like happened to so much of the artist spaces in Oakland. Most of the industrial space in East Bay that used to be available for artist, is now used to grow pot. There’s only a couple of industrial art spaces in Oakland left and they’re not very large. Same for artist live/workspaces.

  3. curious40
    October 6, 2021 at 8:42 am — Reply

    Guess the original creators sold out for money and then the next set of artists sold out for money. If the artists didn’t sell out, there would still be these spaces.

    People that think “artists” are somehow more pure because they are broke are just ignorant douchebags. Most people would like to have more money. Artists on average are lazy and don’t want to do work that isn’t “fun”. That is why they end up being full time artists vs folks that get a job and do art in their spare time.

    Artists are just as greedy as everyone else, they just pretend not to be because they are bad at making money and don’t want to feel bad about themselves.

    • Whateva
      October 7, 2021 at 2:25 pm — Reply

      The original “creators” did not own the space. They rented. The owners of the warehouse when AmSteel became an artist space really did not care what happened there as long as they got the rent. When they sold the building, the new owners did not renew many of the leases, took out one of the cranes that made the space so usable to many of the large scale artists, raised the rent, and laid out so many rules that many of the artists knew they were no longer welcome there.

    • Cora
      February 22, 2022 at 3:36 pm — Reply

      I *HAD* to reply. I’m a full time professional artist, operating a one person studio practice. I employ (as project based contractors) a wide variety of other people in the course of my work; about 30 individuals, regularly. They range from trade professionals to other artists, themselves. I also depend on a wide variety of local businesses to supply the materials that I use. I would estimate the section of my local supplier spreadsheet where I have a registered, wholesale account to be somewhere upwards of 100 entries; yet more suppliers on the sheet where I do not shop wholesale. My clients are other small busi- oh shoot! I work for… businesses-?! That’s right, 80% of the projects that cross through my Studio are for small local businesses. There are some residential commissions. There is also the work I do for local museums, where I receive a small stipend that doesn’t cover materials, but that is work I believe in sharing with the community so I am happy to go out of pocket. I have an accountant who does my taxes, I have to maintain General Liability insurance in good standing, I need to cover rent for a large industrial space (see above; not getting any easier) and I need to purchase and maintain a large and complex set of tools for the work I do. Engineers regularly sign off on my designs, which must be formally drafted at an architectural level. My first year of business, I averaged 13 hour days and took a month off all year. Sounds like a lot! Except that’s counting all the weekends too. Is all this what you had in mind when you called Artists lazy? Didn’t think so. You’re ignorance is showing. I am by all measures successful at what I do- but it took me many years to get here, and shame on you for judging the way other people struggle to build their careers in this very tough city. I hope you give your perspective some thought.

  4. November 9, 2021 at 11:18 am — Reply

    I have had a studio at American Steel for 11 years. The new owners, whom i’ve spoken to directly after multiple attempts to reach out, are every bit as disrespectful and horrible as one may imagine. After multiple attempts to gain an email response I finally just called the Vice president directly.
    They are planning on kicking us out to create a new center for “RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT” as well as establish a brewery. He reminded me I was on a short term lease and there was nothing I could do. He’s right.

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