For more than a century, AB&I Foundry has been producing pipe and fittings for use across the country. From its site in Oakland, California, AB&I has made components for U.S. Navy submarines in World World II and bronze statues for Market Street in San Francisco. Building off the work of founder Joseph Boscacci, AB&I products are recognized for their superior quality and craftsmanship and are 100% “Made in America” from post-consumer recycled scrap material.
But for all its history in Oakland, AB&I has been walled off from its community – literally. The foundry’s amazing work has been taking place behind a high wall tracing the edge of the property, wedged between Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train tracks and San Leandro Street. To transform the relationship between company and community, AB&I embarked on one of the largest public art projects of its kind in the area: a beautiful mural 253-feet long, eight-feet high containing 2,026 square feet of history and inspiration.
With the city’s former luster dulled by years of economic uncertainty, AB&I’s efforts not only help beautify, they remind the community of all it has accomplished while inspiring it anew.
“Our story is one worth telling, and our city is in desperate need of beautification,” said Kurt Winter, AB&I’s general manager. “The walls around our neighborhood are constantly tagged by graffiti artists, so we decided to take action and turn our own facility into a canvas for the benefit of everyone in the community. The art is beautiful, and so too is the message behind it.”
Instead of bare walls, commuters on the BART train and drivers cruising on San Leandro Street are presented with a striking tableau of milestones, memories and moments of genuine civic pride. Block by industrial block, AB&I is transforming its community while celebrating both local history and its own. Initial scenes in the mural depict Boscacci making ornamental castings for the city and the foundry’s work on behalf of the nation during World War II. Later images illustrate AB&I’s pride in its city and neighborhood, with iconic renderings of the Oakland Zoo, the Oakland Raiders football team, Fox Theater and the Christ of the King Cathedral at Lake Merritt. The richly detailed mural also honors team members who have worked at AB&I across its history.
Murals have long been used to celebrate achievement, highlight important issues and inspire future generations to greatness. From Michelangelo to Diego Rivera to contemporary art prankster Banksy, the mural is art in one of its most vital forms – directly engaging us in our everyday lives, sharing beauty and inviting new optimism for tomorrow. With so much value in the images, finding the right artist was paramount. Luckily for AB&I, acclaimed Bay Area painter Jean Bidwell from Castro Valley embraced the commission and embraced AB&I’s commitment to community and sustainability by including visuals celebrating the foundry’s accomplishments alongside those of the surrounding community.
“We have a long history of social and environmental responsibility,” said Winter. “This is yet another contribution we are making to improve our community, and it’s one we hope will inspire for a long time to come.”
AB&I’s deep involvement in its community goes far beyond the pigments and personalities used in the mural. For over two decades, AB&I has made environmental concerns a top priority, investing $10 million in environmental technology and training to set an industry standard for cleanliness and environmental responsibility. Its community faces more threats than just environmental ones, which is why AB&I has also helped law enforcement get guns off of the streets by taking in over 50,000 weapons and melting them down. This provides local law enforcement a cost-free way to permanently keep guns out of the wrong hands. AB&I also gives specialized confined space rescue training to new Oakland firefighters.
There’s been a lot to celebrate in the more than 100 years since Joseph Boscacci cast his first iron in his backyard. And now, there’s an appropriately sized canvas for this story to finally be shared with the community.
We just hope that there is room enough saved on the wall so that AB&I’s future accomplishments can be artfully memorialized too!