East Bay artist installs un-authorized quarantine sculpture in Berkeley basketball court

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- A un-authorized public sculpture, and symbol of life in quarantine, is turning heads in the East Bay.

"We just drove by it the other day and screeched on the brakes," said Oakland resident, Jenny Hurth, who is not the only one surprised by the action at Grove Park's basketball courts this week.

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"The first thought of course is that we can't do that."

The close-up view proved even more shocking to Hurth.

"When I came in and saw that it's wire and paper and felt, it just blew my mind."

At 6 pm on a warm sunny Friday, the Berkeley basketball courts would normally be packed. They're now mostly empty because of the shelter-in-place, but the sculpture is serving as a reminder of pre and post pandemic life.

"I wanted to make something that when the viewer would look at it they would smile," said Oakland based artist, Joseph Melamed.

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Smiles are hard to come by under masks, but the excitement over the one-on-one game is clear.

"I think it's really wild," said Emeryville resident, Andrew Thurlow.

Melamed spent four days building the piece out of recycled steel, chicken wire, paper, and fabric.

Then on Monday night, under the cover of darkness, Melamed said, "I kind of gave myself a pep talk and one night loaded up my truck and just got over here, put it up, and got out as fast as I could."

Melamed did not get permission from the City of Berkeley to install the piece, but a maintenance employee from the recreation and parks department, who was at the park Friday evening, did not seem too concerned, even stopping to ask ABC7 about the art.

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"I wanted to reinvigorate this space with this sculpture, and share it with the community," said Melamed, who has been very surprised by all the positive attention his art has received.

"I hate to say it, but I think we have to suffer for a while, but that's a big reason why I made this sculpture, to sit as a stand-in."

Which is exactly how wandering neighbors feel....

"Normally it's packed with kids, skateboarders, basketball, you name it. So to have a surrogate is kind of cool," exclaimed Thurlow.

Now inspired by his East Bay community, Melamed says he has a few other public space projects in mind.

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