For over a year now, though in rapidly growing numbers over the last few months, a small army of mysterious street art gnomes has been appearing on utility poles around Oakland. Though no artist has stepped forward to take credit for the diminutive urban inhabitants — who sport funny hats, golden belt buckles, and are often accompanied by very large mushrooms (see above) — Pacific Gas & Electric, which owns some of the poles to whose bases the artworks have been screwed is plotting a mini-massacre, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
“We’ll be dispatching a crew to remove them,” PG&E spokesman Jason King told the Chronicle. “We can’t have anything that could compromise the integrity of our equipment. … The concern is that the gnomes could inspire additional people to place things on our property.”
Oakland residents, however, are rallying behind the gnomes, seeing in their playful imagery and uncontainable propagation signs of renewal and hope for a city that has developed a reputation for crime and corruption in recent years. “They’re universally loved,” photographer David Colburn told the Chronicle. “I like the mystery, and the fact they’re subtle. Most people would walk right past them unless they knew to look.”
Increasingly, however, the gnomes are becoming known. “When you see these whimsical, magical little creatures, you’re reminded what an incredible city Oakland is, that’s it’s more than just crime,” Children’s Fairyland director C.J. Hirschfield told the Chronicle. “Plus, they’re just plain adorable.”
Not everyone has been won over by the gnomes’ cute demeanor, though. UC Berkeley Celtic Studies instructor Dara Hellman cautions: “At best, they’re neutral. At worst, they’re malevolent… Never make a deal with a small supernatural being. It’s always a bad deal.”
— Benjamin Sutton
(Image via @christies_nbc.)