Listen to Devon’s interview!
“Pride.” This one word sums up Devon Simmon, an Eastbay artist, a grandfather, and an entrepreneur in advertisement. Specifically, Devon describes himself as an “artistic go-getter.” You can find Devon’s work by walking down International Boulevard in East Oakland and looking for barbershops and mobile barbeque stands. He has explored his artistic vision since kindergarten, and now he uses his art to help promote local businesses. His art has also been conveyed through the format of community murals. An Oakland native, Devon exemplifies the fusion of art and business in East Oakland.
Devon began his artistic trajectory in his youth, when he won an award for his drawing of Snoopy from the Peanuts comic strip, and, since then, took the necessary steps to do what he loves. Devon was encouraged to pursue art throughout his public school education and was able to get a scholarship to attend an Arts and Crafts University in Berkeley. During his time at college, he discovered that he was not learning in a way that would help him grow. Once he ran out of scholarship funds to attend classes, Devon purchased an ad in the yellow pages and started his own business. One of the first works he created was a mural for an Oakland mall with one gifted student from each of the surrounding local schools. Since then, Devon has crafted and structured his business to allow him to do the art he wants to do.
During this period of transition for Oakland, Devon believes that Oakland must hold on to what makes it special. On gentrification, Devon states, “We have to be subject to change, but not to the point where we lose our identity.” Diversity is a key part of what makes urban areas like Oakland special, but he insists that people must have “pride in what they do, pride in what they say….Oakland will persevere. Oakland will never die.”