Arts Listings

Arts: ‘Telegraph 3 p.m. Project’ at Gaia Building

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday July 31, 2007

The Telegraph 3 p.m. Project, a collection of scores of photographs by Robert Eliason with matching poems by Owen Hill captioning text that chronicles in an upbeat fashion streetlife on the avenue, will be on exhibit at the Gaia Building, 2120 Allston Way (near Shattuck) through Jan. 31. 

There will be a reception with the artists, who refer to the exhibit as “going downtown,” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1. Refreshments will be served; admission is free. 

The project, named after the hour of Eliason’s lunchbreak at Moe’s Books (where both artists are longtime booksellers) when most of the photographs have been taken, will be represented by 161 photos, about a third of the project’s total so far, many of the images newer than those shown in two previous exhibits, in larger format and higher quality prints. 

“The goal has always been to show Telegraph in a much better light than that in the public’s perception,” said Eliason. “And I think this is the best of the three shows of the work. For one thing, there’s more room to breathe at the Gaia Building. And the size and quality of the prints are so much better. They’re just gorgeous—they sparkle on the walls. It’s as positive a look at Berkeley as you could possibly get. It should make a lot of people happy.” 

The project oiginally began several years back when Eliason, who’d shown Hill his photos, “began e-mailing me hundreds,” Hill recalled, “I’d shoot unrevised texts back on some. We’d negotiate between the two a little—not much.” 

Soon they had scores of photos with short poems captioning them. The first public showing was sponsored by the Telegraph BID, facilitated by Doris Moskowitz, owner of Moe’s. 

“We went up and down the Avenue, asking if business owners were interested in displaying them in windows,” said Hill. “I was surprised how many there were. We were proud and enthused, as hundreds were shown and some were kept up long after the show was supposed to be over.” 

A later exhibit at the YWCA updated the original showing with new work. The new show at the Gaia Building will feature even newer work, as well as some photos of other spots in the Bay Area. 

Hill reflected on the differences seen in the photos of Telegraph over just a few years: “Some look necessarily more deserted than the earlier ones, after Cody’s closed—‘the specter of the Cody’s building,’ Robert calls it—and other businesses went down, leaving empty storefronts. But there’s been an upswing this summer, whether from Peet’s moving in on the corner of Dwight, or the Berkeley World Music Festival bringing people down who realized the avenue’s a good place to go. But the energy doesn’t necessarily change overall. 20-plus years at Moe’s, and living around the corner, watching the avenue, is like watching the stock market. There are terrible months, then everybody comes back.” 

The impetus for applying to the Gaia Building for an exhibit originally came from a resident of the Gaia, also a customer at Moe’s, “somebody who was in one of the first photos,” Eliason recalled, “and wasn’t thrilled about it at first. Then he talked to us, become sort of a fan of the project, and told us they were looking for exhibitors at the Gaia, that we should pull something together. We mailed it off—and heard from them the day it was received.” 

Eliason plans to rotate some of the photos about halfway through the run. “There’s a lot of work that wouldn’t get displayed otherwise.” 

Hill, a bookseller who’s had seven books of poetry and two of fiction, one (The Chandler Apartments) a detective novel set in the neighborhood, published—hopes the new exhibition and the longevity of the project will also result in a book. “It’ll certainly sell off the Moe’s counter!” 

For more information about the Telegraph 3 p.m. Project, see 


Photograph: The photographs of Robert Eliason, accompanied by poems by Owen Hill, make up the Telegraph 3 p.m. Project, on display at the Gaia Building through Jan. 31.