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While many establishments such as restaurants, movies, amusement parks and gathering places have been closed over the past 18 months due to COVID-19, one of the few places people have been able to having fun was in the parks.

The New York-based nonprofit Photoville made a point of highlighting this. In partnership with the San Francisco Presidio Trust, Photoville presented the My Park Moment photo exhibit, which celebrates park lovers.

The photo exhibit features photos of people in parks across the United States. The exhibit at the Presidio spans 14 acres of new parkland with trails on the tops of the tunnels creating scenic vantage points and picnic sites in a spectacular display of public art. It will be in place from now until August 2022.

“This exhibit is a celebration of the community,” said Michael Boland, park development and visitor engagement manager at Presidio Trust. “It shows how we Americans can benefit from open spaces. How people can have fun, get fit, fall in love and do a lot of things outside in parks.

There were 7,000 photo submissions from professional photographers to people with cell phones, of which 400 were selected for the exhibition. The photos were chosen by a committee of artists, photographers and cultural critics from across the Bay Area.

In addition to the 400 images used in the exhibition, four photographers who submitted multiple works were awarded scholarships and recognized for their work as winners of the Visual Story Award.

One of the Visual Story Award winners was Sheilby Macena, a photographer from Oakland, who featured 12 photos in the My Park Moment exhibit. His work focuses on the citizens of Oakland and more specifically on the traders of Lake Merritt during the pandemic.

“My work is from the Black Joy exhibit at Lake Merritt, which shows black people at the lake, during the pandemic, particularly along the vendor row,” Macena said.

Sellers Row was a group of 20 to 50 sellers who settled along Grand Avenue and Lake Shore Drive in Oakland near Lake Merritt. This scene was often in conflict with many new residents in the area.

“My photos showed black life and it was a great way to document people. It was a fun time, but you knew it wasn’t going to last, ”Macena continued.

This is not the case. Residents nearby complained and media attention was drawn to the lake. Today, lake vendors are required to have permits and the police presence is greater than what was happening during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has been tough on people and parks,” Boland continued. “Parks for some were the only outlet for people.”

Marissa Leshnov also presented her work in the exhibition Presidio, a winner of the Visual Story Award. Her work focused on the Oakland OMies, which showed a group of black women practicing restorative yoga in the Presidio.

“These women came together as black women, supporting each other and promoting well-being,” Leshnov said. “It’s important that people see themselves reflected in the art and I hope this will bring people to the Presidio to see the exhibit.”

The San Francisco Post’s local news coverage in San Francisco County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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