Planet Rooth's Swedish-born master artist, Gustaf Rooth-a friend of a friend of one of Europe's leading stem-cell research scientists-has included precise plans for his cloning in a time vault in front of his Ray Street gallery. According to researchers, the new Rooth will have four times the life expectancy, need little sleep, and have nearly bionic hearing.
Okay, there are no real plans to clone the fourth-year gallery owner, but on April 22 they did bury a time capsule under a sturdy steel plaque (created by Rooth) in the brand new sidewalk in front of Planet Rooth.
“Somebody asked me if I put fingernails and hair in there or a vial of blood, and I said, ‘No way, brother, I only go around once,'” he says.
The time capsule-a huge wine bottle-carries newspapers from the day of the burial, new dollar bills and coins, poems, letters from Rooth to his future self and to his future family, and before and after pictures of the construction that's changed the face of North Park's burgeoning gallery district in the past six months.
The facelift came about from a $125,000 federal Community Development Block Grant, issued through the office of District 3 Councilmember Toni Atkins.
“Whenever possible, I try to use Community Development Block Grant monies to fund projects that will improve the overall look, feel and safety of a neighborhood, whether it's the installation of new sidewalks, curb cuts and medians, or the planting of trees or placement of park benches, decorative bike racks or art features,” Atkins says. “Given that the Ray Street merchants and tenants are primarily artists, I felt a heightened level of confidence in letting them decide how best to set their priorities and spend their funds. I figured who better to understand the aesthetics of neighborhood improvements than local artists? And by any standard, they did an incredible job.”
A ribbon-cutting to commemorate the project took place Sept. 11, half-an-hour before the kick-off of North Park's monthly Ray at Night gallery walk.
In addition to the fresh sidewalks, the street is decked out with new trees-guarded by tastefully painted steel protectors-and park benches. Phase two of the project will add two huge murals on the north end of the block and an as-yet-undetermined sculpture on the south end. For Rooth and fellow gallery owner Ben Garduno, the project is the satisfying culmination of a two-year multi-lateral collaboration that was as much fun as work-but trying nonetheless.
“It's just good to finally have it done,” Rooth says. “[Atkins' office] left it in our hands, which is great, but [when you] get a bunch of artists together to make a decision... sometimes it can be like pissing in the wind.
“The City Inspector that checked it out said that in 35 years he's never seen anybody as crazy as me,” Rooth says. “But I'll tell you this-the only way that [time capsule]'s coming up is if they break the sidewalk.”B