Category Archives: downtown oakland

OakCatVidFest – Support the East Bay SPCA!

Tomorrow is OakCatVidFest at the Great Wall. The festival opens at 3pm, with videos beginning once dark falls. I went last year with my mom and we had a blast! The videos are hilarious – some classics you’re sure to know (how is it I never get tired of Cat Ninja?) and plenty of new material you’re sure to love. We got there late and actually missed all of the adoption possibilities so if you’re interested in actually seeing some kitties and maybe even taking one home, do get there early. I imagine this year will be even more crowded than last. The real challenge was finding and securing a good and comfortable vantage point once the videos start rolling. I can’t make it this year due to a bridal shower (bah!) but I hope you all can enjoy.

All proceeds from the event benefit our local East Bay SPCA. It’s a wonderful organization that I love supporting because it’s given me an immeasurable amount of joy in my life. See below for the story…

oakcatvidfest

It was 2008. I was facing a major milestone birthday at the same time the relationship with my significant other was faltering, hell imploding. I was depressed. Like, seriously depressed. I needed to do something.

I decided my birthday present to myself would be new running shoes. Nothing like a little exercise to kick my blues-fueled-stagnation in the pants. I went to See Jane Run in Rockridge and got “rock star” parking right in front–no small feat on this stretch of College Avenue. For once something felt easy. Maybe my stars were turning…

As I approached the store I couldn’t help but notice the East Bay SPCA sidewalk display next door. There were cages lined and stacked into a thick wall, each containing adorable creature(s). I love animals and decided to take a closer look. I’m sure the staff saw me coming from the moment I got out of my car… Crazy cat lady approaching–an easy close.

As I strolled down the wall of cages, peeking in each, poking fingers between wires, “here kitty, kitty…” I couldn’t help but be reminded of my old cat Kitty who had passed away about a year earlier at the ripe old age of eighteen. I missed having a little critter to greet me when I got home from work, someone to curl on my lap while working at the computer or watching TV. Here were lots of sweet older cats, and napping litters of kittens, and as I greeted each, I wondered if I was ready…

I pushed on to the shoe store, intent to fulfill my original mission, but after completing it and exiting the store with shoebox under arm, there were the sweet homeless cats and kittens, still waiting to find a good home. I decided this was not mere coincidence, but rather the alignment of mysterious workings in the universe, trying tell me “You need to take one of these home.”

I combed the display wall again and settled myself in front of a cage that contained a litter of five small kittens. They were all black and white like dairy cows, except one. The smallest one was gray and white. I decided she was the runt and outcast of the family and that, for this reason, I must take her (always a fan of the underdog, or undercat in this case).

Of course the staff person from the East Bay SPCA was savvy. And I was depressed and searching. And so as I discussed with her the possibility of adopting this little fluff of gray and white, she adeptly steered me towards taking a second kitten too. “They do much better in pairs.” Wily woman.

I scanned the rest of the small tribe and noted that one other looked different from the rest. A small black one, lacking the patchwork of white, sat off to the side by herself. She was my second undercat. And then it was done. A short batch of paperwork, the processing of a credit card, the handing over of a cardboard carrier with two tiny life forms inside, and I was a cat-mom once again. It was one of the smartest decisions I’ve made.

These two have brought so much joy into my life. The running shoes helped too. But these sweet adorable sisters never cease to entertain, soothe, love. Meet Pickle & Pepper. These are their baby pictures. They recently turned six.

kittens kittens2

So this is my pitch to support the East Bay SPCA. They are doing wonderful work to improve the welfare of animals here in the East Bay. They make it so easy to adopt. A very reasonable fee covers everything the animals need in their first year of life (vaccines, microchip, annual exam, spay/neuter, and more). I think I even got a discount for taking two. So if you’ve ever thought of adopting, now’s the time. Go forth. Adopt. And may the kittens prosper!

 

 

 

Some Fun Stuff for your Weekend…

Today you get a list. You love lists. Right?

Here’s a smattering of events happening this weekend. Not comprehensive. Just a few things I thought sounded interesting…

FRIDAY – May 2nd

  • Art Murmur (of course) – It’s First Friday again. With this week of ridiculous summer weather wrapping up, I imagine tonight will be quite a party. For those actually interested in seeing some art, comprehensive list of openings/exhibits here.
  • Project Youthview – 10th Annual Film Screening & Awards Night – At the incredible iconic Paramount Theatre, this event showcases 12 select youth-created film shorts from across the Bay Area, including music videos, documentaries, and animation pieces. The featured 2013 Sundance-winning Documentary Short, Rich Hill, will also be screened. 6:30pm-9:30pm. Cost $20 adults; $7 youth
  • Pro Arts Gallery 40th Birthday Party – a free, inclusive community celebration, kicking off the open studios season with an opportunity to view the Preview Exhibition featuring works by over 400 artists participating in East Bay Open Studios 2014. 6pm-8pm

SATURDAY – May 3rd

  • California Bookstore Day is today, and if you’ve never heard of this before, don’t worry… this is the inaugural event, celebrating more than 90 independent bookstores across the state. Each will feature parties with music, food, drink, and of course authors. I’ve chosen one below to highlight, but do check out your own indie favorite… they’re sure to have something going on.
  • Diesel Bookstore in Rockridge will be featuring one-of-a-kind, limited-edition items like unique books and art, signed prints and lithographs, plus Mac n’ Cheese courtesy of Homeroom, libations from Emma Christensen–brewer and author of True Brews, live vintage acoustic music with Dodge’s Sundodgers, literary karaoke and cocktails. 10am-9pm
  • Linden Street Brewery Feria Urbana – a hip urban fair made up of local artists and designers selling a wide range of items at accessible prices (jewelry, housewares, clothing, ceramics, etc.) Brewery will have beers on tap, local wine tasting, food trucks, and more. Get those Mother’s Day gifts while you’re at it! 12pm-5pm
  • Jack London Square Vintage Car & Truck Show – showcasing more than 60 vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles from the 1920s to 1960s, the waterfront will transform into an auto mecca showcasing rare vehicles. Enjoy live music, delicious eats from Jack London Square’s fantastic restaurants. 10am-4pm
  • Life Size Mousetrap Launch Party at NIMBY – Hosting a kid’s program in the afternoon featuring the Life Size Mousetrap, local gypsy junk rockers Junk Parlor, kids activities, and more. At night doors will open for the “grown-up” kids. They’ll run the Life Size Mousetrap and feature performances from local luminaries of music, dance, aerial acrobatics, burlesque, and more. With full bar, food vendors, a night market and more fun than you can throw a bowling ball at… kid’s program 2-5pm ($5 donation/family); party 9pm-2am

SUNDAY – May 4th

  • Maifest in Oakland – celebrating the cultures of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland through food, beer, music, and dance. Hosted by Oakland Nature Friends this spring festival takes place at our local Tourist Club not far from Joaquin Miller Park (I’ve been to the Marin Tourist Club which is always great fun and can’t wait to check out our local version). Bier, Spätzle, Bratwurst, Kartoffelsalat, and Würstchen. YUM. Bring your Lederhosen! Check here for details. 12pm-5pm. Cost $10

Oakland Tourist Club, Maifest in Oakland, Oakland Nature Friends

“Premonitions” at The Naming Gallery by Ruth Crossman

Hey Everyone… I am so please to present this guest post, written by Ruth Crossman, who’s generously offered to share her wonderful in-depth profile of The Naming Gallery, another fantastic addition to Oakland’s ever-expanding collection of galleries and art spaces.

A West Berkeley native, Ruth is an ESL teacher by day, a writer by night, and an avid consumer of local art and music. She currently lives in North Oakland.

Please enjoy her lovely piece about this very cool space (I can’t wait to visit in person)…

* * * * * * * * *

On a Thursday night at The Naming Gallery, sitting on the ground surrounded by his paintings, Alan Grizzell describes his artwork as a meditation on “the neglected areas of the city…places that may otherwise be ignored.” Constructed using salvaged material, his series of urban landscapes are snapshots of forgotten places. He explains in his artist’s statement, “Each painting strives to portray an elegance in decay.”

One of his most striking pieces is an image any BART commuter can conjure from memory: the oil cranes and shipping containers of West Oakland at night. But there is something about this oil-on-wood painting, executed with bold brushwork and dramatic plays on light, that imbues the landscape with a haunting, solemn beauty.

Premonitions, The Naming Gallery

A native of Cincinnati, Grizzell found inspiration on a cross-country road trip to California, and his current work is an exploration of Oakland in the late night hours, “seeking a quiet beauty when most have gone to sleep.” Working out of Faultline Artspace in East Oakland, this will be his sixth exhibit in the Bay Area, following stints at The Rare Bird, The 25th Street Collective, Awaken Café, and The Compound Gallery. Bird, The 25th Street Collective, Awaken Cafe and The Compound Gallery.

His artistic aesthetic fits in well with the space he has chosen for his next show.

If you turn your back on Uptown Oakland and walk down 15th street towards Harrison, you notice that the neighborhood quickly takes on a quieter, more lived-in feel. South of the Art Murmur crawl and east of the glitzy Fox Theater, the lights become dimmer. The buildings are a mix of vacant storefronts with ‘for rent’ signs and struggling local businesses: a small grocery store, a barbershop, a public notary. And yet art is beginning to flower in this semi-forgotten section of Downtown Oakland and one of the most prolific emerging spaces is the Naming Gallery.

On the bottom floor of the White Building, a 3-story art deco, it consists of two tiny rooms at street level, with a basement and a rickety loft space upstairs. There is no sign on the door, but at 9 pm it crackles with energy: something is definitely happening here.

Biggie Smalls plays in the background, punctuated by the sound of a buzz saw. In the back room, founder Lisa Aurora Calderon sits on a floral couch picking at a plate of quiche with the gallery dog lying at her feet, staring up at her balefully. Next door, co-owner and curator Josef Lucas, back from a mission to acquire a stud finder, surveys the space and consults with Grizzell while a band of friends and associates cut beams and construct wall mounts.

The burgeoning gallery has begun to develop a reputation for being open to experimentation and willing to host a variety of events, from artwork to live music performances to craft nights. The website proclaims it “an interdisciplinary art space that provides a platform for selected artists to showcase their work.”

It was the need for such a platform which drew the interest of Lucas, a cinematographer and video blogger who is known for running the “This Party Blows” camper installation at Art Murmur. “I knew about the space and it seemed like an opportune time to get involved,” he explains. “In September my friend [local artist Zachary Seth Greer] was trying to do a show and then it fell through and I wanted to help him out. It was all very last minute.”

The exhibit Lucas helped organize would be the first at the gallery and would kick-start a wave of performances and installations, almost always featuring a rollicking opening day party with live music from local bands.

The Naming GalleryIt is this sense of cross-pollination, of multiple media forms co-existing and highlighting each other, that seems to drive Calderon: “What I see for [this] space is small artisans doing quality things coming together in one house to provide for a neighborhood… a business community under one roof…. and I think that’s beginning to take shape.”

Her own story is marked by the collective and the communal: a native of Oakland, she lost her job during the recession of 2008 and began making hats and selling them at the underground flea market known as Indie Mart. It was here she started to dialogue with other local artists and craftspeople.

She would later become a curator for Mama Buzz, before opening her own space, Upstream Art Lit, on 27th and MLK, which put her on the path towards founding the Naming Gallery. “We did a lot of fun things, we’d have writers come and stay, they’d read poetry and cook dinner. I got linked in with Rowan Morrison Gallery…” It was the folks from RWG who helped her establish many of the connections she was seeking to more deeply engage with the community.

By the summer of 2012, she’d been looking for a space for a year when she discovered 335 15th street, a few doors down from the studio of painter Githinji Omiiroo, who has had a presence there for the past fifteen years and with whom she has since developed a highly synergistic relationship.

Calderon was immediately drawn to the accessibility and ethos of the area: “I liked playing on the delineation of Art Murmur and the downtown art association. Their reach ends at a certain point, but where it ends is where our community begins.”

As midnight approaches and the rest of the block sleeps, the Naming Gallery’s community is still out in full force, working feverishly to a soundtrack of sawing and hammering, determined to have everything done before morning. The building is literally buzzing with activity.

The Naming Gallery is located at 335 15th Street in Oakland and is open from 12 pm to 6 pm Thursday through Saturday.

Alan Grizzell’s exhibit “Premonitions” opens this Saturday April 12th and runs until May 4th.
The official Opening Party is slated for the following Saturday, April 19th, to coincide with the Oakland Drops Beats block party and music festival.