Category Archives: GUEST POST

“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)…

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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.

Radio Radio by Mark Mason

laney college radio, college radio, alternative radio, oakland internet radioHey Peeps… here come’s my second ever guest post. Mark Mason has picked up the slack I’ve let gather in a wake of meetings, deadlines, to-do lists, and spreadsheets.  Thank you Mark.  And thanks to the fabulous folks at 9th Floor Radio for pitching the idea. As you all likely know by now I’m a bit of a music freak and a big fan of all things eclectic, interesting, and alternative (which no longer means what it used to). 9th Floor Radio fits the bill with 20+ shows that cater to musiphiles of all stripes, and all of it’s immediately downloadable.  I’m listening to an archive of Straight from the Crate as I put this together and I gotta say… it’s pretty damn sweet (because I’m old and I love those old school grooves). But enough of me, here’s Mark’s great writeup…

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Radio is dead. Ok, you can still turn the dial and get a crackle and hiss followed by music and chat. But is that really what you want? How many times have you been in your car or at home and tried in vain to find a station which appeals to your sense of restless discovery, only to be confronted with a commercial soaked station full of predictable programming? It’s frustrating.

This is where the internet has breathed new life into the tired old format of radio. Instead of a DJ stifled by advertising commitments you now have the power back in the hands of music lovers.

One such station is 9th Floor Radio, an internet radio station located in Oakland, California. The station, originally broadcasting from the ninth floor of the Laney College administration building, hence the name, has a formidable roster of shows. From the soulful melodic grooves of Her Blue Majesty, the punk, metal and primitive heavy rock of Kick Out the James to the Nu Jazz, Neo Soul and Funk of Jazzology-Remixed, no one need feel left out. All shows are archived at, ready for listeners to download and listen at their leisure.

A show which could be said to embody the spirit of the station and boasts of “always playing the darker weirder and louder side of Rock n Roll” is Dr. Feelbad. The Doctor, otherwise known as Ian Spangler, plays anything from The Melvins and Boris to interviews with the serial killer Ted Bundy– a provocative mix for sure.

When asked why 9th Floor Radio is important he says, “As I enter the booth I’m reminded of my relationship to music. I have some of the strangest, saddest, heaviest, and scariest records anyone ever had the pleasure of owning. I like to use my show as a big ‘go to hell’ to those who believe music is either unimportant or purely to be consumed at their convenience, and the good folks at 9th Floor make it possible for me to do just that.”

And it’s not just the diversity of the station which makes 9th Floor important. With the love of music and freedom of expression at the center, there comes a sense of community. The Doctor agrees, citing station manager Melissa Dale as a major factor for the success of the station:

I can’t say enough about all the work Melissa and her army of technicians do to give validation and exposure to those of us who are obsessed with sounds and music. There are more than 20 shows on 9th Floor, not to mention the television shows that keep us all looking like we know what we’re doing. Shows like Straight from the Crate and Electric Velvet Sound remind us that there’s plenty of older music we’ve never heard before. While shows like The Missing Box and 9thUBRadio help us breathe easy knowing there are plenty of thoughts we have yet to think. All of this is delivered to you commercial free, thanks to Melissa’s devotion to making sure the almighty dollar won’t poison the intentions of all involved.

It is exactly this kind of heartfelt enthusiasm, the very lifeblood of the station, that will sustain and grow it stronger in the years to come.

Radio is dead. Long live radio.

Mark Mason is a writer from Oakland, California. He has recently completed work on his debut novel, for which he is seeking representation. For a sample of Mark’s work go to

Mind the Gap

This is the first official “guest post” on Oaktown Art. Studiodeb is currently unavailable: fighting fires, undercover on assignment, drowning in a pile of little sticky notes covered in to-do lists. She will be back soon but for today you have me. Deal with it. Nothing fancy, just a mesmerizing video of an amazing spinning light machine I shot when we visited the Makers Faire a few weeks ago. Enjoy.