Category Archives: paint

Art Murmur Tonight!

It’s the First Friday of Fall. Yeah, I know… it’s not technically fall yet. But you can’t deny it certainly FEELS like fall. The leaves are dropping, the naked ladies have blossomed, and the evening twilight arrives far too soon.

While it’s sad to bid farewell to Summer, I have to admit it’s also a time of great excitement for me, as I’ve just begin a two-year MFA graduate program at Mills College. Oakland baby! It’s new and different and thrilling and scary and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m already buried under an avalanche of homework.

I’ve been trying to decide if I could keep the blog going in the midst of this craziness, and while I’m not sure it’s actually a good idea, I’ve decided I’m going to try. TRY, being the operative word. Of course, I can already hear Yoda’s voice in my head, “No TRY, only DO.” Yeah well… fuck Yoda. I’m playing it by ear and that’s all I can say for now.

My future posts will likely be short and scattershot. And in that vein, here’s a quick synopsis of two cool shows to definitely not miss if you’re out Art Murmuring tonight…

Pieces of Oakland at Warehouse 416

Cities are alive. They transform. They expand and contract and decay and renew, and yes, some even die. This show is all about the transformations that have happened, and are happening now, in our beloved city of Oakland. And it’s all happening really fast…

Oakland is on a cusp. We’re a mid-sized formerly industrial city that’s emblematic of many cities across the nation, and many are watching to see just what we’ll do as we grapple with issues of economic development, housing, transportation, education, and crime. There are plans already in the works, and plans now proposed and proceeding through the pipeline, including:

Pieces of Oakland focuses on two of these redevelopment areas: Lake Merritt Station and West Oakland, highlighting their changing “faces” through the eyes of photographers, writers, planners, and neighbors by showcasing over 70 individual pieces from various sources: fragments of policy documents, oral histories, official planning maps, and a unique collection of contemporary and archival photographs.

Conceived and curated by Chelsea Wurms, the show prompts viewers to ask what it means to be part of this city. She says, “This is a unique moment for Oakland. I want to see people talking about their own values, sharing their impressions with each other, imagining other perspectives.”

Don’t miss this opportunity examine, and contribute to, the life story of our great city!

31-Oakland Photo Project_102713_5799 west-oakland-redevelopment

Warehouse 416
416 26th Street, Oakland
Opening Friday, September 5th: 6pm-10pm
Every Saturday in September: 1pm-5pm

Betti Ono’s 4th Anniversary “AMEN”

Betti Ono Gallery is celebrating its fourth anniversary tonight with a forward thinking, culture-shifting mixed media show exemplary of the multi-disciplinary, experimental work it’s been putting forth since it first opened in 2010… the type of work that garnered it the 2014 East Bay Express Reader’s Poll Best Gallery Award.

Titled “AMEN: A Collaborative Meditation for Survival,” the show is an open experiment with language and image, designed to reimagine American mythology with futuristic and visionary depictions of traditionally marginalized groups (especially queer people of color) in culturally recognizable positions of power. The idea is to question how we might be programming existing systems of marginalization into our future society, and to disrupt that process, and envision an all-affirming and inclusive world instead.

Featuring eight 2-dimensional visual works and eight wall texts, the show was developed by two artists:  visual artist Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski and writer Carrie Y.T. Kholi. Gallery owner Anyka Barber had worked with each before and, seeing the resonances in the issues their artworks addressed, brought them together for this special show. Though friends for years, this is Amaryllis and khoLi’s first collaborative artistic project.

I asked about the nature of their collaboration… Amaryllis said, “khoLi and I began a conversation around survival at the very beginning. At that point, we had spoken on surviving academia, both being queer women of color. I had just graduated from the California College of the Arts, and KhoLi is in the process of getting her PhD in English Literature.  Our conversations quickly evolved into a larger conversation around spiritual and mythological survival, and we grew AMEN from that place.”

This show is a celebration for ALL. Don’t miss it!

Amen-BettiOno Instructions for a Storm (closeup2)
Thick Dig (Ghost Sighting)
Betti Ono Gallery
1427 Broadway, Oakland
Friday, September 5th: 6pm-9pm

Oakland Is… another installment by TDK Crew

This is a happy story. It’s a win-win. It’s a collaboration between art and business and it’s a boon for the local community and our beloved city. We’ll start at the beginning…

Wrist Ship Supply is the business. According to their website they are “the world’s largest ship supplier,” providing goods and services to support the shipping vessels & crews that transport goods around our planet. Pretty cool. About two years ago they acquired a new location in West Oakland on Peralta Street (between 16th & 17th) and it looked like this:

photo courtesy FGP

photo courtesy FGP

As you can see the building was a bit of a mess. Through a desire to be good stewards of their new neighborhood, they decided to invest in a building makeover that would honor the spirit and tradition of Oakland.

This is where Sage comes in. Sage is the founder of Fuming Guerilla Productions (FGP), a production company that specializes in “matchmaking” between artists and clients wishing to commission works. Sage was the middleman: developing the proposal, handling the budget, and managing the project so Wrist could rest easy knowing their makeover would come in on time and under budget, and, of course, finding the right artists for the job.

Meet Oakland graffiti artists and members of TDK Crew, Norman Chuck (aka “Vogue”) and Mike “Bam” Tyau. Vogue was the lead artist for the project and the mural concept and design is all his. A long time Oakland resident, he knew of the neighborhood’s important railway history, and chose that as the driving theme.

I wrote a bit about this here, but basically in the late 1800’s, Oakland was designated as the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railway. The trains ran all the way across the country to land in West Oakland, turning Oakland into a major transportation hub early in its development. Just blocks from Wrist’s building, the old 16th Street station was built in 1912 and served as the major disembarkation point for a large population of African Americans migrating from the South for jobs and better lives. It resulted in a major transformation of the city, and it’s that history that’s being honored here.

oaktownart_20140821_1The mural is huge, spanning three sides of the building, and has been several weeks in the making, with work still continuing. While Vogue and BAM are leading the effort, several guest artists and interns are contributing as well, adding a level of complexity to the project, as Vogue noted it’s important to assess each artists’ skill level and determine how best to put their talents to work. Additionally, this work is all done with aerosol spray paint which is typically applied to relatively smooth surfaces, so the building’s walls of textured brick and metal screened windows proved challenging. But the results are absolutely beautiful!

Here is the 17th Street side of the building which features a massive ship and the iconic Oakland shipping cranes as a nod to Wrist’s industry and Oakland’s importance as a major port. The top reads “Oakland is… ” which is a series the TDK Crew has begun in an effort to highlight the history and unique flavor of our great city. This is the third installment of the “Oakland is… ” series.

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The first was painted across from Brown Sugar Kitchen on Mandela Parkway and is an homage to the old Cypress Freeway that once existed there before being damaged by the ’89 Loma Prieta Earthquake. It reads “Emerging from the rubble and dust clouds of tragedy is the spirit of Oakland: bright, abundant, and relentless!

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The second was painted in Jack London square near Kimball’s as a tribute to the Oakland A’s and in an effort to sway the team to “STAY” here in Oakland, which thankfully, is now resolved. Go A’s!

photo courtesy TDK Crew

photo courtesy TDK Crew

These efforts are the TDK crew’s way of showing that graffiti isn’t just a nuisance. It really is Art (with a capital A) that can be used for positive purposes such as beautifying neighborhoods and building civic pride. Their goal is also to act as role models for young graffiti artists, showing that aerosol art can be used for much more than simple tagging.

And on that note, let’s see the rest of their latest homage to Oakland… The longest wall (running down Peralta) features a series of railcars, complete with graffiti tags for “authenticity”.

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Note: locomotive above only outlined. This wall still in progress. oaktownart_20140821_5 oaktownart_20140821_6 oaktownart_20140821_7

And here’s the 17th Street side:

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These guys will be putting the finishing touches on the mural over the next couple of weeks. Stop by and check it out…

Also, there’s an event happening tomorrow called Dream Day 2014 to honor the life and legacy of Mike “Dream” Francisco, an original member of the TDK crew. There’ll be live painting, music performances, DJ’s, food, and more. Here’s the scoop:

Saturday, August 23rd from 2pm to 7pm
Greenpeace Yard
955 7th street, Oakland

On the Road: Street Art – Greek Style

Now that we’re home and the jet lag has dissipated, I thought I’d share some of the street art we encountered while in Greece. We spent most of our time on the islands for our friends’ wedding and saw little street art there, so it wasn’t until our time in the capital city of Athens, a scant 48 hours, that we saw anything really noteworthy.

The political unrest in Athens has mostly died down since the violent demonstrations of 2012, but you can still see remnants of it through the graffiti and street art that activists have left behind. I only documented a couple of the smaller pieces (the largest ones were seen from the window of a taxi whizzing by at 95km per hour on our way to the airport), and focused on those in which stencils were deployed rather than haphazardly scrawled writing which, while political, weren’t particularly artful in my opinion.

This first one is a take-off of the iconic WWII image “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” by Joseph Rosenthal. Note the anarchy symbol on the flag.

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, Greek Graffiti, Iwo Jima Stencil

WWII, Joseph Rosenthal

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima by Joseph Rosenthal

This one speaks for itself…
greek graffiti, athens stencil graffiti, fuck the system stencil, fuck the system
We saw this next one around town quite a bit. I assumed it was related to the economic unrest in Greece but it turns out it’s a political statement of a different flavor. A local Greek friend translated it for me – it says “Every sexist/homophobic deserves to be thrown off Lycabettus”. I thought this was pretty funny, but my Greek friend thought they took it a bit too far. For those who don’t know, Lycabettus Hill is the highest point in Athens, a sharp peak that stands 277 meters above sea level. See pictures below: the first was taken from across the city at the Acropolis, and the second is from the top of Lycabettus itself, with its perched 19th century chapel on the left and downtown Athens below.
anti-homophobia graffiti, greek graffiti, athens stencil graffiti
Lycabettus Hill, Athens highest point

view from Lycabettus hill

View from top of Lycabettus Hill


This next image has two separate stencils… I know this because I tried my darndest to translate the Greek under the image of the child and found a photo of just that stencil without the pixellated heart underneath, which must have been added later. The best translation I could come up with was something along the lines of “the ego ate”, but I’m not sure if this is a statement, or the artist’s tag.

greek graffiti, athens stencil graffiti

We saw a lot of non-political street art as well and the rest of these fall into this category. This next one, as it says, is a poem. It’s part of a “poetry game” in the city where QR codes scattered throughout Athens “invite you to discover the poetry hidden in unexpected places.” How cool is that? Scan it and you’ll see…
QR code graffiti, greek graffiti, this is a poem graffiti

This one was spotted on our way to the Acropolis.
greek graffiti, athens graffiti, athens street art

And we saw this little painting on our way to get cappuccino freddos at Clemente VIII, what the NY Times called “the best.” And I have to say, they were pretty darned delicious.
greek street art, athens street art
These last two are really cool wheatpastes…
greek graffiti, wheatpaste, greek wheatpaste, athens graffiti

This final one was actually the first piece I spotted, just a couple of blocks from our hotel, but I’ve put it last because I love it so much. End with a bang!
greek graffiti, wheatpaste, greek wheatpaste, athens graffiti

The Weekend What-To-Do List: this one goes to eleven!

It’s a big weekend people. It’s June. It’s Art Murmur. First Friday. AND Open Studios. And though it’s not technically summer yet, it’s going to feel like it this weekend. It’s gonna be hot!

So whether you’re motivated to take in the arts, bask at the beach, dawdle in the garden, or dance till the sun comes up, there’s something here for you. Check it out my list of ten what-to-dos for this weekend. There are some unique events that only occur once per year so if you miss it, you miss it. Till next year of course. I’ve even mapped something outside Oaktown–shock of all shocks–ready for the island mon? This may be the perfect weekend for it… Hope you enjoy.

10 WHAT-TO-DOS

1. Honeydrop Hometown Throwdown at The New Parish

Friday, June 6th – 7:30 pm
The New Parish – 1743 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
Cost: $20

The California Honeydrops, a self-described “party band” with a humble, down-to-earth dedication to exploring the vast spectrum of American roots music—New Orleans second-line, soul, funk, and Americana—will be throwing down at the New Parish Tonight. No doubt this will be a good time at a great little club.  Cajun blues band Tri Tip Trio and New Orleans-style brass band MJ’s Brass Boppers will open the show, and the food truck Roderick’s BBQ will be selling Southern food.

2. Art Murmur

Friday, June 6th – Most galleries open till 9pm

I don’t need to tell you about Art Murmur. It’s awesome. Just go. Here’s one of my favorite pics from May’s Murmur… I had an incredible time but never got around to posting about it. Sorry.

Art Murmur, Free Masks

3a) Emory Douglas: Artist for the People, Opening Reception And Artist Talk

Emory Douglas, Joyce Gordon Gallery, Artist for the People, Black Panther PartyFriday, June 6th  6-9pm
Joyce Gordon Gallery – 406 14th Street

Emory Douglas is a provocatively political artist. He was the designated Revolutionary Artist and former Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party, and you’re likely familiar with many of his bold graphic posters and flyers, their stark aggressiveness emblematic of the “insurrectionary atmosphere of the [60’s and 70’s], with urban rebellions igniting from city to city and strikes from campus to campus.” Emory will be on hand for this event which should prove to be a fascinating look into the black history of Oakland.

3b) First Friday Shorts Presents: Youth Radio

Friday, June 6th – 6:00pm
The New Parkway – 474 24th St., Oakland
Cost: FREE

Tonight, Youth Radio will present a showcase of its youth videos, creatively portraying the everyday issues that most affect young Oaklanders today – community violence, relationships, education, and more. Also featured will be live performances by the young artists and a discussion about art, media-making and growing up during the height of Oakland’s major cultural and economic shifts. Don’t miss this provocative conversation with the next generation of Oakland artists, newsmakers, and leaders.

3c) Doomed and Misguided: Reggie Warlock and Chris Micro, Opening Reception

Reggie Warlock, Chris Micro, LoakalFriday, June 6th – open till 10pm
Loakal – 560 2nd St. (Jack London Square)

You may not have heard of Reggie Warlock and Chris Micro, but you’ve likely seen their character-based graffiti in murals and tags around Oakland. “A battle cry for underground counterculture’s place in fine art, the exhibition will feature new individual and collaborative paintings and a site-specific installation… Filled with neon colors, humor, and a cartoon-like aesthetic, their work celebrates the worlds of graffiti, hip-hop and skateboarding.”

 3d) 5th Annual Temescal Art Hop

Friday, June 6th  6pm – 9pm
Temescal

This year’s Art Hop features over 20 participating locations including galleries, shops, and cafes around Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland. 48th St (@ Telegraph) and the Temescal Alleys (@ 49th) will feature food vendors and live music.

Pick up an official Art Hop Map from one of the participating locations and collect stamps to enter a raffle drawing to win one of a slew of cool prizes.

4. Urban Farm Tours

Saturday, June 7th  10am – 4pm, tours at each site start every hour
4 sites in Oakland, 4 in Berkeley
Cost: $5 per site ($3 for kids under 12), pay at the door on the day of the event
NOTE: you must contact/register in advance – email iuh@sparkybeegirl.com at least one hour before the event to receive details and locations.

Have you wanted to check out Novella Carpenter’s Ghost Town Farm? Well, now’s your chance!  Her plot, as well as 3 others in Oaktown and 4 more in Berkeley, will be featured on the Institute of Urban Homesteading’s Annual Tour. If you want to learn out how to implement low-water food-production systems or even set up a goat dairy operation in your backyard, this is your chance to hear from the experts. The largest farm on the tour is Full Harvest Urban Farm in East Oakland, spread across 3 lots comprising nearly 27,000 square feet. It’s a super sized full service farm with 25 chickens and 8 ducks for both meat and egg production, 3 kinder dual-purpose goats, dispersed orchard and vegetable plots and a potbelly pig!

Ghost Town Farm is the setting and inspiration for Novella’s well known memoir, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. It’s an amazing story of the little farm she’s set up on a empty lot in West Oakland, not far from my old loft (I wrote a post about my first visit here). The other two Oakland farms are Kansas Street Farm in East Oakland, a small food farm with free-range chickens and rain catchment on a rental property, and Lower Bottom Strange Grange in West Oakland, with ducks, bees, aquaponics also on rental property.

5. 48th Annual Sand Castle & Sand Sculpture Contest

Saturday, June 7th  Registration 9-11am, Judging starts at 12noon, Awards Ceremony at 1pm
Robert Crown Memorial State Beach – Westline Drive & Otis Drive, ALAMEDA
Cost: FREE

It’s going to be 80 degrees on Saturday… what a perfect day to hit the beach! But to participate in this event you’ve gotta get up pretty early. For those who plan to tear it up tonight, it may be more realistic to stroll by midday… you’re sure to be astounded by the fantastic creations whipped up in just a few hours. It’s amazing. And oh so temporary.

 

alameda sand castle contest

photo courtesy of Alameda Journal blog

6. East Bay Open Studios (weekend 1)

June 7th & 8th  11am – 6pm
Multiple Cities throughout the East Bay

What can I say? Open Studios is hosted each year by Pro Arts. They’re an institution and this year they’re celebrating their 40th anniversary! How fabulous is that? Four decades of community building, pushing boundaries, and supporting the artists of the greater East Bay. This weekend (and next) is an incredible opportunity to see a seemingly limitless smorgasbord of art in super intimate settings. I think my favorite part of Open Studios is getting to see each artist’s workspace… so different from seeing pieces displaced to a pristine gallery.

This year over 400 artist studios are included during the two weekends of self-guided touring. Media include book art, ceramics, conceptual, digital, drawing, furniture, glass, installation, jewelry, metal, mixed media, mosaic, painting, paper, pastel, photography, print-making, sculpture, textiles, watercolors, and wood! You’ll need the directory and maps to guide yourself. If you don’t already have one, you can download the East Bay Open Studios Directory here.

7. 38th Annual Redwood Heights Block Sale

block-saleSaturday, June 7th  9am – 3pm
Enter sale at Redwood Rd & Jordan Rd. Sale continues on Bennett, Guido, Norton & Retig.

This is the mother of all garage sales. My girlfriend is participating and will be selling off gorgeous mid-century furniture, dining items, barware, and more. With over 20 families participating,  you’ll also find tons of kid and baby stuff, kitchen items, books and lots more all at great prices. Tons of treasures in an easy three or four block area. Sale wraps around Jordan Park (AKA Avenue Terrace Park) so the kids will have something to look forward to after you are done shopping.

8. Shapeshifters Cinema

Sunday, June 8th, doors 7:30, show 8-9pm
Temescal Art Center – 511 48th St (@ Telegraph)
Cost: FREE

“Shapeshifters Cinema is a monthly expanded cinema series featuring experimental filmmakers and video artists presenting moving image work live with accompaniment from musicians and sound artists. Dovetailing off recent programming at the Exploratorium, Shapeshifters is excited to present the work of pioneering light artists Dennis Keefe and (the late) Glenn McKay who are two of the artists responsible for creating the famous psychedelic light shows of the 1960s. Working together under the name of the Headlights Light Show, Keefe and McKay performed at many west coast venues, including the Fillmore, and also toured extensively with the Jefferson Airplane. The highlight of the program will be a live light art performance by Dennis Keefe with collaborators Jim Baldocchi and Lori Varga and musical accompaniment by Chris Musgrave (Lumerians) and Sarah R. Brady.”

Ok everyone, I know what you’re saying to yourself… that only looks like 8, and she promised 10. But I think if you’ll look back… you’ll see I did some pretty tricky stuff with #3. This one actually goes to eleven. Have a great weekend y’all!

 

SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot at OMCA

We checked out Friday Nights at OMCA last week, spending the bulk of our time at two exhibits… First, Vinyl: The Sound & Culture of Records, which I’m hoping to post about next week. And second, SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot which I’m featuring here…

Now I have to admit that I’m not much of a zine fan. I didn’t know the history of Giant Robot, have limited knowledge of pop-Asian culture, and honestly didn’t think I’d find this exhibit all that interesting. Boy was I wrong. Let’s just say the installation is aptly titled… it IS Super Awesome!

I learned about the history of Giant Robot… its early beginnings in 1994 as an arty pop-culture zine fashioned together on the floor of founder Eric Nakamura’s bedroom, “collage style with text, scissors, images, and glue sticks.” Talk about humble beginnings.

Since then the Giant Robot brand has grown to include retail stores, gallery spaces, and a hugely popular website, extending itself as a broad creative platform that continues “to explore the intersection of contemporary art and the ever-evolving relationship between West Coast popular culture and Asia.” (Carin Adams, OMCA Associate Curator)

Featuring new and recent works by California and international-based artists who have been a part of the magazine’s social and cultural evolution, the exhibit is extensive and includes a wide range of mediums, including mural art, sculpture, illustration, portraiture, large-scale installations, graphic novels, photography, and more.

You really need to allow some time to explore because there’s just so much. I feel we barely scratched the surface… Exhibit is up through July 27th. Don’t miss it!

PS – and if you head over there tonight (Friday, May 30th) there’s a Zines & Print Culture Salon happening from 7-9pm. You can meet Guest Curator Eric Nakamura and pick up rad new reads from a selection of Bay Area zinesters at the zine bazaar organized with Oakland collective Rock Paper Scissors. There’ll be live music, screen printing demos, gaming stations and much more.

SuperAwesome, Giant Robot

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Painting by Andrew Hem

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Deth P. Sun

Untitled by Deth P. Sun

Deth P. Sun, Oakland by Deth P. Sun

Untitled (detail) by Deth P. Sun

eric nakamura

Curated Collection of Zines by Eric Nakamura

video game car

Custom Scion XB Gaming Car by Eric Nakamura & Len Higa

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Artists’ Sketchbooks I

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Artists’ Sketchbooks II

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Lazy Eye

Ode to California, Kozyndan

Ode to California by Kozyndan

More Dimond Love

Forgive the focus on my immediate neighborhood these past few posts… I haven’t gotten out much lately! But this collaborative mosaic and paint mural is a stunner and well worth highlighting.

It’s another installment by the folks who brought us the lovely mural on the side of Farmer Joes on Fruitvale Ave. Created by local artist and teacher Debra Koppman, the mural is titled “I LOVE Dimond.” It features a tapestry of images woven together across three panels to portray the diverse and beautiful neighborhood that is the Dimond District. Left and right are elaborate mosaics installed by Martha Trujillo, Brad Holland, and Shardee Thomas, while the center panel features an intricate painting by Mandy Lockwood.

Wonder what this stretch of Mac Arthur used to look like? See further below…

Debbie Koppman, PGE Substation Mural

dimond district mural, mac arthur mural, mandy lockwood

debbie koppman, mosaic mural, mac arthur mural

I couldn’t find a shot of the whole wall pre-mural, but you can imagine from the snippet of dilapidated fence below. I love how you can still see the PG&E substation info in relief within the new mural.

PG&E substation

The project was funded through multiple sources:

  • Oakland Cultural Funding Program – supporting Oakland-based art and cultural activities that reflect the diversity of the city for citizens of and visitors to Oakland. (more on this below)
  • Dimond Night Out (Montclair Lions Club – Howard Neal)
  • Oakland Parks & Recreation (Karen Long)
  • Individual Donors – Edward Norton, Carrie Campbell, Kathleen Russell, John Olson
  • Dimond Improvement Association (DIA) – working on issues and projects ranging from streetscape improvements, business development and crime reduction to beautification and community celebrations.

I’d like to take this opportunity to briefly highlight the Oakland Cultural Funding Program, because it’s nearly that time of year again when they open the applications to their grant funding process. They provide support in three categories: general support to arts & cultural organizations, individual artist projects, and art in the schools.

I’m going to focus on the individual artists (others can visit the link above for more info). Do you have a community art project you’ve always dreamed of executing but couldn’t figure out how to fund? Well here’s a chance to secure some cold hard cash to help make your dream a reality. The individual artist grants max out at $5000 and do have a few requirements to qualify:

  • You must be a resident of Oakland.
  • You can’t have received one of these grants within the past two years.
  • Your project must take place in Oakland and should culminate in a local public outcome for the benefit of the community. Such activities may include, but are not limited to, performances of dance, music or theater, visual art and public art projects, classes and workshops, exhibitions, and literary activities.

It says on their website that the applications should open on April 1st, but I confirmed yesterday that they are not expected until May 1st. The deadline will likely be June 30th, but both dates are still tentative at this time.

If you are interested in applying for a grant, you can sign up for email notification regarding applications, review grant guidelines and recipients from last year, and see answers to frequently asked questions all here:  Oakland Cultural Funding Program.

Love Oakland – Make Art!

“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.