Tag Archives: oakland art murmur

Art Murmur is FUN.

Is there anyone out there who still hasn’t been to Art Murmur? If so, I gotta say, you’re really missing out. This is one fun event, and I feel like it just keeps getting better and better. New gallery spaces are popping up like mushrooms in January. Recent changes to Oakland’s cabaret ordinance make live music at restaurants and cafes now legal (who knew it wasn’t??). And the street vending scene, including gourmet dining offerings on the go, continues to gain steam every time I visit.

We tooled around the central district of the Murmur (between Telegraph & Broadway and 23rd & 26th streets) for a couple hours. In addition to the conventional gallery spaces, you’ve got all kinds of action getting thrown into the mix…

We came across this “street” art on an abandoned building…

nina, cuss, cuss '10

The red one seems to be signed “NINA” while the yellow one has “NINA” incorporated into the drawing at top (in balloons) but is signed “Cuss ’10”.

graffiti street art, oakland art murmur

We encountered a couple new galleries on 25th street (more on these later in the week), but before entering, we spotted this bike parked outside. How can you not love a bike dressed up as a tiger?! I told you Art Murmur was fun. We would see this bike again, but under entirely different circumstances, before our night was through…

art bike, oakland art murmur, oakland art bike

We watched these guys for a bit… It’s always amazing to me how just two people with drums and guitar can build a completely encompassing musical experience.

art murmur oakland, live music art murmur

A street stencil at one of the gallery entrances taunts us…

street stencil, graffiti stencil art, oakland art murmur

The entire block of 23rd street (between Telegraph and Broadway) is closed off for street vending and we came across this giant steel snail spewing fire above the crowd… A young boy was ushered into the cockpit and allowed to pull the reins that triggered the fire. It was pretty hilarious because he wanted to go full throttle 100 percent of the time (boys will be boys). His dad had to tell him, “Just pull it for a bit. Then you gotta let go.”

art car, burning man car, snail car

There’s much more to tell, but I’m trying to save some for later in the week… I’ll just say that as we were wrapping up our Murmur tour, we found ourselves on a Broadway corner waiting for the light to change. We heard the distinct sound of a marching band in the distance, but clearly approaching fast. As the band came around the corner, we saw that they were all on bikes (tuba player included!) Some were costumed and our tiger bike friend was in the mix, and though they seemed a bit lost (I heard them say “Where’s the party?” and “I think we overshot it” and “let’s head back and see if we can find it”), they certainly seemed to be having a raucous good time! Hilarious.

bike parade first friday, marching band on bikes

The Guitar Show at Studio Quercus

After devouring our falafels and sweet potato fries we headed across the street to Studio Quercus. This was my first visit to this space and I was particularly excited because they were featuring live music in conjunction with their art installation. I was just asking a friend about what upcoming themes I should focus on here at Oaktown Art (if you have any requests, please send them in as comments), and we decided music would be a good one, especially given how little I’ve focused on it to date, and how hugely it influences my life.

So… The Guitar Show. Pretty self-explanatory. Lots of guitars. And people playing guitars. And very cool.

Music ranged from experimental to folksie. John Shiurba and Myles Boisen (I think) performed discordant ambient “noise-noodling” as I like to call it… sort of a post-modern space jam. Not for everyone, but I love this stuff, and these guys were really good. They’re both institutions of the Bay Area avant garde music scene, involved with such artists/projects as Tom Waits, John Zorn, the Rova Saxaphone Quartet, Fred Firth, Splatter Trio, The Club Foot Orchestra, The Molecules, Spezza Rotto, Eskimo… you get the idea.

art murmur, studio quercus, the guitar show

Next up was Joe Rut and friends, performing an incredibly catchy acoustic number with sweet backing vocals from a friend and wonderful percussion too.  It’s hard to see in this photo, but the drum kit was fashioned out of unusual materials like an abalone shell, circular saw blade, and more, all mounted onto a small crate on wheels.  Pretty cool.

studio quercus, joe rut, the guitar show

art murmur, studio quercus, the guitar show, joe rut, john shiurba, viola keeton

The art installation, aside from the music, consisted of likely over a hundred “art” guitars mounted on the walls and displayed from custom shelving on wheels. In all shapes and sizes, the guitars were either painted or modified with sculpture and/or mixed materials. There was even one shaped like a raccoon! I’m not kidding.

guitar art, the guitar show, painted guitars

Studio Quercus is one of the newer additions to the Art Murmur scene, opening late last year. Run by husband and wife artists Susan Casentini and Kyle Milligan, shows focus on the eclectic and unusual.

The Guitar Show will be up until April 25th but viewable by appointment only, except for one more live musical performance by Thunderbleed on Saturday April 17th at 8pm. That evening the studio will open with no cover charge, but attendees are encouraged to be generous with donations to support the artists. Do check it out.

OSA Visual Arts Spring Exhibition

Last Friday was another First Friday here in Oaktown with Art Murmur in full spring swing. It’s become a real challenge these days to figure out what stops to make because the options are really expanding… lots of new galleries and funky mixed-use warehouse spaces filling in the gaps.

Next few posts will follow our Art Murmur escapades. First stop was the Oakland School for the Arts Spring Exhibition. I was eager to take friends after attending their stellar Holiday Small Works Show in December

OSA is housed in the ground floor commercial spaces of the Fox Theater, once occupied by malt shops and the like.  Now 40,000 square feet of renovated and expanded commercial space comprise classrooms, administrative offices, and student services, as well as music, dance, drama, and art studios.

What I loved about their holiday show, equally evident at the Spring Exhibition, is the incredible art available for truly affordable prices.  Because these kids are, well… kids, the prices are quite a bit more budget minded than those found at many of the professional gallery spaces on the Art Murmur tour.  Not that you shouldn’t support your local professional artists.  It’s just that these shows offer the opportunity to support budding young artists without putting a serious dent in your wallet.

oakland school for the arts, OSA, spring exhibition

osa, oakland school for the arts

The show included all kinds of drawn, printed, and painted pieces, both framed and sleeved in bins, and other media including sculpture, jewelry, and an amazing film screening of works from OSA’s Digital Media emphasisFriends and I stood mesmerized by the arty black and white silent film projected on the walla woman’s legs clad in black spiky pumps approach the camera, hands in silhouette flutter like birds into frame, peacock feathers dance and weave in front of a beautiful woman’s eyes… Hard to believe this piece was put together by high school students, but it’s simply a testament to the quality of work this school and its talented students are producing.

Also impressive was the live musical performance by OSA Instrumentalists.  My favorite was their final piece of the night, a composition by Bach, but here is a snippet of a more recognizable song, and a real crowd-pleaser…

Oakland School for the Arts – Art Murmur (Act I)

So last Friday was another First Friday here in Oaktown, and this time I did it a little bit differently. My plan was to focus on galleries and spaces that were specifically set up with holiday sales…

My friend and I were on our way to grab a bite and a drink at Flora, probably my favorite restaurant in Oakland. At this point in time, that’s a pretty high compliment given the slew of fantastic restaurants that are springing up seemingly weekly. Oakland’s dining scene has been getting a lot of press and it’s very exciting. Here are a few samples…

East Bay Express:  America’s Next Great Dining Town

Wall Street Journal:  Oakland’s Temescal Goes From Rundown to Reborn

NYTimes:  36 Hours in Oakland

Diablo Magazine:  One Fine Night: Oakland’s Uptown

I’ve written about Flora before, and I’ll do an even more in-depth story in the future… I have plans for a whole Art Deco series thanks to a suggestion from my friend Jessica. But in the meantime, all you need to know, is they make fantastic cocktails and out of this world food. You’ll likely have to book early to get a reservation on a First Friday, but I’ve had good luck dropping in early and just grabbing a seat at the bar. A fancy libation and small plate delight and you are on your way to murmuring right!

We made our way down the block to a space we had passed earlier while parking… it wasn’t a gallery I was familiar with, and it wasn’t a spot on my list of to-see’s for the night, but hey, when you’re murmuring, you gotta kinda roll with it. And this was clearly a scene worthy of an adjustment to our plans. There was a crowd of people outside and an even larger crowd inside, snaking their way through a labyrinth of gallery walls chock full of art, accompanied by live music, spoken word, and improv rap.  This was a cool scene, and it was mostly kids… real kids.  We had serendipitously stumbled upon the holiday sale of the Oakland School for Visual Arts.

OSA, oakland school for the arts, oakland holiday sale, osa holiday sale

The Oakland School for Visual Arts (OSA) moved to the Fox Theater‘s building (also to be covered during Art Deco Days!) in January of this year. The brain-child of former Mayor Jerry Brown (Wikipedia), OSA is school is a public charter middle & high school with a mission “to provide students with intensive conservatory-style training in the arts while maintaining a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum.” They offer seven core artistic programs: Arts Management, Dance, Instrumental Music, Literary Arts, Theater, Visual Arts, and Vocal Music. Students wishing to attend have to audition to show they’ve got the artistic muster to make it… think Fame!

They currently maintain an attendance rate of 94%, one of the highest in Oakland. And their first senior graduating class (2006), graduated with 100 percent of the class accepted to four-year colleges (Wikipedia). That’s pretty impressive.

In fact, the whole scene was quite impressive. The huge turnout… the talented musicians… the amazing works of art (at bargain basement prices too!) I, for one, emptied my wallet in support of this school and its young artists. My only complaint would be that the lines for buying the art were too long, and that’s not a bad problem to have. Yay for OSA!

oakland school for the arts, small works show and sale, OSA small works sale

oakland holiday art sale, oakland school for the arts

OSA Small works sale, OSA gallery, oakland school for the arts

Check back tomorrow for the futherings of our murmurings… And if you missed the holiday sales this past weekend, check back later in the week for my best effort at a comprehensive list of arty/crafty holiday fairs and events next weekend.