downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Category — citycenter

Changing cities through beauty, not vandalism

November 4, 2011

First Friday comes to a downtown somewhat beaten down after events of the past week. From transit suspensions to vandalism, Wednesday was a rough day, and Wednesday night even worse. Yet the resolve of downtown business owners who were left to defend their property without police protection appears, at least from Facebook, to be an inspiration to everyone – workers and residents alike -working to build a brighter urban core. Today is an opportunity to ponder and participate in the shaping of a community through art and culture, instead of vandalism and confrontation.

This First Friday continues Oakland’s years-long celebration of the arts. The Art Murmur experiments with a slightly different format today, with a large-scale art installation replacing crafts vendors on 23rd Street. Surrounding galleries are open, as always: one highlight is Barely There: When Less is More, a multimedia exhibition from multiple artists at SLATE Contemporary, 473 25th St. See the official Art Murmur map for a full listing of galleries. If you miss the crafts vendors, check out the Firehouse Collective on 24th St.

Era Artbar’s gallery hosts the debut of Machine Language, a collage installation by local artist, architect and DJ Daniel Backman, based on his photography in and around Oakland. He states, “I have dismantled these images of urban infrastructure and reassembled them into six abstract yet figural compositions. These alien machines devour the urban fabric of Oakland and incorporate its contents into their intricate and monstrous bodies. These new works will be shown alongside my previous series, Space/Shift and enGulfed. Together, these collages comprise a grand narrative about the future of our cities and the challenges they face.” Perhaps given more meaning by this week’s tussles, Machine Language will be displayed at Era (19 Grand Ave) through the end of the month.

ProArts Gallery holds its annual Box Art Benefit Auction, whose proceeds go to support their mission of advocating for artists and providing arts programs in schools.

Starting today and going through Tuesday, the California Food Justice Conference is held in downtown Oakland, with seminars, workshops and charity events focused around access to healthy food. Today’s events include a film screening at the Oakland Marriott, and an arts and community event on Telegraph at 17th from 8 to 10pm. The conference schedule is found here.

The Oaklandish Store (1444 Broadway) hosts its final First Friday party of the year, featuring MCs and singers from Earshot Entertainment. Visiting Oaklandish is a great opportunity to patronize the OakCollectiv across the street, which was vandalized and looted despite supporting Wednesday’s protest.

Old Oakland impresario Alfonso Dominguez partnered with Sarah Tilly and worked with landlord Peter Sullivan to bring several “pop-up” retail shops to the area around Ninth and Washington, to incubate retail in this promising district. Manifesto Bicycles is one of many retailers participating in a six-month experiment to forge a new retail identity for downtown. The “Pop Up Hood” has is grand opening on December 9th, just in time for the holidays.

Whether you’re fighting for food justice, indulging the life of the asthete, or building community organizations, there’s something for you to participate in downtown this First Friday. See you on 23rd Street!


A legacy of fun

September 30, 2011

This weekend’s downtown events tie cultural and political heritage to today’s challenges and opportunities, with a healthy dose of old-fashioned fun.

The Oakland Museum presents another installation of O-Zone tonight, an arts-inspired party to celebrate the legacy of John Muir. Revolutionary rappers The Coup headline a party that includes a film screening from 10,000 Steps and a beard and mustache contest.

Oaklandish presents Fairyland for Grownups tonight, offering a rare opportunity for adults to carouse in the storybook amusement park without the usual requisite child. Advance tickets are sold out but there may be some available at the door. Rediscover your sense of childlike wonder at this fundraiser for Fairyland.

Following last night’s lectures, Top Ten Social presents another high-concept dance party tonight at the New Parish with international house-music DJs and personal stories reflecting the connections between the recent uprisings in London and socio-political conditions around the world. Also it’s a fun party.

African-Americans celebrate Western heritage at Saturday’s Black Cowboy Parade. Horsemen in their cowboy finery will parade through downtown to Frank Ogawa Plaza and continue on for an afternoon festival at West Oakland’s DeFremery Park.

This Sunday the League of Women Voters celebrates the centennial of women’s suffrage in California with a reenactment of the state’s first Suffragist parade, held in Oakland during the 1908 Republican National Convention. Don your Edwardian finery for a march around Lake Merritt – and be sure not to use the derogatory term Suffragette to describe these early crusaders for women’s rights.

And in breaking news, the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment has found a temporary home downtown, celebrating the legacy of video game design. Find out more about this museum and its upcoming events at

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