downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Category — sobo

First Friday in June: Craft against Art

June 4, 2010

Once again it’s First Friday, and downtown Oakland stars in a monthly celebration of culture. Aficionados welcome the return of the occasional RAW Gallery, a well-edited collection of art in music in a half-built retail space on Telegraph and 20th. The Great Wall projected installation, a taste of planned public light art in Uptown, features In Search of Happiness, “a curated screening of video art and films from artists in Europe, Canada and the United States.” New galleries, relocated galleries, and street-based art can all be found at the Art Murmur, centered at 23rd and Telegraph.

The increasingly artsy environs around downtown are of course a source of civic pride, but the arts have also been used to put the Town down, from Gertrude Stein’s epigrams to aborted television pilots. Recently, all the way on the northern border, a “tea party” of craftsmen (and women) knitted over Berkeley’s rail-side HERETHERE sculpture, covering up this perceived slight at Oakland. Given the sculpture’s proximity to pioneering Internet-enabled Nomad Cafe, will we soon see censorious socks on (Regr)Etsy?

In Jack London Square, vegetarian restaurant and wine bar Encuentro gave up its most popular recipe to the Chronicle recently. You could try this at home, but it seems pretty labor-intensive. Best to visit Encuentro, don’t you agree?

Geisha, the long-awaited and somewhat controversial establishment dreamed up by the owner of the former Silver Lion and Golden Bull watering holes, opened in the former Oakland Stamp Factory on 14th near Webster this week. A generously-sized bar, well-expressed decor, experienced bartenders, and a full kitchen will add life to a street mostly known for shuttling people from downtown to the Lake. I don’t know what sort of food the cabaret-licensed nightclub will serve, but Geisha’s eponymous cucumber-lime punch is tasty.

Finally, I would like to encourage Art Murmerers to take advantage of my client Friendly Cab’s First Friday promotion. Sponsored by Kapsack & Bair DUI attorneys, three DTO hotspots will offer $5 taxi coupons tonight to help you get home or even cover a bar-hop. Stop by The Layover (1517 Franklin), Penelope (11th and Clay), and Era (19 Grand) so you can enjoy the drinking without the driving! After all that walking and biking for the Car-Free Challenge, it will be nice to traverse all the DTO has to offer in the comfort of a back seat. Enjoy your First Friday!

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This week, downtown

April 24, 2009

Though doom and gloom surround the economy on many fronts, downtown Oakland is only getting more happening. But it’s not all new ventures. A traveler to Downtown Oakland this week sees new businesses, but also transformed businesses, rescued businesses and long-lived businesses.

As I mentioned in an update to last week’s blog, Bakesale Betty has received all necessary permits and is building their new bakery in Uptown, which will hopefully open this summer. Also under construction are two spots in Old Oakland near City Center – a wine bar and a sushi restaurant, both on Clay near 11th St. Though it’s true that Old Oakland’s designer denim boutique closed after two years in business, nearby retailers Verse, Mignonne, and Fiveten Studio are still going strong. Check out Mignonne’s mailing list for their Saturday sales and vintage trunk shows.

One of downtown’s two (or three) completed but empty condo developments opens this evening with a party featuring Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and wannabe Mayor Don Perata. I’m sure Jean Quan will be there too, though Robert Bobb is probably tied up in Detroit. The Ellington is a 134-unit high-rise near Jack London Square. Meanwhile, Old Oakland’s Dwell, built by now bankrupt AF Evans, has received multiple offers and a new owner is expected to be announced soon. I understand that the Jackson St project with construction defects has been renovated, but if anyone knows what’s going there, please let us know.

The former Maxwell’s Restaurant and Lounge on 13th St is now Maxwell’s Soundstage, thanks to new operator Dwayne Wiggins of Toni Tone Tony and Alicia Keyes fame. He also operated the coffeeshop in the Alice Arts Center until it closed in 2007. Look for respected singers to draw a sophisticated urban crowd, though so far there’s only been one show. Maxwell’s is near another soon to open club in the area southeast of Broadway. Perhaps other districts are starting to eclipse Uptown’s light; a local architect makes an argument for Jack London Square in a design interview.

On Sunday, the Museum of Children’s Art, a wonderful children’s art center in Old Oakland, celebrates its 20th birthday! From noon to five pm on April 26th children and their parents can enjoy refreshments, entertainment, and hands-on arts and crafts including miniature golf! Year-long memberships will be available at an anniversary discount, too. In addition to retailers, nightlife, and urban housing, there are some great resources for kids in the DTO as well. MOChA is at 538 9th St in the Swan’s Market courtyard.

 It’s a week of things to get excited about in the DTO, though the city may screw that all up with an Uptown parking lot right in the middle of Telegraph! Check out ABO for the details, and enjoy your downtown weekend!