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Self-Guided Art Tours

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This is only one in a series of self-guided Art Tours providing an easy and fun way to explore the thriving Bay Area art scene at your own pace. Each is complete with a printable map of destinations, and suggestions on how to plan your time, and where to stop and eat along the way.

Check out the other tours:

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Oakland Arts Community

Last updated: October 2007

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Oakland has always been an attractive location for artists wanting affordable studio spaces and low-cost housing. In recent years, artist collectives and alternative art spaces began to flourish around the city's Northgate district, spanning outward toward the fringes of West Oakland's Lower Bottoms and Temescal neighborhoods. Although it's easy to lump them together simply because of their proximity to each other, in reality each gallery has developed its own identity, its own goals and its own voice, all of which contributes to this exciting and creative community. Take an inside look into Oakland's vibrant arts community on this 12-stop grand prix tour to see what each space is all about!

This is a full-day adventure and could take up to eight hours, including breaks and transportation. You may want to break this up into two days if it seems a bit ambitious for one day. Before heading out, we suggest checking gallery Web sites for information on current and upcoming exhibitions, to confirm hours of operation, or to make an appointment.

Here's a Web site to get you acquainted with Oakland's art community oaklandartmurmur.com.

Here are some videos that you might want to watch to give you a sneak preview of what you might find on your tour:

Are you an early bird? Begin your foray into the Oakland arts community at the Mama Buzz Café & Gallery, an old-school diner where you can get a no-nonsense breakfast and a strong cup o' joe (or perhaps a mimosa). From the 19th Street BART Station, walk up Broadway to West Grand and make a left, then turn right on Telegraph and go to 23rd Street, which will be on your right.

Since opening its doors in early 2003, Mama Buzz has been one of the hubs activating this creative community. Part café, part art gallery, part reading room and part meeting space, Mama Buzz offers a welcoming atmosphere for regular denizens and new faces alike. In addition to the friendly staff's serving up yummy food and good tunes, there's generous wall space for displaying artwork.

Buzz's monthly exhibits feature emerging local artists working in a variety of mediums. You can expect to see prints, paintings and works on paper, among other things. But that's not all -- come back after sundown when they open the space for music, comedy and literary events. So grab a seat at the counter, relax in the garden or head into the gallery space and kick back for a while.

After fueling up with caffeine, walk across the street to Rock Paper Scissors, a seven-member collective and volunteer-run alternative art space. The collective, which opened in spring 2005, is a labor of love, and its members actively promote both community and the DIY (do-it-yourself) aesthetic. The open and airy setting offers copious space in which to display immersive installations, mixed media, works on paper and other tangible forms of expression presented by the collective each month. As you peruse the art, don't forget to go through the racks of handmade clothing and accessories crafted by local designers whose unique wares are a welcome change from trendy, mass-produced merchandise.

The RPS folks are committed to the community, and they are constantly putting plans in motion. This multifaceted organization not only provides a venue for local artists and designers, but also offers a variety of low-cost hands-on arts and crafts classes, including "The Ancient Art of the Mix Tape," old-timey banjo playing, silk screening and underwear making. In addition, they run a youth internship program, have a 'zine library and will soon host drop-in art studio hours.

Next up: The Ego Park Gallery, a place becoming widely recognized as a gallery to be reckoned with. The EPG was opened in 2001 by master renovator Kevin Slagle, who completely rebuilt the interior and now runs the space, along with partner Sue Costabile. Since its opening it has continued to evolve along with its succession of shows. Inside you'll notice highly polished cement floors and tall ceilings suspended by exposed wooden beams, all of which gives the long U-shaped setting its raw, post-industrial appearance.

Each month the EPG curates exhibitions featuring local artists (emerging and established) who the gallery feels have expressed themselves fully through their medium and have articulated the EPG's vision for its space. Most shows are curated from within, but recently the gallery has begun to branch out to include guest curators and artists from beyond the Bay Area. From video art to painting to sculpture, the works on display explore the wide spectrum of artistic and conceptual practices far removed -- but not completely off the charts -- from the commercially driven art world. Note: Unless your visit falls on a Sunday you must make an appointment!

Right next door you'll notice a building with an impressive brick façade, inset arches and wide storefront windows. That's the Esteban Sabar Gallery, run by affable high-heeled owner Esteban Sabar. No doubt the most commercial gallery in the area, this 2,500-square-foot track-lighted space houses a treasure trove of artwork for sale representing more than 30 emerging and established local artists who work in a variety of mediums, including oil and acrylic paintings, glass art, and sculpture. Each month the gallery celebrates an artist or group of artists with an exhibition that highlights a theme or a medium. The gallery keeps regular weekday and weekend business hours, so your visit can be flexible.

Ready for one more stop before lunch? Just a few blocks away is the Creative Growth Art Center. Take 23rd to Broadway and turn left; the center is up one block. The CGAC is the first independent visual arts center geared toward adults with developmental, physical, mental and emotional disabilities, and it has been an essential part of the community since its founding in 1974. The space houses an art studio for daily classes, and the art gallery promotes the students' work, each month presenting a new exhibition. The organization has broadened its vision over the years, acting as a model for like-minded centers near and far, including hosting students from Japan and participating in art shows outside the center. Be sure to ask about their publications, including "One Is Adam, One Is Superman," a book about the "outsider" artists and their extraordinary works.

Is your grumbling stomach telling you it's lunchtime? Not to worry, you have several options. You might want to return to Mama Buzz Café to sample their afternoon menu of tasty gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads. Or try Off the Hook, just a few doors down from RPS, where you can have an old-fashioned, no-frills, artery-hardening, yet oh-so-satisfying platter of fish and chips. Or head toward the 19th Street BART Station and check out Luka's Taproom & Lounge. This option will get you close to another stop on the tour, Front Gallery. A bit fancier than the other two eateries, Luka's is still a casual lunch environment with reasonably priced fare, although during dinner the pomp steps up big time. Luka's offers a well-rounded menu, from sandwiches to oysters, and boasts 16 taps, a full bar and a pool hall.

At this point in the day, you can either walk off your lunch by visiting a few more galleries in the area or take BART to the MacArthur Station to check a few more spots in the booming Temescal neighborhood before calling it a day.

If you are getting a late start, you might want to consider using Front Gallery as your launching pad. It's located near the 19th Street BART Station, on Grand Avenue, east of Broadway before Webster. The gallery, which opened its doors in February 2006, is a pristine 1,500-square-foot space with hardwood floors and an inviting, relaxed atmosphere for engaging in art appreciation.

As the name implies, there's an ulterior motive in play. Proprietor and curator Bob Jew, along with a group of tireless volunteers, keep this alternative art space alive through revenue generated from his professional photography studio (studio:photography), which is run out of the same space. There is an obvious advantage to this double-sided operation: It allows Jew to maintain a venue guided by his desire to display artwork and curate exhibitions that are, in his words, "current, lively and compelling." Front Gallery's rotating exhibitions feature artists working in a variety of mediums, disciplines and formats as well as guest curators who bring in additional perspectives representing the Bay Area's contemporary art scene.

The tour continues on to 21 Grand, which, despite its name, keeps house at its new 25th Street location. Walk north up Broadway to 25th and make a left, then look for God's Gym. 21 Grand is a volunteer-run interdisciplinary arts space that features emerging and experimental artists in the fields of visual art and live art (art presented/performed to a live audience). The 1,600-square-foot space is transformed with each show. Since June 2000, 21 Grand has been a venue for experimentation and ambitious programming. Its rotating exhibitions display an assortment of visual and sound art, including, but not limited to, sculpture, installation, mixed media and video art; it also hosts music and alternative media events.

Ready to shift gears and head to Temescal? You can get there either by taking BART to the MacArthur Station or hopping the northbound 51 Broadway bus to your next stop, Rowan Morrison, an elegant gallery/bookstore that specializes in artist books, home grown 'zines and special edition prints. The space is run by husband and wife artist duo Pete Glover and Narangkar Khalsa, who keep a sunny, friendly and comfy space for viewing art and perusing their publications; they also maintain an online store. Since opening their gallery in spring 2006, they have been gaining attention for their presentations of work by local photographers, painters and art book designers.

Next, take a short jump north to Boontling Gallery, an intimate space located on Telegraph near 42nd Street. In addition to weekend hours, they accept appointments. The young gallery has been on the move since its first show back in early 2005. In the short time it has been around, its interesting curatorial efforts have run the gamut: solo shows, artist pairings, group shows and benefits that present a wide range of art practices by local and international artists who are working in traditional and nontraditional formats and practices. You can expect to see sculptures, paintings and drawings that explore all forms of urban living. The folks at this gallery are doing their best to hold down the fort at the far end of this ever-growing arts community.

Congratulations! You made it to the end of the tour ... or did you?

Superstar adventurers willing to meander off the beaten path, read on. Below are two more worthwhile spaces to include in this epic excursion or consider for the future. Feeling over-stimulated? Then skip to the last paragraph, and we'll get your exit plan sorted out.

So if you're feeling adventurous, we suggest you finish your day of art with ABCO Gallery and Lobot.

Near the intersection of 32nd and Filbert you'll find ABCO, named after its predecessor in the space, an old waterproofing company. The gallery maintains light hours on weekends, but you can also make an appointment. Public transportation is not as readily available here -- we recommend taking a cab from the MacArthur BART Station. If you are riding your bike or driving to this location, refer to their map at abcoartspace.com

ABCO's expansive space is a synthesis of artists' live-in quarters, studios, a huge workshop and a gallery. A fence separates it from the street, and as you enter the yard, you can't miss the sculpture garden, an assortment of structures created out of odds and ends left by former residents. Barry Monigle acquired the space in 2000 and spent several months renovating it to its present state. Every square inch is overtaken by the creative milieu of art and music that besieges it on a regular basis.

Decidedly noncommercial, ABCO operates first and foremost as an art studio. But when it's exhibition time, it hopes that for viewers the art -- not the subservient backdrop -- becomes the primary focus. Generally the staff curates shows, but on many occasions they have solicited guest curators. Most shows have an experimental bent and are organized around a concept that artists can use as a point of departure. There are plenty of local artists who show work here, and it can be interesting to see where they take proposed concepts -- with a space like ABCO, there's plenty of room for artists to let their ideas unfold.

Next, you can cross town for a stop at Lobot Gallery. Getting there is a bit more convenient by car, but if you prefer BART, check the gallery's Web site for detailed directions.

Unless it's an opening night, you'll need an appointment. Lobot is a nonprofit art space with a full agenda and ambitious plans for the future. Co-directors Adam Hatch and Caleb Rodgers, along with a crew of resident artists and volunteers, keep the space in constant action. Their large warehouse measures 10,000 square feet and includes live-in studios and a lofty gallery space; Lobot also offers a residency program. Like most spaces on this tour, it is a highly proactive environment that is committed to and active in the community.

Since acquiring the space in 2003, Lobot has successfully hosted numerous well-received music and art events, often combining the two for total immersion. It continues to lend a strong voice to the community by providing an excellent venue for local emerging and established artists as well as for talent from outside the area. Each month it presents exhibitions and one-off performances, so keep an eye on its programs. Lobot presents artists who take experimental approaches, in theory and in practice.

If you've had enough art for one day and are feeling like you need a little pick-me-up -- or you're just plain starving -- head north down Telegraph (you can take always take a bus if your dogs are barking!) and you'll notice a series of eateries. For sushi there's Koryo, a local late-night favorite that is satisfying any time of the day. It's located in a tiny strip mall on Telegraph near 44th Street. Need a coffee? Head a little further down Telegraph to Temescal Café, a haven for lovers of strong coffee concoctions. It's located near 50th Street across from the Walgreen's plaza. Temescal also offers Italian sodas, pastries, desserts and sandwiches, plus it always displays art on the walls! Are you in the mood for Mexican food? Head to Doña Tomas on Telegraph near 50th, where you can sip yummy margaritas and feast on affordable appetizers and dinner plates at this standout authentic Mexican restaurant. Adiós art lovers!

Below you'll find contact information for each venue as well as our suggestions for parking and public transit for some of the destinations. And you can go to these two links to download Oakland gallery maps: oaklandartmurmur.com and artmapoakland.com.

Mama Buzz Café
mamabuzzcafe.com
Where: 2318 Telegraph (at 23rd), Oakland
When: Monday-Thursday 7am-9pm, Friday 7am-10pm, Saturday 8am-10pm, Sunday 8am-9pm. Open the first Friday of every month until 10pm.
Phone: (510) 465-4073
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the 19th Street Station, walk north up Broadway to West Grand and go left, then turn right on Telegraph and go to 23rd Street.

Rock Paper Scissors Collective
rpscollective.com
Where: 480 23rd St. (at Telegraph), Oakland
When: Monday, Thursday-Saturday 11am to 7pm, Sunday 12-6pm, closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Open the first Friday of every month until 10pm.
Phone: (510) 444-7411
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the 19th Street Station, walk north up Broadway to West Grand and go left, then turn right on Telegraph and go to 23rd Street.

Ego Park Gallery
egopark.org
Where: 492 23rd St. (at Telegraph), Oakland
When: Sunday 2-5pm, or by appointment. Open the first Friday of every month 7-10pm.
Phone: (510) 839-6607
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the 19th Street Station, walk north up Broadway to West Grand and go left, then turn right on Telegraph and make a right onto 23rd Street.

Esteban Sabar Gallery
estebansabar.com
Where: 2278 Telegraph (at 23rd), Oakland
When: Wednesday-Monday 11am-7pm, closed Tuesdays. Open the first Friday of every month until 10pm.
Phone: (510) 238-9171
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit 19th Street Station, walk north up Broadway to West Grand and go left, then turn right on Telegraph and make a right onto 23rd Street.

Creative Growth Art Center
creativegrowth.org
Where: 355 24th St. (near Broadway), Oakland
When: Monday-Friday 11am-5:30pm, or by appointment. Open the first Friday of every month until 10pm.
Phone: (510) 836-2340
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the 19th Street Station and walk north up Broadway to 24th Street.

Front Gallery
frontgalleryoakland.com
Where: 35 Grand (near Broadway), Oakland
When: Tuesday-Wednesday 11am-5pm, Friday 1-5pm, Saturday 1-4pm, or by appointment. Closed Monday, Thursday and Sunday. Open the first Friday of every month 7-10pm.
Phone: (510) 444-1900
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the 19th Street Station and go north to the intersection of Grand and Broadway.

21 Grand Gallery
21grand.org
Where: 416 25th St. (at Broadway), Oakland
When: Thursday 4-8pm, Friday 4-6pm, Saturday-Sunday 1-6pm, or by appointment. Open the first Friday of every month 7-10pm.
Phone: (510) 44GRAND (444-7263)
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the 19th Street Station and walk north up Broadway to 25th Street.

Rowan Morrison Gallery
rowanmorrison.com
Where: 330 40th St. (just west of Broadway), Oakland
When: Thursday-Sunday 12-7pm. Open the first Friday of every month until 10pm.
Phone: (510) 384-5344
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the MacArthur Station and walk east down 40th Street about five blocks.

Boontling Gallery
boontlinggallery.com
Where: 4224 Telegraph Ave. (between 41st and 42nd), Oakland
When: Saturday-Sunday 12-5pm, or by appointment. Open the first Friday of every month 7-10pm.
Phone: (510) 384-5344
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the MacArthur Station and go north on Telegraph; it's just past 41st Street.

ABCO Gallery
abcoartspace.com
Where: 3135 Filbert St. (at 32nd and San Pablo), Oakland
When: Saturday-Sunday 12-5pm. Open the first Friday of every month 7-10pm.
Phone: (510) 428-1886
Parking: Street
Public transit: Check the gallery's Web site.

Lobot Gallery
lobotgallery.com
Where: 1800 Campbell St. (at 18th), Oakland
When: Saturday-Sunday 12-5pm, or by appointment. Open the first Friday of every month 7-10pm.
Phone: (510) 798-6566 or (510) 282-2622
Parking: Street
Public transit: Ride a bike, take a cab or drive; refer to artmapoakland.com.

Off the Hook
Where: 2270 Telegraph Ave. (between 41st and 42nd), Oakland
When: Saturday-Sunday 12-5pm.
Phone: (510) 824-8182
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the 19th Street Station, walk north up Broadway to West Grand and go left, then turn right onto Telegraph.

Luka's Taproom & Lounge
lukasoakland.com
Where: 2221 Broadway (at West Grand), Oakland
When: Sunday 5:30pm-midnight, Monday-Wednesday 11:30am-midnight, Thursday-Friday 11:30am-2am, Saturday 5:30pm-2am.
Phone: (510) 428-1886
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the 19th Street Station.

Koryo Sushi
koryosushi.net
Where: 4390 Telegraph Ave., Suite G, Oakland
When: Tuesday-Thursday 5pm-1:30am, Friday-Saturday 5pm-2:30am, Sunday 5-11:30pm.
Phone: (510) 594-0661
Parking: Street or parking lot
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the MacArthur Station and head north on Telegraph toward 44th Street.

Temescal Café
Where: 4920 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: Monday-Friday 7am-7pm, Saturday 8am-7pm, and Sunday 9am-7pm
Phone: (510) 595-4102
Parking: Street
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the MacArthur Station and head north on Telegraph; it's close to 50th Street.

Doña Tomas
donatomas.com
Where: Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-9:30pm, Friday-Saturday 5:30-10pm.
When: Tuesday-Thursday 5pm-1:30am, Friday-Saturday 5pm-2:30am, Sunday 5-11:30pm.
Phone: (510) 450-0522
Parking: Street or parking lot
Public transit: You can reach this location via BART. Exit the MacArthur Station and head north on Telegraph toward 50th Street.

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