The artistic spirit thrives in Oakland in the Bay Area’s East Bay. Long seen as San Francisco’s edgier, more diverse, less glitzy little brother, the city is brimming with enough music venues, galleries, museums, and cultural events to keep even the most ambitious, arts-starved visitor busy for weeks.
One of the best—and most unique—ways to experience the city’s artsy side is to take part in the monthly Oakland Art Murmur event called First Friday. On the first Friday (rain or shine) of each month, member galleries on Telegraph Avenue between Grand Avenue and 27th Street put on one heck of a street party. From 6–9 p.m. pop-up and permanent galleries in industrial workshops let you browse and buy extraordinary art—and chat with the artists. First Fridays are a kaleidoscope of colors, cultures, and lifestyles, with food trucks selling almost any kind of fare, super-excited little ones dancing to DJ music, beer gardens, and street performers.
For a calmer way to tap into the art scene, join one of the many walking tours offered by Oakland Art Murmur In the Chinatown section of the city, program partners Dragon School 99 created a self-guided tour of 99 murals, many of them constantly changing, and the Temescal neighborhood has a tour of its own as well. For information on other special events taking place within the Oakland Art Murmur fold, check its events page. The What Is (Public) Art? tour is another self-guided tour of some of Oakland’s best public art; it winds its way around the Fox Theater and the Paramount, north of City Hall.
The city’s many galleries also host free cultural programs such as receptions, artist talks, lectures, musical performances, and literary readings. If you really want to get hands on, visit The Crucible. Classes and workshops teach ceramics, stone cutting, jewelry making, and a host of other art forms.