Every month I tell myself that I am going to go to Oakland’s First Friday Art Murmur, and every month there is a friend’s birthday, a movie playing, or my PJs win the war over going out. So for February Art Murmur, I marked my calendar for the 3rd, made plans with friends in advance, and after work I headed into downtown Oakland.
At this point, “Art Murmur” seems like an outdated title — “Art Rumble” seems more appropriate. Streets and galleries are packed, and some of the shoe-box sized spaces cannot contain the frenzied crowds of art lovers that gather to see what Oakland’s artists have to offer.
Since everyone I went with headed over right after work, we were all hankering for some street food, so we headed for 23rd street where the food vendors were concentrated. I grabbed a grilled tempeh reuben sandwich from a vegan eatery, drawn in by their relatively short line, eating it while my partner waited for fresh-baked pizza from Fist of Flour.
After satisfying our rumbling tummies, we were ready to check out the art. Our first attempt to gallery stroll was rather unsuccessful. The gallery was one of several on 23rd, and the crowd within was as packed as the 8:30 BART train into the city. No thank you.
We decided to head upriver towards the galleries on 25th and Telegraph. We stopped for a moment to marvel at a group of fire jugglers, but before our faces had felt the glow of the flames, a juggler lost control of his flaming mace, hurling it into the backyard of an unfortunate neighbor. We decided to move on.
Our first stop on 25th was at a gallery featuring the work Alex Pardee, a local SF artist whose work has become a hallmark on t-shirts from Upper Playground. After we had our fill of monsters, skeletons, and grotesque interpretations of Steve Urkle, we headed into one of the several open studios on the block. There we marveled at a round ceramic ball of misshapen heads, crafted by Ofra Fisher, sardonic skull rattles by Joe Kowalczyk and clay flasks that I seriously considered purchasing for 45 bucks.
One of the highlights of the evening was when we wandered through a gallery’s back door into an empty garage that had been canvassed in graffiti art. We tried to take our time walking around, but we were hustled through a door at the other end. We took the hint that folks were trying to close up shop, so we headed to Cafe Van Kleefs to enjoy some fresh squeezed gray hounds. Yum.
All in all, the night was a success, but I learned a thing or two that I will keep in mind for next time.
1.) Get there early. There is so much art to see, and a bit of a walk between galleries, and everyone closes up around 9PM.
2.) Eat something beforehand. While I do love food trucks, the lack of variety and the long lines are less than desirable.
3.) Broaden your reach. My first impulse was to head to where there was the most concentration of people, but there are lots of great galleries and studios outside of the central area.
4.) Only go with a few people. The crowds are so dense that if you go with multiple people, you might spend a large portion of your time searching for lost stragglers.