Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Downtown a little brighter

By awoodall
Monday, May 5th, 2008 at 9:17 pm in Art Murmur, Night Owl, Oakland nightlife.

You remember the story I wrote in January about no nightlife in downtown Oakland? I said that might be changing? Well, Friday night — art murmur night — it was changing. We’ll see how it looks this weekend, but on Friday, 14th Street between Broadway and Franklin was livelier than it has been since the lights started getting not “so much brighter there.” No disrespect, Petula Clark, but downtown has been more ghost town than O-Town for a long time. If a lack of parking is any indication of the area’s future success, downtown is going to see a revival.
Friday the Awaken Cafe on 14th Street stayed open late while droves of Burning Man rave types waited in line for what is supposed to be some of the best java in town. I just wasn’t into it. My boyfriend and I were ready to fall asleep standing after three days of moving (how the hell does one woman collect so much stuff???). Besides, I was all excited that finally the cafe/gallery/performance space (used to be the Golden Bull bar) renovation was ready. But when we arrived it turned out they were operating only the daytime coffee-to-go business. Oh well. Still, it was good to see the life bursting out of the cafe storefront like an overflowing candy jar. Next door, Joyce Gordon’s gallery was pulsing with art hipness at the reception for artists Chris Trueman, Sam Nejati and, in the photo gallery, Michael Johnson. I’ve never seen so many white folks in the gallery before. Come to think of it, I have never seen white artists displayed there. Whatever.

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One Response to “Downtown a little brighter”

  1. New32 Says:

    Hi Angela!

    First off much respect for your blog. But I felt the need to bring some clarity when it comes to Joyce Gordon Gallery.

    If you have ever taken the time to visit, speak with the owner or go to the website, you’d know that it has been around for about 5 years. For you to say you’ve never seen so many white folks in the gallery or white artists displayed there shows not only that you may not have actually visited the gallery (or at least once in a blue moon) or perhaps you lack of interest in any other art scene beyond 23rd and Telegraph.

    Ms. Gordon has had a very international and diverse selection of artists (in fact she has already had three different international exhibitions–2 fine art and one photography (of which the 2nd photography one will be happening this August). Sybille Szggars, Susanne Onadera, Ali Dadgar, Rodney Artilles, Pauletta Chanco, Joe Slusky (among others) are just some of the artists that have exhibited successfully at the gallery—and who happen not to be black.

    That being said, black artists are underrepresented in the art scene and I applaud Ms. Gordon for providing a venue for visitors to be exposed to their talents as well. I have been to the 23rd and Telegraph galleries and ironically I have always seen mostly or only white visitors and artits—little to no black or other minority artists or visitors. But of course you didn’t seem to notice or it wasn’t much of an issure for you—maybe becasue there are always one or two walking around…one of them may have been me.

    I like the fact that Ms. Gordon’s gallery actively seeks out talented artits regardless of race—but I am certainly happy that I know I can go there and be introduced to black artists—unlike the art murmur. At least I have seen truly diverse crowds at her gallery—unlike the art murmur—at least she cares about the diversity and it shows in the range and depth of the exhibits she has had there. But then again, I do take the time to visit the gallery from the inside and the first Friday of every month so at least I can speak from a place of knowing and not from perception.

    It seems like you don’t apply the same judgement to the 23rd and Telegraph galleries as you have with Ms. Gordon’s gallery. It really makes me wonder if you seem to think that the only valid art or art galleries are the ones where you feel comfortable because there is a crowd of white folks around.

    As you said, “whatever.” Just seemed to me that maybe before you made such a statement about never seeing white folks or artists at her gallery—that you probably should have visited Ms. Gordon’s gallery on a more regular basis or questioned why you rarely see blacks, latinos, asians or other minorities at the art events you’ve been going to.

    Art is art and talent is talent regardless of race—it would be great if more folks would step outside their comfort zones every once in awhile—or at least on the first Friday of the month. Just my two-cents.

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