Explore Oakland's downtown art galleries

Photo courtesy of Betti Ono via Facebook

Interwoven throughout downtown Oakland’s concrete tapestry of high-rises and alleyways, business deals and government transactions, a contrasting silent filler makes its mark. Thought-provoking, emotive and stunning visual arts are increasingly found where some folks may once have feared to tread for fun. 

“Ten years ago, you wouldn’t see people wandering around downtown and now there’s all kinds of activities and galleries open,” Moss Kardener, vice president of the Oakland Art Murmur (OAM) Board of Directors, recently told BARTable.

With the nonprofit serving as one of the major forces helping to nurture art events in order to create a bridge between the public and local artists and galleries in the neighborhood, the art scene there continues to expand.

OAM Board President Jean Durant added, “The art venues in Downtown are extremely important to place-making and creating community.”

With it being Black History Month, Durant expressed particular excitement for the Downtown Black Arts Movement Business District and BAMBDFEST:2019, a multi-day, multi-venue festival in celebration of the arts and culture in Oakland during February. A specific show she anticipated is the "Black Joy & Resistance" exhibition that opens to the public at the Betti Ono Gallery during the Black Joy Parade weekend of Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23 and 24, from 1 to 5pm.

Along with the culturally relevant indoor gallery spaces anchored in the downtown Oakland neighborhood, don’t forget to look up and let your gaze linger on its murals. Durant called these expansive outdoor pieces of urban eye candy “real landmarks,” with one standout being the Troy Lovegates mural portrait of Oakland local Derrick Hayes at 14th and Franklin. (Check out the OAM website to learn about its public guided walking tours of such murals.)

Looking to enhance your downtown Oakland experience? Take BART to 12th St./Oakland Station and take in the latest exhibits at the following locales that are each part of Oakland Art Murmur’s roster of downtown galleries.

Betti Ono Gallery

Black Joy and Resistance - The Exhibition by Adreinne Waheed at Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland

The exhibit "Black Joy and Resistance - The Exhibition by Adreinne Waheed" at Betti Ono Gallery is currently on view through June 8. Betti Ono Gallery is located at 1427 Broadway, Oakland, a 1-minute walk from 12th St./Oakland Station.

A cutting-edge art gallery and affordable event space that can host up to 150 people, Betti Ono Gallery embodies the experimental nature of the Oakland art scene. With emerging artists finding a welcome home on its walls, it also serves as a retail shop for handmade goods. Committed to making the absolute most of its downtown location on Broadway and its mission to positively serve the public, the gallery hosts community gatherings, fundraisers, performances and educational workshops.

pt. 2 Gallery

The exhibits “Amawalk” by Kenichi Hoshine (pictured above) and “Sweep the leg, Johnny” by Jordy Kerwick are on view through March 1. pt. 2 Gallery is located at 1523b Webster St., Oakland, a 5-minute walk from 12th St./Oakland Station. Photo courtesy of of Part 2 Gallery.

The exhibits “Amawalk” by Kenichi Hoshine (pictured above) and “Sweep the leg, Johnny” by Jordy Kerwick are on view through March 1. pt. 2 Gallery is located at 1523b Webster St., Oakland, a 5-minute walk from 12th St./Oakland Station. Photo courtesy of of Part 2 Gallery.

pt. 2 Gallery’s exhibits have been a favorite subject covered by Juxtapoz Magazine, and the downtown Oakland space lures works from both international artists and upcoming Bay Area locals alike. Mixed media solo and group exhibitions showcase contemporary explorations in the forms of paintings, neon works, sculptures and more, all displayed against the gallery’s modern and industrial, minimalist setting on Webster Street.

Pro Arts

Pro Arts is located at 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, a 2-minute walk from 12th St./Oakland Station. Photo courtesy of Pro Arts Gallery.

Pro Arts is located at 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, a 2-minute walk from 12th St./Oakland Station. Photo courtesy of Pro Arts Gallery.

Championing artistic freedom and experimentation since 1973, Pro Arts is an esteemed nonprofit gallery, educational workshop and project space. Appropriately located in the heart of downtown Oakland at the activist-frequented Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, the space has remained dedicated to local artists that utilize their contemporary works as vehicles for social change and outspoken voices.

East Bay Municipal Utilities District Gallery

EBMUD Gallery is located in the second floor lobby at 375 11th St. Oakland, a 2-minute walk from 12th St./Oakland Station. Photo courtesy of  David Bruce Graves. Courtesy of EBMUD Gallery.

EBMUD Gallery is located in the second floor lobby at 375 11th St. Oakland, a 2-minute walk from 12th St./Oakland Station. Photo courtesy of  David Bruce Graves. Courtesy of EBMUD Gallery.

Want a place to learn about new artists while investigating your water rates? An appropriate amalgam combining traditional downtown business concerns and the city of Oakland’s appreciation for untraditional art, the East Bay Municipal Utilities District administrative building offers up its second-floor lobby as an art gallery. Open every day during regular business hours and free to the public, the EBMUD Gallery near 12th St./Oakland Station is a welcoming place to pause from any daily Downtown errands.

Oakland Art Murmur is a 501(c)3 non-profit that aims to aggregate information, and be a resource for the public and the broader arts community concerning Oakland’s visual arts. For more information, to donate, or to become a member, visit OaklandArtMurmur.org.

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