Thousands of Oaklanders filled downtown Oakland this weekend to shake a tail feather, boogaloo, rock ‘n’ roll, or do the Harlem Shuffle during the city’s annual Art & Soul festival. The two-day outdoor festival—which closed several busy streets—featured jazz, rock, gospel, punk, honky-tonk, metal, folk and Latin musicians from the Bay Area.
The music and dancing was set up on several stages downtown so people could walk to and fro. A metal fence was erected that sectioned off the performing arts area of the festival from the rest of downtown: the musical epicenter wasn’t free.
“I was excited to see Oleta Adams and Lalah Hathaway perform,” said Mindy Garland, an Oakland resident. “It’s great to see so many people here at the festival supporting Oakland and local businesses.”
The festival included the making of a public mural, which gave people a chance to pick up a paintbrush, as well as art displays, a performance by the Kinetic Arts Center’s Circus Spire Youth Performance Troupe, and a mini-Ferris wheel and rock-climbing wall for kids. Photographs from the 200 Yards project, which asked residents to shoot photos from within 200 yards of Oakland’s historic downtown oak tree, were also on display at City Hall.
There were over 40 booths—selling clothes, food, books, and art—to draw in passersby. “The festival is something I look forward to being a part of each year, because it sets the benchmark for people blending different cultures and celebrating art and music,” said Joaquin Alejandro Newman, an artist whose murals are influenced by indigenous tribes and Native American culture and traditions. “I try to use my art to expand the communities conceptions and ideas about Native cultures.”
“Festivals like this that are able to bring together such a wealth of culture, art, and experience is one of the reasons people visit Oakland,” said art merchant Luke Angel, who sells African figurines, antique items, jewelry, and fashion accessories for Africa By Design and is the founder of tourism company African Angel Tours. “The vibe of this city is unique to many other places in the way art and self expression is received.”
“This is my first year going and it was definitely worth it,” said local resident David Moore. “I really enjoyed the food, especially the catfish. There’s such a variety in artwork and talent here in the Bay Area, and it’s being represented well today.”