The galleries of Oakland’s Jingletown, a pocket East Oakland community once dominated by immigrants and working warehouses, opened this weekend to display the work of over 35 local artists, all part of the seventh annual Jingletown Winter ArtWalk. The weekend event highlighted a variety of work, from photography and oil painting to metal work and textiles.
Though the burgeoning arts district covers a small four-square block area, the work featured in the ArtWalk’s five galleries is a concentration of remarkable talent.
Artist Fernando Reyes, of the ArtWalk organizers, says the winter event is an offshoot of an East Bay Open Studios gallery walk held in Jingletown every June. “The event has grown tremendously,” he said. “It’s an area that’s attracted artists and art enthusiasts from all over. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here in Jingletown.”
Barbara Cushman stood inside her loft apartment on Ford Street Saturday afternoon, watching visitors peruse her collection of hand-crafted note cards. Her work is a rich tapestry of delicately woven envelopes and stamps from around the world. “I’m inspired by what international mail art,” she said with a grin. “It’s the beauty of stamps that inspired me to start this.”
A friend stolled up to her and gave her a hug. “How are you, darling?” he asked with a gruff voice. “He should be on radio,” Cushman responded. “He’s Mr. Personality.”
Her friend winked. “I should be in jail,” he said.
In the Counterpoint Studio, a few steps from Peterson and Ford intersection, Peter Tonninsten and Lisa Levine watched visitors study the photographs that adorn the walls their gallery, the multi-exposure prints resembling a quilt of tiles. “We work mostly in Oakland, shooting and then exchanging rolls of film,” Levine said. “By using multiple exposures, you lose a sense of authorship.”
Tonninsten nodded. “Photographers like to define their own work and make their pictures solitary,” he said. “We lose that with our work. Everything gets mixed up together.”
Five galleries, from Glascock to Ford Street, showcased local talent from Oakland, El Cerrito, and Richmond., “The idea was to create a space alternative to the 49 Geary galleries,” said Jan Watten, founder of the area’s Gray Loft Gallery, referring to the upscale gallery collective in San Francisco. ”We recently featured the stellar work of an artist her mid-fifties, and it was her first show. She was overjoyed.”
Bill Silveira, the owner of a gallery called 4:20- it’s address is 420 Peterson Street, but yes, there’s a built-in marijuana joke- combined his obsession with old cars and art into what he calls “Creative License Plate Art.” Each piece is an amalgamation of old license plates assembled to spell different words or phrases. “”I’ve had a love for cars all my life, so license plates just follow that,” he said. “They’re made of plates from across the United States.”
Cynthia Elliot, a founding member of the Jingletown ArtWalk, said the event was an effort to showcase local talent by turning the empty warehouses built along the Oakland/Alameda border into galleries. “ The warehouses along Glascock Street were going to be torn down and replaced by condos,” she said. “We wanted people to know that there is a thriving artist community here.”
The Jingletown ArtWalk is a creation of the Jingletown Arts and Business Community, a cooperative of artists, small business owners, and residents. The JACB is also responsible for the creation of 16 murals along a stretch of Peterson Street affectionately known as the “Rue De Merde.” The murals include mosaics of the “Virgin of Guadalupe” by Kim Larson and a cluster of handmade tiles created in artist Saundra Warren’s studio by Jingletown residents.
Located two miles south of Lake Merritt, the Jingletown neighborhood has been an artists’ haven since the mid 1980s. Locals say the name is a reference to Portuguese and Hispanic workers who would “jingle” coins in their pockets to show their prosperity upon returning from the canneries in Fruitvale.
“It’s like “Tales of the City,” remarked a photographer who goes by the name Styrous®, referring to Armistead Maupin’s novels on the colorful characters in San Francisco. “There are so many different personalities here. I’ve never lived in such an interesting place.”
“Jingletown is a diamond in the rough,” said Watten. I’ve lived here for nearly 30 years and to see how it’s grown into this vital art community is amazing. We’re all family.”
For more information on the Jingletown ArtWalk visit www.jingletown.org
To view the work of Jingletown artists click here.