Arts & Culture

Where Artistic Inclinations Flourish

From art galleries to movie houses and theaters, the East Bay has it all.

Classical Music Companies

American Bach Soloists (415-621-7900, specialize in music of Bach’s era.

AVE/Artist’s Vocal Ensemble ( is a professional choral ensemble directed by Jonathan Dimmock.

Berkeley Opera (510-841-1903, surprises with sometimes brilliant, sometimes bizarre productions.

Berkeley Symphony (510-841-2800, is often adventurous but not quite polished.

Cal Performances (510-642-9988, is UC Berkeley’s performance series that offers the finest assortment of classical, jazz, dance, and world-music concerts you will find west of the Hudson River.

Chanticleer (415-252-8589, is a world-famous men’s choral group.

Composers, Inc. (415-512-0641, presents concert series of contemporary American music.

Del Sol String Quartet (415-374-0074, is an award-winning new music ensemble.

Earplay (415-585-9776, is an ensemble that performs new music.

Kronos Quartet ( is a world-renowned new music champion.

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble (415-642-8054, is an ensemble that performs new music.

Magnificat Early Baroque (800-853-8155, often programs rare fare.

Mills College’s Center for Contemporary Music (510-430-2171) is always on the cutting edge of thought-provoking electronic and new music.

MusicSources (1000 The Alameda, Berkeley, 510-528-1625, has a concert series that features local and international artists, plus a library of 16th- to 19th-century works, a collection of antique keyboards, and children’s events.

Oakland East Bay Symphony (510-444-0801,, led by Music Director Michael Morgan, programs with the community in mind.

Oakland Opera (510-763-1146, surprises with sometimes brilliant, sometimes bizarre productions.

Other Minds (415-934-8134, presents concerts of innovative music from composers from all over the world.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (415-252-1288,, led by buoyant Music Director Nicholas McGegan, showcases some of the finest soloists and guest conductors on the planet.

Pocket Opera (415-972-8934, is in a class by itself, offering the indefatigable octogenarian Donald Pippin’s witty translations and priceless spoken commentary.

Quartet San Francisco (215-885-6400, is a Grammy-nominated ensemble that performs new music.

San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (415-278-9566, is an ensemble that performs new music.

San Francisco Early Music Society (510-528-1725, puts on early music concerts.

San Francisco Symphony (415-864-6000, is an internationally acclaimed organization.

San Francisco Opera (415-864-3330, has all the star power, glamour, and cheap standing room one could ask for.

San Francisco Performances (415-398-6449, also offers the finest assortment of classical, jazz, dance, and world music concerts you will find west of the Hudson River.

UC Berkeley’s Center for New Music and Audio Technology (510-643-9990, is always on the cutting edge of thought-provoking electronic and new music.

Volti (415-771-3352, is a cutting-edge choral group of new music specialists.

Dance Companies

Axis Dis/Abled Dance Company (1428 Alice St., Ste. 200, Oakland, 510-625-0110, makes ethereal dance out of the struggle to achieve grace; on crutches, in wheelchairs, or able-bodied, they epitomize the indomitable spirit of humanity.

Mary Armentrout (510-289-5188,, a Dadaist choreographer, hosts avant-garde dancers doing strange things with the furniture in her monthly Milkbar series at studio #223 in the old Sunshine Biscuit Factory (81st Ave. off San Leandro Blvd., Oakland).

Diamano Coura (1428 Alice St., Oakland, 510-733-1077, is a first-rate troupe that does classic dances of West Africa.

Oakland Ballet Company (510-465-6400, dances the Ballet Russes classics as if they were Shakespeare — with heart, soul, passion, and grace.

Omega West ( is the foremost liturgical dance company in the United States, based at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

Savage Jazz Dance (510 490-6068, fields sexy, high-energy musical movers in a big range of moods, from haunting melancholy to hilarious.

Movie Theaters

Alameda Theatre and Cineplex (2317 Central Ave., Alameda, 510-769-3456,, a rehabbed 1937 historic theater and megaplex, has a certain charm — namely, its fifty-foot screen, balcony, and Art Deco architecture courtesy of Timothy Pflueger.

Grand Lake Theater (3200 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-426-3556,, a restored movie palace from the 1920s, features a Wurlitzer organ performance prior to movies shown on Friday and Saturday nights, a dazzling marquee, and retro elegance in its 900-seat main auditorium.

Landmark Shattuck Cinemas (2230 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-464-5980, plays first-run movies on ten screens, with auditoriums decorated in faux-Egyptian, ersatz-Arabian, and late-period Plex Moderne.

Orinda Theater (2 Orinda Square, Orinda, 925-254-9060) is an art deco gem in the Orinda Village center.

Pacific Film Archive (2575 Bancroft Way, UC Berkeley, 510-642-1124, is a world-class repository of films and cinematic lore since 1966.

Rialto Cinemas Cerrito (10070 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-273-9102, is an attractively renovated 1937 art deco duplex that plays a mix of mainstream, first-run movies and more obscure titles.

Rialto Cinemas Elmwood (2966 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-433-9730,, a bite-sized miniplex, shows art and foreign films — the ideal mix for globally minded college town auds.,,, are the corporate plexes you’ll want to check out if it’s uniformity, a giant box of candy, and the latest Hollywood blunderbuss you crave.

Museums — East Bay

The African American Museum and Library (659 14th St., Oakland, 510-637-0200) houses an archive of 160 collections of diaries, newspapers, oral history, and video recordings focusing on the Bay Area and Northern California; a 12,000-volume reference library; and a museum featuring changing exhibits.

Berkeley Art Museum (2625 Durant Ave., Berkeley, 510-642-0808) is a striking modernist structure with a collection of 14,000 objects; it’s a preeminent university museum.

Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, 510-336-7373, is a space and science museum featuring indoor stargazing in the planetarium, outdoor viewing through telescopes, daily screenings in the theater, after-school classes, and interactive exhibits.

HABITOT Children’s Museum (2065 Kittredge St., Berkeley, 510-647-1111) features prizewinning exhibits, art programs, multicultural performances, and even a toy-lending library for young children.

Judah L. Magnes Museum (2911 Russell St., Berkeley, 510-549-6950) preserves tradition for the Bay Area’s large Jewish population, with 8,000-plus ceremonial and decorative items and an extensive library.

Lindsay Wildlife Museum (1931 First Ave., Walnut Creek, 925-935-1978) affords visitors close encounters with eagles, owls, bobcats, opossums, snakes, turtles, and other animals once treated at its wildlife hospital but deemed unreleasable.

Lucky Ju Ju Pinball & Pacific Pinball Museum (1510 Webster St., Alameda, 510-769-1349) is an old-school pinball palace that also features rotating art exhibits.

Mills College Art Museum (5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, 510-430-2164) focuses on women artists and curators with well-installed, thoughtful, eclectic shows, and free admission.

The Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St., Oakland, 510-238-2200), an East Bay cultural institution since 1969, specializes in art, history, and the natural sciences of California.

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology (103 Kroeber Hall, Bancroft Way at College Ave., Berkeley, 510-643-7649) has almost 4 million objects, and is the West’s oldest, largest anthropological museum.

The USS Hornet Museum (707 W. Hornet Ave., Alameda, 510-521-8448) played a crucial part in WWII, recovered the Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts in 1969, and has been docked here since 1998.

Museums — San Francisco

The Asian Art Museum (200 Larkin St., San Francisco, 415-581-3500) houses 17,000 artworks from all over Asia in an accessible location near City Hall.

The de Young Museum (Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., San Francisco, 415-750-3600) showcases an extensive collection of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; Mesoamerican, Central, and South American artifacts; African art; and Oceanic art.

The Exploratorium (Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon St., San Francisco, 415-561-0399) is a science museum with hands-on, family-friendly exhibits housed inside the ornate Palace of Fine Arts.

The Museum of the African Diaspora (685 Mission St., San Francisco, 415-358-7200) traces the breakup and scattering of African blacks across space and time with exhibits, programs, and events.

The Palace of the Legion of Honor (Lincoln Park, 34th Ave. & Clement St., San Francisco, 415-750-3600) is the last of San Francisco’s old-style museums, boasting an unbeatable view of the Golden Gate, along with collections of ancient art, illustrated books, European painting and decorative art, fine prints, and Rodin bronzes.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 Third St., San Francisco, 415-357-4000), established in 1935, features high-profile exhibitions that have fixed it at the center of the city’s art scene.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission St., San Francisco, 415-978-2700) is a venue for new-media conceptualism and a good place to see what’s shaking in visual art before it migrates to SFMOMA.

Performance Venues

The Berkeley Community Theatre (1930 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-644-8956), a 3,500-capacity venue located on the Berkeley High School campus, has seen the likes of the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, and Metallica.

The Fillmore (1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, 415-346-6000, is the place where Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis recorded live albums back in the day, and it’s still one of the best places in the world to see a show.

The Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, is a historic, art deco movie palace that re-opened in February 2009 after undergoing extensive renovation. Now anchoring Oakland’s revitalized Uptown district, the Fox has become the East Bay’s premier venue for live entertainment.

The Grand Ballroom at the Regency Center (1290 Sutter St., San Francisco, 415-673-5716) is a midsize room that boasts Scottish Rite architecture, high ceilings, and a balcony for maximum viewing pleasure.

The Greek Theatre (Gayley Rd. at Hearst Ave., Berkeley, 510-809-0100) is one of the most picturesque outdoor settings for live music in the Bay Area; there’s not a bad seat in the house.

The Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, 415-621-6600) is a stately venue featuring large murals, chandeliers, and a gold-leaf ceiling. It’s an exquisite place for watching the finest arts and culture performances.

Historic Sweet’s Ballroom (1933 Broadway, Oakland, 510-663-1933,, a magnificent 12,000-square-foot ballroom, channels an earlier, more glamorous era of Oakland’s past.

Julia Morgan Center for the Arts (2640 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-8542) hosts a wide variety of events including the Berkeley Opera, Berkeley Ballet Theater, a whole bunch of children’s theater groups, a storytelling series, and world music and dance events.

The Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, 925-943-7469) is home to the Center REPertory Company, Contra Costa Musical Theatre, Diablo Light Opera Company, Festival Opera, Diablo Ballet, and dozens of frequent visitors like Lamplighters, California Symphony, and Smuin Ballet.

The ORACLE Arena (7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, 510-569-2121) and adjacent Coliseum are home to beloved local sports teams the Golden State Warriors, Oakland Raiders, and the Oakland A’s, and they’re also the biggest venues for entertainment in the East Bay.

The Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway, Oakland, 510-465-6400) once served as a movie palace, and is now home to the Oakland East Bay Symphony and touring musical and comedy acts, theater, and ballet performances.

Shoreline Amphitheatre (One Amphitheatre Pkwy., Mountain View, 650-967-3000, is the largest outdoor venue in the Bay Area — it sits on more than sixty acres and holds 22,000.

The Sleep Train Pavilion (2000 Kirker Pass Rd., Concord, 925-676-8742) is a midsize outdoor amphitheater nestled in the hills of Concord’s outskirts.

Zellerbach Hall (UC Berkeley, 510-642-9988) hosts the Cal Performances series of truly world-class performances — from Russian ballet to Mark Morris, Australian punk circus to Peking acrobats, Ladysmith Black Mambazo to Cecilia Bartoli,.

Recreational Facilities

Albany Bowl (540 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 510-526-8818) is the place for casual fun or league bowling for those more serious; don’t miss the bowl’s weekly Monday night Roc-N-Bowl, where you can enjoy cheap games and pumping rock ‘n’ roll from 10 p.m. till 2 a.m.

Berkeley Ironworks (800 Potter St., Berkeley, 510-981-9900) features a 45-foot-high climbing wall, and numerous pathways and challenge levels to the peak.

Berkeley Skate Park (5th and Harrison sts., Berkeley, 510-526-5415) offers 18,000 square feet of cement for private lessons, skateboard camp, or a birthday party.

The Broken Rack (6005 Shellmound St., Emeryville, 510-652-9808) has nineteen tables to fill the needs of billiards aficionados.

Camp Winnarainbow (Laytonville off of Highway 101, 510-525-4304), founded by Wavy Gravy, has tightropes, hula hoops, and juggling sticks for campers who play games, craft, and learn new skills.

Diablo Rock Gym (1220 Diamond Way, Suite 140, Concord, 925-602-1000) is a climbing gym.

Great Western Power Co. (520 20th St., Oakland, 510-452-2022) is a climbing gym.

iFly (31310 Alvarado-Niles Rd., Union City, 510-489-IFLY) is the home of a vertical wind tunnel, which replicates the experience of an outdoor airplane jump.

The Lake Merritt Rowing Club (568 Bellevue Ave., Oakland) has been the headquarters for East Bay aquatic fans for forty years. You can take part in a crew or cruise the lake on your own for a morning workout.

Oakland All Craft (499 Embarcadero, Oakland, 510-444-7115) sells canoes and kayaks for a fresh new way to experience the bay — plus lessons.

Oakland Ice Center (519 18th St., Oakland, 510-268-9000) features public skating throughout all seasons, lessons for aspiring figure skaters, or a hockey game or two for those willing to wield a stick.

Oaks Card Club (4097 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville, 510-653-4456), open 24-7, has Texas Hold-em and 21st-century blackjack, plus large-screen TVs keeping you posted on ball games around the world.

Trapeze Arts (1822 9th St., Oakland, 510-419-0700) teaches and trains novices and experts alike, and hosts individuals, birthday parties, and bridal showers.

Theater Companies

Aurora Theatre Company (2081 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-843-4822) offers a heady selection of smart contemporary plays, including many West Coast premieres, mixed in with a few classics, all in an intimate theater-in-the-round almost right next to Berkeley Rep.

Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-647-2949) has kept up such a high standard of excellence on its two stages in recent years that it stands head and shoulders above larger regional rivals.

California Shakespeare Theatre (100 Wilder Dr., Orinda, 510-548-9666) boasts a lovely outdoor amphitheater in the Orinda hills, where every summer Cal Shakes does a couple of Shakespeare plays, as well as irresistible offerings by Shaw, Wilde, and Dickens.

Central Works (2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley, 510-558-1381) makes every one of its plays a collaborative creation of the artists involved, whether they’re dramatic adaptations of literary classics or examinations of pressing political issues, all staged in a cozy theater-in-the-round in the elegant Berkeley City Club.

Contra Costa Civic Theatre (951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, 510-524-9132) puts on comedies and musicals, mysteries and dramas from Sondheim to the Marx Brothers to Agatha Christie with unusually solid production values.

Impact Theatre (1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley, 510-464-4468) shows might be polished or rough, but they’re always fun and fast-paced, conveniently located in a pizza-parlor basement right next to the Cal campus.

Shotgun Players (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-6500) have become a South Berkeley fixture with their own solar-powered theater where they offer an eclectic mix of new plays and challenging work from Caryl Churchill, Mamet, Brecht, Garcia Lorca, or whoever they haven’t tried yet.

Woman’s Will (510-420-0813,, the East Bay’s all-female Shakespeare company, does one show for free in the parks over the summer — usually Shakespeare, turning the Elizabethan custom of all-male casts on its head — and often an autumn indoor show as well.

Visual Arts

Art Murmur (various Oakland galleries,, Oakland’s First Friday downtown art stroll and Gen X/Y tribal gathering, is like Critical Mass without bikes, Woodstock without mud.

Bedford Gallery (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, 925-295-1417) does a fine job balancing public accessibility with aesthetic excellence, assembling shows of quality.

Chandra Cerrito Contemporary (480 23rd St., Oakland, 415-577-7537) generally shows two or three midcareer California artists who make conceptual work with strong visual form.

Eclectix Gallery (10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-364-7261) goes for weird humor: pop surrealism, kitsch, gothic, and other lowbrow absurdism.

Expressions Gallery (2035 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-4930) fosters creativity with its classes, demonstrations, concerts, poetry readings, and monthly meetings of the Collectors and Critics Circle.

The Float Center (1091 Calcot Pl. #116, Oakland, 510-535-1702) combines a flotation tank/alpha-wave retreat with an art gallery.

Giorgi Gallery (2911 Claremont Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-1228) features an appealing mix of painting (including fresco), photography, sculpture, and music.

Johansson Projects (2300 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-444-9140), amidst of the First Friday crowds, presents thoughtfully assembled, eclectic shows with professionalism and polish, but free of art-world attitude.

LoBot (1800 Campbell St., West Oakland), founded in 2004, is a “lower-bottom” 7,000-square-foot space that shows thematic group shows of regional, national, and international artists.

Mama Buzz Cafe and Gallery (2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-465-4073) is a rather cozy, funky casual food joint by day, and comes alive at night with live music to accompany the art exhibitions.

Mercury 20 Gallery (25 Grand Ave., Oakland, is a cooperative gallery of “twenty elemental artists” that mounts monthly shows of two of its mid-career members.

Pro Arts (150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, 510-763-4361), sponsor of East Bay Open Studios since 1979, mounts contemporary art exhibits at its 2,500-square-foot gallery and dedicated project space, while its Gallery Store displays the artwork of member artists.

Richmond Art Center (2540 Barrett St., Richmond, 510-620-6772) offers classes in ceramics, paintings, weaving, and jewelry, and workshops for artists of all ages in its 25,000-square-foot facility, which includes a 6,000-square-foot gallery space and a sculpture courtyard.

Rock Paper Scissors Collective (2278 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-238-9171) is an organization of volunteers that offers classes in fashion, skateboarding, DJ-ing, crocheting, knitting, web design; a gallery; a sewing and screen-printing art lab; a ‘zine library; and a retail store for local artists and crafters.

Rowan Morrison Gallery (330 40th St., Oakland, 510-384-5344) is a contemporary art gallery, book publisher, and store, featuring ‘zines, fine-art prints, paper goods, and artist’s books.

Swarm Studios + Gallery (560 2nd St., Oakland, 510-839-2787) shows contemporary art (new media, installations) in its large gallery and smaller project space while offering eleven studio spaces for rent.


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