Best Community Center: An ambitious and rewarding relocation

EastSide Cultural Center

EastSide Arts Alliance isn’t exactly new. In fact, its principal members have been working in and around Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood for more than a decade. But with its recent relocation to an ample space on the 23rd Avenue corridor, EastSide now offers the kind of urban-themed cultural center its founders always envisioned. There’s a stage, art display cases, a recording studio, a visual arts studio, an office, a large multi-use space that wouldn’t have fit in previous storefront setups, and sixteen affordable housing units upstairs. This year alone, the center has hosted playwright and poet Amiri Baraka and tenor saxophonist David Murray, along with multimedia dance performances, free jam sessions and studio recording workshops for youth, a popular weekly spoken-word night, and archival exhibits such as February’s showcase of Cuban poster art from the 1960s — the presentation of which was less about nostalgia than about celebrating an ongoing struggle. With an advisory board that includes Emory Douglas, Bobby Seale, and Kathleen Cleaver, EastSide Cultural Center is neither a typical gallery nor a typical nonprofit. It’s Oakland history.

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