Oakland is the new-old Brooklyn.
Much has been made of the East Bay's capital of cool in recent years. As San Francisco's creative set has been increasingly priced out, Oakland has enjoyed a boom that's been compared over and over to New York's most famous neighbor. But did you know that a part of Oakland is actually the old Brooklyn—as in, mid-19th century old? As reported last year by the East Bay Express, a large swath of East Oakland—between the Park Street and Fruitvale bridges, near the Oakland Estuary—was a town called Brooklyn from 1856 to 1872. Today, the old Brooklyn is living the re-energized Oakland life as Jingletown, a burgeoning artists' community that's become a destination for Bay Area culture vultures.
You may have already been to Jingletown: Every second Friday, Art Murmur hosts a walk of the area, known for its murals, in collaboration with the Jingletown Arts and Business Community. Or perhaps you've spotted the incredible mosaic wall, located on Peterson between Chapman and Ford streets. Erected in 2011, the wall is a relic of the now-shuttered Institute of Mosaic Art, composed of vibrant works by artists including Darwin Price, Kim Larson and Saundra Warren.
The neighborhood is a prolific hub for sculptors, painters, photographers, musicians, and visual and mixed media artists. Many notable artists both began their careers in Jingletown and still reside among its many converted warehouses and live/work lofts.
Take a tour of Oakland's ultimate arts district.
Gray Loft Studios
Gray Loft Gallery.
(Courtesy of Jan Watten)
Jingletown's original live-work space has fostered the careers of some well-known Bay Area artists. Among them, Ruth Boerefljn, whose site-specific installations have appeared at museums including the de Young; the fine art photographer Styrous; oil painter Suzy Bernard, whose studio now sits at Pier 70 in SF; and Tracey Snelling, an installation artist based both in Berlin and here at Gray Loft, where there are currently about 26 artists in residence. If you were to visit today, you might find documentary filmmaker Kyung Lee (Telos: The Fantastic World of Eugene Tssui), who is currently shooting a doc about gentrification; or painter Josh Greenberg, who was called "adventuresome, eccentric, unique" by OMCA's chief curator Philip Linhares.
But the true heart of the building is the third-floor Gray Loft Gallery. Once the live-work studio of photographer Jan Watten ("the small room adjacent to the kitchen used to be my dark room," she says), the space was transformed into a gallery after Watten got married moved out. In 2016 and 2017, Oakland magazine named it the best gallery in town. Look for "Seeing Red," an upcoming exhibit showcasing photography with a scarlet theme by Bay Area artists.
// Gray Loft Studio, 2889 Ford St. (Oakland), grayloftgallery.com
Ford Street Studios
The studio of Fernando Reyes.
(Courtesy of the artist)
In a historic 1908 warehouse, 50 loft-style apartments are home to artists including Erika, Rachel and Chloe Tietjen of the folk band the T-Sisters; textile artist Anastasia Schipani; and painter Fernando Reyes, who is currently preparing his upcoming solo exhibition "So Far" for the Mexican Museum in SF (Jan. 13 through March 15, 2018).
Reyes moved into studio 26 here in 1999 and was one of the original organizers for the Jingletown Art and Business Community, which was founded in 2006. For many years he organized neighborhood open studios, so ask Reyes anything you want to know about Jingletown—he's met all the artists who've lived and worked here throughout the years.
"Jingletown has been supportive of our work in several ways," says resident Peter Tonningsen, co-founder of Counterpoint photography studio along with collaborator Lisa Levine. "Neighbors have purchased our work at open studios, we have exhibited at Gray Loft Gallery, and we have met other artists and reps since being here, which has brought us new work and representation."
Tonningsen runs Counterpoint with partner and collaborator Lisa Levine; the pair is currently developing work for the Mountain View Community Center. "People in the community look out for each other and it helps give us an Oakland identity," he says.
// Ford Street Studios, 2934 Ford St. (Oakland), facebook.com/Ford-Street-Studios
Jingletown Art Studios
Jingletown Art Studios.
(Courtesy of B.F. Newhall)
An art installation in itself, Jingletown Art Studios is decorated with mosaics inside and out. Here, artists share workspaces and few have their own studios. If you visit (by appointment only), you can see Barbara DiSalvo's handmade paper and glass objets, and Angela Hunkler's stick-and-ink drawings and paintings. Reflect upon it all in the 4,500-square-foot community-created Enchanted Garden filled with wall mosaics and sculptures. // Jingletown Art Studios, 3001 Chapman St. (Oakland), facebook.com/JingletownArtStudios
For more information about Jingletown and the monthly art walk, go to jingletown.org.