So, it’s really tempting sometimes to just dismiss the City of Oakland’s ability to do, well, pretty much anything at all right as non-existent. But it’s important to remember that there are actually some bright spots in City Hall, and one of the brightest is the Art & Soul Festival. The Cultural Arts & Marketing Division does just a bang-up job putting this festival together, and it’s actually one of my favorite things about this town.
If you haven’t been, they basically fence off a ginormous section of downtown, from Broadway to Jefferson, and from 15th to 11th, and fill the streets with vendors and stages and other random activities. They have all sorts of neat little art things, like a paint by numbers mural and I guess the 10,000 Steps people are going to be there. They’ve got seven stages, so you can find some performance to watch anytime all day. And while the Indigo Girls might be somewhat of a lame headliner, it’s certainly not reason to skip the festival. The stuff on the Bay Area Blues Society stage is pretty much just always worth listening to. I also usually enjoy the Latin stage.
What else? If you have kids, they’re got bouncy castles and slides and rides and face painting. They’ve got midway games. They have all sorts of overpriced festival food, including those disgusting nachos with the gross fake cheese, which I love. The Oaklandish people are usually there showing Oakland movies in a tent. I usually don’t buy any of the crafts on sale, but it’s always fun to walk through the booths and check them out. Although, if you’re looking to stock up on Oakland t-shirts, this is the place to do it. And if you happen to be interested in zoning, it provides an excellent opportunity to observe how people really feel about the “shadows” cast by tall buildings.
But most of all, I just love seeing so many people wandering around and having a complete blast in downtown. The place is always packed, and there’s families and there’s teenagers and there’s old people and just everyone is there and having a great time and it’s all just so completely heartwarming and really makes you feel good about Oakland. So if you happen to be in town over this long, hot weekend, I urge you to check it out.
As much as I love Art & Soul, I’m unable to attend this year on account of being out of town, instead enjoying the Jazz Aspen festival, which, ironically, is neither jazz nor in Aspen. The music’s better here, but Art & Soul is a more exciting overall experience, hands down. But here are some photos of last year’s festival if you want a sense of what it’s like: