Enjoy Oakland! Visit the Art & Soul Festival

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:






6 thoughts on “Enjoy Oakland! Visit the Art & Soul Festival

  1. Debby R

    The Festival was great today, with the right weather, vibe and something for everyone. The Indigo Girls appealed to boomers and that’s who showed up. The Girls included the prior SF singer-songwriter, Matt Nathanson, in their act. Of course, they also made their prexy politics very clear – no backlash here.

  2. Brian T

    I was there today too, the place was packed. It great to showcase Oaktown to out-of-towners who normally would not be downtown on a Sunday afternoon. The event is really well run.

  3. oaklandhappenings

    “…and there’s families and there’s teenagers and there’s old people…” HEY! is that a knock on 33-year-”old” me?! Among the kids and teens, am I supposed to feel like one of the old farts there!? LOL! :-P

  4. m30

    Don’t the Indigo Girls appeal to lesbian women, a demographic that thrives around Mills College and Lake Merritt?

  5. m30

    there is an awful lot of music at the art and soul festival and for $10 ($2 off with a coupon from comcast), it seems like a very good deal indeed. Unfortunately, it was at the art and soul festival a few years ago that I realized that I had outgrown so-called “alternative” rock music. I spent most of the afternoon at the jazz stage.

  6. Jordan Flash

    I don’t want to be a downer, but I was disappointed by the festival. I just moved to this neighborhood, and there are a lot of things I love about it. When I saw the flyers for the festival, I thought it would be great.

    Then I tried to go to my local coffee shop Saturday morning, and found that a huge swath of downtown Oakland was completely blocked to pedestrians, unless I wanted to pay $10 to walk through my own neighborhood. And no one patrolling the gates seemed to even know how far the fenced-off area extended, or if the cafe I was looking for was accessible from outside the perimeter at all. When I finally found the cafe, the front of which was blocked by a giant makeshift wall, there weren’t as many people there as there would usually be on a Saturday (Hmm, wonder why…)

    And this huge, centrally located section of my neighborhood was blocked off for the ENTIRE Labor Day weekend. I can appreciate that people think $10 is a good price for a day of shows, and I can see blocking off a few spaces as venues for shows, and charging for some shows, or for special seating at shows. But having lived in other cities, I have never encountered an outdoor event in a public space that was set up like this one. If you’re going to use huge chunks of public space, you generally include at least some events that are free to the public. At least give people some access to the vendors, and to their own sidewalks, so their neighborhood doesn’t become unwalkable for an entire holiday weekend.

    It sounded like there were some great shows, but wow, I didn’t like the set-up AT ALL. I was kind of amazed that people living in the neighborhood would put up with it, frankly.