OAKLAND | When visiting the Bay Area, tourists tend to stick to San Francisco. Head to the ‘sunny side of the bay’, Oakland, however, and you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of great food and drink, street art, and more. You’ll want an Oakland street art guide to help you know where to start, and that’s what this article is all about.
Throughout downtown Oakland, and further out in its neighbourhoods, you’ll find murals large and small, with a strong essence on the local community. Oakland’s cultural diversity is reflected in its street art. People’s hopes and dreams, fears, and issues of social justice feature prominently.
Unlike many cities around the world, Oakland’s street art tends to be front and centre on the main streets. It’s not a city that you’ll need to wander down side street and alleyways to find the best pieces. But of course, there’s lots of street art to be found in those places too.
Also worth mentioning are Oakland’s art galleries. Johansson Projects and SLATE Contemporary are two contemporary art galleries that are well worth visiting if you’re a fan of street art. They showcase emerging local artists amongst others, with a focus on experimental, thought-provoking pieces. Also check out Oakland Art Murmur. It’s a collective of art and cultural venues that run city art walks on the first Friday of every month.
In this Oakland street art guide, I’ll tell you about some of my favourite neighbourhoods to visit for Oakland’s best street art.
If you’re staying in Oakland, Downtown Oakland is probably where you’ll find yourself. It’s a great part of town, filled with the second largest concentration of art deco buildings in the world, behind Chicago. There’s a high concentration of street art in the area, many of which adorns, compliments, and contrasts with the art deco architecture.
Downtown is a great place to start exploring Oakland’s street art scene, and my advice is to wander all over. There’s just so much art in this part of town that you can’t restrict yourself to just one or two streets. Note the many murals painted by the community that deal with topics of racism, inequality, identity, and justice. Many of these were painted in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and during other Black Lives Matter protests, and remain today.
Heading south through Downtown, you’ll find Old Oakland, which is an historical area filled with plenty of food and drink, and beatiful late 1800s Victorian buildings. Further south, passing under the 880 Highway, you’ll find the Jack London/Loft district. There’s a lot of street art around here, as well as some of the city’s most exciting breweries, food, and drink. The warehouses between Clay and Brush Streets are particularly noteworthy for their murals.
Originally known for its dairy farms in the 1850s, Jingletown is today a neighbourhood known for its vibrant arts community. Musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers, and more call the neighbourhood home, setting up residence in the neighbourhood’s converted warehouses and lofts.
In particular, note the area around Peterson Street and Ford Street. It’s home to several great murals, as well as the highly regarded Ford Street Studios and Gray Loft Gallery. Both are live work spaces built by artists, for artists, featuring assorted artworks by local artists.
Located in North Oakland, Temescal is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. Long an artist haven, most of the area’s street art can be found along Telegraph Street. In particular, check out 4400 Telegraph Avenue. It’s a lot owned by the community group Critical Resistance, featuring a constantly rotating selection of community-created murals.
If you get hungry while exploring, grab a feed at one of the many Ethiopian and Korean restaurants on Telegraph Street.
Similarly to Downtown, Uptown Oakland is home to beautiful art deco budlings, great place to eat and drink, and a whole lot of street art.
West Oakland is an area of contrasts. Walking west from Downtown Oakland towards West Oakland station, you’ll find an area that’s rich in history and culture. The area is a centre of African-American culture, and is where the Black Panther Party was founded in the 1960s.
This history is reflected in West Oakland’s murals. There’s a strong focus on African-American culture, civil rights, social justice, and community.
Be sure to visit the is The Women of The Black Panther Party Mural and Mini Museum at 831 Center Street. It’s 186 square meter (2,000 square foot) mural installed on a private home, that recognises and honours the role of the Black Panther Women and the over 65 Community Survival Programs they created and managed.
Identified artists featured in the image gallery include:
- Aeos One
- Jessica Sabogal
- Jorge Bejarano
- King Cre8
- Mali Byers
- Miles Toland
- Muzae Sesay
- Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith
- Refa One TNS KTD
- Steven Anderson
- The People’s Conservatory
- Troy Lovegates
- Treat Unice
- Zio Zigler
Happy discoveries on your street art walk through Oakland. What are your favourites places for street art in Oakland? Are there any street art neighbourhoods beyond these hotspots that you love?