Category Archives: Arts

The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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COACHING FOR LITERACY EVENT Coaching for Literacy has partnered with Cal Bears basketball to offer an “all-access” fan experience to raise funds for literacy work during the Saturday Feb. 6 Stanford game in Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears join 17 other NCAA institutions and the Washington Wizards as a member of Coaching for Literacy’s 2015-16 Assistant Coach Program schedule. The initiative is to raise valuable awareness about the problem of illiteracy in America. Currently, 19% of high-school graduates in America are functionally illiterate. Financial support will also be raised and directed to literacy efforts in the Bay Area through The Re(a)d Zone – an initiative of the 50 Fund, the legacy initiative of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. Details at CalBears.
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Elio De Pisa’s photographs capture Berkeley as it was

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There exist several photographic records of Telegraph Avenue in the 1960s: Rag Theater by Nacio Jan Brown (1975) and Telegraph 3 a.m. by Richard Misrach (1975). There now is a third, Berkeley Then, photographs by Elio de Pisa, text by Diane de Pisa, photo editing by Nick Cedar. Brown and Misrach were great photographers who went to Telegraph Avenue, took great pictures, and made great books. De Pisa was of Telegraph. He managed the Caffe Mediterraneum from 1960 until 1972. … Continue reading »

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New York City comes to Berkeley: Rez Abbasi’s RAAQ

The Res Abbasi Acoustic Quartet plays the California Jazz Conservatory Friday
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Born in Pakistan’s teeming commercial metropolis Karachi, and raised in the Southern California suburb of Torrance, jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi always seems to be working at the crossroads of contrasting musical realms. He performed at the SFJazz Center last year with breathtaking vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia, who draws on Punjabi folk song, love-besotted ghazels, and North African cadences. And back in 2010, he made a powerful impression at Yoshi’s with award-winning alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo Pak Coalition, a trio playing a singular synthesis of jazz and South Asian forms.

Long based in New York City, he returns to the Bay Area for a concert 8 p.m. Friday at the California Jazz Conservatory with the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet (RAAQ), a band that bridges a very different kind of musical divide (they also teach an improvisation workshop at the CJC Saturday afternoon). Featuring powerhouse drummer Eric McPherson, who spent 15 years with alto sax great Jackie McLean, and bassist Stephan Crump, a member of pianist Vijay Iyer’s celebrated trio, the band’s latest album Intents and Purposes (Enja) recasts classic jazz/rock fusion tunes in an acoustic setting. Abbas designed the project to explore an era he had largely overlooked, when acts like Weather Report, Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Tony Williams Lifetime attained the stature of rock stars. … Continue reading »

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End of the road for Berkeley’s Subterranean Arthouse

Subt with Maya Dorn in distance- photo: Claire Duplantier
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News that the Subterranean Arthouse is closing didn’t come as a complete surprise, but that doesn’t make the loss of the inviting downtown performance and exhibition space any less disappointing.

Founded seven years ago by Claire Duplantier and Nicole Rodriguez, the intimate storefront at 2179 Bancroft Way in the Odd Fellows Building quickly became a vital hub for a disparate array of artists, teachers and organizations. But, over the past year, as the space transitioned from focusing on evening performances to daytime classes, noise complaints from other tenants in the building and rising rent led to an impasse. As of February, the Arthouse will cease to exist, and the space will be made available for other tenants.

“It’s been seven years since we started it and so much has happened in that time,” said Duplantier, who started phasing out of running the Arthouse about a year ago when she had a baby. “It’s sad that it’s closing. So many amazing people have come through, and I’ve learned and grown so much. I want to focus on celebrating the Arthouse’s contributions more than feeling angry at the Odd Fellows. We started in 2009 and people would tell us, you’re crazy, starting a business now. It was so much fun and we made it work.” … Continue reading »

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Lights, camera, action: Time to shine for film at BAMPFA

PFA Photo Iwan Baan
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The last coat of paint has been applied, the fixtures are all in place, and the hard hats have departed: it’s time to celebrate the re-opening of BAMPFA’s film programming. Yours truly managed to get a sneak peek of what’s in store for Bay Area cinéastes, and I can happily report that we’re all in for quite a treat.

Located at 2120 Oxford St. in downtown Berkeley, the new BAMPFA building is an open, airy, and naturally lit paradise for art enthusiasts and film fans. For the first time in 16 years, BAMPFA screenings will take place under the same roof — in this case, a gleaming curvaceous stainless steel roof — as the museum’s art galleries.

The new PFA features two screening rooms, with the Barbro Osher Theater serving as the Archive’s centerpiece. This 232-seat room is vastly superior to the ‘temporary’ space the Archive occupied for the last decade – and, dare I suggest, also a considerable improvement over BAMPFA’s previous ‘permanent’ home in the old Ciampi building on Bancroft Way. … Continue reading »

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BAMPFA’s inaugural exhibition, ‘Architecture of Life,’ is an eloquent survey

Architecture of Life,on view at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, January 31–May 29, 2016. Installation view, with a Dogon ritual altar ladder (left) and awork by Chris Johanson (right). Photo: Sibilia Savage
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BAMPFA’s new building is an absolute winner. The 82,000-square-foot home catapults Berkeley’s visual art scene into prominence — comparable to many larger, richer and better established West Coast institutions. It handsomely repurposes the former 1930s WPA UC printing plant building. Affixed to it is a brightly clad steel tube-like section that houses the new 232-seat Barbro Osher Theater, where films from its impressive archive of over 300,000 items will be regularly screened. There is also a 33-seat screening room and two film viewing booths available by appointment.

As a building that needs to serve town and gown, visual art lovers and movie goers, the new BAMPFA very successfully performs its multiple functions. And, although its steel covering, reminiscent of a Frank Gehry project, is incongruous with the neighboring buildings, it still seems to work. The design by the world-class architecture firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, provides an inviting, open, multilevel environment, with its share of hidden corners, and reading, art, performance and meeting places. And, of course, the Babette café and a gift shop. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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OPENING OF BAMPFA In case you hadn’t heard, Berkeley has a newly housed museum, and it opens to the public on Sunday, starting at 11 a.m., with a great big, 12-hour long Open House. Get a first look at the inaugural exhibition, “Architecture of Life,” and drop in to the Pacific Film Archive’s first purpose-built cinema. Check out the beautiful stepped seating by Paul Discoe, complete with cushion designs by artist Barry Mcgee. There will also be DJs spinning music, dancers, weavers weaving, and other impromptu happenings throughout the building, organized by artist David Wilson. Admission is free, but, given how popular it is likely to be, timed-ticked reservations are recommended. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door. Visit BAMPFA for more details. … Continue reading »

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New BAMPFA ready to open Sunday in downtown Berkeley

City view of BAMPFA Photo Iwan Baan
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The countdown is nearly over. The new home of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, plum in the heart of downtown Berkeley, will throw open its doors to the public with a big open house on Sunday, Jan. 31, starting at 11 a.m.

Before that, there’s a gala party, which is being held Thursday night at a temporary tent set up on UC Berkeley lawn abutting Oxford Street. The gala has raised around $1 million for education programs at the new museum, its director, Lawrence Rinder, said at a press preview event held Thursday morning.

Read more about the new Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive.

Rinder also spoke of the challenge of designing a museum that has a dual identity and responsibility towards both art and film, and the commitment to creating a space that is both accessible and welcoming.

“This is not just a place to come look and see,” he said. “There are many areas for community engagement.” Rinder cited as examples the museum’s reading room, art lab and its stepped salvaged-wood seating, created by master woodworker Paul Discoe, where visitors can relax and chat, as well as watch performances. He added that a goal of the museum’s design was to have a flow that was conducive to “wandering and to being surprised.” … Continue reading »

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Critical creative mass: Alan Hall’s Ratatet and Thompsonia celebrate new CDs on Addison

Alan Hall's Rata-tet performs Sunday afternoon at the California Jazz Conservatory 
(photo by Alan Hall)
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Amidst the ongoing debate over development in Berkeley there’s one kind of density that everyone should celebrate. I’m talking about the critical mass of creativity that can found almost any given night within half a mile of Shattuck and University. Or even within one block. On Sunday afternoon veteran drummer Alan Hall celebrates the release of his new Ratatet album Arctic (Ridgeway Records) at the California Jazz Conservatory, where he’s a founding faculty member, and later in the evening Berkeley’s Eric, Suzy and Allegra Thompson celebrate the release of their album Thompsonia at Freight & Salvage.

Hall performs with his Ratatet, a sextet featuring Berkeley-raised bassoonist Paul Hanson, trombonist John Gove, vibraphonist Dillon Vado, keyboardist Greg Sankovich, and Jeff Denson on electric and acoustic bass and vocals. Focusing on Hall’s original compositions, the band plays beautifully textured electro-acoustic music laced with arresting sonorities. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Academy Award-nominated shorts

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Call it a rite of mid-winter: it’s time once again for my annual (and usually futile) effort to guess which short subjects will win gongs at the forthcoming Academy Awards ceremony. And you can play, too, as all the films – Animated and Live Action – will be screening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas beginning on Friday, Jan. 29.

The Animated category is almost always dominated by whichever short Disney/Pixar has produced during the preceding twelve months, and I suspect this will continue to be the case on Feb. 28. This year’s likely shoo-in is a warm-hearted ‘toon entitled Sanjay’s Super Team, in which a young lad repurposes his action figures as Hindu gods and goddesses doing battle with a multi-headed, multi-armed purple demon. Featuring rich, deep colors bathing in an almost psychedelic atmosphere, it’s a beautiful film book-ended by a nice personal note from director Sanjay Patel. … Continue reading »

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Faraji Wright: A journey from athlete to musician

Faraji Wright highway
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Many of us set out to change our lives at the beginning of a new year. Faraji Wright is hoping 2016 can pick up right where 2015 left off. The 25-year-old from Berkeley released the mixtape Telegraph Ave. in December and the project accumulated over 50,000 plays on Soundcloud in just one month.

Wright, who graduated from Boise State in 2012, decided to pursue music full-time after playing college football for four years with the Boise State Broncos. It’s a decision he says he battled with throughout his college career. Wright was a standout football player at Berkeley High, and signed a football scholarship in 2008. Many assumed that would be the start of an illustrious football career.

Berkeleyside contributor Delency Parham got the chance to sit down with Faraji at his studio in South Berkeley. They talked about some of the factors that lead to him letting go of football and picking up the mic. As he preps for upcoming shows including a possible short tour in Japan. Wright says he’s elevated his work ethic and has been in the studio on a consistent basis. He wants everyone to know his goal for 2016 is to get his music across more platforms and to create content that can inspire and entertain.

What was life like for you after graduating from college and moving back home?

It was a bittersweet moment. I was graduating college and I was the first in my family to do so. It was great, but when I came home I didn’t exactly get the welcoming that I expected. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Jana Olson’s lamps and garden

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Jana Olson is equally at home in her Panache Lighting studio in West Berkeley (2743 Ninth St.) as she is in her house in a ravine on Shasta Road in the hills, which comes with an art-filled garden and 350 tons of rocks and granite stabilizing the hillside.

Olson came to Berkeley in 1970 from Minnesota, hoping to land a job as a landscape gardener. She did land said job, and she stayed. After a decade designing and building gardens, Olson moved inside. For years she ran Omega Lighting on San Pablo, where she learned to repair and rebuild lamps.

When the relationship that tied her to Omega ended, she left Omega and opened her own lamp repair and fabrication shop, Panache.  It is a great word to describe her — flamboyant confidence of style or manner.

She is fond of everyday objects repurposed as lamps — kitchen utensils and teapots and Wedgwood porcelain cups and Lustreware. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do this weekend in Berkeley

Habitot's Sand Zone at Alcatraz and Adeline: oodles of fun for children. Photo: Sandy Friedland
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SANDZONE FOR KIDS This weekend is the last chance for your kids to enjoy the one-week popup Sand Zone that Habitot created by transforming a 3,600 square foot parking lot at Adeline and Alcatraz in Berkeley into a giant sandbox to promote active play for children of all ages.  Habitot received a $32,000 grant to create the play area from the 50 Fund — the legacy fund of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee NFL Foundation and KaBoom! SandZone is open 10am-6pm, and on Friday from 10am-8pm. The 48’ x 48’ pop-up play zone features 1,152 cubic feet of sand, 6” deep, with rain protection. Caribbean and Filipino food trucks will sell food throughout the week, and each day is themed with Friday being “Luau Party,” Saturday is “Treasure Island,” and Sunday  is”Sand Castles.” Once it’s over, Habitot will distribute the SandZone materials to low-income preschools in the East Bay. SandZone is free and open to the public. Families may register at: sandzone.eventbrite.comContinue reading »

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