If I’m ever low on inspiration, I can usually find a remedy just outside my door. Oakland is one of America’s top twelve art communities and claims the highest concentration of artists per capita in the country. Something I love about being an artist in this city is that just about every art form has a place for anyone interested in seeing or learning. If I wanted to learn fire swallowing, knitting, screen printing, trapeze, aerosol, welding, or work on my spoken word, I know a place.
It seems most weekends there are lots of options for those seeking out quality arts to view or experience. This weekend was no exception and I went to the annual Autumn Lights Festival in the Gardens at Lake Merritt, and the Mini Maker Fair at the Studio One Art Center.
The Mini Maker Fair is all about invention, creativity and exploration. The East Bay’s version is Mini with just 170 local makers (as opposed to 900!) and runs for one crazy day at Studio One. It’s a family friendly event showcasing innovation in everything from a self flipping flipbook to engineering teams making robots, to TURF dancing (a type of dancing born in Oakland.) My favorite vendor was a man making wooden robots. The Rasterstache Bots immediately caught my eye and I loved noticing their details and colors. I was delighted to take home a bot head to hang on my wall (which sounds much weirder than it is) and hear more about his craft.
I first heard about the Autumn Lights Festival last year and couldn’t make it, so this year as soon as I could I bought tickets, and a good thing because it sold out completely! Right away I was enamored, the entire garden had been transformed into an unreal world of lights. Performers were sprinkled among the installations including fire dancers and a West African Kora player. I was blown away by how the artists used the plants and water in their installations, and the incredible creativity that went into seeing these amazing works before they ever existed. These pieces were a lovely collaboration of the gardens, the artists, and some truly creative engineering like the water piece with colored lights controlled by playing the white keys of a keyboard.
There were blown glass pieces, origami lanterns, lighted wood and cement boxes, flaming steel statues, all these mediums lit up in ways I hadn’t expected. I walked out of the gardens totally inspired; now I’ve got all kinds of ideas in my head about the projects I would make using neon, lights, or music. While I don’t have the know-how to actualize any of them, I love collaborative art making so who knows. All this art was exactly what I needed to get moving on some of my new projects. Oakland ❤