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2017 Best of the East Bay: Culture

A historic walk through Walnut Creek; Oakland’s beloved art and history museum.




Oakland Museum of California
Oakland, museumca.org

Art, history, retro cars, community events—the Oakland Museum of California has it all for the curious mind.

5–8: Exhibitions on display every year.
20: Food trucks serving up grub at Friday Nights @ OMCA from April to October.
200,000: Visitors per year.
1.9 million+: Pieces in the museum’s displayed and archived collections. —L.B.


Walk Walnut Creek // By Roxanne Pasibe





Self-Guided Tour

Editor Pick: Walk Walnut Creek
Walnut Creek, walkwc.oncell.com

This public art and historical walking tour has all the info you need conveniently located on your phone. Explore downtown like never before, with 60 heritage sites and 33 public art installations to choose from—including the new Bullman With Bulldog sculpture at the corner of North Main Street and Mt. Diablo Boulevard. Look for the Walk Walnut Creek signs, dial the provided phone number, and listen to short audio snippets from a personal pocket guide, courtesy of the Bedford Gallery and Walnut Creek Historical Society. —L.B.


© Natalie JEFFCOTT/Stocksy United

New Art Classes

Editor Pick: Rebel Art School
Walnut Creek, rebelartschool.com

“I’ve done art for as long as I can remember,” says Alex Harrison, owner of Rebel Art School in Walnut Creek. After getting a fine arts degree and teaching for more than nine years, Harrison opened her own school last November, offering classes for children and adults in every kind of art medium under the sun.

From watercolors and drawing to sculpture and ceramics, Harrison can show you how to make art. “I absolutely love teaching. There’s nothing more inspiring than work-ing with kids. They’re not as inhibited and do so many things I wouldn’t think to do,” she says.  

And while Harrison likes to teach older students, too, grown-ups tend to present a little more of a challenge. “Adults have had years of thinking there’s one right way of doing things, and [making art] becomes intimidating,” she says.

But that’s one of the reasons why Harrison created Rebel Art School—to help show kids and adults alike that it’s OK to color outside the lines. “[Art] is one thing in life that we create rules for, but the rules are meant to be broken. So, there’s no wrong or right way to do it. It’s what you like and what feels good,” she says.

Harrison offers quarterly courses and keeps class sizes small to provide individual attention to her students. Classes are structured around a specific theme and art medium, but Harrison is flexible: If a child doesn’t want to paint a cactus, he or she can visit the inspiration wall, with shelves full of props. Harrison emphasizes that Rebel Art School is supposed to be “a place to create for myself and for the community.” Observation, inspiration, innovation—that’s the Rebel Art way. —L.B


© Natalie JEFFCOTT/Stocksy United

Local Actor

Editor Pick: Mahershala Ali

You may recognize him as Remy Danton from Netflix’s original series House of Cards, or the colonel in last year’s hit film Hidden Figures. Or perhaps you’re a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy, where Mahershala Ali played District 13’s head of security, Boggs. Or maybe you fell in love with the couple who adopted Brad Pitt’s character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Perhaps you didn’t even know Ali was in any of the above. While he is a rising star in Hollywood, his journey began here in the East Bay. Born in Oakland and raised in Hayward, Ali began acting while attending Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, before starring in Cal Shakes productions in Orinda. In March, Ali took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Moonlight), making him the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award. Catch him in Netflix’s new show Luke Cage, as drug lord Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes. —R.C.



By Ben Krantz

Performing Arts Venue

Lesher Center for the Arts
Walnut Creek, lesherartscenter.org

“The best part of the Lesher Center for the Arts is that it is right here in my community. The varied programs offered are another strong attraction. I used to attend performances in the old walnut packing warehouse, The Nuthouse, so Walnut Creek has come a long way in providing its community with a top-quality, affordable, and diverse performance venue.” —Tim Lynch, Walnut Creek


Art Gallery

Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery
Lafayette, jenniferperlmuttergallery.com

As one of the only private, non–co-op, fine art commercial galleries in Contra Costa County, the Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery features a beautifully curated collection of Bay Area and California artists’ work. Before displaying any new piece, owner Jennifer Perlmutter makes a point to meet the artist and learn his or her story. Perlmutter has strong ties to the community and partners with local nonprofits for events, and hosts workshops at the gallery. Later this month, check out Next Level U, a two-day workshop for women looking to grow as artists. —L.B.


Courtesy of Charles Deckert and Museum on Main

Blast from the Past

Editor Pick: Ed Kinney Speaker Series
Pleasanton, museumonmain.org

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have a conversation with Babe Ruth or to spend an evening with Winston Churchill? At the spectacular Ed Kinney Speaker Series presented by Pleasanton’s Museum on Main, history comes to life. Originating in Chautauqua, New York, “Chautauquans”—actors who perform as historical figures—remain in character from the moment they step onstage. The series is a coveted and fun-filled Tri-Valley experience that gives audiences a glimpse into the past lives of some extraordinary figures. —L.B.

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