With this installation of Road Trips, we’re taking a bit more of a bohemian angle. Fittingly, we’ll be going just to the fringe of Berkeley, to the little town of Albany. It’s not for a park, or a theater, or anything like that. I’m actually recommending a visit to a landfill with a wild history and a ton of unique art.
In the late 1930’s, the creation of the Albany “Bulb” began. Land was leveled and moved around and pushed into the Albany peninsula for the creation of the racetrack at Golden Gate Fields. Over time, the land was protected by Save The Bay, and became somewhat of a lost project. For many years, the peninsula served as an occasional hiking and dog-walking spot, as well as being home to many local species of plants and animals.
Eventually, the Bulb became a homeless haven, with as many as 60 squatters living there before being evicted (some forcibly) by local authorities. While that population was on the Bulb, they created sculptures, and paintings, and even a makeshift library that has since been burned to the ground. But, today, it is still a sight to see: views of the Bay, art everywhere, unique traces of generations past.
For those who aren’t into the graffiti, wooden art or macabre feel (kinda feels like a scene from The Walking Dead), there is a beach nearby that dogs can be on without a leash. The Albany Bulb is a weird, exciting, confusing display of East Bay history.
You can easily spend half a day wandering its pathways and finding strange art from decades ago. Try going out there on a nice day, and you can always go back into Berkeley for a nice lunch or dinner on your way home!
In the plaza next to Genova Deli and CVS, the old Marie Callendar’s space has been overtaken and it couldn’t look any more different. Whereas Marie Callendar’s was your typical homey, but outdated diner, now the new space is full of color, music, art and mostly millennials sipping their craft coffee.
That’s right, the new coffee in town is Philz, a national chain that emphasizes creativity and friendliness at their locations. I went there recently and was amazed by how packed it was. In fact, it was difficult to even find parking in that massive lot because of it.
As with many coffee shops now, the walls in the sitting area were covered with art from a featured artist and the walls were as colorful as the baristas themselves. Between battling for tips (Destiny’s Child vs. TLC was the battle du jour on the tip jars when I was there), asking exactly what type of coffee I “felt like” so they could create the perfect concoction, and the sheer amount of joy they seemed to take in their work, I really had fun on my visit.
I ordered a Phil-tered Soul, and it was really delicious coffee. They take a little longer to make than most places because they only do pour-over coffee at Philz. Also, they have some small food items and pastries that looked delicious, I tried their zucchini bread – it had chocolate chips which I don’t particularly like with zucchini. I will go back but only on occasion! Of course, as with all specialty coffee, they come with a hefty price tag of $3.95-$5.00 or more.
Most of the art we feature here are one-off pieces. This piece, however, is multiple independent parts that come together to form one. And it’s a dazzling recreation of one of the Bay Area’s most treasured jewels: Mt. Diablo. You can check it out by the Century Theaters downtown. Give a quick stroll before or after your next movie to see it!
You can see the cascading art from the top piece (above), to the first part of the next (below). It’s granite in stone, created by Doron Robinson in 2003, and represents the geological transformation of Mt. Diablo. What a cool piece! Follow along as Mt. Diablo is created from top to bottom (or, in geological terms, from bottom to top!).
Can one city have too many boutique stores? Not when it’s the holiday season, and definitely not when the newest redo boutique store in town is one of the coolest ones I’ve seen!
Filthy Gorgeous took over the space on S. California Blvd. and Botelho Dr. next to the Site for Sore Eyes and Jinny’s. It is a small corner that was previously vacant. It is just a few steps away from Broadway Plaza, where it had a store prior to the Broadway Plaza remodel.
Besides the ideal location, Filthy Gorgeous has some truly stunning home decor in their store. You can get anything from furniture, to art, to lighting to the basic home decor. They also run an interior design business, and you can see pictures of ongoing local projects on the website.
The brother-sister team of Jonathan and Tirzah created Filthy Gorgeous together and have grown it into a massive business that has been featured in multiple national outlets and on TV. And now they are back in Walnut Creek!
When I visited, I was really impressed by the style and choices in the store (my favorite items was a Buddha Goddess Head). Someday, I’d like to redecorate certain parts of my house with items from Filthy Gorgeous. Once you visit, you’ll probably want to do the same!
Filthy Gorgeous gets a perfect 5 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s from me!
I’ve been to a few exhibitions here, and it’s a really interesting museum that will captivate you for a few hours. Plus, it’s a great way to escape this heat wave and find a fun, educational indoor activity for the day.
Here’s a bonus: you can make a whole day out of it! Pick your favorite two or three museums in San Francisco and do a little mini-tour of them. For example, a ticket to The Legion of Honor earns you a free same-day admission to the de Young. That is right across the street from the California Academy of Sciences. And you can always hit the Exploratorium on your way in or out of town, especially if you have a few kids with you!
The Legion of Honor just closed a Monet exhibit a few weeks ago, where I’d met a recent client! You can take BART and a bus (or just drive – parking is fairly easy around there) to the Legion of Honor and members get in free to the exhibit. For non-members, it’s $28, but well worth the price of admission.
Road trips aren’t always about stuffing the trunk full of junk, rolling down the windows and driving for hours to get somewhere. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a 45-minute jaunt over the Bay Bridge to beautiful San Francisco for some museum-hopping on a sweltering hot day.
If you go to the Degas exhibit, or any other museum for that matter, comment here and let me know how you liked it!
If you’ve been following this blog, you know about our recurring Saturday feature “Art Town.” A lot of those cool pieces of art are either related to the Bedford Gallery or found when strolling downtown Walnut Creek.
So, when I tell you that you MUST go on the Bedford Gallery Art Walk this Saturday, you better believe I mean it! I’ve learned a lot of cool stuff about Walnut Creek and its artwork just by writing those blogs every few weeks, and it’s forced me into wandering this town we often take for granted and experiencing some of its hidden beauty and best artwork.
This Saturday, June 17th, Beford Gallery docents will be leading the public art walking tour of Walnut Creek’s greatest works and will give you more interesting, in-depth information about your hometown than you could ever imagine.
Tickets are just $5 (cash only) and include admission to the Gallery itself. You don’t even have to RSVP. Just show up at 11 a.m. outside the Lesher Center and get walkin’ and art watchin’!
Additionally, there is a new self-guided audio tour available for public art in Walnut Creek, featuring 33 stops along the route. Have you seen those pink and orange signs around town designating public art? That’s where you can listen to the history of the piece on the Public Art Walking Tour app! Here’s a good map of all the public art the tour hits.
I’ll be there this weekend, and I hope to see you there too!
Have any plans this weekend? If not, we’re hosting our annual Parkmead Garage Sale this Saturday at 8:00 a.m.!
Neighbors all over Parkmead have cleaned out their closets, garages and attics to put items together for this awesome event. Grab a map and look for the mailbox balloons to identify which homes are participating. Lilac and Newell (west of Trader Joe’s) are entry streets to the neighborhood.
If past years are any indication, there will be plenty of outdoors equipment, kids toys and clothes, furniture, jewelry and kitchen utensils. If you’re looking to stock up or upgrade for cheap, this is the place to be in Walnut Creek on Saturday!
And as a bonus, the Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival takes place all weekend, starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday! You can swing by the Parkmead Garage Sale, fill your arms with thrifty finds, and then wander to Heather Farms for a glass of wine in the sun.
The Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center usually hosts some awesome exhibits. I’ve been to quite a few over the years, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen something as mesmerizing as Cut Up/Cut Out, which is on display now through March 5.
The exhibit features 56 contemporary artists from around the world whose artwork is made from cutting and piercing paper and other materials. The detail in some of the pieces is truly astonishing, as is the creativity in cutting and pasting certain parts of texts together to make something entirely different.
You can see a slideshow of some photos below, but it really won’t do the artwork justice. It’s one of those displays that must be seen to be believed. I’d highly recommend going to check it out when you have an hour free in the next month or so! Pro tip: If you go on the first Tuesday of February or March, you can get in free (but donations are always encouraged).
I love this utility box art on Locust St. and Cypress St. by Ruth Kolman Brophy. She is an Austrian artist living in the Bay Area. As you can clearly see by this beautiful mural, she is very influenced by working with bold colors. What a great piece!