Space Savers 

The Berkeley Arts Festival has no shortage of venues thanks to downtown's high turnover rate.

Bonnie Hughes characterizes herself as a dilettante with very good taste, rather than a bona fide musician. Though she studied violin, cello, and harp, and developed an ear for everything from Coltrane to Fred Frith, Hughes decided it would behoove her to produce concerts rather than perform them. So in 1990, she launched the Berkeley Arts Festival, an ongoing event featuring art exhibitions, marathon improvisation sessions, and the type of left-field performances you'd normally see at Mills College (or 21 Grand, in later years). Good connections — including tech expert Chris Read and pianist Sarah Cahill — and a vision of democratizing the arts kept Hughes going for nearly two decades. Still, her setups remain pretty punk rock.

The Berkeley Art Festival is a nomadic entity, having hopped from storefront to storefront within a four-block radius in downtown Berkeley. It began in a gallery inside the Shattuck Cinemas, then moved to a dingy storefront that's now Kinko's, then relocated to the old Fidelity Savings and Loan building that was a Citibank until a few years ago. This year, Hughes and company set up court in yet another storefront that used to be Gateway Computers (2213 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley), which went out of business shortly after the demise of Eddie Bauer next door.

Despite plumbing failures, boarded-up walls, and rickety walkways, there's a major advantage to setting up your enterprise in an abandoned storefront, said Hughes: The Berkeley Arts Festival has never had to pay rent. Thus, it can afford to charge $10 or less for the type of concert you'd normally pay $50 to see. February's showcase features Luciano Chessa performing Francesco Cangiullo's epic sound poem "Piedigrotta," along with original compositions for piano and electrified Vietnamese dan bau (8 p.m., Feb. 11); John Schott's eight-hour tribute to Thelonious Monk (2 p.m., Feb. 12); free-jazz violinist India Cooke performing with pianist Bill Crossman (8 p.m., Feb. 15); Dan Plonsey's Daniel Popsicle (8 p.m., Feb. 22); and the CD release party for Sarah Cahill's Piano Works of Leo Ornstein. (8 p.m., Feb. 29). If you're a fan of music "that doesn't let you know what's around the corner," in Hughes' words, these are some of the best artists the Bay Area has to offer. Ticket prices vary, though most fall within the $5-$10 range (except Cahill's free performance). BerkeleyArtsFestival.com

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Events

  • Life After a Life Sentence

    'The Return,' a new documentary from Berkeley filmmakers, follows California prisoners set free by Proposition 36.
    • May 18, 2016
  • Sick Fest: A Lesson in 'Sick Woman Theory'

    The Oakland event aims to elevate the work of authors and artists living with disabilities and chronic illness.
    • Mar 23, 2016
  • Bridging Cultural Gaps With a Snap

    Snap Judgement, the wildly popular NPR radio show based in downtown Oakland, will be bringing its live show to the Paramount Theatre.
    • Feb 24, 2016
  • More »

Author Archives

  • Shots, Licks, and Male Ennui

    Jonathan Singer-Vine's debut film is an honest coming-of-age.
    • Jun 12, 2013
  • Debtor's Purgatory

    People who can't afford to hire an attorney have virtually no chance in court against well-heeled lawyers for banks and debt collection companies.
    • May 8, 2013
  • More»

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

Summer Guide 2016

Your definitive guide to summertime entertainment, outings, eating, drinking, and more.

Sustainable Living 2016

Everything you need to know about saving water, energy efficiency, sustainable farming and eating, and more.

© 2016 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation