It's time once again for the Pro Arts East Bay Open Studios, now in its 21st year. Beginning this weekend, more than five hundred local artists will open their studio doors to the art-loving public. Pro Arts' downtown gallery (461 9th St., Oakland, open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) is currently showing samples of each artist's work, so head on down to pick your favorites, grab a map, and plan your self-guided studio tour. Hours for studio visits are 11 a.m.-6 p.m., May 31-June 1 and June 7-8. This year, Pro Arts reports an unusually high proportion of artists who are participating for the first time -- almost 50 percent -- which means there's plenty of new blood to check out. And because most of them aren't part of the commercial gallery scene, EBOS is a great opportunity not only to see some great local art that's usually hidden under the radar, but also to pick up some real deals without paying the usual gallery price markup.
"I've participated in EBOS in the past and found it quite rewarding," says Berkeley's John Casey, who designs Web sites by day and sculpts monsters in his spare time. "I was surprised at the amount of foot traffic. Although I usually don't sell a whole lot and the process can be exhausting, the feedback alone is worth the effort."
Many of the participating artists have Web sites and mailing lists that you can sign up for (see www.proartsgallery.org for tons of links and digital images). Others have found more creative ways of enticing you to visit them. Jill McLennan, an Oakland painter whose studio is a little off the beaten path, will be barbecuing these next two weekends. And Ann Daniels, a jewelry maker in Rockridge, has launched an all-out promo blitz in recent weeks with postcards, bulletins, and e-mails. "I am shameless," she admits, "but it's fun." -- Lindsey Westbrook
Strum und bang
Hit the thrift, get a new straw hat, and make sure the van's road-trip-ready, because this weekend's Wild Iris Folk Festival marks the official start of California's busy summer folk-fest season. Hot on its heels are the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival (Laytonville), Live Oak (Santa Ynez), Summer Solstice Festival (Santa Monica Mountains), San Francisco Free Folk Festival, Mountain Music (Willow Creek), and Huck Finn's Country and Bluegrass Jubilee (Victorville), just to name a few. Why so many? Well, head to Wild Iris, on the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville, to find out. It's got big names (Robin and Linda Williams, Utah Phillips, the Bluegrass Intentions, Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, the Waybacks, and many more, including a Sunday gospel lineup), music and crafts workshops, four open-mic sessions in the fairgrounds dining room, kids' activities, arts and crafts, a band scramble contest, local food, wines, and beer, and plenty of campsites, many with hot showers and electrical hookups. But the key to a folk fest is its jam sessions, and at Wild Iris, the best of the jammers and open-mic performers can become "tweeners," folks chosen to play two- or three-song sets on the main stage between the big acts. Call 707-895-3653 or visit www.wildirisfolkfestival.org -- Stefanie Kalem
Chuck Prophet is finally living up to his name. After years of underground and European success, but precious little North American notice, "Summertime Thing" from last year's No Other Love made it onto the radio, and Lucinda Williams took Prophet and his band, the Mission Express, out on the road with her. Of course, this isn't the first time that the roots-rocker has made it to the airwaves. In 2001, "I'm Gone," a song he co-wrote with Kim Richey, became a Top 40 hit for country-popstress Cyndi Thomson. But now Prophet and Co. are heading to the land that loved them first -- they're spending June in Europe, hitting the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, and England, even appearing at the storied Glastonbury Festival. But before the band gets new stamps on its passports, it's playing in the exotic wilds of Albany, at the Ivy Room (858 San Pablo Ave.). So slide the shuffleboard around and enjoy the bittersweet twang of SF's resident seer. 510-524-9299, www.chuckprophet.com -- Stefanie Kalem
Hot Rod Heaven
'Stangs, 'Cudas, 'Vettes, and Goats too
The Kustom Kar Kommandos will be out in force this weekend when the K&N Filters/Goodguys Summer Get-Together fills the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton with hundreds of examples of automotive art. See rods ('32 Deuce Fords), customs ('55-'57 Chevys), '70s-era Mopar muscle cars (Barracudas, Roadrunners) with hemi heads, antiques, loads of Mustangs and Malibus, trucks, sports cars -- more wheels than the mind can comprehend, more than 2,500 cars in the outdoor show. Then there are the manufacturer exhibits, aka Dog City. But don't despair; there's a swap meet for parts and equipment plus a cars-for-sale corral, and even a model car show. Owners are invited to put their cars in special parking areas such as the Mighty Mustang Corral, the Goat Gathering (for GTOs), the Corvette Corral (it's that nameplate's 50th anniversary), and the Young Guys corral for owners 25 and younger. The usual kids' play areas are also there, but don't send them off to the slides and swings -- give them a taste of true homegrown American culture. Admission: $12 plus $8 parking. 925-838-9876 or www.good-guys.com -- Kelly Vance
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