Alameda Art: The art around us

Alameda Art: The art around us

Patti Cary

Photos by Patti Cary.

Spring has sprung on the Island, making this great time to get out and ride a bike or take a leisurely stroll down our lovely tree-lined streets and picturesque avenues. It’s no secret Alameda offers an incredible variety of architecture and beachfront vistas to enjoy, but next time you’re out and about, slow down a bit and take a closer look at the amazing art that is all around us.

From the west end of Central Avenue to the tip of the East End, Alameda has many breathtaking sculptures, interesting collections and dazzling murals “hidden” in plain sight. These works of art add magic to our unique and wonderful landscape and are available for all to see – if you know where to look.

Start at the west end of Central Avenue at the top of the path that runs parallel to Crown Drive. If you are lucky and the lighting is just right, you can spy a gorgeous display of 56 Chinese ghost puppets mysteriously peering out from a stretch of windows behind the trees.

The unique and colorful collection of painstakingly handcrafted marionettes dates back to the 1940s-era of Communist ruler Chairman Mao Zedong. Street artists, considered political subversives, were forced to perform their shows in secret and needed to shut down in a hurry and without a trace in order to avoid arrest, or worse. Hence the term, ghost puppets.

After spending over 60 years in a dark, dusty basement somewhere in China, the puppets were liberated from a Beijing flea market in 2008 and found a new home in Alameda, their owner said.

Continuing back down Central Avenue at Weber Street, you can see one of the many eye-catching house murals commissioned by real estate entrepreneur and art enthusiast Farhad Matin. The recently renovated corner building features a bright splash of multi-layered hearts – signature work of Los Angeles street artist Free Humanity.

On St. Charles Street at Lincoln Avenue, you can enjoy work by San Francisco muralist Victor Reyes, the artist also behind the bold, swirling black and white “building wrap” at Matin’s 2029 Central Avenue property.

Reyes’ work can also be seen all over San Francisco’s Mission District and has been described as “electric in color and obsessive in detail.”

All over the Island, Matin has taken his “disruptive innovation” approach to restyling and revamping his several properties.

“At the end of the day, who strives to be ordinary?” he said.

Over at the 1000 block of Grand Street, you almost can’t miss the stunning work of San Francisco artist Fletcher Benton, renowned for his large-scale geometric sculptures in steel. The impressive 11-foot-tall modern piece is from Fletcher’s One-Legged Table series and has been a defining characteristic of the property for many years.

The current homeowners and caretakers of the sculpture, Erin and Colin Smith, sum up the philosophy of their home in three words: kids, books and art. The Smiths said they feel honored to have such a bold, striking work gracing the front yard of their home, an 1895 Queen Anne Colonial Revival.

Across town, we can thank Deborah Finney and Joe Conley for the wonderful collection of sculptures at the easternmost end of Central Avenue. Over the years, these arts patrons have nurtured their garden to showcase work from talented local artists, including Oakland ‘s Gale Wagner, one of the founders of the Pacific Rim Sculpture Group, and Richard Botto, known for his work with river rocks, which can also be spotted at the Chandon winery in Yountville.

If you take the short walkway, you can marvel at the several impressive sculptures that line the path that include whimsical stone daisies by Botto and Wagner’s majestic, richly detailed seahorse.

At the end of the walkway at the water’s edge, Finney and Conley, along with some of their neighbors, have lovingly created and maintain a peaceful space to pause and reflect and marvel at the natural beauty this area has to offer.

All these fun and fabulous works are just a sampling of the array of accessible art to be found across the 10.6-square-mile Island we call home. If you know of a unique and accessible work of art on the Island, please spread the word by adding the information below in the comment section of this article.


Submitted by LG (not verified) on Fri, Apr 10, 2015

You missed one of my favorites: sculptures and art pieces surround a house on San Antonio Ave., between St. Charles & Hawthorne. They even change the art for seasons/holidays! A can't miss stop.