Journey Through Jingletown
Industry, activism, and art meet here, at the shores of the bay.
Gray Loft Gallery is a Jingletown mainstay.
Photos by Lance Yamamoto
Nestled around the Oakland Estuary between the Fruitvale district and Alameda, Jingletown is a microcosm of Oakland. Prior to European colonization, the area contained an Ohlone shellmound. At the turn of the century, it was a working-class area for Portuguese and Azorean fishermen and their families. The men apparently kept their earnings on them, not in banks; thus, the neighborhood was nicknamed Jingletown for the jingling sound their pocketed coins made. In the 1940s, Jingletown became home to a mostly Latinx population, and by the 1960s, it was a center for civil rights and anti-war efforts and was home to the Chicano Revolutionary Party. As its artsy roots were emerging in the 2000s, it became something of a hotbed of recording activity and recording-artist muse, in part because of a onetime Green Day recording studio, Jingletown Recordings. Jingletown today sports a major reputation as a tight-knit artist community. It’s an enclave well worth exploring.
The eye-catching Jingletown Art Studios sits at the epicenter of the vibrant East Oakland artist community. The creative co-op is home to a host of diverse artists from around the globe. The artist studios and an “enchanted garden” are open to the public one night monthly — each second Friday — for the Second Friday Art Night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Other galleries in Jingletown and Alameda join in the art night, an East Side answer to Uptown Oakland’s popular monthly First Friday street festival and Oakland Art Murmur. Open to the public 6-9 p.m. on the second Friday of every month, 3001 Chapman St., Oakland, 510-338-8012, Facebook.com/JingletownArtStudios.
Gray Loft Gallery, once dubbed “a hidden gem” by local art critic, has gained a rep as a popular go-to gallery and Jingletown mainstay. The gallery sits on the third floor of a longstanding live/work building, and Gray Loft serves as a community resource for Jingletown artists. In 2012, the space was transformed into an airy, modern showcase dedicated to celebrating and elevating emerging and mid-career artists as an alternative to more traditional gallery settings. It’s a longtime participant in East Bay Open Studios. Open Saturdays 1-5 p.m. and by appointment, 2889 Ford St., Third Floor, 510-499-3445, GrayLoftGallery.com.
Committed to providing experiences that transcend body and mind, Float—Flotation Center & Art Gallery is a self-declared “Urban Art Spa.” An intimate private gallery within displays works by local artists as well as tribal art and sculpture from Africa and Papua New Guinea. As the name suggests, Float also offers sessions in flotation tanks and boasts among the largest flotation spas in the Bay Area. Open daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m., 1091 Calcot Place, Suite 116, Oakland, 510-535-1702, TheFloatCenter.com.
The Oakland Museum’s Women’s Board’s annual White Elephant Sale, which celebrated 60 years recently, is arguably the area’s biggest and best garage sale, which therefore makes it a huge favorite for shoppers near and far. The sprawling warehouse on Lancaster Street billows with everything imaginable, from apparel and kitchen wears to electronics, appliances, furniture, jewelry, fitness equipment, art, toys, and literature. It’s divided into sections, sort of like an old department store, so patrons can find items. Early birds check out goods at the preview sale, usually on the final weekend in January; the actual sale is generally on the first weekend of March. Sandwiched between the preview and sale in February, bargain hunters can use a “donation-for-entry” rule on weekdays: Bring a bag or box of items to donate to gain entry without having to fight the weekend crowds. 333 Lancaster St., Oakland, 510-839-5919, WhiteElephantSale.org.
Marine-themed 9-acre Union Point Park is surrounded by scenic estuary views with a bird’s-eye look at Coast Guard Island. Green and grassy, it’s a popular stop for casual bicycling buddies roving the San Francisco Bay Trail. Parent’s note: It’s close to that perennial kid’s magnet, Pump It Up. Adjacent to the Union Point Marina, it is an easily accessible park with two parking lots. Its barbecue and picnic areas and playground make it a favored destination for family gatherings on warm spring and summer days. 2311 Embarcadero East, Oakland, OaklandCa.gov.
Rue de Merde (pictured below) is cheekily named after the “road’s” status as a dog-walking path, but this public art installation is a stunningly rich display and testament to the work and passion of the neighborhood’s artist community. The installation features a series of diverse colorful murals and intricate mosaics that were created in collaboration with the Jingletown Arts & Business Community, ProArts, and the city of Oakland. Peterson Street between Ford and Chapman streets, LocalWiki.org/Oakland.
While in the area, make a special trip to the southern tip of the estuary (past the High Street Bridge) for the Tidewater Boating Center (pictured below). A hidden coastal gem the East Bay Regional Park District opened in 2011, it marks the district’s first official San Francisco Bay Water Trail site. The recreation area offers space for picnicking as well as an ADA-accessible boat launch. The unobtrusive, modern boathouse, surrounded by calm bay waters and scenic views, makes a great event venue. It has become a popular spot for boaters and rowers and acts as home base for the Oakland Strokes Rowing Club. The park district offers seasonal classes in rowing, canoeing, boating, and water safety. 4675-A Tidewater Ave., Oakland, EBParks.org.
Kefa Coffee is a neighborhood favorite for breakfast and lunch with storied breakfast sandwich combinations plus good coffee and espresso derivatives. It’s open seven days a week and is near the Park Street Bridge. Tasty drinks, alluring eats, and a laid-back environment encourage patrons to relax and stay a while. 422 29th Ave., Oakland, 510-261-3400, OrderKefaCoffee.com.
A turn-of-the-century lighthouse, Quinn’s Lighthouse is an estuary staple, with deep roots, and it has been a favorite for family dinners and spectacular happy hour sunsets for decades. Upstairs is an airy, casual dining room, resplendent with peanut shells on the floor, and a stunning outdoor deck. Downstairs offers a more formal dining experience, perfect for year-round suppers and special occasions. Take a nice stroll or bike ride along the embarcadero, soaking in the sights of Coast Guard Island and the iconic cranes at the Port of Oakland. 1951 Embarcadero, Oakland, 510-536-2050, QuinnsLighthouse.com.