Gallery on a Hill

Mills College Art Museum


Nestled in a picturesque campus in the Oakland foothills, the 87-year-old Mills College Art Museum boasts the largest collection of any liberal arts college on the West Coast. Yet, says Stephanie Hanor, the museum’s director, “We’re small and we are very accessible in a way that larger institutions aren’t.”

Right off the bat, visitors are wowed by the aesthetics of the museum building, once used both as a gallery and a ballroom, with vaulted ceilings and nearly 6,000 feet of exhibition space. “All the architectural detail is still original,” Hanor says. “The doors, the floors, all of the cast-concrete ceiling with the stencil work is original 1925.”

Once visitors finish admiring the architecture, they can turn their attention to a 10,000-piece collection that includes work, says Hanor, from “all eras and all continents.” In addition, the museum holds one of the most important collections of regional California art. When it opened, Mills trustee Albert Bender (who went on to co-found the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) stocked it with work by contemporary California artists.

Today, Mills College Art Museum presents about half a dozen shows a year, from student exhibitions to solo and group shows with invited artists, to shows drawing from the institution’s multi-faceted collection. And, incredibly, there’s no admission fee. “All of our programs and all of our events are free,” Hanor says.“Artist talks, any kind of public readings, dance performances, or anything that we’re doing in the gallery—it’s always free.”

Mills College Art Museum, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland,510-430-2164,

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