5 places to see art for free in Berkeley (besides BAMPFA)

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Kala Gallery/Courtesy

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For many college students, viewing visual art doesn’t exactly sound like the most exciting or compelling way to spend their free time. Museums can be pricey, art galleries can be overwhelmingly hoity-toity, and where does one go to see art in Berkeley besides the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, anyway? After all, a quick Google search of “museums in Berkeley” doesn’t necessarily present many viable options — most of the locations listed seem to be not actually in Berkeley, extremely niche, or not in operation anymore. It’s objectively discouraging.

Spots to check out cool art for free in Berkeley itself, however, do exist — one just needs to know where to look. The Daily Californian has compiled a list of five such locations, all of which aim to serve the Berkeley community and expose visitors to the wonders of their collections.

Berkeley Art Center

The Berkeley Art Center is a private nonprofit dedicated to providing the people of Berkeley with access to the arts for not only enjoyment, but for community-building and cultural growth via exposure to the diverse viewpoints of exhibited artists. The center opened in the 1960s amid the Free Speech Movement, with the timely intention of creating a space to bring people together. The leading figures in the opening of the Berkeley Art Center saw art as an apt medium for this mission, and Berkeley a prime location. The center’s exhibitions have historically and continue to reflect these values, with showings prompting dialogue about subjects such as race, local artists and living with a disability.

The Berkeley Art Center is located in North Berkeley at 1275 Walnut St. and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Coming soon: “Universal Messages: New Vistas,” an exhibition of contemporary works from Muslim women artists in the Bay Area.

ACCI Gallery

“An individual discovers his strength as an individual because he has, along the way, discovered others share his feelings — he is not alone, and thus a community is formed.”

Arts & Crafts Cooperative Inc., known as ACCI for short, notes this on its website, citing the author Studs Terkel. The statement speaks to the member-based group’s overriding mission of bringing the Berkeley community together through joint appreciation of art. The gallery aims to serve art consumers and producers alike through exhibitions, events and workshops hosted at its elegant brick gallery.

ACCI Gallery is located near the Gourmet Ghetto at 1625 Shattuck Ave. The gallery is open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday. On view now is the San Francisco Bay International Photo Show.

Berkeley Historical Society

The Berkeley Historical Society is a nonprofit, volunteer-run group committed to conserving and spreading knowledge of the city of Berkeley’s vibrant history. In 1992, though the society was established years earlier, the society moved to its current location in the Veterans Memorial Building on Center Street. Today, volunteers keep the society running by collecting, preserving and sorting documentary materials, organizing exhibits and tours, and publishing print and online content, among a plethora of other services. The Berkeley Historical Society has kept alive the voices of many Berkeley natives, from whom we would otherwise be unable to learn. One of the most accessible ways of engaging with the society’s work is to visit one of its exhibitions.

The Berkeley Historical Society is located at 1931 Center St. and is open Thursday through Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 pm. On view now: “Collection Gems, Forty Years of Documenting Berkeley History.”

Kala Gallery

Though the Kala Gallery has grown since its conception in the 1970s in a garage studio, the thesis of its founder’s vision for the gallery has remained steady. The Kala Gallery aims to provide local artists with the space and materials to develop their craft, and to expose the people of Berkeley to such creations. Kala offers a variety of services, ranging from artist residence programs to youth and adult art lessons to free exhibitions. “Both Directions At Once,” the exhibition on view at Kala Gallery through Sept. 22, showcases the work of the 2017-2018 Kala Fellowship artists. The works in the collection contemplate the internal and external self, delving into issues such as race and immigration.

The Kala Gallery is located at 2990 San Pablo Ave. and is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5:00 pm and Saturday from noon to 4:30 pm.

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

Though established adjacent to the UC Berkeley campus in 2010, the Magnes Collection found its roots decades earlier. The museum’s holdings consist primarily of those of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, which opened in 1962 as one of the first Jewish museums in the United States. The Magnes aims to preserve Jewish history via its vast holdings, and to engage with a contemporary audience by integrating modern art and music into its collection. The Magnes’ Jewish art holdings investigate Jewish identity and integration into modern secular life since the 1800s, while its Jewish life materials focus upon the relationship between materiality and spiritualism in Jewish life. In addition to its archives and library, the Magnes Collection regularly offers curated exhibitions open to the public.

The Magnes Collection is located near the Downtown Berkeley BART station at 2121 Allston Way. Its exhibitions are on view from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm Tuesday through Friday. Currently on view are a variety of exhibitions, including “The Karaite Canon: Manuscripts and Ritual Objects from Cairo” andProject ‘Holy Land’: Yaakov Benor-Kalter’s Photographs of British Mandate Palestine, 1923-1940.”

Ryan Tuozzolo covers visual art. Contact her at [email protected].