Many important cultural icons are turning 60 this year: Simon Cowell, Morrissey and, especially important for the East Bay, Berkeley’s own Arts & Crafts Cooperative Inc. Gallery! Located on Shattuck Avenue in the Gourmet Ghetto, the gallery, known as ACCI for short, opened its retrospective exhibit earlier this month in honor of more than half a century of promoting local art.
ACCI is the oldest cooperative gallery on the West Coast; since 1959, it has showcased the work of artists and artisan crafters from across the globe. Here, esteemed craftspeople display goods, paintings and other works of art, all of which are available for purchase by fine art collectors — or anyone with a couple hundred dollars to spare on quality, handmade creations.
As a whole, the gallery is rather small; it’s a fancy warehouse-style space filled with art that you can probably wander through in half an hour. With many nooks and shelves, as well as a tranquil garden patio to explore, visiting at least once is nothing short of worth it.
The “60 Years of ACCI Gallery: A Retrospective” exhibit is open for a whole month, giving Berkeley locals more than enough time to mosey into the cute shop for a look-see. Featuring jewelry, pottery and other eccentric pieces, this gallery gives you your art fix while adding touches of home to your afternoon.
Much of the gallery’s history is displayed on the walls. One such piece is a medieval-looking proclamation of the “Principles of Co-operation.” These principles, created by a group of weavers in England in the mid-1800s, include both the artists and the consumers, promoting beautiful things and economic security for creators.
The gallery often invites former notable members to display their work in special exhibits just like this one. One such artist is Leslie Carabas, whose abstract fabric work is featured in the current exhibit. Carabas, who currently lives in the Sierra Nevada, lived in Berkeley for three decades and maintained membership at ACCI for 10 years. At the gallery, she contributed her various quilts and embroidery pieces.
Likewise, Susan Duhan Felix, another featured artist, works in the world of ceramics and held ACCI membership from 1968 to 1979. Felix previously served as president of the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission, is a founder of the Jewish Arts Community of the Bay and is currently the art ambassador for the city of Berkeley.
The gallery’s history isn’t all just about looking, however. In 1977, the cooperative began opening art classes to the public, at which it taught crafts such as mending clothes, printmaking and painting. With various classes available to children, teenagers and adults, this shared space holds true to the ideal of collaboration for all, no matter your skill level.
The ACCI Gallery is wildly important for local artists and craftspeople, as there aren’t very many places remaining in the East Bay that showcase artisan products and art pieces. Berkeley holds its arts community on a special pedestal, as much of its history is ingrained in each piece featured in this space. In the spirit of Berkeley’s counterculture vein and in support of local artists, go check out these pieces and help celebrate ACCI Gallery’s big 6-0.