Arts & Culture
Although College Ave. isn’t an obvious arts and entertainment district, there are definite cultural gems scattered along the stretch.
The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts is perhaps the most well-known, with its gorgeous wooden architecture designed by its namesake and built in 1910.
Echoing the aesthetic of most businesses on College Ave., the venue is beautifully crafted yet understated in style. It’s home to Berkeley Playhouse, a prolific theater company that puts on spirited productions often appropriate for the whole family, as well as offers a range of performance classes for children and teens. The center is also home to the Berkeley Ballet Theater, which offers both child and adult ballet training and puts on seasonal performances.
The Shawl-Anderson Dance Center is another important hub for performance studies, located right off College Ave. on Alcatraz. The modern dance center is home to some of the East Bay’s best contemporary dance companies: Paufve | Dance, Nina Haft & Company, and Ahdanco. Those interested in learning for themselves can take classes in genres such as jazz and hip-hop, or viewers can visit for one of many performances frequently held inside the center.
College Ave. can also be a destination for appreciating visual art. Thelma Harris Gallery, one of the longest-running Black-owned galleries in the East Bay, is a destination for collectors interested in important figures from the Black Arts Movement. The California College of the Arts Oakland campus is another go-to for visual art. Located at the intersection of College Ave. and Broadway, the campus hosts three different galleries filled with high quality student work and also often offers public lectures on art-related topics.
For more family-inclusive fun, there are a number of annual cultural events that bring out the festive spirit of the community. Rockridge Out & About in the fall, for instance, bursts onto the streets with livemusic, gourmet food stalls, and seemingly endless activities and entertainment. Think acrobats from the Kinetic Arts Center Circus, Jazz and Funk performances, pumpkin decorating, and even a petting zoo. Later in the season, return for Halloween trick-or-treating complete with a costume procession and spooky storytelling; or Rockridge in the Snow, a winter wonderland with Santa and actual artificial snow for snowman construction.
And, of course, the Rialto Cinemas® Elmwood offers entertainment year-around. Rather than playing typical blockbusters, the theater features some of the best independent film programming in the East Bay, often being the only venue in the area showing certain limited-releases — from critical documentaries to arthouse foreign films. That also includes robust National Theater Live programming, screenings of performances by the world’s preeminent opera and ballet companies, as well as “Exhibition on Screen” specials that dive into international museum shows. So, although small, the theater is an exciting portal to some of the best arts and culture from around the world.