Four years ago, a group of scrappy, underfinanced, low-rent-paying artists created a new vision for Oakland by launching the inaugural First Friday Art Murmur. Over time, a huge swath of the city's downtown — namely, two contiguous neighborhoods known as "Uptown" and "Oaksterdam" — evolved into a different kind of civil society. Now the bars have art on the walls, the restaurants source all their ingredients locally, and, increasingly, people travel from place to place by bicycle. Not to mention that Art Murmur has expanded to include a lot of venues that aren't galleries per se. In addition to the myriad art receptions happening this Friday, you can find live comedy and burlesque at the Stork Club, a no-cover indie-rock show at the Uptown, and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition's first winter party at, of all places, an auto shop.
Initially, the idea had political underpinnings: Descend on auto row and colonize one of the abandoned car dealerships. "Car culture out, bike culture in," said East Bay Bicycle Coalition organizer Carrie Harvilla. But when the bikers' eyes alighted on Uptown Body and Fender (401 26th St., Oakland), they had a change of heart. Uptown owner Giovanna Tanzillo isn't your typical car mechanic. She holds art shows, boosts local nonprofits, and has a copious tea selection alongside her espresso machine. Last month she hosted a puppet show in auto shop — a retelling of Cinderella that required multiple costume changes for the puppets. Moreover, Harvilla said, Uptown provides an ideal setting for bike parties, with its huge carport and exposed brick façade, right at the lip of the Art Murmur corridor.
Friday, December 4's Velo Wonderland event will feature bicycle-themed and recycled works by nine local artists. Jill Contretas will show some of the stuff she makes out of inner tubes, including floggers. Nan Estep (aka B. Spoke Taylor) will exhibit her custom-made bike apparel and hopefully bring a sewing machine. Curator Margo Rivera Weiss will display her watercolor still lifes of fruits, along with a large kiwi made of bottle caps and ginger ale cans. DJ Olga T will help get the party started. Add to that several kegs of Velo Wonderland Winter Lager, brewed by Adam Lamoreaux at Linden Street Brewery, and pedicab service courtesy of Oaksterdam University — so partygoers can ride back to the Art Murmur galleries in style. Harvilla says they hope to prove, once and for all, that bikes and cars can indeed share the same space. In so doing, East Bay Bicycle Coalition will bring a new element into the Art Murmur fold. 6-10 p.m., free. EBBC.org