I was grumpy on the way to Oakland Drops Beats, the monthly art-and-music event hosted by the 15th Street galleries. Why grumpy? Totally my own fault — I got a parking ticket. Time slipped away; I was caught up in conversation with my friend Eva Gantz. Welp, I guess I didn’t need that $43! Luckily, arriving at the bustling street fair cheered me up. That’s the power of community events — they’re mood-changers.

Oakland Drops Beats at the 15th Street Galleries

Art events are a mishmash of moments, sensory impressions that blend together like chunks of fruit in a pie. There’s the weather, whatever it happens to be. Today it was breezy but sunny. Then there’s the people. We swarm, self-organizing creatures who are drawn to each other before bouncing away again. I don’t mean to sound ant-farm creepy, because actually it’s beautiful. You immerse yourself in the scene, or at least I do. The visuals being presented, the installations and paintings and everything else, are also beautiful. I’m surprised constantly. I’m overwhelmed constantly.

pastel painting on the street

Art on the ground, because why not?

Kelsey Burt, owner of SideQuest Gallery, and her fellow

I always see Kelsey Burt, who runs SideQuest Gallery. Here she is drinking mint mojitos (I think?) with her fella. They’re pretty cute. I was just as adorable in my pleated dress, which multiple people complimented. Um, not to brag or anything. (Here’s a secret: I love bragging and I think it should be more socially acceptable.)

mirror selfie in a pretty dress

What can I do but present you with moments? It seems impossible to explain an event like Oakland Drops Beats, or to cover it in a journalistic sense. The emotional experience would never come across. It’s like when someone tells a story about the office and no one laughs, so the joke-teller awkwardly ends with, “You had to be there.”

I’m not saying, “You had to be there!” I’m saying, “You should try to be there next time.” I’m saying that I lack the capacity to transfer the feelings evoked by real-time artistic collaboration. I’m supposed to convey that with plain ol’ words? Sometimes my chosen communication method doesn’t work as well as I want it to. Showing is not good enough either, but the results come closer:

succulent in a book

ceiling lights at an art gallery

aquamarine, pink, and yellow balloons

crazy party chair

dancers at Oakland Drops Beats

I do wonder, and even worry, whether it hurts the artists that I experience Oakland Drops Beats as one big event with few conceptual boundaries.

Hopefully the way I interact with Oakland Drops Beats is okay. Hopefully the artists aren’t expecting a more attentive and specifically focused viewer. Hopefully people know what they’re getting into.

I also wonder whether my digital habits influence my perception of the “real” world. I’m so used to dipping into a virtual stream, sampling a bunch of different ideas and synthesizing them in my own head. That’s what I do with Google search results, or what I do with Twitter. Did people experience the world this way before everyone started using the internet constantly? There’s no way for me to go back and find out.

graffiti door in Oakland

All the philosophical stuff aside, I’m glad something distracted me from that dang parking ticket. Milk me dry, city of Berkeley, why don’t you!

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