Background & History

Pro Arts is among the oldest and most significant institutions for contemporary art in Oakland.  Founded in 1974 as the Alameda County Neighborhood Arts Program, it soon became a national model for utilizing CETA funds for artists and arts projects under the leadership of John Kreidler. By 1980, the organization was renamed, and an emphasis on visual arts and exhibitions became the cornerstone of programming.

For the past 44 years of operation, Pro Arts Gallery has provided numerous artists with the opportunity to experiment, take risks and develop work that wouldn’t be possible in other settings. Some of the most influential artists of the Bay Area have had landmark exhibitions at Pro Arts Gallery in the past.

Since the hire of a new leadership team two years ago, the programming at Pro Arts has expanded to include a wider range of genres and modes of presentation. Executive Director, Natalia Mount, who came on board in 2015, is providing new and exciting curatorial perspective and visionary leadership to Pro Arts. Her appointment has strengthened the organizational commitment to inclusiveness, diversity and equity in all of Pro Arts’ programs and efforts. She works closely and collaboratively with artist, curators, and cultural producers to develop and realize contemporary work in all media, ranging from installation and performance to interdisciplinary events and public art projects. Under her leadership, Pro Arts gallery’s location in downtown Oakland serves as a vibrant meeting spot for artists and the local community, and a catalyst that sparks dialogue and opens up new perspectives.

During its four decades of existence, Pro Arts has been located in numerous Oakland neighborhoods: West Oakland, Old Oakland, and Jack London Square. In 2017, Executive Director Natalia Mount negotiated the first of its kind, long-term, below the market rate lease for our City of Oakland’s owned space, located at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, thus securing a home for the next five years of operations and programs, right in the heart of downtown Oakland.