For the past 45 years of operation, Pro Arts has reflected the world through the prism of art. Through our work, we have supported more than 20,000 artists and cultural producers/organizers at all stages of their career. As an alternative art space, we have always operated on the margins of the official art world. In early 2019, we opened up our space radically and became the first art & culture commons in Oakland, CA.
Pro Arts COMMONS is a multi-use space for the expanded field of art, debate, experimentation, and collaboration. We house exhibitions, symposiums, experimental music and film programs, literary events, reading groups, workshops, assemblies and community events, and short-term residencies. We are local commons-centric network of autonomous organizations, collectives and individual artists and commoners. Our commonality lies in our desire to create a just, equitable, and decentralized art and culture economy. We aim to: 1) to de-colonize the institution and empower the people above all; 2) to create a system in which creation will be embedded in our every day lives; 3) to de-commodify art & culture; 4) reclaim the urban commons; and 5) dismantle the status-quo. We are also a global networked community that shares values, as well as material and immaterial resources in the co-creation of ideas and critical engagements with the world. Both on local and global level, we are communizing the practice, production and presentation of art and culture.
Currently, we are experimenting with new forms of action-based governance, alternative funding structures, and collaborative presentation methods with the idea to ultimately reframe the value of art and art labor in the context of a solidarity economy. We are self-organized, empowered, resilient and committed to build an equitable, just, egalitarian, de-colonized and de-centralized system for the arts and culture. We believe the arts are a human right and together, we have the power to uplift each other and our communities, while holding a critical space for assembly, experimentation, and radical exchange in Oakland, California.
Pro Arts COMMONS is home to Pro Arts Gallery, Projects Kalahati, RATSKIN Records, Safer DIY Spaces, Oakland Freedom Jazz Society, and numerous individual artists and cultural organizers. Our local Affinity Groups include: 15th Street Galleries, Dream Farm Commons, Oakland Summer School, Oakland Free University, Betti Ono Gallery, and Mercury 20 Gallery. We are building together a new alternative to the art market and system, and we are doing it right here in Oakland, California! Join us.
We reject the inherently problematic power dynamics between artist and curator, artist and institution, artist and audience and institution and audience. Instead, we collaborate with artists, cultural organizers and activists, and art commoners to co-create long-form, thematic engagements — modules and nodes — that reflect, critique, expose, and introduce issues and concerns that affect our commonwealth. Those engagements may take the form of exhibitions, short-term residencies, public projects, discussions, reading groups, and experimental music and film programs. All participants in these modules and nodes remain autonomous yet bonded through mutuality that comes from the act of co-creation. Together, we are working towards the common good, so as to begin dismantling the status quo.
Both on local and global level, we are building a rhizomatic network, decentralized in its form, governance and funding mechanisms, each local point of access thus, playing an important role in the reproduction of the global commons. Artists, cultural activists, and art commoners collaborate together on continually perpetuating the commons via working in groups on specific topics, co-authoring of books and publications, self-organizing around common-centric topics and themes, co-producing exhibitions and public events, and more.
Safer DIY Spaces is an Oakland-based, 501(c)3 non-profit comprised of architects, artists, contractors, and community organizers that emerged in the wake of the tragic 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, CA.
We offer confidential guidance, extensive technical assistance, and labor to the frequently vulnerable members of the Bay Area’s communities who live and/or work in non-traditional “DIY” spaces. DIY communities not only face the threat of displacement, but also the risk of physical harm because the spaces in which they work or reside frequently require repairs and/or may be out of compliance with current building, fire or zoning codes.
While assuring complete confidentiality to those in these spaces, Safer DIY Spaces provides support in the form of pre-inspection walk-throughs and guidance, reparative construction, and permit preparation to help arrange for the materials and labor necessary to implement core life-safety improvements. We in turn advocate for these communities to building, fire and planning departments and actively work to encourage cities to adopt safer, more compassionate codes. Finally, we help arrange for the permanent tenant or community land trust acquisition of eligible buildings to establish permanently-affordable DIY sites.
Project Kalahati is a creative commons for innovative writing, publishing, and programmatic space primarily for the Bay Area’s QBIPOC (Queer Black Indigenous People of Color) community. We prioritize being self- contained and self-determined.
Dream Farm Commons is a small, artist run exhibition and project space in Downtown Oakland. It s is a site where radical imagination, visual works, and social practice are happening. We are committed to creative production interchanging across platforms and to new social production. Located in a store front exhibition and project space at 15th and Webster in Downtown Oakland, we make monthly to bi-monthly exhibitions, along with crazy pop ups, dinners, workshops, performances, social practice projects, and mini residencies; additionally, we have a productive co-working loft in our upstairs. The space was founded by three visual artists in May 2018, and is now sustained by a trio of artist/ thinkers.
To us, a commons is a set of shared resources that people can access for various forms of production, within a shared vision. In our case, our shared terrain is radical imagination, art-making, social change and creative production. We generally operate with horizontal conversation and consensus. We have also recently embarked on a larger creative commons with our up the street partner ProArts, sharing resources and hatching bigger connections.
15th Street Galleries is comprised of Mary Weather, Burnt Oak Gallery, Omiiroo, Shipping + Receiving / Shadow Office, Tilde, Elyse Weiner Gallery, and Markuss Decker w/ Third Eye Studio. Yes, all of us exist in the one block between Webster and Harrison. Yes, it’s really rad.
Oakland Summer School @ Pro Arts COMMONS
Pro Arts is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. All donations to Pro Arts are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Our EIN # is 94-2259269.