Here’s a facile analogy I recently overheard—Manhattan is to San Francisco as Brooklyn is to Oakland.
Ahem. Sure, I get it. If you strip away the nuanced elements that differentiate each city’s individual greatness—Manhattan and SF were the established metropoli and citadels of culture, and the latter two cities emerged later in the game.
Also, like Brooklyn, Oakland has a grittier attitude and a spirit that spans from “can do” to “f— you.” After that, the comparison between the hip borough and the Bay’s easterly epicenter wears thin.
Why? Because Oakland is cooler than Brooklyn.
For example, whereas Brooklyn is popularly known for an arts scene that emerged in the beginning of this century after gentrification and Millennial maneuvers, the East Bay has always had a thriving arts scene. Since its very inception. In fact, the official travel site of our very nation says that Oakland has the highest concentration of artists per capita in the United States. Boom!
Sure, Brooklyn may have a higher concentration of hipsters, but they are, by definition, consumers—not creators—of art. I could go on, but it’s like comparing apples to oranges or thin-crust pizza to birria tacos and vegan donuts (two great tastes together at last).
People go to the East to reinvent themselves; they come West to be themselves. And nowhere else can someone do that with more freedom of expression than in the East Bay. From the campus to the curb, it’s in our DNA to be true to one’s self and vision. But it doesn’t stop there—we share it: The walls of our galleries and museums are lined with area art; our venues and stages thunder with local voices; and our streets are an ever-evolving canvas of murals and more.
As homegrown writer Gertrude Stein once opined, “The artist works by locating the world in themselves.” To which I’ll add, in the East Bay, the world outside works just as well.