Early afternoon, trying to find parking around a large 96,000 square feet Oakland warehouse can be quite the challenge. The Jingletown neighborhood consists of mix-use residencies, upscale townhouses, and run-down housing. At 333 Lancaster Street, an amazing 56-year tradition continues to attract a diverse group of people. The White Elephant Sale is the must stop to find treasures from baseball bats to fine art. Since its inception in 1955, the event has raised over $20 million dollars to support the Oakland Museum of California.
The Women’s Board in charge of this grand undertaking has perfected the art of organization like a well-oiled machine. With over 1000 volunteers and 17 meticulous departments, visitors are spoiled from the impressive display of hard work. The “sale” is March 7th and 8th but is now open for preview during limited hours. I go before the “official” date to avoid the mass pandemonium and hysteria of eager shoppers like myself.
Being an educator, first stop is the book section. A volunteer disclosed that the Oakland Museum of California was in the process of disposing of an extensive library. When one finds a good deal, creative accidents such as paint smudges on pages feel less painful emotionally and financially. This year, I discovered a San Francisco Museum of Modern Art book, Sotheby’s catalog, and Gottfried Helnwein exhibition survey.
The art department is vast in selection. With some patience and diligent digging, one can find that hidden gem. Every year, great works have become a part of my family’s collection. This trip was no exception with a piece from James Aarons and two from William Wareham. Aarons works from clay and has exhibited in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Santa Fe, and San Francisco. Wareham’s experience is extensive including a national Endowment for the Arts, Djerassi Resident Artist residency, Oakland Museum exhibit, and being an assistant to Peter Volkos and Mark Di Suvero. To be surrounded by art makes me a better artist.
The White Elephant Sale never disappoints. It’s respecting the environment while supporting a worthy cause. Annually, it has become a ritual. Who knows what I’ll find in the future. That is part of the adventure, white elephant or not.