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Best Public Art In The Bay Area

The Bay Area is home to a vast and varied population of phenomenal artists. While in the past, fine art was sometimes relegated only for the elite, today there is no shortage of free public art accessible to anyone. Opportunities abound for both the art appreciator as well as the art creator. Here is a compilation of five of the Bay Area's best spots to experience public art.
Cantor Arts Center
Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive
Stanford, CA 94305
(650) 723-4177

Located on the Stanford University campus, the Cantor Arts Center is home to some of the Bay's best public art. Take a stroll through the all-hours Rodin sculpture garden, or head indoors to check out a vast variety of art in a broad range of styles. The museum houses permanent collections of contemporary, Native American, European, Asian and African art. The museum is open six days a week, Wednesday through Monday, is wheelchair and stroller accessible and admission is always free.

Berkeley Art Center
1275 Walnut St.
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 644-6893

Nestled in Berkeley's Live Oak Park, the Berkeley Art Center is open Wed. through Sunday from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. There is no admission fee. The gallery features art created by local and regional artists in a wide range of media. In addition to regularly rotating indoor exhibits, there is an open-air sculpture patio. The art center also hosts a wide variety of programs ranging from member portfolio reviews to free art in the park events that include live music and hands-on workshops.

Free Oakland Up
2809 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94602 

Brainchild of installation artist Jocelyn Meggait, Free Oakland Up offers a most unique experience for art lovers of all types. The studio/storefront is home to a varying array of socially interactive free gallery exhibits,  a studio space filled with free supplies and a gift shop where everything is, you guessed it, free. Meggait built upon the ideas behind "freecycling" and bartering for art and services to create a spot where creating, viewing and bringing home art is accessible to everyone. Free Oakland Up is open Thursday through Sundays from noon - 4 p.m.

Related:  Best Art Museums In San Francisco

San Jose Institute Of Contemporary Art
560 South 1st St.
San Jose, CA 95113
(408) 283-8155

Situated in the heart of downtown San Jose, the Institute of Contemporary Art offers free admission to a wide variety of rotating exhibits. Recent exhibitions include everything from Sophia Allison and Leanne Lee's re-purposed organic coffee filter sculptures to large-scale paintings by abstract artist Naomie Kremer. The institute is open six days a week from Tuesday through Sunday, with extended hours during San Jose's South First Fridays. It also conducts a number of nominal fee programs including professional development and artist talks.

Peninsula Museum Of Art
1777 California Drive
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 692-2101

The Peninsula Museum of Art is located in Burlingame and is dedicated to celebrating diversity through fostering creativity. Rotating exhibits feature artists hailing from all areas of the greater Bay Area, and include everything from mixed media and ceramics to extreme photography and ink paintings. The museum is open from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays, and admission is free. The museum's Peninsula Art Institute also fosters a strong creative community and hosts studio space for select area artists.

Related: Best Contemporary Art Galleries In San Francisco

Joanna Metheny is a freelance writer covering all things South Bay. Her work can be found on


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