Art on the Avenue: Thelma Harris Art Gallery

Saturday, January 10, 2015

On the southeast corner of College and Harwood Avenues, up a short flight of exterior stairs bordering Barclay's pub, you will find the Thelma Harris Art Gallery, Rockridge's destination for master works by African American artists. In 2015 the gallery marks its 25th year in business and its 23rd year in Rockridge.

An inviting place with abundant light in the exhibition space brought in from plentiful windows, Thelma Harris' gallery shows a diverse mix of paintings, sculptures, mixed media works, and photography, all in either abstract or more traditional styles. The gallery has shown work by Harlem Renaissance artists Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Palmer Hayden, and Aaron Douglas; California modern artists such as Charles White, Artis Lane, and Claude Clark; and contemporary artists including Michael Singletary, Dana King, and William Tolliver. Interestingly, it has shown artists who have also been important art historians such as Samella Lewis and James A. Porter.

With an active exhibitions program, the gallery participates in Oakland Art Murmur's First Friday open houses and, in March, will launch its next curated show, "20th Century Modernism." Every August, the gallery stages "White Linen Nights" as a showcase for works rarely available on the art market. The gallery is a full-service art operation that works with clients to acquire, curate, appraise, frame, conserve, and install collections.

Thelma Harris, co-founder of the gallery with her husband Terry, has a wonderful feel for the neighborhood and anticipates the future: "The Rockridge District is a 'destination location.' The proximity to restaurants, lounges, CCA, UC Berkeley, and BART makes this an ideal cultural haven. In addition, the new residential and commercial expansions slated for this area will bring fresh eyes and new opportunities."

Carl Schmitz is Art Research Librarian at the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, unofficial secretary general of the Flo Allen Fan Club and a Volunteer Archivist at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland in the historic Carnegie library downtown, 659 14th Street. He can be reached at