When Berkeley Repertory Theatre moved to 2025 Addison Street in 1980, the area was devoid of other arts organizations. The Aurora Theatre and The Jazzschool were not yet in existence; the Golden Sheaf Bakery (now home to the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre) was a dilapidated building; and where The Roda Theatre now stands was an auto body shop. Yet when then City of Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean and the City committed $4 million in 1996 to help Berkeley Rep build a new theatre, they knew that a bigger theatre was the first step towards turning the block on Addison between Milvia and Shattuck into a bona fide arts district. After years of dreaming and planning, the Downtown Berkeley Arts District has finally come to fruition, attracting attention nation-wide.
The vision for the Arts District included creating an atmosphere where all aspects of the arts could flourish. Now, visitors to Addison Street on any day or evening can hear music from a concert at The Jazzschool, read a sampling of the 123 poetry plaques embedded in the Addison Street Sidewalk (the 3 tons of poetry slabs are the reason why you’ll often find people outside the Theatre staring at the ground), enjoy folk and bluegrass music at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, attend a free workshop on clowning for the whole family at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre and view the rotating artwork displays in the “Addison Street Windows Gallery” (in front of the Center Street Parking Garage).
At Berkeley Rep, an Art Committee was established to incorporate more of the visual arts into Berkeley Rep’s expanded two-theatre complex. Now, inside The Roda Theatre are a rotating display of paintings and a permanent sculptured bench by Bruce Beasley. Outside, in the Narsai David Courtyard, are two permanent sculptures, “Tragian” by world-renowned sculptor Beverly Pepper, and “Brutus” by esteemed local sculptor Roger Berry. “Tragian” has been present in the courtyard since late spring 2003, thanks to Kirsten and Peter Bedford. Ms. Pepper’s work has been featured in important private and museum collections including the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American Art. Roger Berry is a local artist currently living in Clarksburg and is responsible for many local sculptures, including works in San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville and Sacramento, as well as in galleries from New York to the Bay Area. The presence of “Brutus” at Berkeley Rep is made possible through a generous donation made by Martin and Margaret Zankel. Berkeley Rep is proud to display these vital works for our audiences’ enjoyment.
Please visit these two public art pieces in our very own Narsai David Courtyard!
Berkeley Rep is part of a vibrant East Bay Arts community that can be explored with the help of www.510arts.com.