Quirky Berkeley

A free citywide art gallery on the streets of Berkeley

When it comes to landscaping, why stop at plastic flamingos? Based on Tom Dalzell’s blog of the same name, Quirky Berkeley pays tribute to the boldly imaginative artwork on display in front of, on top of, and engulfing residents’ houses all over the city. With full-color photographs and a pithy wit, Dalzell shares his discoveries of the unexpected: the giant orange on Spruce Street, a house shaped like a fish, bowling balls as lawn art, enormous dachshund sculptures,
and the birdhouse pyramid on Sacramento, to name just a few of the oddities. Created, installed, and maintained at great expense—not just of money, but of time and creative energy—these are all free to view, all gifts to the street. Included in every write-up are profiles of the artists, whom Dalzell is careful to portray not as stereotypical “Berzerkeleyites” but as individuals who have found their true north of exuberant self-expression. While the very uniqueness of each of these sites invites us to focus on the individual creators, the book also considers what the abundance of such art says about a community and its values. This love letter to idiosyncrasy champions the revolutionary idea that we can build a vibrant community not by demanding conformity but by celebrating difference.

Reviews

“Destined to become an instant Berkeley classic.” — Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside

About the Author

Tom Dalzell has lived in Berkeley since 1984. He has worked as a lawyer for the labor movement for his entire adult life. He has written extensively about slang. He has been methodically walking the streets of Berkeley since late 2012 in search of quirky stuff, blogging about it since 2013. The New York Times described him as looking “too strait-laced to be the arbiter of the eccentric.” He accepts this verdict.

Malcolm MargolinMalcolm Margolin is the publisher emeritus of Heyday, an independent nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution, which he founded in 1974. Margolin is author of several books, including The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco–Monterey Bay Area, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the hundred most important books of the twentieth century by a western writer. He has received dozens of prestigious awards among which are the Chairman's Commendation from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fred Cody Award Lifetime Achievement from the San Francisco Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, the Helen Crocker Russell Award for Community Leadership from the San Francisco Foundation, the Carey McWilliams Award for Lifetime Achievement from the California Studies Association, an Oscar Lewis Award for Western History from the Book Club of California, a Hubert Bancroft Award from Friends of the Bancroft Library, a Cultural Freedom Award from the Lannan Foundation, and a Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. He helped found the Bay Nature Institute and the Alliance for California Traditional Artists.