Frank Bette Cen­ter for the Arts of­fers classes, unique ex­hibits

San Francisco Chronicle - - ALAMEDA - By Peggy Spear

The Frank Bette Cen­ter for the Arts in Alameda is truly unique. Where else can you hear a group of re­tirees and older pro­fes­sion­als play Green Day’s “Good Rid­dance” on ukule­les?

It’s a Wednesday night, and th­ese ukulele en­thu­si­asts — who also wel­come gui­tarists and other in­stru­men­tal­ists — are hav­ing a jam ses­sion at the cen­ter.

“When I walk in here af­ter a hec­tic day, I’m sud­denly re­laxed,” Alameda’s Pete Con­nolly said.

His sen­ti­ment is shared by the group’s leader, mu­si­cian Janet Lenore. “I feel like this is my liv­ing room,” she said, look­ing around the small, com­fort­able stu­dio the club uses once a month, with its wood floors and walls cov­ered with pho­to­graphs taken by lo­cal pho­tog­ra­phers.

Such is the am­biance of the Frank Bette Cen­ter, a jewel in Alameda’s thriv­ing lo­cal arts scene. The yel­low Vic­to­rian on Paru Street of­fers classes from po­etry to ukulele, photograph­y to paint­ing and much more.

The arts cen­ter is named for its bene­fac­tor, Frank Bette, who was a fur­ni­ture re­fin­isher and artist, ac­cord­ing to cen­ter spokesper­son Kris War­ren­burg. When Bette died in 1999, he willed the build­ing to be used as an art cen­ter.

“He was a life­long artist but was shy about shar­ing his art un­til late in life when friends en­cour­aged him to show his work and to pro­duce sev­eral books about his po­etry and his sculp­ture,” War­ren­burg said. “This ca­ma­raderie opened a new world of com­mu­nity for artists, which he wished to make pos­si­ble for other artists.”

The cen­ter started off with a paid di­rec­tor, War­ren­burg said.

“But when it be­came clear that hav­ing a paid di­rec­tor was un­sus­tain­able, we switched to an all-vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion,” War­ren­burg said.

When the cen­ter closed for

sev­eral months last year for city man­dated re­pairs, the Alameda com­mu­nity showed its strong sup­port by help­ing raise funds and pro­vid­ing vol­un­teer or dis­counted help to com­plete the re­pairs.

The classes of­fered change through­out the year. Cur­rently, the cen­ter is of­fer­ing draw­ing, paint­ing, writ­ing, mixed me­dia, car­toon­ing and ukulele classes, taught by Lenore but of­fered on a dif­fer­ent night than the jam ses­sion. Some classes are one-day, oth­ers last up to six weeks, War­ren­burg said. It also of­fers an on­go­ing life draw­ing group that meets with no in­struc­tor.

The Frank Bette Cen­ter for the Arts of­fers three group ex­hibits for mem­bers of the com­mu­nity and cen­ter mem­bers. There are also six solo art ex­hibits in the sig­na­ture gallery for mem­bers as well as four or five solo mem­ber ex­hibits at satel­lite gal­leries in the com­mu­nity, War­ren­burg said.

There are also ro­tat­ing pro­grams through­out the year, such as Alameda Is­land Po­etry: a work­shop the first Wednesday of each month; the Alameda Writ­ers’ Work­shop; Acous­tic Jam; a photograph­y ex­hibit on South Africa; and a Spring Art Sale.

“Frank Bette had a broad view of the arts,” Con­nolly said.

Lenore adds as she tunes her ukulele, “This cen­ter is re­ally grass­roots. Peo­ple have a lot of hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence in what­ever they are do­ing.”

The group launches into a ren­di­tion of the Bea­tles “Act Nat­u­rally” — an apt song se­lec­tion for what comes nat­u­rally to them.


Above: Grace Men­dez, left, talks with Liz Ta­mayo, right, while teach­ing a class called Pain­terly Mono­prints with a Gelli Plate at the Frank Bette Cen­ter for the Arts. Be­low left: Classes at the cen­ter in­clude po­etry, ukulele, photograph­y and paint­ing....

Frank Bette, who was a fur­ni­ture re­fin­isher and artist, willed the yel­low Vic­to­rian to be used as an art cen­ter when he died in 1999.

Randi Plotner works on cre­at­ing a gelli print at the Frank Bette Cen­ter for the Arts in Alameda.

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