The best things in life are free and the free things in life are the best -- especially if you're broke as a joke or just hate wasting money. The Bay Area is a wonderfully resourceful place to find free things to do. Today, Sunday July 13th, you can go check out the new Frida Kahlo exhibit at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for free, and it is just one of the many wonderful free things to do in the Bay Area this summer.
First Tuesdays of the month are when most (not all -- so always check in advance) major SF museums host free days. On July 1st, the most recent free first Tuesday at MoMA, I headed over in the hopes of catching both the general museum exhibits (which are highly recommended) and the recently opened one of Frida Kahlo's work (thru Sep 28), which spans the famed Mexican artist's career and also includes her own collection of photographs, most of which have never been displayed before.
When I arrived at the main entrance on 3rd Street, there was no cover charge and no line to get in to the general part of MoMA but the much (justifiably) hyped new Kahlo show had attracted an additional wallop of eager art fans who both had to line up (it moved fast) and pay an additional $5 (still good value) to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit. I inquired about seeing Frida for free and was informed by Jean Halverson at MoMA that July 13th would be the only completely free day to see that exhibit. But be forewarned: free often comes with some kind a price, usually standing in line for a bit -- so arrive prepared, and bring a book to read or snacks to share with your friends in line. At one ridiculously long wait for a one-time only exhibit in New York, a bunch of us in the slow long line had pizza delivered.
First Sundays are the free days at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum and this past free Sunday (July 6th) was especially packed due to the attraction of the new Ming Dynasty show exploring the Chinese power that extended from 1368 to 1644. According to one employee, the Asian Art Museum was much more crowded than usual last Sunday, drawing approximately 8000 visitors. Again, be prepared to wait in line when something good is offered for free.
At the Oakland Museum of California, which has been hosting some amazing free events lately, including this past Friday night's East Bay Express Best of the Bay party (click here for review with pics), they have designated First Fridays for the KQED presented Sunset Cinema 2008" series -- a free outdoor event that visitors are recommended to bring a picnic to. The Oak Street museum's upcoming scheduled films are both documentaries that have a local focus. Runner's High (Sept. 5), about running in a marathon, addresses the challenge of growing up in East Oakland, while Paperback Dreams (August 1st) is a piece about independent bookstores becoming an endangered species. Its subjects are Bay Area bookstores Cody's and Kepler's. Gates open at 7PM for picnics with "film and conversation" scheduled for 7:30PM each upcoming summer Friday. You can find a complete listing of events at the Oakland Museum here.
Other free Bay Area events this summer include next week's free seventh annual San Francisco Zine Fest (July 19 & 20) at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park @ 9th & Lincoln Way (formerly the Hall of Flowers). The fest, a celebration of small press, zines, comics, and all things DIY, will present over 100 small-press and DIY creators selling, trading, and otherwise sharing their work. Also they will have lots of live music and numerous workshops and readings etc., including a special presentation of Cheap City: The Show by local cartoonist and comedian Michael Capozzola.
Also free is the Oakland Art Murmur, the monthly art walk around downtown Oakland near Mama Buzz cafe on Telegraph. The area becomes a wonderful celebration of up-and-coming homegrown art on the first Fridays of the month, with participants including 21 Grand, Blank Space, The Moon, Well, and Luka's Taproom. Always a really fun event!
Not far away, about twenty blocks down Telegraph towards Berkeley, is the Temescal area of North Oakland, where they have been screening free movies Thursday nights. The last one is next Thursday, July 17th -- Touching Home with Ed Harris. For more info visit Temescal Street Cinema.
There are street fairs every weekend in the Bay Area, especially San Francisco, and oodles of other free things to do. Please include your free-things-to-do in the Bay Area tips in the COMMENTS below. Thanks for reading!