Artisans Open Studios tour opens

Business districts and cities are promoting the idea of shopping local for the holidays and beyond and gift buying doesn't get much more local than handmade art and craft items made by area artists.

That's what you'll find at the 22nd annual Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios, a free self-guided tour that starts this weekend and continues from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 24.

More than 100 artists and craftspeople will be at their studios and galleries to welcome visitors and discuss fine art pieces of all types, as well as textiles, jewelry, leather bags, recycled art, sculpture, photography, paintings, mosaics, stained glass, original prints and works on paper, musical instruments and artisan wines.

"All work is handcrafted, and many pieces are one-of-a-kind," says the Berkeley Artisans group, adding that "Many studios are in the same building, or are clustered within walking distance from one another."

A free map and directory of participants is available online at www.berkeleyartisans.com or can be picked up at Berkeley Artisans, 2547 Eighth St.

Snow and seasonal fun on Shattuck

The North Berkeley business district on Shattuck Avenue is kicking off the holiday season from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 2 by declaring a snow day in the parking lot at 1673 Shattuck Ave.

"Visit with the Snow Queen, who will listen to all of your holiday wishes, ride a pony, make holiday crafts, and warm up with hot cider and chewy cookies courtesy of Andronico's," says the North Shattuck Association.

Craft vendors will have holiday gifts on display and M. Lowe & Co. at 1519 Shattuck will have a benefit for Walden and Berkeley Arts Magnet schools from 1 to 4 p.m.

Holiday entertainment in the Gourmet Ghetto will continue from noon to 4 p.m. each weekend in December.

Details: www.AnotherBullwinkelShow.com or www.GourmetGhetto.org.

Blood drive at Cal needs donors

An American Red Cross blood drive will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 4 in the West Pauley Ballroom of the UC Berkeley's MLK Student Union at Bancroft and Telegraph Avenue.

To make an appointment call 800-733-2767 or go to redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code UCB.

Downtown performance of 'Nutcracker'

The children's and teen programs at the Kathryn Roszak Dance on Center will perform a chamber recital version of "The Nutcracker" at 2 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Osher Studio in the Arpeggio Building, 2055 Center St. The performance is free for children. For details call 510-233-5550 or visit www.dlkdance.com.

'Nutcracker' returns at Berkeley Ballet Theater

The 23rd annual performance of The Nutcracker will be presented by Berkeley Ballet Theater Dec. 7-9 and Dec. 14-16 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets and details are available at http://www.berkeleyballet.org/nutcracker.php.

The company is also holding four outreach performances that are expected to reach 1,200 children, "many of whom would otherwise not have the ability to experience a classical ballet performance," at area elementary schools and preschools.

'Sound of Music' opens stage season

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The Sound of Music" is the opening production for the fifth season at Berkeley Playhouse at the Julia Morgan Theatre, 2640 College Ave.

A cast of 40 appears in the tale of the Von Trapp family and their escape from Nazi-occuppied Austria to Switzerland.

Performances are Fridays through Sundays through Dec. 2. For tickets ($17-35) and more information, the public may visit berkeleyplayhouse.org or call 510-845-8542, ext. 351.

Art exhibit to open at Central Library

Sumi-e and nihonga paintings by Bay Area artist Fumiyo Yoshikawa will be on display at the Berkeley Public Library Central Catalog Lobby, 2090 Kittredge St., through Feb. 3.

-- Chris Treadway