Downtown Oakland will be transformed tonight into an otherworldly theater of light.

Public art, live music and film will collide through the phantasm of The Illuminated Corridor, a performance group whose three-act show will begin near City Hall at 7:14 p.m. — the moment between sunset and when the center of the sun reaches 6 degrees below the horizon.

The entire evening will be devoted to the arts, from the monthly Art Murmur that has morphed into a vaudevillian extravaganza-gallery crawl snaking through the city, to the ephemeral light and video shows that will be the centerpiece of the city of Oakland events.

The city's celebration of California Arts Day begins today with a public reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the window-lined Oakland Art Gallery, 199 Kahn's Alley, followed nearby by the Illuminated Corridor until 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Great Wall of Oakland will transform the rear wall of Luka's Taproom and Lounge into a tableau of experimental film and video from 7:30 until 9:30 p.m.

A 12,000-lumen projector will shine video shorts and other digital work onto the blank, white wall at 2201 Broadway. Tonight the theme will be Food and Drink, including a short about a taco truck romance.

The improvisational media-music shows tonight will reflect the sort of experimental artwork included in Luminous Oakland, a project aimed at transforming the Uptown District into a media arts corridor.

Luminous Oakland would be a corridor of light-based digital media installations, some permanent, some temporary, along Telegraph Avenue and Broadway and 16th to 20th streets. The installation reflects the kind of public art that melds into a city's physical being and changes the civic environment.

City as museum

Other projects use the city more as a museum. But instead of hanging on walls, the city's collection hangs in libraries, stands in parks and is installed in fire stations, reflecting a traditional approach to public art.

And as Oakland once again evolves, the time has come to start planning strategically for a long-term investment in its collection — like any good connoisseur would do.

"Oakland is an important city, a major city," said Steven Huss, acting cultural arts program coordinator of the Cultural Arts and Marketing Division — sort of curator of the city's public arts collection.

"So we need more funds to build a world-class public art collection and honor what we've got," Huss said. Right now he's got a budget dependent on the whims of public funding. Huss wants to shift from the city's approach of year-to-year, piecemeal planning so that the collection will reflect what he called Oakland's diversity, geographic importance and rich history — three elements that are, like the city's public art, not prominently displayed.

With a limited budget, the approach includes artists in the building of the city. Instead of plowing ahead with new sidewalks, for example, artists would be invited to collaborate on planning sidewalks people could enjoy aesthetically as well as functionally.

Artists are in the thick of civic planning by helping create places people want to be. Oakland is not a new, small city starting from the ground up.

"But we can channel the resources we already have," Huss said.

Corridor plans

Also, plans for the East Bay Arts Corridor, an online portal for art patrons and artists will launch in early 2009. Each participating city — Oakland, Emeryville, Richmond and Berkeley — will have its own URL but will all intersect to offer directories of artists, galleries, public art, and other venues, as well as tickets and other information.

Meanwhile, the city has developed the Oakland Arts Campaign, including a Web site that will ultimately be incorporated into the East Bay site.

Oakland is still a frontier, Huss said, but it is time to look at its infrastructure as the city grows and matures.

Whatever direction that takes, the artwork, Huss said, should announce: "You are in Oakland. You are not someplace else."

If you know of or are having a cool shindig, drop me a line at awoodall@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-208-6413.

If you go
Bring an FM radio to the Illuminated Corridor at 7:14 tonight to tune into the live music during the improvisational performances, which begin with "Pardee," a meditation on the former Westmore Pardee Building demolished in 1995. The second act, "Rotunda," is described as "a contrapuntal exploration of the current identity of the site." Lastly comes "ewords: a new anthem drawn from the momentum of Oakland's public-private cultural investment initiatives." There is no charge for the events, which are held in Kahn's Alley, between Telegraph Avenue and Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland. For more information, visit www.oaklandculturalarts.org or call 510-238-7561.