I did something naughty the other night. I plucked a piece of art off the wall and took it home without paying.

Did the devil make me do it? No, but Project Utopia did.

This Oakland exhibit lets you pick out one piece of art to take home at no charge.

My friend and I jumped on a matching set of watercolors by San Leandro artist Jorge Luis Iniguez.

In researching his work at http://www.artwanted.com/artist.cfm?artid=46586, I found Iniguez's images online for hundreds of dollars -- yet my painting was free.

Why would an artist give his or her work away? The idea, say project organizers, is to consider the possibilities of an economy in which no money changes hands.

I now have a connection to Jorge Iniguez. I haven't met him, but his painting holds a place of prominence in my home. In some modest way, I hope that this column helps complete the circle of giving. The Free Art Gallery is up through March 29 at 10 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. See http://proartsgallery.org.

Around town: Montclair is going all-out for Saint Patrick's Day, starting with a bagpiper at the Sunday Farmer's Market.

Of course, Crogan's will be jumping with a full Irish menu including Smithwick's Irish Ale fish & chips, corned beef & cabbage and Guinness beef.


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Across the street at Grille One Carvery, they're setting up a beer garden, and even Farmstead Cheeses & Wines is piggybacking on the festivities with their Sunday wine tasting from 11:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m.

Using your noodle: Who among us hasn't had a nighttime hankering for a bowl of ramen? This Japanese phenomenon of late-night noodling has caught fire in Oakland's Uptown, with the advent of a pop-up cafe called Yonsei Ramen Shop. The Friday night soup stand (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.) operates out of Hopscotch (1915 San Pablo Ave.) and capitalizes on the popularity of Oakland's First Friday Art Walk. This is the second slam-dunk for this hip uptown eatery. Hopscotch is also one of Travel & Leisure's picks for "America's Coolest New Diners."

Email bag: Readers have been sounding off in response to my Feb. 15 column on barking dogs. The common theme is that more dogs than ever spend long days in homes and on decks -- and these pets are yelping.

In the case of one Broadway Terrace reader, "the dogs are a good three to four blocks away, but from the way the sound travels in the canyon, they might as well be next door." A reminder -- if talking with the dog owner(s) doesn't work, see the guidelines posted on the Oakland Animal Services website at http://oaklandanimalservices.org/need-help/barking-dogs.

On stage: Spring time is the perfect time for a sci-fi spoof on carnivorous plants that take over the world. And it's even better if there's dancing and singing involved. For anyone who can't wait for the Woodminster summer musicals, "The Little Shop of Horrors" is onstage through March 24 at Holy Names University's Valley Center for Performing Arts (3500 Mountain Blvd.) It's good family fun and you can find out more at http://www.woodminster.com/Webpages/news.html.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-723-2525, by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.