FREMONT -- As city leaders try to transform the streets around City Hall into a vibrant downtown, they first must change perceptions of the area. That's one of the goals of the Fremont Underground Social Experience, an art-themed event that will kick off in the heart of the city Saturday evening.

Inspired by similar street parties proven popular in San Jose and Oakland, Fremont's monthly series will mix culture, food and entertainment while transforming two empty storefronts into pop-up art galleries at the Town Fair Shopping Center.

It will be held in the heart of a 110-acre automobile-heavy zone that the city plans to turn into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood by mixing new condominiums with shopping and eateries near public transit.

As those plans slowly take shape, the city-sponsored art series might spur people to begin seeing the evolving neighborhood as a destination, said Jessica von Borck, Fremont's downtown project manager. Also featuring music and food, the new series will spotlight local artists and their work, cultivating the city's cultural arts, von Borck said.

"We really want to highlight downtown as a place for people to connect with art and culture," she said. "In time, we hope this becomes a venue for artists and Fremont residents to meet."

The city has hired Cherri Lakey and Brian Eder of Two Fish Design to plan Fremont's series. The South Bay event-production company, which runs San Jose's monthly art nights, has tapped into its network of Bay Area artists for the event, Lakey said.


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The monthly pop-up galleries will open from 6 to 10 p.m. on every third Saturday, through October. Those attending can buy art work in the storefronts-turned-galleries, enjoy music spun by a local DJ and eat from a food truck or nearby restaurants, Lakey said.

Last month, the city started Downtown Fremont Street Eats, a weekly convoy of gourmet food trucks parked on Capitol Avenue, about a block from Town Fair Shopping Center. City leaders also have invited the public to vote online for their favorite logo promoting downtown.

Saturday's event will be Fremont's most recent attempt to generate interest in the area. It also might add luster to the city's arts scene, said JoJo Perea, whose abstract paintings and drawings will be featured in the pop-up galleries.

"We're trying to bring a different flavor to Fremont," Perea said. "It's known for being quiet, but we're slowly waking up as a city. It's becoming colorful and vibrant and is forming its identity."

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.

If you go
The Fremont Underground Social Experience will run from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at 39112 State St., in the Town Fair Shopping Center parking lot. For details, go to www.fremont.gov.