Shadetree, or “The Jewel of Oakland”, as it has come to be known, is an historically and culturally rich property, perhaps the most unique in Oakland.
It was purchased in 1979 by Robert A Schultz, a long-time pillar of Oakland who once worked for the city, lending his talents and character to such local institutions as Children’s Fairyland, the Oakland Zoo and OMCA.
HOME SWEET HOME
Over the past 38 years, Schultz has invited artists and tradespeople of all kinds to make Shadetree their home. The original industrial structures of the property have been augmented with salvaged architectural bits from Oakland’s history, as each resident carved out a piece of the land here and made it their own. The result is one of Oakland’s longest-running live-work spaces.
It all started when...
On December 12, 1979, Schultz purchased the property and building we now call Shade Tree. As was Schultz’s dream, the property quickly became a lighthouse to those unique characters, artists and craftspeople who shared his vision of a life worth living and a community worth building.
Since that fortuitous day, Shade Tree has evolved and bloomed, thanks to the skill and ingenuity of its residents and Mr Schultz himself. Generations of families and individuals- artists and sailors, carpenters and craftspeople of all kinds- have called Shade Tree their home and nearly every one of them has left their mark in some form.
Today, it is home to 14 working artists: Musicians, sculptors, painters, puppeteers, actors, directors, composers, costume designers, photographers, inventors, singers, dancers, poets, as well as art and music teachers. Most of these artists fall into more than one of these categories. Still other residents provide eco-friendly home renovations and much-needed solar power capabilities to home owners throughout the bay area. Another started a handmade body care line which has been featured in the New York Times and many other publications as a penultimate example of an honest, natural, homespun product brought fully to bear on the national market with great success. The SF Weekly deemed it “Best Local Skincare Line” in 2010. One artist was granted a fellowship through the internationally known TED talks program, for which only 20 people are selected annually worldwide. This particular artist and puppeteer also followed in Schultz’s footsteps, assisting in the fabrication of the San Francisco Zoo and working at Children’s Fairyland, building and repairing many of the park’s themed elements and tending to the inhabitants of its unique petting zoo. Another resident is a social worker, helping the less fortunate acclimate to new surroundings following some form of trauma. Most recently, one long-time resident and composer was nominated for the prestigious Drama Desk Award for his work in a theatrical production in New York City.
Then there’s the musical acts,
vaudeville and variety shows
Then there’s the musical acts, vaudeville and variety shows: Rube Waddell, the As-Is Brass Band, the Extra Action Marching Band, Pony Hunt, the Bodice Rippers, Knees and Elbows, Attaboy and Burke, the Specimen, the Yard Dogs Roadshow, the Fitzcock Follies, Apocalypse Puppet Theater, the Stars and Garters Theatre Company, the Sansa and Shiri Show, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Faun Fables. Whew!
It’s worth noting here that most of these acts would feel right at home in the bay area’s Barbary Coast days, breathing new life into the classic vaudeville tropes of the past: burlesque, circus and sideshow, cabaret, ukuleles and accordions, banjos and trumpets, trombones and violins, puppets and acrobatics.
Many of these talented residents have not only left their mark on the bay area, but in nearly every major metropolitan area in the United States, countless small towns in between, and across the globe: Taiwan, India, Turkey, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Slovenia, Italy and more.
This makeshift artisan compound dreamed up by Robert A Schultz in 1979 has become a priceless and unparalleled incubator of beloved local acts that also serve as ambassadors of the Oakland spirit to the world at large: Live theater and musical acts, albums and films crafted in the shade of the Shade Tree and circulated far and wide, with the property serving as workshop, rehearsal space and recording studio.
This is the community fostered by Schultz and these examples are but to name a few of the valuable contributions and products exported from the land of Shade Tree. Its residents continue to provide innumerable and indispensible goods and services to local institutions such as the Oakland Museum of California, the Crucible industrial arts education center, the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, SFMOMA, the San Francisco Day School, the San Francisco Opera, Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theater Program, as well as galleries, boutiques, and artisan markets throughout Oakland and the greater bay area.