Rotten City Cultural District

Summary - California Cultural Districts

The California Cultural District program was developed by the California Arts Council in partnership with Visit California and Caltrans. The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts, fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California’s diverse populations, serving as thought leader and champion for the arts, and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Curious why Emeryville was called the Rottenest City when it is such fertile ground for creative endeavors now?”  See History here.  And learn more about  the transformation of the once Rotten City to the vibrant district it is now  here.

pic college Rotten city

Design credit Rob Arias, Eville Eye (photos by others)

Emeryville’s Rotten City Cultural District Partners

City Hall has partnered with the following arts organizations and representatives:

And commissioned ABG Art Group and  District Works to implement the Rotten City Cultural District (RCCD) Program from January 1, 2024 – December 31, 2025 with current funding.

Partner Events #rottencityfertileground

District Tours

Want to have an audio guided tour of the District? Or hear from some of the 20 artists featured in City Hall and the inspiration for their works?  

Otocast (downloadable with this QR code) offers two smart phone guided audio tours:

  • one for City Hall 
  • one for the makers in the District

Scan Bar

Additional Historic Tours:

Park Avenue District Walking Tour

Emeryville, CAs Park Avenue District is chock full of beautiful warehouses and important historical sites that played vital roles in Industry, recreation and science. Notable sites on this self-guided walking tour include the Oakland Oaks Ball Park, the birthplace of modern greyhound racing, a steam car factory that almost revolutionized automobile manufacturing and other more notorious sites that helped give “The Rottenest City” its moniker.

For access to this walking tour see here:

Funded Efforts

The City, in partnership with the California Arts Council, and local partners: Pixar Animation Studios, Compound Gallery, Wareham Development, Emeryville Celebration of the Arts, the 45th Artists Cooperative, The Gallery at the Emery, and Jered’s Pottery (with a representative of the Public Art Committee included in partnership discussions) is seeking to:

  • Establish a feasible pathway to the development and operations of Performing and Exhibition Center for the Arts in Emeryville 
  • Brand the district #rottencityfertileground with a series of marketing efforts working with artists for collateral material, signage, events and collaboration with local hospitality venues
  • Support local artists in the exploration of new commercial endeavors, exposure to new markets and stabilization of housing 
  • Develop an event schedule and event programs that highlight local partners, artists and the Districts strengths and innovations and build momentum for the Performing and Exhibition Center’s programming 
  • Lead and or arrange tours of studio spaces, host open studios, expand audio tours and mapping and consider QR codes or icons for district assets
  • Procure and complete design of signage, wayfinding, banners, projectors, art installations (e.g. mural of District) and/or other materials for a lasting designation of the District 

The California Arts Council awarded the Rotten City Cultural District $671,000 to support these efforts between 2023 and 2025. 

Background - Emeryville’s Rotten City Cultural District 

An innovative district amid a Renaissance devoted to Art and creative production. Emeryville represents a different type of district, devoted to art production and including a wide variety of modern art forms such as animation, digital/video mapping compositions, and light as a media. 

 The consistent growth of the arts in Emeryville began when “mud flat art” started appearing overnight on its Shoreline. As the region transitioned from heavy industry to the modern economy, artists moved into available warehouses with the still thriving 45th Artists’ Cooperative celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.  As the Bay’s Eastern shore line was restored, and the city underwent significant redevelopment, partners such as Pixar Animation Studios, Emeryville Celebration of the Arts, Wareham Development, 45th Street Artists Cooperative and Compound Gallery, help to grow, incubate, and fuse the arts district.

 Designated as one of just 14 State recognized Cultural Districts, the Rotten City Cultural District is set apart from the other districts by its recognition as a center of makers and innovators.  With a high per-capita presence of working artists and such cultural meccas as Pixar Studios and Compound Gallery, the Rotten City Cultural District runs the length of Emeryville and centered on the Hollis Street corridor where makers and innovators in the arts can be found east and west of the spine of Hollis Street, with Compound Gallery anchoring the north end and City Hall and Pixar Animation Studios at the south end.  At the heart of the corridor, resplendent with a concentration of newly installed murals are Wareham Development’s Campus, the Emeryville Celebration of the Arts, the 45th Artists Cooperative, The Gallery at the Emery and Jered’s Pottery. The Rotten City Cultural District is a place where art is produced, displayed, and the creative economy is celebrated in Emeryville, a City of Art and Innovation.
City Pic

Art by Lily Therens, Interior mural at Tipsy Putt, Bay Street, Emeryville 

Just as food is celebrated when served farm to table, the City formerly known as the Rottenest City west of Mississippi proves with its cultural District that the rotten city creates fertile ground, with cultural assets in the District including but not limited to: 

  • Atomic Productions 
  • Nancy Karp + Dancers  
  • Compound Gallery & Interdisciplinary Art Facilities
  • Pacific Landscapes Gallery
  • DeMerritt | Pauwels Editions  
  • Pangea Foundation SeaWalls Emeryville Activation 
  • Fabulous Stiches 
  • Paula Skene Designs 
  • Folkmanis Puppets
  • Forty Fifth Street Artists’ Cooperative 
  • Pirate’s Press
  • Gallery Emery 
  • Rueben Margolin
  • Jered’s Pottery
  • Studio E/L 
  • Artists in the Schools
  • T1 Embroidery
  • Living Arts Counseling 
  • TNT Screen printing LLC 
  • Menus & Music 
  • The Zentner Collection 

As murals proliferated across the District beginning with the SeaWalls Festival hosted by PangeaSeed Foundation in September 2023, murals that include references to the public art found in Emeryville have only begun to reveal the hidden treasures of the District.

Credit Nigel Sussman, Mural on Sherwin at Horton


Contact Amber Evans at