Thanks for Supporting The Gardens and the 2018 Autumn Lights Festival!

Thanks to each and every one of the 16,000 of you who came out to support us at the seventh Autumn Lights Festival!  It was a magical festival of illuminated art created by, this year, 179 acclaimed Bay Area artists, all in support of the non-profit Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt.  This year the Autumn Lights Festival was three mesmerizing nights in October. Funds raised go to create our new gates and entry level plazas for the front and back gates of our gardens. It will finally be recognized as the Oakland landmark that it has become!  The first entry plaza garden was planted in January 2018.

Alameda artist Shawn Lovell has created the first elegant iron gate, now awaiting installation by the city.  We have raised funds toward a second entry gate across from the Sailboat House in Lakeside Park.

The Festival is an annual unique Oakland tradition, now in its sixth year, a huge art and light show. It’s a community gathering held within the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Lakeside Park. The Festival is a fundraiser for these beautiful, free public gardens, which are truly the “Green Heart of Oakland.” Local artists create gigantic and small works of art using light.  From tiny clay pottery lanterns to Burning Man pieces, everyone in our art community comes together to create the magic. Immerse yourself in mesmerizing, larger-than-life art installations, fire dancers, live music and more!

See you next October!  Bigger and better!

Autumn Lights Benefits the Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt

Proceeds will fund improvements at the gardens including construction of two new landscaped gates and entry plazas on Bellevue Avenue.

Imagine yourself immersed in acres of lush gardens illuminated with mesmerizing, larger-than-life art and lighting installations created by Bay Area artists, situated in the gardens of Lakeside Park on the shores of Oakland’s shimmering Lake Merritt. The festive evenings blend live music, art, fire dancers, food and libations to make one unforgettable experience. This wildly popular annual tradition benefiting the Gardens at Lake Merritt is easy to get to and fun for all ages. 

These enchanted, slightly surreal sights and sounds ─ brilliantly and harmoniously realized in a one-of-a-kind setting ─ epitomize the annual Autumn Lights Festival in the Gardens at Lake Merritt. Like thousands of other attendees, Jon Carroll took a few hours on an October evening to see Oakland in a new light and told the world what he saw.

“…I walked among the dimly lit oaks with distant music drifting in the air.  I thought how very much I liked the Oakland that was being created before my eyes. The event was multiracial and free-spirited; the sculpture sang in the balmy night.”

Jon Carroll, “Magic is all over — just look” San Francisco Chronicle, 21 October, 2014

In 2018, the festival welcomed over 16,000 people of all ages who strolled through the Gardens at night, and marveled at the mesmerizing illuminated installations crafted by dozens of local artists.


in 2016, the East Bay Express honored Autumn Lights as the “Most ‘Lit’ Festival” in its Best of the East Bay 2016 edition.