The East Bay Hills by Laura Cunningham

BEFORE HUMAN CONTACT When Laura Cunningham was growing up in Kensington, she used to walk to school and wonder what the East Bay looked like before buildings and roads covered everything. That curiosity remained with her as she went on to get degrees in paleontology and natural science illustration. The remarkable result of that decades-long question question is answered in Laura Cunningham: Before California, a new exhibit opening Thursday Sept. 13 at 5:30 pm at the Hazel Wolf Gallery in the David Brower Center. Cunningham has created striking illustrations of California landscapes as they would have looked centuries ago before they were dramatically altered by human activity. Berkeley’s Heyday Books published a collection of Cunningham’s work in 2010, but this first-ever solo exhibition also includes contemporary photos and drawings. The show runs until Jan. 30, 2013. Cunningham will speak about her art at the opening and will hold an outdoor sketch class this Saturday, part of a number of programs held in conjunction with the exhibition.

THE PROMISES AND PERILS OF NEW DEMOCRACIES The democratic uprisings in the Arab world have led to large scale changes in the government and governance of numerous countries – including Libya, where the US Ambassador and three other diplomats were killed on Tuesday. UC Berkeley is hosting a two day conference, Democracy Rising, that will explore recent events in Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, take a look at why some uprisings work and some don’t, and what might lie ahead. Key participants will include India’s former chief elections commissioner, a member of Tunisia’s Finance Committee, a senior mediation expert with the UN, and a leading Russian journalist. The conference runs Thursday Sept. 13-Friday Sept. 14.

GREENING OF BERKELEY In 1922, George Budgen opened a small nursery to provide Berkeley residents with native and other plants to adorn their homes, adopting the slogan “It’s not a home until it’s planted.” Three generations later, Berkeley Horticultural Society (or Berkeley Hort, as it is affectionately known) is celebrating its 90th birthday in September with a series of talks, tastings, art displays, and music. On Saturday, Sept. 15, the nursery that is also famous for its annual fuchsia show will feel more like a party palace than a garden. Celebrations begin at 10 a.m. with a talk on olive tree care by Samantha Dorsey of McEvoy. The Swing Cats will perform at noon and tasting of Madecass chocolate starts at 1 p.m. The celebration continues on Sunday, Sept. 16 and the weekend of Sept. 29-30. Berkeley Hort is located at 1310 McGee Avenue, right off Hopkins. A complete list of events is here.

TIBETAN BUDDHISM, EXPANDED Ever wonder what is behind the facades of all those similar-looking buildings on Harold Way? The street that might be renamed Dharma Way? On Saturday some of the organizations founded by Tibetan Buddhist Lama Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche, a refugee who fled his homeland in 1959 and settled in Berkeley in 1969, will hold a block-long open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is a celebration of the grand opening of Dharma College at 2222 Harold Way, an “educational center dedicated to bringing together seekers and thinkers, scientists, humanists, and spiritual leaders… to explore the nature of the human mind and its transformative potential.” There will be tours of Dharma College, the Tibetan Aid Project, Dharma Publishing Bookstore, and the Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages, located in the spectacular old Elks Building on Allston Way. In addition to guided tours, there will be a Tibetan art exhibition, live music and dance performances, refreshments and a chance to meet the faculty, staff, and scholars of the various institutions.

BE A KID AGAIN Mr. Mopps’, Berkeley’s most beloved toy store, has been delighting kids and parents for 50 years. To celebrate this milestone, the store, which was taken over a few years ago by Devin McDonald and Jenny Stevenson, is throwing a party on Sunday, Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the store on Martin Luther King near Rose. This will be a child’s delight with face painting, chalk drawing, a fairy making balloon animals and a pirate. Mr. Mopps’ recently started its own music label and one of its first recording artists, The Ukalady, will perform at 11 a.m. The Family Book Lab, located three doors down on MLK, will also be having an open house and visitors will be able to make their own commemorative posters of the Mr. Mopps’ celebration. Details here.

Don’t forget other weekend happenings previously mentioned on Berkeleyside:

The Aurora Theater presents The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
Barry McGee’s urban art takes over Berkeley Art Museum

Also, check out the newly launched Berkeleyside Radio, which presents music from many bands that will be playing around town in the next two weeks. You can stream it, too. Produced by Deli Radio.

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To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...