Can you keep a secret? The 1,500 enrollees at Mills College have. It’s very rare to find other visitors when you check out this arcadian campus in the Oakland hills. Mills boasts six Julia Morgan buildings but  the finest jewels, at least in the Geezer’s opinion, are the Art Gallery and the Concert Hall. Both are in the Spanish colonial style so favored by William Randolph Hearst and both were designed by William Ratcliff.

The Art Gallery is a single enormous space lit beatifically by a massive coffered glass ceiling. The dark beams are richly carved and strangely enough work beautifully with the minimal exhibition space. The shows here are of interest but even if they aren’t it’s worth the trip just to check out the building. Free admission.

The talented Mr. Ratcliff also designed the College’s Concert Hall and it is an eyeful of Inquisition Rococo. Another massive coffered ceiling in the lobby, wrought iron window frames, chandeliers. In the auditorium are murals that wouldn’t be out of place in Oakland’s Paramount. But again the ceiling steals the show. It’s composed of wildly colorful tiles in deco Navajo patterns. You can attend edgy modern concerts here or you can just walk in most days.

Mills is another world. Hard to believe you’re about a block from 580.

mills college

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