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September 1, 2017
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Summer of Love

Groovy highlights at OMCA for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love

By OMCA Staff

The times, they were a-changin’ for everybody! Hippies, hawks and doves, homemakers, and artists all participated in, witnessed, and were changed by the 1967 Summer of Love and its legacy, and California was right in the thick of it. 

This year, the San Francisco Bay Area has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with art exhibitions, music festivals, and more. Ready to cross the bridge? Here’s what to explore at the Oakland Museum of California during your unofficial Summer of Love art and history tour in the East Bay. 

Summer of Love Fashion

The Summer of Love inspired an American creative renaissance with people taking art, craft, and design out of the galleries and into their own hands. Homespun textile arts made people’s threads living canvases for symbols and slogans of the era, fusing personal expression and social activism. Judith Weston’s psychedelic full-length cape, on view in our Gallery of California Art, features a cheery rainbow on its back, evoking the sunny outlook of the time. 

Explore DIY culture even more with Alexandra Jacopetti Hart and Jerry Wainwright’s book, Native Funk & Flash: Emerging Folk Art, which vividly documents far out examples of handmade works. Watch this classic book come to life via an interactive station with video interviews from artists sharing their memories of the text. You can also pick up your own copy of this essential book at the OMCA Store this summer or order it online

Summer of Love in California

On view in OMCA’s Gallery of California History, we’re featuring mini dioramas from two dozen very different Californians that represent their memories of the changing times of the 60s. The exhibit, called Forces of Change, includes personal mementos that range from peace symbols to American flags, and from Jell-O cookbooks to a popular folk singer’s lavender guitar. Bonus tip: Poet Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, who shared an embroidered denim jacket among other memories, will be one of the artists featured in the upcoming exhibition Metamorphosis & Migration: Days of the Dead, opening October 18, 2017. 

Summer of Protest and Counterculture

More than anything else, the Summer of Love brought people together to celebrate, help one another, create social and political change and, of course, to protest. Photographer Larry Keenan captured the soul of the peace rally at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco in 1967 where a reported 67,000 protesters gathered to voice their opposition to the Vietnam War. 

Keenan remembers, “I was looking for a way to symbolize the crowd with the message. I saw the peace symbol with streamers and the crowd combination. The shot made up itself.” See his iconic photo in the Gallery of California Art.

Summer for the People

Since OMCA first opened its doors as the “museum of the people” in 1969, J.B. Blunk’s The Planet of the same year has exerted a gravitational pull on generations of visitors—especially kids. Made from a massive, 2-ton redwood burl, the 13-foot round masterpiece of 1960s woodworking symbolizes the best of the Summer of Love spirit.

This beloved sculpture brings people together, providing a place to turn on to the idea that art is everywhere and for everyone, and offers a place to relax before dropping in on the Gallery of Natural Sciences right behind it. And for you Planet-loving early birds, mark your calendars for our upcoming exhibition J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life, opening on April 21, 2018. 

How did you celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love in the San Francisco Bay Area this year? Share your memories in the comments section.