Oakland, We Are Here for You
On December 2, 2016, 36 people perished in a fire in the Ghost Ship warehouse, not far from the Oakland Museum of California. Many of those who were lost were artists or involved in some way in creative expression—musicians, sound engineers, writers—and included filmmaker Alex Ghassan, who worked closely with OMCA. Lori Fogarty reflects on the tragedy one year later, and the site of the Museum as a space for gathering in community.
On December 2, 2016, 36 people perished in a fire in the Ghost Ship warehouse, not far from the Oakland Museum of California. Many of those who were lost were artists or involved in some way in creative expression—musicians, sound engineers, writers—and almost all were young and together at an event that was intended to be joyful. The tragedy raised greater awareness within Oakland, the Bay Area, and across the country of the perils of dangerous conditions existing in some cultural spaces that operate on the margins in a region with out-of-reach rents—and fostered greater appreciation for the role of artists and alternative arts spaces to the very fabric of a city.
The loss hit close to home for our Museum in many ways. In particular, a gifted filmmaker, Alex Frantz Ghassan, who had recently created three documentary videos for our Summer 2016 exhibition, Oakland, I want you to know…, died in the fire together with his fiancé Hanna Ruax. The exhibition was co-created by OMCA’s previous Curator of Public Practice, Evelyn Orantes, with social practice artist Chris Treggiari, both of whom worked closely with Alex. The exhibition itself was an exploration of the changing Oakland and the importance of arts and art-making to the soul of many neighborhoods—from West Oakland, which was the focus of the exhibition, to the Fruitvale, where the fire took place. On the Friday night following the Ghost Ship fire, OMCA came together in community to mourn the loss of life and to recommit to carrying on the strength and resiliency of creative endeavors in Oakland and beyond.
Now, on the one-year anniversary of the Ghost Ship fire, we once again invite our community to pay tribute to the loss of life as well as to affirm our belief in the power of art to bring people together. During our Friday Nights @ OMCA programming on December 1 at 6:30 pm, Evelyn and Chris, who led the remembrances last year, will create the space for a moment of silence and then an invitation to proceed to our current exhibition, Metamorphosis and Migration: Days of the Dead, which includes an altar in memory of victims of the Ghost Ship fire and 2017 West Oakland fire, created by Chris in collaboration with artist Peter Foucault. Chris and Peter have created a “sister” altar at Oakland’s City Hall, which will also be on view during the week of November 27 through December 2, 2018.
Last year, when we learned about this tragedy that so affected many here at the Museum and across the community, we extended this message:
Oakland, we want you to know that OMCA is a place to come together for healing and connection, now more than ever, and we welcome and invite you to gather here.
Oakland, we want you to know that it is artists and creators who make this place one we cherish, and we must all help sustain and support this community.
Oakland, we want you to know that we share your heartache and believe in your power.
On December 1 and each and every day, Oakland, we are here with and for you.