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Interview with Favianna Rodriguez

Oakland Museum of California (OMCA): Why an art wall?
Favianna Rodriguez: The project is a great way to showcase Oakland’s diversity and its emerging artists. As the Museum rethinks its role in the community, the art wall walks the talk. It’s inclusive: 20 artists’ expressions of youth, protest, history, fantasy, hipsters, and queers.

Your history with the Oakland Museum of California?
I’ve worked with staff to bring the community to the Museum and engage them via appropriate exhibitions-Días de los Muertos and The African Presence in Mexico. OMCA can seem inaccessible, cold from the outside. This installation takes the Museum to the public during the renovation.

 The wall’s message?
It embodies the new vision for OMCA: a community gathering place. California leads the nation in cutting-edge legislation on the environment and gay rights; its food-justice programs are widely adopted. My role as curator was to find artists whose work reflects the changes going on at the Museum and beyond.

 What made you want to create a mural with these artists?
I chose artists tackling the state’s issues who are also engaged on the national level. I wanted to bring together their diversity of experience, age, and issues-from nature and goddesses to the Black Panthers, Cesar Chavez, hip hop, and the comedian Cantinflas.

 What do you see in the art wall?
The intersection of races and strong representation of women, as artists and subjects. The bold colors play an important role. California is known for its sunshine. I wanted to reflect our climate and optimism.

What do you hope others will see, as they pass by?
I want people to see themselves in the mural. It’s about the Americanization of immigrants and how people and races integrate. I wanted to represent all communities and locals. The artists are from LA, the Central Valley, and the greater Bay Area. Some are first generation; many are of mixed race. I was also able to feature women artists, who are often under-represented.

 Your work has taken you all over the world, yet Oakland remains your home. What keeps you here?
This year I’ve consulted in Mexico City, Tokyo, Rome, Vancouver, and Lima. Oakland’s innovative arts community and history of progressive social policies are second to none. Oakland is my home; I’m committed to the changes going on here.

20 November 2009