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Oakland Museum of California Announces Reopening Date of June 18, 2021 with Free Weekend Access Following Major Campus and Garden Renovation Led by Walter Hood and Mark Cavagnero

Oakland, CA—MAY 19, 2021 The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) announced today that the Museum and its campus will reopen on June 18, 2021 with three free community access days over the weekend through Sunday, June 20. This reopening follows a long period of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more than a year of construction work for OMCA’s campus renovation project, including the reinstallation of its sculpture garden.

In its initial phase, the Museum will be open to the public Friday through Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm in order to manage capacity and prioritize safety. In addition to the newly-redesigned outdoor gardens, which will be accessible for free, the Museum’s Galleries of California Art, History, and Natural Sciences will all be open for visitors to enjoy with a reserved ticket.

During the Museum’s closure, the newly-formed safety re-opening team has been dedicated to making adjustments for the health and safety of OMCA staff and visitors, designing and implementing new protocols, adjusting on-campus experiences to meet the health recommendations of Alameda County, and creating additional signage that will help visitors navigate safely through the Museum.

Among the changes visitors will experience: implementation of timed entry procedures, capacity limitations, increased cleaning and sanitation, physical distancing practices including a one-way path of travel, and touchless transactions for onsite purchases. To help ensure the Museum does not exceed capacity, all visitors, including Members and children, are encouraged to purchase or reserve a ticket in advance. Tickets for specific time slots will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information on OMCA’s new protocols, please visit  

What Visitors Will Experience 

Led by the landscape architect Walter Hood (Hood Design Studio) and project architect Mark Cavagnero (Mark Cavagnero Associates), along with project manager and financing consultant Equity Community Builders (ECB) and general contractor Cahill Contractors, OMCA’s campus renovation focused on enhancing access to the multi-terraced campus, improving visitor amenities, and significantly updating and refreshing the planting scheme in order to make these outdoor spaces an even better destination and community gathering place. Completed work includes the removal of an exterior border wall along the Museum’s northern side, facing Oakland’s Lake Merritt, and the creation of a new entrance on 12th Street which physically opens the campus to this major pedestrian corner. Alterations have also been made along 10th Street, to the south, providing direct entry into public event space and further creating better pedestrian access, including two new ADA-accessible ramps onto the campus. The new entrances will be open later this year.

Additionally, OMCA has commissioned local Oakland-based artist Binta Ayofemi to create sculpture and artists edition furniture for the exterior spaces of its newly renovated campus. Supporting the Museum’s vision to provide visitors with a more welcoming environment, Ayofemi’s works, which are inspired in part by the culture and history of Oakland, are intended to encourage a more comfortable and longer visitor experience. Her seating, tables, and other furniture – which she refers to as “Portals” – will be positioned in the garden and other outdoor public spaces on the Museum’s campus. The renovated campus will also include a new café by Tanya Holland, the celebrated Bay Area chef and restaurateur, founder of Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen, and former Top Chef contestant.

Visitors will be able to see the special exhibition You Are Here: California Stories on the Map, which opened just before the Museum closed in March 2020. You Are Here showcases a diverse range of maps from Oakland, the Bay Area, and California—from environmental surroundings and health conditions to community perspectives and creative artworks—to demonstrate how maps can be a powerful tool to share unique points of view and imagine a better future. Visitors will also be able to see the ongoing exhibitions Dorothea Lange: Photography as Activism and Black Power.

“We are thrilled to finally be reopening, and to welcome back the community that has done so much to help sustain us during this challenging time,” said OMCA director and CEO Lori Fogarty. “We’re excited to share the updates that have taken place on campus during the closure, which have enhanced the Museum’s role as a public gathering place by creating new spaces for the community to convene. In addition to seeing favorite sculptures reinstalled in our garden, visitors can enjoy their favorite works in our galleries, and soon, dine in our new cafe, Town Fare by Tanya Holland, opening later this summer. Also opening this summer will be the first major temporary exhibition since our closure: Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism, a much-anticipated celebration of Black imagination and the ways in which Afrofuturism is present in our everyday lives.”

Press images are available to download here

The campus plan is funded through a five-year $85 million comprehensive fundraising effort, All In! The Campaign for OMCA. In addition to private philanthropy, this project is funded in part by Capital One Commercial Bank, Oakland Renaissance NMTC, Inc. and the City of Oakland.


Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) tells the many stories that comprise California, creating the space and context for greater connection, trust, and understanding between people. Through its inclusive exhibitions, public programs, educational initiatives, and cultural events, OMCA brings Californians together and inspires greater understanding about what our state’s art, history, and natural surroundings teach us about ourselves and each other. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA brings together its multi-disciplinary collections of art, history, and natural science with first-person accounts and often untold narratives of California, all within its 110,000 square feet of gallery space and seven-acre campus. The Museum just celebrated its 50th anniversary as a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage for visitors from the region, the state, and around the world.


Hood Design Studio, Inc. (HDS), founded in 1992 in Oakland, CA, is a social art and design practice. The studio’s practice is tripartite: art + fabrication, design + landscape, and research + urbanism. This breadth allows Hood Design Studio to understand each place in its scale and context, and to respond, not with a standard design, but with an approach adaptive to the particulars and specifics of a space. The studio strengthens endemic patterns and practices both ecological and cultural, contemporary and historic, particularly those that remain unseen or unrecognized. Urban spaces and their objects act as public sculpture, creating new apertures through which to see the emergent beauty, strangeness, and idiosyncrasies around us.

Hood Design Studio frequently roots their design work in collaboration, seeing projects thrive under the joint efforts of design teams and through engagement with constituents and local communities. The studio has received numerous awards and accolades including the AIA Award for Collaborative Achievement, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Landscape Design, and the Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award.


Mark Cavagnero Associates was founded in 1988, oriented around a strong focus on public and institutional work and a firm belief in the power of collaboration and community building. The firm’s wide-ranging portfolio of built work includes large- and small-scale institutional, non-profit, commercial, residential, and office architecture — contemporary facilities that are contextual, timeless, and offer a dignified presence to the communities they serve. The organization’s vision is sensitive to the ever-evolving needs of the built environment. The firm pursues design solutions that will ensure long-term benefits for the communities they work in, resulting in legacies that will last for generations. Founder Mark Cavagnero is especially sensitive to the cultural heritage and historic significance of place, deliberately honing throughout his career his talent for preserving it. Adhering to this philosophy, the firm carefully investigates the cultural roots and social patterns of each place to arrive at a response appropriate for a site’s larger context. Their extensive portfolio features notable projects such as the SFJAZZ Center, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and upgrades and enhancements to the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Mark Cavagnero Associates produced OMCA’s original master plan in 1999 and designed the major renovation and expansion to the landmark building from 2008 to 2012. 


Since 1994, ECB has demonstrated its commitment to responsibly developing buildings and creating great places that contribute to the vitality of neighborhoods and help strengthen communities throughout the Bay Area. ECB is committed to thoughtful and elegant design solutions, and to quality construction. The firm cultivates partnerships with property owners, non-profit organizations, and public agencies to jointly develop properties. ECB has proven expertise integrating complex financing sources, including New Market Tax Credits, that enhance long term sustainability for clients and partners. Their extensive portfolio features notable projects such as the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, ACT’s Strand Theater, California College of the Arts, Ed Roberts Campus, and the David Brower Center. 


Cahill Contractors has been building with quality and integrity for over 100 years. The company specializes in residential, education, civic, healthcare, and commercial construction in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cahill prides itself on being a trusted partner to their clients, involved from early in preconstruction through construction and beyond. 


OMCA’s new restaurant, Town Fare by Tanya Holland, will be owned and operated by Executive Chef Tanya Holland. More than a restaurant, Town Fare at OMCA will be a community institution and destination: a gathering place with values that reflect Holland’s and OMCA’s commitment to community, creating experiences where diners feel a sense of belonging. 

Acclaimed for her inventive take on modern soul food, as well as comfort classics, Tanya Holland is the Executive Chef/Owner of the internationally renowned and beloved Brown Sugar Kitchen restaurant, in Oakland, California.

The author of The Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook and New Soul Cooking, Holland competed on the 15th season of Top Chef on Bravo, was the host and soul food expert on Food Network’s Melting Pot, she appears on the new HBO Max show Selena + Chef featuring Selena Gomez, and is the host of “Tanya’s Kitchen Table” on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

She is a member of the Board of Trustees, a frequent contributing writer and chef at the James Beard Foundation, and Brown Sugar Kitchen has received multiple Michelin Bib Gourmand awards. She is an in-demand public speaker and lecturer who frequently leads the conversation on inclusion and equity in the hospitality industry. 

Tanya Holland is also the host of “Tanya’s Table podcast” via Muddhouse Media. Two seasons have been released of the podcast so far and guests on the show have included Questlove, Alice Waters, Samin Nosrat, Phil Rosenthal, Danny Glover, Ayesha Curry and more.


Oakland-based visual artist Binta Ayofemi shapes new urban forms and urban materials. Ayofemi is known for her activation of vacant sites, from an urban meadow to a reimagined cornerstore, which suggest a state of transformation. Ayofemi’s “Commons” is her first building as artwork opening in downtown Oakland in Summer 2021, along with the exhibitions Black Space and Black Monuments opening in Summer 2021. Ayofemi shifts accepted narratives around urban voids, seemingly abandoned structures, and economic displacement, while limning notions of fugitivity, freedom, duration, and Black radical imagination. She explores urban material, movement, making, manufacturing, and authorship of public and private space. 

“I wanted to respond to how the museum opens to the Lake, which leads to the Ocean. The Museum becomes a portal open to a layered ecosystem, amplifying the present and the future at these thresholds where the building becomes open to a natural flow,” says Ayofemi of the “Portals” she created for OMCA. “My installation responds to the Museum’s distinctive pavilions as portals to activate the senses, and expresses Black and Indigenous spaces through regenerative power and Oakland’s built environment.”

Each of Ayofemi’s “Portals” evoke a sense of restoration and transformation, and create collective space for gathering. This is suggested through seating as a base of restoration, as well as plinths, tables, and benches built from local cedar and redwood which are framed by moments of iridescent steel and mounds of herbaceous plants and herbs.

Ayofemi’s work has been featured by Untitled, Kadist Foundation, SFMOMA, the Carpenter Center, the Wattis Institute, the Asian Art Museum, the New Museum, at dOCUMENTA, the British Arts Council, Rebuild Foundation, AIA, City of Oakland, and as a 2021 YBCA Fellow and YBCA 100.