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Oakland Museum of California Appoints Evelyn Orantes New Curator of Public Practice

(OAKLAND, CA)—Culminating 15 years focused on fostering exhibitions, educational programs, and events centered on meaningful and relevant community engagement, museum professional Evelyn Orantes has been named Oakland Museum of California (OMCA)’s first Curator of Public Practice in recognition of her experience, innovation, and leadership. The creation of the position and appointment of Ms. Orantes reflects the Museum’s commitment to community as central to the fulfillment of its mission across all programs. Ms. Orantes has been promoted to Curator of Public Practice from her position as Senior Experience Developer at OMCA, in which she has served since 2011. During her 15 years at the Museum, she has led programs including the popular Días de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) exhibitions and community celebrations, which continue this year in the exhibition Songs and Sorrows: 20th Anniversary of Days of the Dead on view October 9, 2014 through January 4, 2015, and the 20th Annual Days of the Dead Community Celebration, a Museum-wide festival, on Sunday, October 26, 2014.

“Evelyn brings the perfect skills and experience to this new position,” says Kelly McKinley, Director of the LAB, the OMCA department that encompasses curators, exhibitions and other programs. “This innovative new role speaks directly to the Museum’s 45-year history as the ‘museum of the people’ and will elevate it to a new level of community engagement, relevance and accessibility by focusing even more than ever on our visitor-centric philosophy of the importance of public interaction at all levels.”

As Curator of Public Practice, Ms. Orantes will lead research, conception, development and execution of community-led and/or community-generated exhibitions and programs at OMCA. As part of the senior management team, she will serve as a consultant and partner to other curators and exhibition teams as they conceive strategies for community voice and engagement across OMCA exhibitions and programs. In her new role, Ms. Orantes will develop projects designed with artists and community that activate OMCA grounds and facilities to inspire, engage, and serve Oakland communities and neighbors in new ways; research, conceive, and execute exhibitions, installations, and programs that are generated entirely by the OMCA’s partner neighborhoods and neighbors; participate in the continued shaping of the OMCA Collections Plan to ensure appropriate reflection of institutional commitment to community inclusion; and inform strategies around collecting and archiving key outputs of community engagement activity.

Emily Zimmern, Director of the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, NC, says, “Evelyn is the perfect choice for the new position of Curator of Public Practice. She has the commitment to shape a more inclusive vision for museums and the skills to develop and implement the strategies to make them accessible and valuable resources for all people. In the face of profound societal changes, she understands that using exhibits and programs to address community concerns and pressing issues is essential for museums to remain relevant. It’s been our great privilege at Levine Museum of the New South to work with her on the upcoming ¡Nuevolution! exhibition. She has made crucial contributions to help create an innovative project of national significance.”

David de la Torre, Director of The Mexican Museum, San Francisco, says, “Evelyn is a proven leader within the Latino community as well as the museum profession at large.  Her appointment as Curator of Public Practice represents a natural evolution for her career and more importantly continues the Oakland Museum of California’s legacy for innovation and commitment to engaging its community with meaningful exhibitions and public programs that enrich the lives of its diverse audience. Evelyn’s new role will serve as an example for other institutions and museum professionals in developing educational opportunities to accommodate the needs of 21st century museumgoers.”

“Growing up Latina in Southern California I, like some people today, didn’t think museums were for me or about me,” says Ms. Orantes. “Thanks to visionary arts and cultural organizations like OMCA that place the community at the forefront of planning and engagement, exhibitions, programs, and education are increasingly relevant and accessible to all Californians.”
Ms. Orantes’ experience has included positions as a museum experience developer, museum teacher and education programs coordinator, curatorial aide and exhibition guide coordinator. She has held staff and consulting positions with OMCA, The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Levine Museum of the New South (Charlotte, NC), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (deYoung and Legion of Honor), Berkeley Art Center, and other galleries and museums in California and the United States. She has served on the boards of directors and committees including the City of Oakland Public Art Advisory Committee, Chicana Latina Foundation, Galeria de la Raza, and others.  She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and studied at the Universidad Complutense Madrid and Santa Monica College.  She was raised in Los Angeles, CA, and has lived in the Bay Area since 1999.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) brings together collections of art, history and natural science under one roof to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. OMCA’s groundbreaking exhibits tell the many stories that comprise California with many voices, often drawing on first-person accounts by people who have shaped California’s cultural heritage. Visitors are invited to actively participate in the Museum as they learn about the natural, artistic, and social forces that affect the state and investigate their own role in both its history and its future. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. OMCA is situated between downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt. Museum admission is $15 general; $10 seniors and students with valid ID, $6 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. During Friday Nights @ OMCA, admission after 5 pm is half-off for adults, and free for ages 18 and under. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station. The accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance.

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