Press Release

Thursday, May 30, 2019 - 2:04pm
Oakland Museum of California Celebrates 50th Anniversary in 2019 with a Dynamic Lineup of Provocative Exhibitions and Programs
Throughout 50th Anniversary Year, Timely, Thought-Provoking Exhibitions Tackle Urgent Issues , Major Exhibitions Include No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man Opening October 2019

(OAKLAND, CA) May 30, 2019The year 1969 was a radical time: the Vietnam War was at its peak, the Black Panther Party was gaining momentum, and the new Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) opened its doors as a “Museum of the People,” with a multi-disciplinary scope—art, history, and natural sciences—all focused on California.


Celebrating its landmark 50th anniversary in 2019, the Museum presents radical topics of relevance through exhibitions and programs inspiring all Californians to think critically and create a more vibrant future for themselves and their communities. Featuring exhibitions and programming that examine urgent issues of our community and our country, 2019–2020 exhibitions include No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, the first major museum exhibition to highlight, in spectacular fashion, the festival’s values of inclusivity, community, and creativity; Black Power, a new permanent installation highlighting California’s roots in championing the Black Power movement; and a major exhibition coming in 2020 exploring feminism and the radical women in California who have kept it alive. OMCA’s anniversary year aims to provoke, inspire, and delight.


“Rather than focusing exclusively on the artifacts or art works in our collection as the basis for exhibitions—or the interests of our own curators—we are looking to the urgent issues and topics in Oakland and in California that are important and relevant to our community,” said Lori Fogarty, Director and CEO. “Our work is no longer about what we as an institution want to teach about California art, history, and natural science—it’s about making a place and making a space for people to come together at a time when, more than ever, many people feel disconnected.”


As Oakland, and the country, continue to change and evolve, the needs of the Museum have also shifted. With a focus on creating a social impact, OMCA will continue its work to create a space where voices are heard, visitors feel welcome, and topics of relevance are presented. The Museum’s community-driven programming also continues to elevate its mission and values—in its 50th year, OMCA’s programming will be focused on five core themes: belonging, well-being, imagining, creating, and taking action.  


Every Friday night for the past six years, the Museum’s Friday Nights at OMCA has brought together thousands of visitors from all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and genders in celebration of creativity, community, and connection. On September 20, 2019, OMCA will kick off its official 50th birthday with a special Friday Nights at OMCA Birthday Party.


In addition to its 50th anniversary, the Museum will celebrate another milestone in 2019 with the 25th anniversary of its beloved Días de los Muertos community festival and exhibition, including an extended weekend celebration beginning October 19, 2019. The annual festival, created in partnership with the Days of the Dead Community Council, attracts up to 4,000 visitors each year. A new exhibition titled ¡El Movimiento Vivo! Chicano Roots of Days of the Dead, highlighting the Chicano activists who introduced the Días de los Muertos traditions to the United States, will open October 16, 2019.  


OMCA’s fall programming will also include its major exhibition No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, opening October 12, 2019. With spectacular artwork and large-scale installations from one of the most widely-celebrated cultural events in the world, No Spectators illuminates the values of Burning Man through its guiding Ten Principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. The exhibition features many works by Bay Area artists including jewelry, costumes, “mutant” vehicles, sculptures, photography, and paintings.


In 2020, special programming will continue with the Rainin Foundation’s Open Spaces Symposium at OMCA, a program bringing together artists from a range of practices to discuss opportunities and challenges of working in public spaces. OMCA’s thought-provoking programming will continue in April 2020 with a soon-to-be-announced major exhibition on feminism, exploring what it means to be a woman and a feminist in this present moment.


Looking back at OMCA’s recent exhibitions evidences the Museum’s commitment to presenting programs of relevance to Californians. In 2016, OMCA presented Altered State: Marijuana in California in the months preceding marijuana’s legalization in California, as well as All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50, reflecting on the founding of the Black Panther Party in Oakland in 1966. Oakland, I Want You to Know…, also presented in 2016, included curated conversations about Oakland during a time of accelerated social, economic, and demographic change. As part of OMCA’s core philosophy, the Museum worked directly with community leaders, artists, and partners to bring each of these projects to fruition, from marijuana policymakers and graffiti artists to filmmakers and founding members of the Black Panther Party.


OMCA 50th Anniversary Programs & Event Highlights Include:


Friday Nights at OMCA Birthday Party

Friday, September 20, 2019


No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man

October 12, 2019–February 16, 2020


¡El Movimiento Vivo! Chicano Roots of Days of the Dead

October 16, 2019–February 16, 2020


25th Annual Days of the Dead Community Celebration

October 19–20, 2019


Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Symposium

January 25, 2020


More information about OMCA’s 50th anniversary will be available at




No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man
Great Hall

October 12, 2019–February 16, 2020
With spectacular artwork and large-scale installations from one of the most widely-celebrated cultural events in the world, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man takes over OMCA in Fall of 2019. Each year the weeklong Burning Man event attracts over 70,000 people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Participants create and build Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis where experimental art installations—some ritually burned to the ground—are the centerpiece for innovators, makers, and a burgeoning artistic community. The exhibition illuminates the values of Burning Man through its guiding Ten Principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. The exhibition features many works by Bay Area artists including jewelry, costumes, “mutant” vehicles, sculptures, photography, and paintings. A companion exhibition within the gallery, City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man, organized by the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, traces Burning Man's origins from its countercultural roots in the San Francisco Bay Area to the world-famous desert gathering it is today.


This immersive and multi-sensory experience will extend beyond the gallery walls into the Museum’s public spaces—including an OMCA-commissioned 40-foot-tall outdoor temple by internationally-acclaimed sculptor David Best.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man is organized by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, No Spectators will make its final stop at OMCA after traveling to the Cincinnati Art Museum.

The museums especially thank colleagues from Burning Man Project, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, for their close collaboration and assistance throughout the preparation of this exhibition and tour.

Lead support for the exhibition was provided by Intel and Bently Foundation. Support for the exhibition's tour is provided by the C. F. Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund.


¡El Movimiento Vivo! Chicano Roots of Days of the Dead
Gallery of California Art

October 12, 2019–February 16, 2020

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of OMCA’s beloved Días de los Muertos celebration with an exhibition inspired by the Chicano activists who introduced Días de los Muertos traditions to the United States in the 1970s. ¡El Movimiento Vivo! Chicano Roots of Days of the Dead will honor and explore the lesser-known origins of Days of the Dead, and the ways these traditions continue to inspire social and political change today.

Visitors will encounter altars, artworks, and interactive elements that show how Chicano activists used Days of the Dead traditions to foster pride in their indigenous heritage and unify their communities. Experience a Oaxacan style ofrenda and hear first-hand stories of the Chicanos who went to Oaxaca to gather Days of the Dead traditions from elders. Honor members of the first Chicano generation and their enduring legacy through a series of colorful ofrendas created by contemporary artists, interactive features, and intergenerational conversations captured on film. Other elements—from historical objects, a mural, and a sculpture that sparked the first Days of the Dead celebrations at OMCA—will immerse viewers in the evolving identities, traditions, and artistic expressions of the Chicano community, both then and now.




Queer California: Untold Stories
Great Hall

Through August 11, 2019
In Spring 2019, the Oakland Museum of California will present a major exhibition exploring California’s LGBTQ+ history and culture. Going beyond mainstream narratives, Queer California: Untold Stories will deepen and expand our understanding of this history through a multifaceted exhibition. Visitors will experience powerful examples of social activism through contemporary artwork and historical materials and view rarely-seen artifacts, archival documents, photographs, costumes, and ephemera such as zines, stickers, and flyers. The exhibition aligns important milestones in LGBTQ+ culture with lesser-known stories, focusing on a diversity of queer identities, civil rights, and resistance to oppression.
Visitors themselves can share the events and places in California that have impacted their personal experiences, thereby creating a participatory in-gallery display that maps queer sites and reflects the range of the state's queer history and expression. Queer California presents a future of possibility; through themes of memory, mourning, anger, desire, and hope, this exhibition draws on histories of struggle for self-determination to help us imagine a more inclusive future. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.


Pushing West: The Photography of Andrew J. Russell

Gallery of California Art

May 4–September 1, 2019

Travel back in time through Andrew J. Russell's epic photography of the Transcontinental Railroad’s western expansion, completed 150 years ago in 1869. Though commissioned to document the railroad and its successful development, Russell’s photography reveals the tensions between the economic and technological advances and the Railroad’s significant impact on western lands and peoples. His powerful imagery highlights the majesty of the landscape with locomotive engines set amongst vast plains and colossal mountain ranges, captured through Russell’s remarkable technique using the collodion photographic process in remote locations.  


In this intimate exhibition, visitors will view rare vintage and digital prints, powerful landscape and 3D images, and original collodion negatives, as well as memorabilia, ephemera, and a video demonstrating the collodion process. Learn about Russell's legacy as one of the most important photographers of the 19th century in this inspiring presentation of one of the most historic and controversial moments in American history.


Black Power

New addition to the Gallery of California History


Uncover the history of the Black Power movements in California with a compelling addition to the Gallery of California History. In response to the widely-popular 2016 exhibition All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50, this new installation will illustrate the creative ways black anti-racist activists in California supported their communities and challenged the U.S. government. Focusing on the example of the Black Panther Party, Black Power will bring to light the tensions between a culturally and socially progressive California and examples of economic racism and oppression in the state. This moment in California history will be represented through historic photographs, provocative objects, iconic posters, paintings and interactive prompts that encourage visitors to take action out in the world. Learn more about the Bay Area role in this national story, and the impacts this history continues to have today.


Mildred Howard’s TAP: Investigation of Memory

Gallery of California Art

Through September 1, 2019

Discover Mildred Howard’s TAP: Investigation of Memory, a powerful multimedia installation that examines themes of identity, church culture, gentrification, dance, activism, and more. Born to activist parents, Howard’s family lineage and community inform much of her work. Part of OMCA’s Collection, this major artwork incorporates an antique shoe-shine stand from Oakland’s historic California Hotel, once a cultural center for the Black community, as the altar-like centerpiece, alongside white shoes and metal shoe taps arranged in a pattern covering the gallery floor. Symbolizing memories from her past and tap dance’s influence on her life, learn how Howard’s work has helped shape the narrative of activism in the Bay Area and continues to inspire artists today.


Take Root: Oakland Grows Food
Gallery of California Natural Sciences

Through November 2019

Unearth Oakland’s multi-layered world of food in Take Root: Oakland Grows Food, an exhibition exploring aspects of growing food in Oakland. Enjoy this hands-on exhibition with the entire family to understand what factors determine where, how, why, and what is grown throughout the city. Hear personal stories from farmers and growers within the community, see compelling illustrations and maps, and meet the diverse flavors of Oakland. Learn what motivations Oaklanders have for growing food—including access to healthy and delicious ingredients, environmental and social justice values, or simply the joy of tending a garden. Visitors will be invited to share personal stories, explore interactive activities, and gain a deeper understanding of Oakland’s agriculture.


Question Bridge: Black Males

On view now in the Gallery of California Art


Hailed as one of the Bay Area’s Top Exhibitions by the San Francisco ChronicleQuestion Bridge: Black Males returns to the Oakland Museum of California’s Gallery of California Art. Immerse yourself in intimate videos—woven together and arranged to simulate face-to-face conversations between participants—among a diverse group of over 160 Black men across the United States. Hear these men answer each other’s questions with exceptional honesty and vulnerability, and share stories, beliefs, and values in a personal portrayal of their lives. Encompassing themes of family, love, interracial relationships, community, education, and wisdom, Question Bridge: Black Males presents nuanced portraits of past, present, and future of Black men in American society. Listen, watch, learn, and start your own conversations with this profoundly moving installation.


A recent acquisition to the Oakland Museum of California’s permanent collection, Question Bridge is an innovative and widely exhibited video installation from artists Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. Joining the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Brooklyn Museum, OMCA is proud to acquire this groundbreaking and poignant work for its collection.



The 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 the 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 will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019 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.



The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $16 general; $11 seniors and students with valid ID, $7 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. There is a $5 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitions. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum.


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