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Groundbreaking Exhibits and Programming to Energize Visitor Experience and Strengthen OMCA’s Role as Forum for Community and State

Transformed Art and History Galleries to Celebrate California People, Land, and Creativity and Foster Dialogue and Discovery

Inaugural Year Exhibitions to Explore Range of California Stories,
Including PIXAR, Mark Dion, Arts of the Missions, and Michael McMillen

OAKLAND, CA, February 10, 2010—The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) reopens Saturday, May 1, 2010 with a dramatically different presentation of its collections, inviting visitors to discover the many stories of California and to explore their own contributions to the state’s social, artistic, and environmental heritage. OMCA’s transformation is enhanced by the renovation and expansion of its landmark Kevin Roche building. 

OMCA will celebrate the reopening with a series of events and programs that will underscore the Museum’s unique multidisciplinary mission, as well as emphasize California’s distinctive characteristics. The opening events will culminate with 31-hours of continuous free public programs on May 1st and 2nd. 

Created in 1969 as a “museum for the people,” OMCA is reviving its foundational premise by developing innovative exhibition and programming strategies, setting a new paradigm for the way a museum engages the public. Visitors to the reinvented Museum will find multiple entry points for exploring the state’s past; learn about the natural, artistic, and social forces that continue to shape it; and investigate their own role in both its history and its future. 
“We are moving toward a more participatory museum experience that encourages visitor contributions and feedback,” said Lori Fogarty, OMCA’s executive director. “Just as California is not a ‘fixed’ place but constantly evolving, our new galleries are designed to accommodate change and new ideas.”

OMCA has raised more than 97% of its capital campaign goal for the $58 million transformation. The Museum’s innovative approach to the presentation of its collections and public programming has been recognized by a number of leading foundations as creating new models for the field.

OMCA was recently awarded $6.1 million in new grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr., The James Irvine, the Hedco, and The Kresge Foundations to help fund the transformation, including new educational tools and programs that will encourage visitors to contribute information about California based on their own lived experiences.

Inaugural Year Exhibitions 2010-2011
During its inaugural year, the new OMCA will complement the presentation of its collections of California Art and History with several major exhibitions that pay tribute to the many facets of California culture and creativity, including:

PIXAR: 25 Years of Animation
(July 31, 2010–January 9, 2011)
Walt Disney’s arrival in Los Angeles in the 1920s firmly established California as a magnet for animation artists in the decades to come. Home to a number of leading studios, the San Francisco Bay Area has emerged as a global center for animation today. PIXAR will provide an unprecedented look at the renowned Emeryville-based studio (located just a few miles from OMCA) and showcase the creative work behind its wildly successful computer-animated films. The only American venue outside of New York and the final stop on an international tour, the OMCA presentation greatly enhances the 2005 MoMA show. In addition to all of the artwork from the original presentation, it will include art from Ratatouille, WALL•E, Up, and Pixar’s latest film, Toy Story 3.  Working closely with Pixar Animation Studios, OMCA will host a series of dynamic public programs for audiences of all ages in conjunction with the exhibition, to be announced soon.

The Marvelous Museum: A Project by Mark Dion
(September 11, 2010–March 6, 2011)
Mounting an unprecedented expedition through the Museum’s art, history, and natural science collections, conceptual artist Mark Dion will create multiple site-specific installations and interventions throughout the art galleries, drawing upon the overlooked orphans, curiosities, and treasures from the collections. Many of these objects date back to OMCA’s predecessor institutions and, while they often lie outside of OMCA’s California focus, still tell a rich and captivating story of how museum collections are assembled over time. OMCA Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman will curate this first major West Coast presentation of Dion’s work, which will be accompanied by a publication by Chronicle Books in partnership with The Believer magazine. The book itself, like many of Dion’s artworks, is a compendium of oddities and discoveries featuring an in-depth interview with the artist by Lawrence Weschler, an essay by Rebecca Solnit, photographs by David Maisel, and writings by a range of cultural and art historians.

Days of the Dead will return to OMCA in its 17th year from October 6–December 5, 2010.  The exhibition will be curated by artist and cultural worker Jaime Cortez in one of the newly renovated exhibition spaces in OMCA’s Gallery of California Art. This year’s theme will continue to provide audiences with a basic fundamental understanding and appreciation of this Meso-American tradition as well as provide a forum for the tradition to grow and expand its vocabulary through new artistic expressions.

The Arts of the Missions of Northern New Spain: 1600-1821
(February 26–May 29, 2011)
This exhibition, which originated at the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso (Mexico City), explores the rich artistic legacy of the Franciscan and Jesuit mission churches in northern Mexico and the American Southwest. Nearly all of the Franciscan and Jesuit missions were exuberantly decorated with lavish paintings, sculpture, furniture, and liturgical objects and vestments. The exhibition will showcase 125 objects from collections in Mexico, the United States, and Europe, including many from the missions themselves. Many of these objects have never been seen outside of their original locations. OMCA is the only California venue for this traveling exhibition and one of only two in the United States.

Michael McMillen: A Retrospective Survey
(Spring 2011)
Featuring installations, sculptures, paintings, and films by the Santa Monica-based mix-media artist, this exhibition will be presented throughout the Gallery of California Art and run for approximately nine months, from its April 2011 opening through December 2012. The exhibition will be accompanied by a 240-page illustrated book with essays by French art critic Sophie Dannenmuller; Jeremy Strick, Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; Paul Vangelisti, writer, poet and Director of the Graduate Writing Program at Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles; Stephanie Barron, Senior Curator for Modern Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Los Angeles-based film critic Paul Young.  The exhibition is organized by Philip E. Linhares, Chief Curator of Art at OMCA, who will provide a biographical essay and illustrated chronology on the life and work of the artist for the catalogue. 

The New Galleries: Telling the Many Stories of California
The revitalization of the Oakland Museum of California builds on the founders’ original multidisciplinary and civic-minded vision by improving integration of the Museum’s collections and programs, strengthening its role as a public forum, and creating new opportunities for visitor participation. The new galleries will weave together chronological and theme-based installations to enable visitors to explore different notions of California identity and reality. Innovative interpretive tools and interactive features will animate the collections. New gathering spaces and program areas will further engage visitors and encourage them to share their own perspectives, questions, and stories. 

Opening in May 2010, the new Gallery of California Art will showcase more than 800 works from OMCA’s collection—one of the largest and most comprehensive holdings of California art in the world.

New features of the gallery include:
•Two stunning, light-infused spaces that add approximately 4,500 square feet of gallery space and will accommodate changing exhibitions and large-scale contemporary art
• A new resource center that will encourage visitors to engage in multiple perspectives of viewing and experiencing art
• A project space that enables frequent rotations of works from the Museum’s collection
• Upgraded lighting and wall systems that create flexible, brighter, and more welcoming exhibition spaces

The Gallery of California Art is installed along three main themes: Land (Exploring California), People (Defining Identity), and Ideas (Creative California). Specific galleries showcase special strengths of the collection, including work by artists such as painter Richard Diebenkorn and documentary photographer Dorothea Lange; as well as present major artistic movements—from 19th-century landscapes and Gold Rush era photography, to Arts & Crafts furniture and turn-of-the-century photography and painting, to California ceramics, to contemporary site-specific installations and media art. The Art Gallery also links to the Galleries of History and Natural Sciences, encouraging visitors to draw connections between California’s art and culture, natural environment, and social history.

The gallery will also feature opportunities for visitors to explore their own creativity through exhibit components such as an interactive “draw your own portrait” station and a “looking closer” self-guided viewing experience of an individual work of art.

The overarching theme of the Gallery of California History is Coming to California. It will showcase more than 2,200 historical artifacts, works of art, ethnographic materials, and original photographs to illuminate the influence of successive waves of migration—from the earliest Natives, to settlers during the Spanish and Mexican periods, to more recent immigrants and their interactions with people who arrived before them. 

Four sub-themes guide the gallery’s presentation: the diverse identities of the state’s people (The Diverse Peoples of California), the relationship of people to the environment (People and the Environment), the contrast between the myth of innovation, freedom, and self-fulfillment and often conflicting realities (The California Dream), and California’s relationship with the rest of the world (Global Connections). Oral histories and storytelling will play a prominent role throughout the gallery. OMCA is experimenting with a range of technologies, such as digital interactive exhibits and audio stations, to encourage visitors to contribute their own storylines. 

The new Gallery of California Natural Sciences (to open in 2012) will explore California as a “hotspot,” a place that ranks among the greatest in the world in biological and geological diversity but whose ecosystems also suffer from enormous pressures—urbanization, pollution, and invasive species, among others. The Gallery will focus on several specific locations that serve as representative examples of California habitats, such as Oakland (coastal mountains), Sutter Buttes (central valley), Yosemite (Sierra Nevada range),  San Jacinto (southern deserts), and Cordell Bank/Pt. Reyes (nearshore).  The Museum’s exquisite habitat dioramas and cases will be revitalized with new technologies, visitor-contributed content, and cultural connections to reveal current California environmental and conservation stories.  Exhibits, interactive displays, learning stations, and testimony from scientists and local residents will inspire visitors to learn more about California environments, visit them, and get involved in protecting them.

All of OMCA’s galleries have been designed to be more welcoming and inclusive, encouraging visitors to see themselves as active contributors to California’s social, artistic, environmental, and cultural heritage. Dynamic displays and new interpretive tools will include transparent wall text that sheds light on behind-the-scenes curatorial considerations and decisions; interactive journals that invite visitors to engage in dialogue with curators—and each other—about specific and perhaps controversial works on display; mobile furniture that allows visitors to chose which art they want to view with greater attention; first-person voice and multilingual labels; “loaded lounges” with objects to provoke conversation among visitors about art, history, and the environment; and the new Art Discovery Center and Chevron History Hang-Out, in-gallery experimental exhibition spaces that will provide a range of immersive experiences.

OMCA will test these and other exhibition strategies on an ongoing basis through extensive prototyping with members of its longstanding community advisory councils, families, and everyday museum visitors, constantly refining new ideas in response to visitor feedback. 

“In reinventing the Museum, we will reflect the state’s ever-changing demographic and embrace the diverse communities, environments, and perspectives that give California its many identities,” said Fogarty. “OMCA will be a forum for lively discussion and exchange of ideas about our state.”

The Museum’s renovation project is overseen by the San Francisco architectural firm of Mark Cavagnero Associates, honoring the original architecture and landscape vision of Kevin Roche and Dan Kiley, while upgrading visitor amenities, building systems, and further integrating the museum experience. Enhancements encompass new exhibition and programming space, a new café, enhanced 300-seat theatre and 70-seat lecture hall, and an expanded store. A new 90-foot stainless steel canopy over the Oak Street entrance will enhance OMCA’s street presence.

While OMCA is closed for renovation, it continues to present select exhibitions and public programs. In October 2009, the Museum launched a virtual Days of the Dead celebration site where visitors created a communal altar and “traveled” with guides to Días de los Muertos festivities across California and Mexico. In November, the Museum unveiled an outdoor installation by twenty Bay Area artists, on view along the Oak Street façade and curated by arts activist Favianna Rodriguez. For information on OMCA’s activities, please visit .

For more information and visuals, please contact:
 Scott Horton                                            Anja Wodsak / Chris d’Aleo
Oakland Museum of California             Resnicow Schroeder Associates
510-735-9200                                        212-671-5171 / 212-671-5178
[email protected]        [email protected]