Arts & Events

Oakland Museum re-opening this weekend

By Steven Finacom
Monday April 26, 2010 - 09:16:00 PM

The Oakland Museum of California reopens the weekend of May 1-2, 2010 with a continuous 31-hour long stream of events. The main building has been closed for two years for extensive renovations and creation of what the museum calls a “re-imagined” exhibit program.  

We’ll see what’s inside when the plywood comes off on the weekend. 

Re-opening weekend, “Presented by Target”, is free. 

Opening ceremonies start at 11 on Saturday the 1st at the Oak Street entrance. There will be a “Native American Ohlone blessing”, speeches by local dignitaries, “premiere of an aerial dance created for the opening” by Project Bandaloop.  

That’s just the beginning. “Holistic Hooping”, a yo-yo exhibition, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, “Master whistler Sean Lomax”, hip-hop dance, square dancing, a palm-reader, “strolling acoustic musicians”, yoga, “community drumming”, face-painting, Oakland School for the Arts jazz, a “non-stop Bhangra Bollywood Dance Party”, the Capacitor Dance Company, and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, all have their place in the schedule that runs through day and night up until 6 pm on Sunday. 

It sounds like a complete cultural carnival. 

The museum publicity says “pajamas and sleepwear are encouraged”, for the 6 pm Saturday to 6 am Sunday period that is intended to have an “adult flavor”. Sunday is framed as “especially for family.” 

There are also programs on “Oakland and the Fight for Food Justice” and “Radical Creativity”. 

The 1969 Kevin Roche facility remains one of the best Modern buildings in the East Bay with its descending terraces, galleries, and gardens. Dan Kiley—with Berkeley landscape legend Geraldine Knight Scott—did the original grounds. 

The San Francisco firm of Mark Cavagnero and Associates designed the remodel, which enclosed some of the outdoor spaces to create new indoor galleries. Fortunately, however, the Oakland Museum decided to renovate rather than feed the architectural past to the future, as was done with the De Young and the California Academy of Sciences facilities. 

Of the permanent exhibit areas, only re-juggled art and human history sections will reopen this weekend. The natural history galleries are still closed, with 2012 projected as a reopening date. But there’s a “new expanded” store (of course there is—that’s the nature of the 21st century American museum) and a bigger and apparently upscaled on-site café. 

I’m hopeful that the museum will retain a rich, interesting, and informative mix of permanent exhibits. This is an excellent regional museum, with a threefold focus on art, history, and the environment conceived in the 1960s. It also has a lot of Berkeley in it, because of the close proximity and connections of our two sibling towns. 

The title of an early special exhibit—“PIXAR: 25 Years of Animation”, starting at the end of July—is not encouraging. Will this be one of those exhibits with a corporate hagiographic gloss, like the Kaiser show in 2004? (I wrote about that exhibit for the March 30, 2004 Planet). I hope not. 

An exhibit planned for 2011 on “The Art of the Missions of Northern New Spain” sounds more historically encouraging. 

Visit the museum website for more details.  

There's also a downloadable schedule of events for the opening weekend.  

The Oakland Museum of California can be reached from BART. Travel to the Lake Merritt Station, which lies adjacent.