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A Museum in Oakland Worth The BART Trip?

14 minutes from SF, visit the only museum that focuses entirely on California history
By - posted 1/4/2011 No Comment

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) opened its doors again in May 2010 after temporarily closing to receive a $62 million renovation. Have you visited yet? Maybe it’s because you don’t have time to visit, or because museums aren’t your thing, or because – let’s face it –  it’s in Oakland.

Whatever your excuse, a visit to the Oakland Museum of California is worth the BART trip. By integrating many different learning styles, the OMCA engages its visitors by replacing the stuffy room with art hanging on the walls, with a comfortable, creative, and interactive learning experience.

300,000 Square Feet of California
Within its 300,000 square foot building filled with California art, history, and a natural sciences floor opening May 1, 2012, the OMCA is the only museum that focuses entirely on California history from past to present.

The museum houses over 600 original collodion negatives dating back to the 1860s

Covering more than just your textbook gold rush facts, the gallery of California history houses a variety of artifacts from political and music posters, to pieces from their vast American Indian collection. Following a chronological arrangement, visitors are immersed in each historical environment with audio recordings, projections, and interactive scenes that take history out of the book and bring it to life. By educating visitors of California’s culturally diverse past, and also encouraging visitors to share their own history through the gallery’s interactive stations, the goal of this gallery is to share and record California’s ever-evolving history of who we are as Californians.

Highlights of this gallery include: the Story Studio, the visitor time line wall, and the silent film screenings; all found in the rear of the gallery.

Add Yourself to the Museum’s Archives at “The Story Studio”
The Story Studio invites visitors to create history by recording themselves in the studio; the recordings are kept in the museum archives and can be viewed in the lounge. Using yellow sticky notes on a timeline wall, the visitor timeline allows visitors to suggest important historical events they would like the museum to focus on; the sticky notes are collected daily for review. The gallery of California history also contains a mini theater playing silent films continuously throughout the day.

Take a break and get a great view of Lake Merritt

Places to Relax And Take A Break
If you bring a snack or need a breather from the galleries, be sure to check out the garden area behind the galleries and accessible by turning the first left when exiting the gallery of California history. The garden offers a view of Lake Merritt, sculptures on display, and picnic tables shaded by trees.

Also, those of you who visited the museum as a child on school fieldtrips will be glad to see the koi pond, containing massive koi, is still at the bottom of the main stairwell.

A Gallery Dedicated to California Artists
Continue your visit to the gallery of California art, which boasts Dorothea Lange’s personal archive of photographs and abstract expressionist pieces including paintings from Richard Diebenkorn. This gallery also displays paintings of 19th century landscapes with three dimensional landscape models and artifacts side by side to present art to visitors from several angles; a presentation style unique to the OMCA. This gallery invites visitors to experience art not only visually, but to touch specially labeled pieces, to have a conversation with art, and then create their own!

Highlights of the gallery of California art include: Mark Dion’s “Marvelous Museum”, the Is it Art? Lounge, and the California People exhibit.

Mark Dion’s “Marvelous Museum” exhibit, closing March 6, 2011, puts OMCA curator, Rene de Guzman, on display at his desk in the gallery during a few hours each day for visitors to observe and ask him questions. The Is it Art? Lounge allows visitors be the final judge of several pieces on display in the lounge by putting them to a vote with “yes” and “no” tickets. The California People exhibit encourages visitors to sketch their own portrait on digital screens; their original sketch is then displayed on the wall as part of the exhibit.

Friday Night “O Zone Party”
The museum also throws a quarterly Friday night party, known as the O Zone, where the museum stays open till 9pm with music, dancing, food, arts and crafts, and guest artists to meet. An all ages event attracting 800-1,000 visitors each night, the O Zone features a different theme for every party and is included with admission.

On the first Friday of every month, visiting the O Zone puts you within striking distance of the monthly “Oakland Art Murmur” huge art walk that happens all over downtown Oakland (6pm to 9pm) just a few BART stops away.

Throwing quarterly parties and awaiting the opening of the Natural Sciences floor in 2012, it’s hard to think more could be happening at the OMCA, but there is. “Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest” opens on February 26, 2011, and is the final stop for the exhibit on the Spanish conquest that displays 110 pieces of art from Spanish missions. Also, Michael C. McMillen’s exhibit, “Train of Thought”, opens on April 16, 2011 with walk-through installations, sculptures, films, and paintings on display in the gallery of California art.

Funcheap Says:
Described as “the people’s museum”, the OMCA lives up to that description with its multiple exhibits like The Story Studio and the Is It Art? Lounge that focus on what you think.
Visit on a free day (the first Sunday of every month) or flash a student ID to get a $3 discount to get your feet wet.

We think it’s definitely worth hopping on BART for a visit. – after all, at 14 minutes door-to-door, it’s quicker to get here from Embarcadero station than it is to get to either the Lower Haight or Washington Square Park by Muni.

Oakland Museum of California
At a Glance

Getting There:
1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, Oakland, CA 94607

  • BART: Lake Merritt (one block)
  • Parking: Metered and Non-metered parking is available on the street surrounding the museum. Be sure to check the signs and read the meters’ time limits. The closest parking garage is on Oak Street between 10th and 12th streets. Disabled parking slots and entrance to the Museum are on the street level of the garage. A disabled pedestrian entrance ramp is located on Oak Street, and at 10th and Fallon Street. Parking is $1/hour with museum validation received at the ticket counter.

Museum Admission:
General: $12
Seniors & Students (w/ ID): $9
Youth (ages 9-17): $6
Free for children 8 and under, OMCA Members, and City of Oakland employees (with ID).
Free every first Sunday of the month.

Museum Hours:
Wednesday & Thursday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Closed New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

For More Information

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Categories: Art & Museums, East Bay

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