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Oakland Museum of California’s New Gardens

OMCA debuts its newly redesigned gardens when it reopens on June 18
By - posted 5/21/2021 No Comment

OMCA welcomes the community back to a newly-refreshed campus and transformed garden, providing a safe and welcoming space to reconnect with each other. After over a year of facing a global pandemic, compounded with instances of violence, racism, and civil unrest in our country, OMCA’s outdoor public spaces are available to our neighbors and community to gather safely –– whether it’s to celebrate being together, reflect, or find inspiration.

Significant progress has been made to the multi-phased project, including new paving areas, newly installed sculpture, new native trees and plantings, a new lawn, and a new outdoor stage that will soon be used for programming and performances. We’ll soon open up a new entrance at the corner of 12th Street facing Lake Merritt, connecting the Museum to the city of Oakland in a whole new way. We can’t wait for you to see our new look!

What Visitors Will Experience 

OMCA’s campus renovation focused on enhancing access to the multi-terraced campus, improving visitor amenities, and significantly updating and refreshing the planting scheme in order to make these outdoor spaces an even better destination and community gathering place. Completed work includes the removal of an exterior border wall along the Museum’s northern side, facing Oakland’s Lake Merritt, and the creation of a new entrance on 12th Street which physically opens the campus to this major pedestrian corner. Alterations have also been made along 10th Street, to the south, providing direct entry into public event space and further creating better pedestrian access, including two new ADA-accessible ramps onto the campus. The new entrances will be open later this year.

Additionally, OMCA has commissioned local Oakland-based artist Binta Ayofemi to create sculpture and artists edition furniture for the exterior spaces of its newly renovated campus. Supporting the Museum’s vision to provide visitors with a more welcoming environment, Ayofemi’s works, which are inspired in part by the culture and history of Oakland, are intended to encourage a more comfortable and longer visitor experience. Her seating, tables, and other furniture – which she refers to as “Portals” – will be positioned in the garden and other outdoor public spaces on the Museum’s campus. The renovated campus will also include a new café by Tanya Holland, the celebrated Bay Area chef and restaurateur, founder of Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen, and former Top Chef contestant.

Newly-Redesigned Gardens

With a focus on sustainability and accessibility, OMCA’s terraced gardens facing Oakland’s Lake Merritt have been re-envisioned with new native plantings, amplifying five ecoregions of California on each level of the garden. As part of the first phase of the campus transformation, our central lawn on Level One evokes a coastal forest with a stand of existing redwoods alongside new plantings, creating both a sense of enclosure as well as new perspectives of the Museum and the lake through the new access point along 12th Street, opening soon.

New paving areas, including new ADA-accessible ramps, provide greater accessibility and improved pathways for visitors to flow from the garden to the terraces, and into the galleries and cafe.

Newly-Installed Sculpture & Garden Interpretation

Throughout the gardens, visitors will enjoy newly installed sculptures alongside many existing favorites. You’ll also be invited to learn about the surrounding cityscape of Oakland through new garden interpretations, which will point to historic landmarks and neighborhoods.

Sculptures by internationally renowned California artists such as Ruth Asawa, Bruce Beasley, Beniamino Bufano, Mark di Suvero, Viola Frey, and George Rickey are among those you’ll enjoy upon your visit to OMCA. Of particular note, a major Peter Voulkos sculpture originally designed for the Museum’s campus will now welcome visitors at the 12th Street entrance.

New Outdoor Stage

The creation of a new, permanent outdoor stage in the central courtyard will support OMCA’s expanded performance, music, and film programs, coming soon. Complete with built-in lighting and sound equipment, the stage will offer an enhanced way for visitors to engage with our outdoor events. Once we are able to safely do so, we’re excited to offer new programming and performances for our community to enjoy year-round. Stay tuned!

New 12th Street Entrance 

During construction, an exterior border wall along the Museum’s northern side, facing Oakland’s Lake Merritt, was removed and replaced with three 20-foot openings. This new entryway across the street from the lake will soon be open to allow for easy access to the gardens and Museum, creating a seamless and welcoming connection to the surrounding neighborhood.

For more information about OMCA’s campus renovation, see our FAQ page.

The campus plan is funded through a five-year $85 million comprehensive fundraising effort, All In! The Campaign for OMCA. In addition to private philanthropy, this project is funded in part by Capital One Commercial Bank, Oakland Renaissance NMTC, Inc., and the City of Oakland. 

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