Can the Oakland Museum of California Stay Relevant?

Gift by sculptor Bruce Beasley fits into institution's plan to diversify.


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“In Oakland, it’s a tool. They’re using tech to enhance experience, but they also appreciate that sometimes it is the messiest materials that invite people to engage. One of the biggest trends is about leaving your building. OMCA has a strong mobile element,” she said.

Simon said content-rich, spontaneous activities and art that reflects the community will always engage new audiences.

“In Santa Cruz, we get asked, ‘Are you a museum or a community center?’ I love the question,” she said. “Humans could be the new artifacts.”

Or, artifacts could be universal elements like food, Pubois suggested. On the calendar for 2017, foodie fanaticism will turn into an OMCA exhibit exploring big agribusiness, health, labor, environmental sustainability, cultural change, urban farming, and the politics involved in food justice. “How people talk about food has grown to encompass much larger issues than just what you’re having for dinner,” Pubois said.

If nothing else, the OMCA of the past is gone. That’s not to say the museum’s collection of art, culture, and natural science artifacts is being disregarded. OMCA leaders recognize they must allow visitors to see themselves on the walls, hear their languages in the halls, and experience their ancestral cultures in a contemporary light. To thrive, OMCA must become adept, nimble, shaped by community interest, and ruled by agile impermanence.

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