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The Museum of Children’s Art tackles global issues

on May 12, 2010

“What does the world need now?” This question is being posed to kids all over the East Bay, and Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) wants their answers in the form of paintings, drawings, photographs or even sculptures.

MOCHA is holding an art contest for students in kindergarten through grade 12 to encourage them to illustrate what they think would make the world a better place. A jury will select winners from each age group. This contest isn’t about perfecting brush strokes, it’s more about creative ideas, says Laura Dutto, a MOCHA board member who helped conceive of the contest. “It’s interesting to think about kids solving the world’s problems,” she says.

A young painter enjoys one of MOCHA’s arts programs. Photo courtesy MOCHA.

“We expect a huge gamut of responses,” says Rae Holzman, director of the museum’s programs. “It could be as simple as a little kid saying the world needs more butterflies, as opposed to a high school student saying the world needs to feed the homeless.”

The drop-off for submissions started yesterday, May 10, and MOCHA is expecting hundreds of pieces to be entered into the contest. All art will be displayed during a gala exhibition on June 5 that will feature food and drinks, dance performances and music, art making stations and an “artists’ marketplace” where art teachers will sell art. Awards for the winning pieces will be given out at the gala.

Founded in 1989, MOCHA has always focused on hands-on arts instruction for children. At its downtown Oakland location near City Hall, there’s a museum with big windows and high vaulted ceilings and several art studios full of supplies—tissue paper, crayons, glitter, crochet doilies. But the real crux of MOCHA’s work is its outreach programs, through which the museum has trained teaching artists to work in after-school programs, libraries and other community centers. More than 30,000 children participate in these programs each year, and MOCHA needs funding to keep these going.

Photo courtesy MOCHA.

That’s part of the reason why MOCHA is holding this contest—it’s also a fundraiser that aims to honor the kids and their art. The museum will raise money by selling tickets to the gala, and artists can choose to donate their work to be sold at the event with all the proceeds benefiting MOCHA. (However, each contest participant gets a free ticket to the gala.) “This is a real MOCHA-style fundraiser, rather than the black-tie dinner,” says Kristin Palm, MOCHA’s director of development and communications.

In 2009, the Oakland City Council cut up to 20 percent of funding for different arts institutions across the city. Now they’re threatening to cut even more. During the council’s April 1, 2010 budget discussion, they talked about cutting city arts grants by 50 percent, but there was strong opposition among most council members and they postponed the final vote for another meeting. These cuts have arts educators across the city worried. To make matters worse, not only are art specific programs being cut, but the state budget cuts for education are resulting in less in-school arts education. “City funding has decreased steadily year after year and we’re facing yet another decrease,” says Palm. “We have to look at funding from other sources.”

The deadline for contest submissions is May 24. The contest is open to all kids, grades K-12. There will be a cash prize for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. For more information about the contest and the gala, visit MOCHA’s website.

Lead image: Over 30,000 Bay Area youth participate in arts programs run by the Museum of Children’s Art. Photo courtesy MOCHA.


  1. Carolina on September 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    looks like you got tackled this time, where is this show?

    • C. Williams on January 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      Apparently we won’t be seeing any exhibits that might cast a critical eye on Israeli military policies – God forbid. In the past MOCHA has hosted shows dealing with childrens experiences during World War 2 and the Iraq War so the canceling of this show could not have been based on objections to war-themed themes. For MOCHA and this page in particular to persist is saying they “tackle global issues” is hypocritical. Canceling this show was cowardice.

  2. Sine Cole on September 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Shame on you for canceling Palestinian Children’s exhibit. And, with all the audacity in the world, you say you are covering global issues? How hypocritical. Shame on you.

  3. Michael Kemper on September 19, 2011 at 2:41 am


    I can’t find the story about the cancellation of the Palestinian children’s art exhibit and what sort of pressures led to its cancellation. Please inform me where I can find the story about the censorship of the children’s art show.

    Thank you.

    • Sara Williams on September 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      MOCHA appears to rely on funding from several education funds including money from the County of Alameda. Since MOCHA responded to pressure from a couple of special interest groups, it is questionable that it should accept or be given public education funds. Just as the war is the reality of children in many countries, Palestinian children should be allowed to express their reality of war. All residents of the region are entitled to freedom of expression without censorship. The MOCHA “open letter” suggests that the Board is not in touch with the reality of the world of young children living in homes with TV and computers. Use the world of Palestinian children as a teaching tool. Children need to talk about what they see at home. This is a proper use of public funds.

  4. Linda K. Brown on September 24, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Your cancellation of the Palestinian children’s exhibit is deepely disappointing–but typical of how every institution in the US–including out president and Congress–genuflects to pressure exherted by supporters of Israel. Granted the exhibit may not have been appropriate for the youngest of children yet it does illustrate the unplesent reality of the lives of Palestinian children no matter how much supporters of Israle try to deny it–and deny Palestinians their land, and their dignity. Now you have denied these children their voices. Shame.

  5. Haroon Q8 on October 25, 2011 at 2:52 am

    Shame on you claiming to represent children and then allowing political pressure to force you to exclude art from palestinian Children.

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