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With science, DJs and dancing, the Oakland Museum launches the Oakland Standard

on February 3, 2011

On Friday, the Oakland Museum of California will launch its newest project—the Oakland Standard. Part art, part music and part venue for conversation and critical thought, this contemporary art series is all about honoring the creative people who live in Oakland or who are from here. “It blows you away, all of these brilliant people,” says René de Guzman, senior curator of the Oakland Standard. “A world-class museum supports its local creative people.”

The Oakland Standard is not a typical museum exhibit in which paintings are displayed on white walls; it’s more of an interactive and interdisciplinary showcase for ongoing events and projects, such as experimental exhibitions, lectures and workshops. They will set up an event space that these different exhibits and lectures will rotate through, rather than having a permanent display.

On Friday night museum staff are kicking it all off with a party. Guzman describes the upcoming fete as getting a glimpse of the entire Oakland Standard series in one night—kind of like opening a book and looking at the chapters.

Described by the museum as a “mash-up meets Oakland art explosion,” the launch party will host tag-team talks with local writers and thinkers, as well as music and dance performances and a dance party with New York City’s DJ Mia Moretti, an Oakland native who spins music that mixes everything from classical to rock to hip-hop. “Parties can be shallow,” says Guzman, “but they can also be community building and bring people together.”

The night will commence at 8 pm with Guzman hosting a seven-minute conversation with Mary Roach, a popular nonfiction science writer who has written four books including Stiff, which is about human cadavers and Packing for Mars about the human body in space. Then he’ll clear off the stage and Roach will then host a seven-minute conversation with Novella Carpenter, the best-selling author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, a book about setting up a small farm in West Oakland. This tag-team approach will continue on as six prominent people doing interesting work in Oakland—including a playwright, a multi-media artist, a musician and a chef—take turns leading the conversation and handing off the mic to one another. “It’s a vaudevillian way of engaging people,” says Guzman. “People will say, ‘God, I had no idea what that was, but it was interesting.’”

DJ Mia Moretti at the turn-tables. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum.

As the night moves on, East Oakland’s highly acclaimed street dancers—the Turf Feinz—will perform the urban style of dance that yielded over 2 million clicks on their surprise hit video on YouTube. Combining break dancing with other dance elements like miming, the Turf Feinz created a style of dance called turfing. In their YouTube video, they perform a tribute memorial dance for their friend who was murdered, Rich D. “Out of this urban life beauty arises,” says Guzman describing their dance. “They are truly amazing.”

The dance party will start at 10 pm with DJ Mia Moretti playing her eclectic mix of music and photographers from Hamburger Eyes, a San Francisco based photo magazine publisher and photography studio, taking shots of the crowd.

“This is our moment to make good on our promises so that we can give back to the community,” says Guzman. He’s referring to Measure G, a local initiative that passed in 2002, through which 65 percent of Oakland residents approved a tax that would support the Oakland Museum, Chabot Space and Science Center and the Oakland Zoo. Staff at the Oakland Museum now want to show Oaklanders that they appreciate that vote and will provide the community with the most innovative exhibits and events possible. “We’re your museum,” says Guzman.

In the upcoming months, the Oakland Standard will host a “political poster jam,” which will feature workshops and talks examining the history of political expression in the Bay Area through posters. This event will tie into the museum’s quarterly O Zone celebration, which will celebrate Black History Month by hosting performances and talks by African-inspired drummers including Bay Area based Lagos Roots Afrobeat Ensemble and members of Fela Kuti. April will be food issues month, and various people will give talks and workshops about the importance of food in the Bay Area. The museum has also launched a website dedicated to the Oakland Standard where all of this information referring to a schedule of upcoming events and an archive of past events will be stored along with blog posts from local writers and a documentary on the museum’s annual White Elephant fundraiser sale.

The Oakland Standard Launch Party is on Friday, February 4, from 8 pm to 1 am. It is free to the public and low-priced beer, cocktails, tacos and cupcakes will be available. In addition to The Turf Feinz, DJ Mia Moretti, Hamburger Eyes, Mary Roach, and Novella Carpenter, the featured participants in the event include attorney, writer and playwright Wajahat Ali, multi-media artist and writer Tammy Rae Carland, musician, photographer and recipient of the MacArthur “Genius Award” Walter Kitundu, and artist and chef Jerome Waag.

Lead image: Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.


  1. […] Oaklanders, plus performances by street dancing pioneers, Turf Feinz. Read Oakland North’s write up about the Oakland Standard here.  More info […]

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