In a bright, open, 4000-square-foot space downtown, Robin Leffert sat beside her daughter, Dahlia, while the 20-month-old doodled on colored paper.
“I’ve been waiting for this place to open for a long time,” Leffert said at the weekend Open House for the new Clay Street location of the Museum of Children’s Arts (MOCHA).
MOCHA creates community arts programs for over 30,000 Bay Area children per year, and the museum’s arts education classes are currently in 27 libraries and schools. The school art classes include printmaking, sculpture and collaborative art.
“At a lot of these schools, the teaching artists are embedded and do their projects around what the classroom teachers are doing in their curriculums,” says Roxanne Padgett, MOCHA’s director of programs.
An Oakland native, Padgett has taught art to children for over 30 years. “I actually brought my kids here 20 some odd years ago,” she said. “I saw the art on the walls and said, ‘I want to work here,’ because it wasn’t cookie cutter art. You could tell that each piece was really individual and each child really put themselves into it.”
“Some of these kids come in from East or West Oakland,” said MOCHA’s executive director Quincy McCoy, emphasizing outreach to children in low-income households. “When they see a 40-year-old black man teaching art, it’s something different.”
“We’ve had kids who have never seen San Francisco, who have no idea what that’s all about or have never been to museums before,” McCoy added. “It’s just another way to open things up for them.”
The Oct. 5 open house included a live painting event hosted by teaching artist Jack Eastgate, collaborating with visiting adults and children using paint and a large canvas. “You & Me The Artists of MOCHA,” a collaborative self-portrait project, offered attendees the chance to create a self-portrait and add it to a showcase wall.
The museum, an Oakland institution for almost 25 years, has weathered recent setbacks. The grand opening, celebrating its move from 9th Street to Clay, was originally envisioned for late August or early September, but was delayed, McCoy said. “There was a flood in the building and that set things back, so here we are in October.”
MOCHA also has recently faced funding challenges. The museum used the crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo.com, to raise money for improvements to the new location.
However, the campaign from August through September of this year raised just $6,863 out of a $30,000 goal.
“People think that because we moved into this spacious place that we have a lot of money,” McCoy said, citing programming needs as the real reason for the move. McCoy said he hopes the new space will allow MOCHA to fully function as a museum, as well as a rentable site for events like birthday parties and wedding receptions.
“We’re definitely not riding high right now,” McCoy continued. “Without a transfusion of help from some people, we could easily fade away.”
Correction: MOCHA is downtown. A previous article incorrectly identified the location.