When others had nowhere to go, artist Sara Hoda, 30, helped take them in.
“She literally provided the space for me to start my life here,” says Susan Dee, a friend of the Oakland-based artist.
When Dee moved to the Bay Area in 2013, she couldn’t afford the region’s skyrocketing rent, and Hoda gave her somewhere to stay. “The only place I could afford to live was this place in West Oakland,” Dee says.
Hoda lived in a three-bedroom apartment near the West Oakland BART stop and helped Dee get on her feet. Dee recalls Hoda’s generous spirit. “Sara and her friends were so open and accepting,” Dee says. “Often, she would offer me coffee in the morning, make hand crafted gifts for friends' birthdays, and fix the most delicious Persian food to share.”
Dee also recalls coming home to find Hoda painting on an easel in her room. “She explained that one painting was about the Occupy Wall Street protests at the Oakland port," Dee says.
Hoda had a broad range of interests. She and friend Lazzuly Mello started a coffee company out of a truck. They named their business Art Is In Coffee, and covered the sides of the truck with paintings. Backed by Kickstarter donations, the goal of the truck was to bring people together over a cup of coffee to “facilitate the sharing of different cultures, ideas, and perspectives.” They often changed out the paintings on the truck, creating a transitory mobile art gallery.
Hoda also ran an artists’ collective with her friend Carol Crewdson. Known as Musick Box, the pair operated their community out of a home in West Oakland, which supported up to 32 people at a time.
Crewdson remembered Hoda as "compassionate and sweet" on Facebook after Hoda was reported deceased in the Oakland warehouse fire. “We built a garden and community together and grew vegetables in the front of our ramshackle house in the middle of Oakland, and created abundance with a beautiful group of people that stretch all over the world. That's how I will remember her, and that's who she was to me.”
Hoda's busy life also included working with kids. In 2016, Hoda got a job working as a support teacher at the Urban Montessori Charter School in East Oakland. Her students, age six to nine, fondly referred to her as “Ms. S.”
“We’d found a perfect fit in Sara,” says David Castillo, the school’s head teacher.
Castillo recalls the excitement he felt when he first met Hoda. “She had a calm, kind demeanor that people were naturally drawn to,” Castillo says. And he admired her green thumb. “Sara had a passion for gardening, and we may end up putting together a community garden in her name."
Hoda’s mother and brother attended a healing circle along with students’ parents at the school on the Monday after the fire. In a statement that went out to parents via email, Castillo says Hoda was “loved and full of love, and she will be missed by so many people.”