Oakland Museum of California to Reopen in June with Renovated Campus

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A view of the Oakland Museum of California with its new entrance on 12th Street, facing Lake Merritt.  (©2021 Tim Griffith)

Fifteen months after closing for the pandemic, the Oakland Museum of California announced it will reopen on June 18 with three days of free entry.

Unlike many of its Bay Area brethren, OMCA didn’t open its doors even briefly in the fall. The campus has remained empty since last March, save for the renovation work that will greet visitors upon their return. Starting next month, the museum will be open to the public Friday–Sunday, 11am–5pm.

A year of construction led by landscape architect Walter Hood and project architect Mark Cavagnero removed a wall between the museum and Lake Merritt to create an entrance on 12th Street, and improved access from 10th Street into what will be Town Fare, a new cafe by Tanya Holland scheduled to open this summer. The museum’s gardens are also being “refreshed” with California native plantings, with each of the gardens’ three terraces representing a different ecoregion of the state.

In addition to those physical changes, visitors will get to see You Are Here: California Stories on the Map, an exhibition of maps that opened just before the museum closed, and the ongoing exhibitions Dorothea Lange: Photography as Activism and Black Power (an addition to the gallery of California history after the museum’s blockbuster 2016 show).

This summer, OMCA will open Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism, featuring the work of writer Octavia E. Butler, avant-garde jazz musician Sun Ra and filmmaker Kahlil Joseph in what the museum calls “a celebration of Black imagination.”


The museum did not weather the pandemic without incident—in April, OMCA announced it was cutting 20 full-time staff positions in an organizational restructuring. The staffing reductions, combined with cuts to the programming, exhibitions, events and administration budgets, allowed OMCA to reduce its annual operating budget from about $16.6 million to $14 million. The museum is currently on track to meet a $85 million fundraising goal by the end of June.

“We are so grateful to those who have not only supported us through these times but have also invested in making sure we can continue fulfilling our role in the future,” OMCA Director and CEO Lori Fogarty said in today’s announcement. “While the past year has been very difficult, it has also reinforced the tremendous value of arts and culture and the importance of ensuring that our institutions are able to withstand unexpected difficulties to continue serving our communities.”