The cultural and ethnic diversity of Oakland's youth is explored in the photography exhibit Our World: The Children of Oakland, on view at the Oakland Museum of California from Nov. 30, 2000 to Jan. 14, 2001. Children from a majority of the 66 ethnic groups in Oakland described as the most ethnically diverse community in the United States are portrayed in approximately 40 candid photographs by Marianne Thomas. The children are shown engaging in everyday activities or celebrating holidays traditional to their cultural group. Admission to the exhibit, located in the education corridor on the First Level of the museum, is free.
The exhibit is a collaboration between the museum and InnerCity Expressions, a youth graphic arts business run by Harbor House Ministries, where teens are trained by volunteer professionals in such skills as computer graphics, marketing, accounting, printing, photography, interviewing and writing. For this project, teens helped arrange the photo shoots, interviewed the child subjects for the photographs‚ captions and shadowed the professionals in their work. Teens who worked on the project were Arnell Pleasants, Lai Saelee, Katie Khanthavong, Mercedes Gibson and Takena Feazell.
Children of Oakland photographer Marianne Thomas is a photo editor for the San Francisco Chronicle and an instructor at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, California. An award-winning photographer who has exhibited widely, Thomas holds a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in Latin American Studies from Syracuse University in New York.
As the project progressed, Thomas said, it seemed to me to be more than about diversity. What I noticed was that no matter what the background of the children I was photographing, they had such joyous spirits. I started to try to cover the spectrum of the childhood experience as it unfolded for me so that, as a unit, the photos made a statement about being a child. This project shows the spirit of childhood.
Project manager for the exhibit is Natalie Nelson, Art Program Coordinator in the Education Department of the Oakland Museum of California. She said, I wanted to bring this exhibit to the Oakland Museum because the photographs document the inner lives of children in our community and the continuing role of celebrating cultural and religious traditions in the family. The exhibit coincides with the museum‚s annual family festival, Winterfest, on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2000, which celebrates winter holiday traditions from around the world.
Photographs in the exhibit are included in the newly released book Our World: The Children of Oakland, published by Harbor House Ministries, Inc., and 12 of the photographs were featured in a calendar Children of Oakland 2000. Proceeds from the project will support InnerCity Expressions.