Oakland campus legacy events celebrate CCA history

With official instruction at CCA’s Oakland campus ending in the spring of 2022, we honored the campus with friends—new and old—memories, exhibitions, as well as laughter, hugs, and a few tears.

Place and history are important to the students and faculty at CCA. Knowing where we’re from helps chart where we’ll go. This spring, CCA ended official instruction at the beloved and historic Oakland campus. For 100 years, the site has been a bedrock for making, forming bonds, and pushing the boundaries of what art can be.

As CCA unifies in San Francisco, students and faculty took time to remember the Oakland campus through celebrations and gatherings across the spring semester. Professor and Chair of Textiles and founder of the Oakland Campus Legacy Committee Deborah Valoma (MFA Fine Arts 1995) says, “There is a mixture of sadness but also celebration for what the campus has meant to the school. We’re remembering that and working to bring Oakland’s magic with us.”

Notes hanging from a tree with the text, “Oakland campus is a gem” and “CCA(C) Greatest Jewelry Metals Arts Program in USA.”

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni wrote love letters to CCA’s Oakland campus and hung them from trees in Macky Lawn.

Events ranged from the celebratory The Last Wednesday Night in Oakland to the commemorative To the Oakland Campus with Love and ongoing releases of special prints from the Legacy Print Project, culminating with Rooted: A Ceremony Honoring the Oakland Campus on September 24, 2022. “It’s been such a reunion of people,” says Lisa Jonas (MFA Fine Arts 2014), director of Alumni Engagement and co-chair of the Oakland Campus Legacy Committee. “I got to witness people celebrating together after being apart for decades.”

These events honored the land, brought the CCA community together, and made space to recognize and remember the essence of the Oakland campus’s vibrant spirit.

Last Wednesday Night in Oakland

The spring semester kicked off on a festive note with The Last Wednesday Night in Oakland. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, students, faculty and staff would gather on the Oakland campus on Wednesday nights to open senior exhibitions, congratulate graduating students, and acknowledge faculty accomplishments. In that spirit, CCA toasted the beloved campus for one more night of exhibitions, food, and fun.

The Oakland campus was abuzz with former friends and current students enjoying the celebratory yet sometimes bittersweet atmosphere. “We opened the entire campus,” says Lisa Jonas. “This was a time for staff, faculty, and students and alumni who haven’t seen each other in a while to be together.”

The Last Wednesday Night in Oakland saw the opening receptions of the exhibitions Dennis Leon and the Art of Instruction, A Garden Campus Part II, Student Legacy Work, Oakland Campus Rephotography Project, Ceramic Sculpture Garden Celebration, and a presentation of Zarouhi Abdalian’s (MFA Fine Arts 2010) Chanson du ricochet in “Resonance of Place.”

Opened in the Oliver Art Center, Dennis Leon and the Art of Instruction was an impactful exhibition highlight, grounding the institutional legacy of CCA in Oakland. “Dennis Leon taught from the 70s to the 90s,” says Jonas. “He was the chair of the sculpture program and beloved by alumni who were students and faculty who knew him.” The exhibition not only featured Leon’s work but the work of artists who studied with him.

In all, around 700 people attended The Last Wednesday Night in Oakland, making for a festive celebratory mood. “People hadn’t seen each other in decades. Many people have memories that stretch back years, fond memories of the close relationships when they were students or faculty,” says Deborah Valoma.

To Oakland with Love

Then on May 6, CCA marked the last day of classes on the Oakland campus in the commemorative event To the Oakland Campus with Love. On a cozy afternoon the CCA community gathered on Macky Lawn to write love letters to the campus, hear remarks, join receptions in the programs’ facilities, and witness the ceremonial ringing of a historic bell.

With a more intimate, community feel, the event began with over 150 letters that staff, faculty, students, and alumni wrote to the college. “Dear CCAC: Thank you for giving me purpose, confidence + love to find myself in this world. Had I not met you, I would not be the human I am today,” wrote Natalie. Another participant wrote, “My 1st home away from home. This place changed how I see the world.”

During ceremonial remarks, Deborah Valoma acknowledged the indigenous land upon which the Oakland campus rests, as well as the significance of its history. Valoma knows it well. As part of a multigenerational CCA family, she has a deep connection to the campus. “My dad was in the Navy during WWII, and after the war, he enrolled at CCAC under the GI bill and majored in Art Education,” says Valoma. Decades later she also attended CCA and her daughter grew up playing on the grounds. “This place means so much to me, as it does to the faculty, alumni, and students who have passed through here during its 100-year history.”

The event closed with the ceremonial ringing of a historic bell owned by CCA’s founder Frederick Meyer. (The bell is said to have been a part of the Civil War battleship Tennessee.) Meyer rang the bell for significant events and to mark the start and close of the academic term; it has not been rung in decades. “The ringing of the bell felt poignant,” says Valoma. “The sound reverberated and it filled the air and our hearts.”

A Garden Campus: Oakland campus legacy prints, hand screenprinted by Thomas Wojak.

A Garden Campus: Oakland campus legacy prints, hand screenprinted by Thomas Wojak.

Legacy Print Project

Spring semester also saw the launch of the second set of prints from the Legacy Print Project. Commissioned by the Oakland Campus Legacy Committee and screenprinted by alum and faculty emeritus Thomas Wojak, each of the ten prints represents one decade of CCA’s history in Oakland. An homage to the campus gardens and its verdant atmosphere, the series of prints is titled A Garden Campus and features noticeable aspects of the campus throughout its 100-year history.

“We wanted to make prints that would highlight historical events students may not know about,” says Valoma, who has observed the eagerness of students to connect with CCA’s history. “My mission,” she says, “is to create excitement for the students so they feel part of a creative legacy.”

The first six prints were released at the Homecoming celebration in November and The Last Wednesday Night in Oakland in April. The remaining prints release on September 24, 2022 during Rooted: A Ceremony Honoring the Oakland Campus. Learn more about the event and RSVP!

You can also take home a slice of Oakland history by ordering a print. Visit cca.edu/legacyprints to view prints and place your order. All proceeds help fund Oakland Campus Legacy Committee projects. Stay tuned for more opportunities and events to celebrate CCA history.

Published on August 18, 2022