The Art of Storytelling


Quilts of Oakland

California Humanities is celebrating its first year in historic Swan's Market in Oakland by launching The Art of Storytelling Exhibit Series, sharing the work of artists with a humanities twist. We seek to amplify the East Bay’s rich cultural and artistic history and people with art that amplifies local voices and stories.

Our first exhibit features quilts with an Oakland-themed narrative by members of the African American Quilt Guild of Oakland. From the Black Panthers to the fire of the Oakland/Berkeley Hills, these beautiful and detailed quilts help us to understand and visualize what makes up the unique perspective of Oakland.

Quilts of Oakland is available to view by appointment until December 28.

For more information, please contact Community Engagement Coordinator, Neha Balram.

Please scroll down for a preview of the quilts that are on display. 

Please watch a video of the exhibit opening HERE.

Please watch a video of the exhibit closing HERE


Niambi Kee
Oak town Blues
41 x 26 Inches
Oak town Blues represents the many cultures, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic groups that call Oakland “Home,” as does its distinctive and recognizable skyline.


Rosita Thomas
Power to the People
40 x 45 Inches
The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland 50 years ago. This quilt is a tribute to some important, but less well known facts about the Black Panther Party, their community survival programs and 10 Point Platform.


Marion Coleman
37 x 42 Inches
Firestorm interprets the fire that occurred in the Oakland/Berkeley, CA hills in 1991.


Ora Clay
Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame
35 x 43 Inches
The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Inc. (BFHFI) and its co-founder, Mary Perry Smith were the inspiration for this quilt. The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Inc. was a program of the Cultural and Ethnic Affairs Guild of the Oakland Museum of California. The BFHFI held a star studded Oscar Micheaux awards Celebration each February at Oakland’s Paramount Theater from 1973 until 2006.


Sew and Sews Mini Group (Patricia Bailey, Blanche Brown, Marsha Carter, Marilyn Handis, Debbie Mason, Norma Mason, Carolyn Pope, Dolores Vitero Presley, Ann Seals Robinson, Julia Vitero)
Oakland There
33.5 x 71.5 Inches
There is no There There is the famous misquote of famous author Gertrude Stein
(1874- 1946) referring to Oakland, CA

Nearly 45 years after Ms. Stein lived in Oakland she returned to find that Oakland had urbanized and changed from the pastoral place she remembered.  Her house was no longer there, her school was no longer there, her park was no longer there and her synagogue was no longer there. So for her, there was no longer a there there. The quote was merely an expression of painful nostalgia and not a condemnation of Oakland.

The 10 blocks quilt represent Lake Merritt Pavilion, Fairyland Gates, Oakland Tribune Building, Grand Lake Theater, Port of Oakland, Chinatown, view from the Oakland Hills, Woodminister Park, Lake Merritt Walking Path and the Golden State Warriors.


Ernestine Tril
Un Barrio
37 x 37.5 Inches
This piece is inspired by the vibrant life and activity in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, including the business, community services, churches, food and diversity of people.


Marion Coleman
Trail Blazers
37.5 x 52 Inches
This quilt was inspired by the Oakland Black Association parade that is held every October in West Oakland.


Norma Mason
West Oakland Blues and Jazz,
35 x 36 Inches
This quilt celebrates the blues and jazz tradition in West Oakland.  The music brought back the sounds, tastes and smells of “back home” in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

To learn more about the African American Quilt Guild of Oakland, please click HERE.