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The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling exhibit series celebrates California’s rich cultural and artistic histories and dynamic changing demographics. Multi-generational storytelling and testimonials articulated in this exhibit through a variety of visual media. California Humanities launched this exhibit series in August 2016 in celebration of our first year in historic Swan’s Market in Oakland.

RYSE: Richmond Youth Raise Their Voices

The third installation in The Art of Storytelling featured the work of youth from the RYSE Center in Richmond, California. RYSE creates safe places for grounded in social justice for young people to love, learn, educate, heal and transform lives and communities. 

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Francisco Rojas Meraz, Age 21

Keeping the phrase “No soy de aqui ni de alla” meaning “not from here nor there” in his mind, having to be a Chicano from the Bay Area, juggling culture, tradition, and contemporary social problems. These are common themes that come to mind in his creative thinking process to produce work that is not only meaningful and healing to him but as well yells out a statement or brings some sort of connection to a specific community of people.


Francisco Rojas Meraz, Age 21

Keeping the phrase “No soy de aqui ni de alla” meaning “not from here nor there” in his mind, having to be a Chicano from the Bay Area, juggling culture, tradition, and contemporary social problems. These are common themes that come to mind in his creative thinking process to produce work that is not only meaningful and healing to him but as well yells out a statement or brings some sort of connection to a specific community of people.


Francisco Rojas Meraz, Age 21

Keeping the phrase “No soy de aqui ni de alla” meaning “not from here nor there” in his mind, having to be a Chicano from the Bay Area, juggling culture, tradition, and contemporary social problems. These are common themes that come to mind in his creative thinking process to produce work that is not only meaningful and healing to him but as well yells out a statement or brings some sort of connection to a specific community of people.


Transparency Portrait Series Artist Statements

These portraits were created to show youth voices as layers of affirmations to remind oneself to reflect on personal growth. Each art piece was created for the viewer to interact with, learn and get a glimpse of the multifaceted experiences of young people in Richmond. Each one showcases their own individual styles of poetic thoughts and the different layers of self as people see us and who we are inside. Feel free to lift the transparent portrait photographs to interact with each piece as their own identities and inner art works.

Jakia Kiel, Age 17

Jakia Kiel was introduced to the arts by the artist Aware and the filmmaker Gemikia Henderson at RYSE Youth Center. She has been a multimedia artist involved in video production for four years. Jakia’s artistic style is laid back and chill and she challenges herself to try new mediums. Jakia’s artistic influence is Justin Bieber, because he shows her never to give up and to always try new things in life. Her plans for the future are going to college, pursuing video, becoming a doctor and joining the Air Force. Her video You’re Not Alone (2016) won Honorable Mention at RYSE’s second annual Truth be Told: Justice Through my Eyes Film Festival

Jakia was inspired to create this particular piece of artwork to show her purpose in life. She found out that art creation process is not easy but it’s worth it in the end. This piece of art tells the story that everyone on this planet has a purpose in life.

Free Your Dream

Isaiah Grant, Age 17

Isaiah Grant, 17, strives to overcome racism and defy stereotypes. He was introduced to the arts by coming to the RYSE Youth Center, and has been influences bymentors like Vero and Agana who introduced him to new artistic medium and styles. Isaiah describes his artistic style as constantly learning and improving his work by appreciating the imperfections and process. What makes him unique as an artist is how he combines his spoken word poetry into his art and it impacts people by connecting his community. Isaiah goes with the flow and follows his own creative inspirations. He sees himself as a film producer in film festivals to tell your stories to a larger audience through media production.

What inspired Isaiah to create the Free Your Dream art piece was to tell his story to the audience even when he is not present. He learned how important is is to Free Your Dreams through creating art. Isaiah wants to address social issues in this art piece to break stereotypes about people of color. Isaiah wants people that see his art piece and feel empowered, inspired, and like they are a whole new person.

I Can’t Draw

Sterling Gilder, Age: 18

Sterling describes her life as truly blessed. Despite dark memories and nightmares, she is finding happiness. Her interest in music was inspired by her parents: her mother enjoyed musicals and her father listened to Sade and NWA. Sterling is inspired by rap and R&B, especially the Bay Area’s hyphy movement, but she also dabbles in jazz and alternative. Sterling began performing spoken word towards the end of high school, competing in Youth Speak’s annual Teen Poetry Slam. She plans to release her own music and help artist manage their brands, and collaborate with other artists.

Sterling was inspired to create this piece while participating in the Graffiti Mural Art Workshop at RYSE Youth Center. She wrote some of her favorite songs in small letters on the canvas.

Shania’s World

Shania Williams, Age 17

Having MS has been a challenge that Shania overcame by drawing, writing and dancing, and keeping a positive mindset. Her mother introduced her to the arts by pointing out all the positive aspects about Frida Kahlo, Picasso, and other fine artists. Her artistic style is all about passion. Shania is a unique artist because she brings authenticity and her full self. She will be attending a four-year university and getting her bachelors in Marine Biology and astronomy.

Shania was feeling her poetic voice over her artwork and self-portrait. When you read it sparks an emotion of making you feel good inside.

 Richmond Renaissance

RYSE’s third annual youth-led theatrical production, Richmond Renaissance, took the stage at the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater on May 6 and 7. The play is set in AnnaBelle’s, a Black-owned juke joint in 1940s North Richmond. The play, written by DeAndre Evans,  explores issues of racism, post-traumatic stress, domestic violence, colorism, and self-love. Richmond Renaissance celebrates overcoming past trauma, and inspires hope, pride, and purpose for the future, particularly for the city’s young residents. The production also engaged youth in mediums besides acting, including: video production, stagecraft and lighting, photography and other visual arts mediums.

Artist Bio

Daioge Martin, Age 17

Daioge Martin shatters the barriers and stereotypes of lower income Black males as more than just incarcerated numbers and death toll statistics. Daioge found his creativity by adding multiple colors to an image or shape, making it an emotional feeling of what he wants to express inside based on his current emotions. Painting was a medium he was introduced to and found that while painting he finds himself at ease. Daioge finds his own meaning and interpretations of simple different shapes such as one circle. His inspiration was his uncle, who despite his disabilities, created artwork for him. He plans to become a barber to fund his way through college to study social work and business.

Daioge learned to turn photographic images into his own unique interpretations and styles. The portraits portray the hidden meaning of the stories within the character connecting our past present and future stories.

Golden Mind & Pride & Purpose

Marisol Lara, Age 17

Marisol Lara is a queer Xicana intersectional feminist, artist, poet and photographer from Richmond, California. She is planning to attend California College of the Arts or community college and then transfer. Marisol likes to experiment and practice with different mediums. She does not like to stick with one specific kind of medium because as an artist, she believes that she is always adapting, growing and changing like a butterfly. Marisol wants to continue to participate in art shows and exhibitions and she hopes to eventually have her own art shows and exhibitions one day in the future. She also wants to travel all over the world while creating murals on her own or with the youth in different places and hopefully teach them. Marisol wants to influence, inspire and impact people of color in a positive same way like Frida Kahlo did for her. She loves herself and her flaws. Marisol is not afraid to express herself and embrace her indigenous roots. She wants her people to know that they’re capable of anything that they desire to be as long as they set their mind to it.

Pride & Purpose

Marisol wanted to show that black women during World War II were hardworking riveters, not just white women. Women of color do not receive enough credit for their participation.

Golden Mind

Marisol created her second stencil image using a portrait of Deandre Evans who wrote the script and starred in two main roles of Richmond Renaissance. She chose the colors gold because he has a golden mind full of inspiration, she painted the poppy flowers to connect the roots that connect us to California.

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Favianna Rodriguez

The second installation in The Art of Storytelling series features the work of Oakland-based artist and cultural organizer, Favianna Rodriguez. Her art and collaborative projects deal with migration, global politics, economic injustice, patriarchy, and interdependence. These vibrant and powerful pieces help create a dialogue about gender, race, identity, and immigration.

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Favianna Rodriguez: The Artist Must FightThe Artist Must Fight

Dimension: 24 x 18 inches
Medium: Limited Edition Screenprint Year: 2009

This piece was inspired by African-American singer, actor, and scholar, Paul Robeson, who wrote, “The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery.” I designed this print in the style of Cuban OSPAAL resistance posters from the 60’s and 70’s.

Favianna Rodriguez: Three Women (Yellow)Three Women (Yellow)

Dimension: 16.7 x 11.5 inches
Medium: Digital Print
Year: 2014

I named this piece in honor of Nina Simone’s song, “Four Women.” One of my favorite compositions is to show three individuals, either in profile or facing the viewer. The three characters in this piece embody dignity, fearlessness, and sexiness.


Favianna Rodriguez: Fight RacismFight Racism

Dimension: 24 x 18 inches
Medium: Digital Fine Art Print
Year: 2009

This piece commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, celebrated on March 21. On that date in 1960, more than 60 black demonstrators were killed and about 180 wounded by South African police in South Africa.


Favianna Rodriguez: TransitionTransition

Dimension: 30 x 20 inches
Medium: Digital Fine Art Print
Year: 2010

This piece centers around the themes of change, transition and goal-setting. The central protagonist is a young woman who is imagining the many possibilities which her future offers her. Her hands are open in a manner that alludes to a yoga pose in which the person is opening themselves up to the universe, as an act of meditation. The open hands also symbolize the many practices that one can do with their hands, including music, art, dance, writing, exercise, typing, building, and reading. In the composition, the central figure is grounded and is imagining herself as a writer and as a singer. Behind her is a circle that represents the planet.


Favianna Rodriguez: Occupy SisterhoodOccupy Sisterhood

Dimension: 18 x 12 inches
Medium: Digital Art Print
Year: 2012

I developed this piece as a response to the attacks on women’s reproductive freedom and our right to abortion. Inspired by the leadership of women and queer folks in Occupy, this piece is also a critique of the patriarchy that is alive and well in all branches of our government.


Favianna Rodriguez: The Worldwide Movement To End RacismThe Worldwide Movement To End Racism

Dimension: 24 x 18 inches
Medium: Digital Print
Year: 2009

Racism and white supremacy are prevailing forces in our society and continue to cause inequality, suffering, and institutionalized violence in communities of color. I developed this poster for the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, March 21st. The characters in the piece are singing and working collectively to combat racism.


Favianna Rodriguez: Be StrongBe Strong

Dimension: 12 x 18 inches
Medium: Limited Edition Screenprint
Year: 2009

This piece is about women of color being strong leaders in their community. The shape of the face was hand cut from black construction paper as an experiment. The print is named after one of my favorite Duran Duran songs, “Rio”.


Favianna Rodriguez: Immigration Reform is Central to Women's EqualityImmigration Reform is Central to Women’s Equality

Dimension: 5.25 x 12 inches
Medium: Digital Art Print
Year: 2013

Most migrants are women and children, and this print is a call out to feminists to embrace migration as a women’s issue.


Favianna Rodriguez: Freedom. Justice. Voice. Power.Freedom. Justice. Voice. Power.

Dimension: 17.5 x 12 inches
Medium: Digital Print Reproduction
Year: 2015

Freedom. Justice. Voice. Power…the components of liberation. This piece depicts three empowered people collaborating to transform the world. They move together, because they are more mighty when they are united. They are angry, yet they leverage their emotions to transform their lives. They are thriving despite all the hardships in their path. And they are beautiful, their light is radiant and the complexity of their humanity is limitless. They are fierce, and little by little, they are going to heal our world, with the power of the feminine.

Favianna Rodriguez: Migration is BeautifulMigration is Beautiful

Dimension: 24 x 18 inches
Medium: Offset Poster
Year: 2013

The monarch butterfly has come to represent the beauty of migration. The butterfly symbolizes the right that living beings have to freely move. Like the monarch butterfly, human beings cross borders in search of safer habitats. Like the monarch butterfly, human beings cross borders in order to survive. This sticker is my artistic adaptation of the butterfly. Each wing shows a human profile. The phrase, “Migration is Beautiful,” celebrates the resiliency, courage, and determination of migrants who come in search of their dreams.


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This exhibit is open from February 16 –April 13, 2017

The closing reception for Favianna Rodriguez’s exhibit is on Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 5:30-7:30PM. Formal remarks will start at 6:00 PM. This event is free and open to the public.

To register for the closing reception on April 13th or to make a private appointment to view the gallery, please contact Community Engagement Coordinator, Neha Balram.

Exhibit Opening

Quilts of Oakland

Our first exhibit featured 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.

The Quilts of Oakland exhibit was open from August 25 –December 28, 2016

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

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AAQGO: Oak Town Blues - Niambi KeeOak Town Blues – Niambi Kee

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.

AAQGO: Power to the Peaple - Rosita ThomasPower to the People – Rosita Thomas

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.

AAQGO: Firestorm - Marion ColemanFirestorm – Marion Coleman

37 x 42 Inches

Firestorm interprets the fire that occurred in the Oakland/Berkeley, CA hills in 1991.


AAQGO: Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame - Ora ClayBlack Filmmakers Hall of Fame – Ora Clay

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.


AAQGO: Oakland There - Sews & Sews Mini GroupOakland There – Sew and Sews Mini Group

33.5 x 71.5 Inches
(Patricia Bailey, Blanche Brown, Marsha Carter, Marilyn Handis, Debbie Mason, Norma Mason, Carolyn Pope, Dolores Vitero Presley, Ann Seals Robinson, Julia Vitero)

“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.


AAQGO: Un Barrio de Oakland - Ernestine TrilUn Barrio – Ernestine Tril

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.

AAQGO: Trail Blazers - Marion ColemanTrail Blazers – Marion Coleman

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


AAQGO: West Oakland Blues and Jazz - Norma MasonWest Oakland Blues and Jazz – Norma Mason

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.


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Exhibit Opening

Please watch a video of the exhibit opening HERE.

Exhibit Closing

Please watch a video of the exhibit closing HERE.

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