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Jan 06

PIXAR at the Oakland Museum of CA

Today (Wen) I had the opportunity to visit the newly remodeled Oakland Museum of CA to check out the PIXAR art exhibit. The exhibit ends in a couple days and I knew it was popular, but I did not realize the large crowds that would be at this wonderful gem of a museum.

I arrived at 10:30 by BART (the only way to go) and found all-ready a line by the gate to get in to the PIXAR exhibit. As I lined up and waited for my friend Linda the crowds got larger and larger and by the time they opened up at 11am there were a couple hundreds people waiting. School groups of kids and excited fans were so loud that we could not hear the directions of where to line up for tickets and when the gates opened it was insane. We were in the wrong line till an employee took our complaints (I had been lined up for a half hour in what was the only line at the time) and she asked the folks next to us in the correct line to let us in which they did. The line organization was the only issue I had at the museum, but I am grateful of the kindness of the other patrons letting us switch lines. As crazy as it was, it will be sad to see the place a bit more quiet after the PIXAR exhibit is gone.

When we got our tickets we were given a time 1:15pm to return to enter the PIXAR exhibit. I had avoided buying a ticket ahead of time since they were through TicketMaster and I did not want to pay the extra fee. Looking back I probably should have bought the tickets ahead of time.

I put my messenger bag into a fancy new locker that allows you to set your own code and you can use for free. Excellent perk.

Next we went over to the Museum’s Blue Oak Café and had a nice lunch. I had a delicious and fattening Croc Monsieur sandwich (gruyère and ham on grilled bread) with the signature Blueberry Mint Lemonade which was just sweet enough and just tart enough. Excellent.

Then we journeyed on to the brand new history wing on the middle floor. I won’t go into super details, but the new changes are really a notch above. The exhibits now have plenty of interactive activities (analog and digital), audio stations, videos, and plenty of fun ways to learn. My only complaint is that the height of the sound stations are aimed at kids and not tall people and I sometimes had to stoop over to use them.

Highlights of the History Wing:

– A small room that features a Conquistador helmet and a Feather headdress that stand alone but have a montage of audio of the thoughts of the Spanish, Native Americans and others and their thoughts of meeting people different then themselfs. Effective and really intriguing.

– A digital table (sort of like a big iphone or ipad) that allows you to view maps virtually

– Lots of video screens to punctuate the artifacts and history

– A photo opp with you as an artifact

– A ship’s hull full of treasures where you can ‘document’ the items with a sketch to take home or to post on a bulletin board. I left my kiwi sketch there

– View 3D images of the San Francisco earthquake

– Lots of places to sit and draw and think.

– Interactive game and keyboard to make music with everyday objects.

– Cinema showing a silent film “family man” and portions of the documentary Hollywood Chinese by Arthur Dong. Both are worth seeing portions of.

The museum’s goal is to be shaped by the participants and so there are plenty of chances to have a say in the results.

We finally headed to line up for PIXAR at 1pm (15 min early) but entered right away thanks to a kind museum employee and a lull in guests in the previous group entering at 1pm.

The PIXAR exhibit was wonderful with the work set up by groupings of things like settings and characters. I actually have seen at least half the art at the PIXAR fundraisers for the Cartoon Art Museum so I headed to the back to check out the highly recommended ArtScape animated film.

The film took up the full length of the wall and used 3 projectors to make one long image that uses concept art from the films and brought to life with digital technology. We felt like we were flying as we zoomed into 2D art that gained motion and depth in the progress. No music, but sound effects in surround sound. The second time watching, my friend and I laid on bean bags on the floor. LED lights over the back of the dark room changed colored with the changes in the film. So a blue “UP” sky had bright blue lighting and a lazer guns flash strobes over the audience as well.

After that we made our way back, moving to the images that we were most attracted too. The work is so varied and so amazing that it’s really had for me to even pin point a single image. Ah, all the details and talent. It’s enough to make an artist both inspired and scared and jealous all at the same time.

After exiting through the gift store we went up to the Art Gallery on the top floor. Once again it’s hard to go into details, but the revamped space is equally interactive and informative. Art is harder then history to explain since it’s so individual, but they have really gone to lengths to educate the guests (us) on the process and ways to experience it. This is where I got out my sketchbook at started to take notes and do doodles. So much to absorb it seems.

Art Gallery highlights:

– On a digital tablet do your own self portrait finger painting style that can be emailed to you and appears amongst traditional painted portraits on the wall.  (below)

– Comfy chairs with view of a beautiful turn of the century painting of Yosemite National Park and audio players and headphones that help you explain ways to appreciate the artwork. Really a great way to learn about viewing art.

– The California Impressionist and Arts and Crafts gallery is great and they have a nice sitting area with comfortable chairs and books to read. A great place to sit and draw.

– A digital touch screen to watch video clips of artist speaking on different topics.

– A kids area with ways to explore a statue with audio, and other interactive enhancements.

– and other stuff I can not remember right now. 🙂

I ended up staying till 4:30pm and revisiting the History Gallery another time as well.

All in all a very enriching day of history, art and technology which I hope I can do again later this year. The museum promises to continue to grow and change in exciting ways with an entire floor (the bottom one) not opening up till 2011 that will feature the plants and animals of California.

So if you are in the Bay Area, why not go by and check it out. I think you will enjoy it if you take the time to explore all it’s treasures.

Check out the official YouTube page here.

Picture 8

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