Campus Goodbye: California College of the Arts prepares to close its historic doors in Oakland (2023)

Catleya Sherbow walks through the CaliforniaCollege of the Arts’ Oakland campus, a teal plastic watering can strapped toher backpack. The watering can is for the pollinator plant garden she installednear the photography building—placedinconspicuously and without permission in a concrete planter that had beenempty since she arrived on campus earlier this year.

She’s also taken it upon herself to waterone of the coast live oaks near the library. These massive oaks tower over thebuildings, many tagged as protected.Sherbow says ever since college officials announced the campus will be closing,she’s grown worried about what’ll happen to the plants and trees, which havealready been suffering from a hot summer and windy weather. “To see the Oaklandcampus when it is green is to see a little gem of California wildlife andurbanity living in harmony,” Sherbow says.

This one gesture of care is part of a long, slow goodbye as hundreds of membersof this community prepare for the school to shut down. The school will closeits doors by 2022—its 100th birthday. Students and faculty will moveto the college’s expanding San Francisco campus. The Oakland campus, a cozy,small group of buildings nestled among the trees in the Rockridge neighborhood,houses many of the college’s fine arts and craft programs, including animation,glass blowing and sculpting. The San Francisco school, founded in the 1990s, isa stark contrast: Housed in a former Greyhound Bus station, the warehouse-likecampus is all white walls and straight lines. It hosts the college’s design andarchitecture programs.

CCA is a private arts college, offering four-yearundergraduate programs, as well as graduate degrees, serving approximately 1,900students on both campuses. Annual tuition is just over $50,000. Students arenot enrolled on separate campuses depending on their majors—the separation isinexact. Students may take classes at both, depending on their major, which electivesthey choose and whether they want to use equipment or studio space at aparticular location.

For more than a decade, the school’sleaders have quietly acknowledged a desire to pare down to one location. The physicalseparation of the bay leads to transit costs and stress for students andfaculty members who split their time between campuses. It has also created acultural division, with students gravitating to Oakland for its more laid-backfeel or to San Francisco for its faster pace.

In 2011, the college’s board of trusteespurchased a tract of land behind the San Francisco campus. With space toexpand, the idea of unification became a reality. San Francisco would grow tobecome the official—and only—CCA campus, and the Oakland location would beclosed down. In 2017, campus officials selected two developers who plan to buythe Oakland site and transform its four acres into housing and public spaces.

According to CCAspokesperson Ann Wiens, unification will be a process, not an event, taking placeover the next two years. The merger officially started this fall, when about100 first year students, who all previously lived on the Oakland campus, were movedinto housing on the San Francisco one. “It’s not like one day we’re going toturn off the lights in Oakland and turn them on in San Francisco,” Wiens said.“By the time we’ve closed our Oakland campus, we’ll have gradually transitionedour students.”

But a gradual transition andrelatively long timeframe means room for confusion. As the closure approaches, studentslike Sherbow—as well as faculty, staff and neighbors—have become concerned withwhat will happen to the Oakland campus and what CCA will be like after theunification.

Students have said they’re worried thatthe Oakland campus will become increasingly neglected, with current studentsbearing the brunt of the stress.

Staffers have raised concerns about joblosses and extra work created by the merger.

Neighbors have wondered if thehigh-density housing proposed by the developers will change the feel of thequiet neighborhood.

And faculty are trying to memorializethe things they love best about the campus.

As for Sherbow, as a junior transfer student, shethinks students are starting to feel the strain of the move. Shifts arehappening “in the interest of this future move, but we’re not going to see thepayout of that,” she says. “We are going to see the cuts and loss of suppliesand faculty and lag time, and then we’re going to graduate.”

She’s worried about the campus falling into disrepair, which is why she’s taken it upon herself to make sure that the trees don’t die, even though campus officials say there has been no change to the tree maintenance schedule. She likens it to the classic 1980s film in which a group of kids tries to save their neighborhood from foreclosure. “I know I probably sound pretty paranoid. But I’ve felt like I’m living in the movie The Goonies since I got here,” says Sherbow.

About ten minutes into the Oakland campustour, the guide slips the information in.

“We are moving over to the San Franciscocampus in the next two years or so,” says Katie Johnson, a CCA alum who worksin the enrollment office and gives tours most weekday mornings. “So if you wereto come here, you’d be kind of in the middle of that the transition period.”

The one prospective student who hasstopped in for a tour that day seems slightly relieved. She says she’s eager tomove to San Francisco and that one campus seems a lot more convenient than two.

Students enrolling at CCA as freshmennext year will be some of the first students to feel the full effects of theunification. All of them will be housed in San Francisco for the first time inthe school’s history. By the time those students are halfway through theirfour-year college career, the merger will be complete.

Yet some upperclassmen at CCA today,while likely not to be significantly affected by the unification, still feeluneasy about the transition. Iris Chiang, coordinator of the CCA student union,said she feels strange about the fact that the college didn’t engage the studentcouncil in its recent decisions surrounding unification. “We’re probably themost organized group on campus, and we’ve been here probably the longest,” shesaid. “But the fact that they didn’t reach out to us—like, for anything—waskind of weird to us.”

Chiang takes the shuttle to San Francisco most weekdays, and she said the San Francisco campus already feels more crowded, even though only 100 more freshmen than usual are living there this year. Lines are longer for lunch, and she overhears her professors talking about having to fight for space.

The Oakland campus’s craft spaces featureheavy machinery—2,400-degree furnaces for glass blowers, screen printers thattake up the bulk of the room—and some students and staff worry the versionsthat will be installed on the San Francisco campus may not live up to thequality of the Oakland facilities. There’s also the matter of crowding: How canstudents complete their projects when everyone is vying for the same spaces?

Some students, particularly those whosemajors rely on digital technology, appreciate the facilities that San Franciscohas to offer, but can’t look past the lower cost of living in Oakland. GraceDai, also on the student council, is a senior studying interaction design,which means she works on creating user experiences for things like apps. It’s anew field that she said is growing, “and actually, with the move to San Franciscofrom this campus, I think CCA will probably have a much more design focused,design-centric way about it.”

That said, Dai thinks the Oakland campushas more to offer in terms of artistic inspiration. “Oakland just has thishomey, nature vibe that I really like,” Dai said. “It reminds me of my home inVancouver.”

She lived on the Oakland campus when shearrived at CCA. Then, she moved to San Francisco and lived for two years in acramped two-bedroom apartment with four other students and no rent control. Sheand her roommate moved back to Oakland in August, into a bright blue house justtwo blocks away from the school. She wanted to take advantage of the spacewhile it was still there.

In San Francisco, Dai said, everything ismuch more fast-paced. She said it may have to do with the “designer versusartists mindset.” It’s an urban campus that spans several city blocks andfeatures the bustle of through-traffic. It’s “go, go, go,” she said.

“If you go and strike up a conversationwith someone just for the sake of it, it’s a lot more likely to happen inOakland than in San Francisco,” Dai said. “Even things like the way peopledress, you can you can tell who’s Oakland and who’s San Francisco.”

But Dai admits the two-campus system hasdefinite drawbacks. Although the school has a shuttle system, students oftenfind themselves using public transit. They’ll take BART to 16th Streetand Mission, then a bus. “Closing that last mile is pretty annoying,” she said.She adds that CCA is interdisciplinary by design, but that’s tough to achievewhen there’s such a stark physical and cultural separation.

Staff are beginning to feel the heat ofthe move as well. MattKennedy, Kate Goyette and Amber Bales are all members of the newly-establishedstaff union at CCA. Kennedy works in IT, Goyette manages studio space and Balesworks in the library as a cataloguer. The union was created in April, partly inanticipation of the unification, and members are currently in the process ofnegotiating a contract with CCA officials.

It’sa Thursday after work, and they’re sitting at a high-top table at McNally’sIrish Pub, just down the streetfrom the Oakland site. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about what that means forpeople’s jobs, and what that means for college,” Kennedy says. “Also, the costof living in this area—it’s an impossible thing to keep up with. I think peopleare really just feeling the pressure of those things. And they wanted some kindof certainty in their future.”

As the bargaining team pushes for their newcontract, they’re asking for cost of living increases and for job security duringthe move, especially for people whose jobs may be redundant when merged on onecampus, like librarians and academic counselors. “So that’s redundancy. But ifyou want to maintain that level of service to our students, you can’t get ridof any [positions], just because it was the same position on both campuses,”Bales says.

Goyette adds that 100 percent staff retentionmay require some reshuffling. But she says staff members would be better servedif they had job mobility within the college. She says a lot of the staffmembers enjoy working at CCA, and there should be a focus on staff retentionand promoting from within.

Accordingto Wiens, the college’s spokesperson, the school’s leaders anticipate no job losses with the merge.

“Thecollege’s bargaining team has been encouraged by the progress made innegotiations thus far,” wrote Wiens in an email. She added that the bargaining team members hope to land on acontract that will provide “staff with solid benefits and salaries and maintainthe operational flexibility necessary to respond responsibly to the various andevolving challenges that confront the institution.”

But staff members say they’re still uncertainabout their future, as communication hasn’t been very clear. And Goyettementions that, thanks to the campus consolidation, staff members are beingasked to do a lot of extra work with no additional compensation. For example,she works as a studio manager on the Oakland campus, and she says she often hasto act as a consultant for architects and engineers working on the new campusplanning.

And Goyette doesn’t believe the staff members’ anxieties will all be assuaged by a new contract, or put to bed once the merger goes through. “Let’s be honest, even when we’re all over there, it’s going to take a while to work out the kinks,” she says.

Thelibrary on the Oakland campus feels modern, but the windows look out ontoancient trees and the historic Macky Hall, also known as the Treadwell Mansion.Inside the library are troves of books and reference materials on thearts—vintage catalogs, oversized volumes of visual art—as well as the collectedhistory of the college itself. A lot of the information lives inside the headof curator and archivist Jennine Scarboro, who stands casually behind thereference desk as she recites the school’s more than 100-year history withoutmissing a beat. She’s worked there for more than 10 years, and she was astudent herself back in the day.

In1907, Frederick Meyer, known as one of the fathers of the early 20thCentury Arts and Crafts Movement, established the School of the CaliforniaGuild of Arts and Crafts just a block away from UC Berkeley. He wanted tocreate a space for artists in the East Bay after his workshop was destroyed byfire in the powerful 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The college moved aroundBerkeley a few times during its early years, settling on the Oakland campus in1922. The school needed more space to accommodate the influx of students comingto school on the GI Bill.

The hillside campus lies at the foot of amassive green area that includes the Claremont Country Club and Oakland’sMountainview Cemetery. The buildings are a mix of old—two are listed on the city’shistoric registry—and newer, industrial spaces that house massive kilns andfoundries and darkrooms. It was formerly the Treadwell Estate, originallythe property of a family that owned a coal mine in Livermore. By the time Meyerpurchased the land, it had become dilapidated. He employed the help of thecollege’s students and faculty to transform the space.

Afterbeing renamed the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1936, the campusgrew, with new complexes and residential halls springing up in the 60s. But asthe decades wore on, college leaders decided they again needed more space. Theyopened up a San Francisco location on 17th Street in the 1980s, wherethey housed their architecture and design programs.

Campus Goodbye: California College of the Arts prepares to close its historic doors in Oakland (1)

Fromthe start, the two campuses served different purposes. Oakland houses the college’sgiant glassblowing furnaces, its screen-printing studio, its jewelry-makingprogram and its ceramics department. In San Francisco, students take classes inarchitecture, interaction design, fashion and virtual reality. The equipmentlibraries in San Francisco are much more technologically robust, with microchipsand top-of-the-line Apple computers and tablets for students to check out.

In2003, the school dropped “crafts” from its name altogether, but the craftprograms remain alive and well, mostly operating out of Oakland. For the entirehistory of the college, the arts and crafts have coexisted, a relativelyrevolutionary concept for arts institutions. But the name change caused somefriction. Many in the crafts community—the majority of whom practiced inOakland—felt jilted.

AllisonSmith, dean of fine arts, noted that the name change made waves, and manystudents, faculty and alumni still point to it as evidence that the college hasdeprioritized the crafts. But Smith said the name change was actually meant tobe more inclusive, as the college grew to include design, architecture, humanitiesand science. Rather than parsing out each discipline, the college’s name wouldencompass the artistic elements of all of them.

Craftis in the school’s DNA, said Smith, who admits she was concerned by thenarrative of a disappearing crafts programs when she started teaching at CCA.She did her own research in the school’s archives and found that, even in the college’searliest literature, “art,” “craft” and “design” were always mentioned inconjunction with one another.

“It was really about the [combination], more sothan ‘art over here’ and ‘craft over here,’” she said. She added that theschool’s early leaders wanted “to bring practical skills to the artists and away to actually make a living, which I think is still very radical andimportant.”

“What is special about the school has alwaysbeen that we have all of these things together,” Smith said. “And right now,those things are separated by the bay.”

Despite this, she said, she did notice a sortof “binary” when she came to the college. “It felt like: old and new, green andindustrial, handmade and machine-made, country and city,” she said. “That waswhat fascinated me about the school: It had these two different identitiesoperating side by side.”

Asthe college continued to grow, the two-campus system—and the binary itcreated—began to take its toll on students. Oakland students had to travel westto use the newest tech, and students in San Francisco had to travel east tobranch out into areas like ceramics and animation. Commutes and a dividedstudent body and staff made collaboration across disciplines difficult, eventhough the school had been founded on this core tenet.

“During the planning process, we confirmedone of our greatest challenges is CCA’s two-campus structure and its effect onteaching and learning inside and outside the classroom,” states the college’s fiveyear strategic plan, which was published in 2016. “The physical divide thatcurrently separates our community of makers presents social, logistical, andmost importantly, pedagogical challenges.”

Once the board of trustees acquired thenew San Francisco land in 2011, the unification plan went into motion. In a phoneinterview, David Meckel, campus planning director for CCA, said once everythingis up and running in San Francisco, students and staff will have moreopportunities to learn from one another. Today, he said, there are very fewopportunities for a ceramics faculty member to grab coffee with an architecturefaculty member, or an architecture student to quickly model something in clay.

“We have this very rich curriculum with verydiverse departments, but they’re all centered around thinking and making, andwe’re missing a piece of the natural fertile adjacency,” Meckel said, referringto a space where people can exchange ideas freely.

He said that the unification is, at its core,an effort to improve the student experience at CCA, not a money-saving move. “Making a new state of the art campusis not inexpensive,” he said. “It would have been much cheaper to just staywhere we are. But it’s not the student experience we wanted.”

Today,the San Francisco campus is mostly under construction, as Wiens walks past workers on her way to the main building. She crossesthe street in front of a car idling at a stop sign and gestures to a buildingthat workers are coming in and out of—it’ll be student housing by the time thenext school year rolls around. Inside the former Greyhound terminal, the highceilings and tall windows let in natural light. The wide hallway is lined withstudent artwork, and a few classes are taking place in hallway itself—thebuilding was designed to allow the wide, airy walkway to serve as gallery and meetingspace.

A vacant lot at the rear of the building remainsa promise. By spring, construction workers will break ground on the lot, whichwill become a two-story indoor/outdoor space with studios and offices, workspacesand an elevated landscape. For now, there are just a few orange storagecontainers at the lot’s far end, where it backs up onto the 101 freeway.

By 2025, the college’s leaders aim to have 3,000 students, according to the five-yearstrategic plan and to house 1,000of them on or near the San Francisco campus.

Wiens gestures a few blocks down thestreet, where another student housing structure is being developed. CCA’sstudent housing is below market rate—for the 2019-20 school year, a double dormroom costs $11,221 in Oakland and up to $13,209 in San Francisco. Wiens saidthat CCA tracks the housing rates at other nonprofit colleges in North America andkeeps its prices about on par with colleges in Minneapolis or Los Angeles.

The Oakland campus’s signature heavy machinery andcraft studio spaces will all be replicated in San Francisco, although the exacttimeline for construction of these spaces is still unclear. According to Wiens,the unification and construction costs will be funded by philanthropy andfinancing—none of the college’s operating budget will go toward the merger.

“We know not everybody agrees with everything that we’re doing, but we are absolutely certain that what we’re doing is central to the mission of CCA,” Wiens said. “It’s absolutely the best thing to fulfill that mission and provide the best possible education and preparation for our students.”

Campus Goodbye: California College of the Arts prepares to close its historic doors in Oakland (2)

Before starting at CCA, Catleya Sherbowtook a road trip to the Oakland campus with her mom. That’s when she learnedthat her grandpa, who died long before she was born, had studied painting theredecades before. She says she has a complicated relationship with her extendedfamily, but that walking around campus, she could picture her grandpa there. “AsI walk around the old campus, and see all of the historical buildings, Iimagine him doing the same,” Sherbow says.

One of her favorite part of the campus isthe abandoned sculpture garden—also affectionately known as the “sculpturegraveyard”—which sits behind the ceramics building and hosts piecesstudents have left over the years. As Sherbow walksthrough it, she points out enormous vases, an abstract piece that looks alittle like the moon, a realistic rendering of a naked lady.

“There’s a legacy of the people who camebefore you, and then the legacy you’re going to leave behind,” she says. “It’snot a big thing. It’s like odd quirky traditions.”

The Oakland Campus Legacy Committee, agroup of faculty and alumni, are working on ways to preserve those quirkytraditions. “It’s painful for us to lose that campus, and I think the collegeadministration really understands that,” said Deborah Valoma, a textilesprofessor and the head of the committee. She said the committee was formed to“give respect to the process of leaving.” The group aims to document andarchive as much of the Oakland campus as possible before the move.

“Any large transition like this is reallycomplicated,” Valoma said. “It’s exciting, but it’s also sort of tension-filled.And there’s always a lot of pitfalls.”

She said there are obvious logisticalchallenges to unifying the campuses, but she’s less concerned with that thanwith overcoming the cultural challenges of having divided campuses, each withits own character and history. “There has been a process of mourning aboutmoving away from the Oakland campus. That’s a natural process,” Valoma said. “Butmatching that at least an equal part is an excitement about being fully unified…AndI think one of our big challenges, but also one of our big opportunities here,is to integrate those cultures.”

Valoma has been teaching at CCA since 1986,and her father graduated from CCA in the early 1950s. She said she feels a realconnection to the Oakland campus. So she and the rest of the committee began meetinglast fall to discuss ways to preserve their favorite parts of the space.

Oneproject is being headed up by the chair of the photography department, ChrisJohnson. He and other photographers will be documenting events and everydaylife on the Oakland campus over the next year. They plan to recreate some historicphotos on the modern campus.

Anotherproject involves cataloguing plants from the community garden, which contains edibleplants as well as ones used for fibers and dyes. Volunteers will collect seeds andcuttings to archive in the library.

Valomaand CCA archivist Jennine Scarboro have been working to create a log of all ofthe relics and art objects throughout the campus, attempting to track down eachone’s history, with the hope that some can be transferred to San Francisco.

The newurban campus will have whispers of the historical Oakland one, according to planningdirector David Meckel. “You could pick up the Oakland campus and drop it on thenew site—that’s one way to replicate it,” he said. But the new site will bemore subtle, with constructed green spaces and artifacts from the old campushere and there. For example, the architect in charge of the San Franciscodevelopment, Studio Gang, will use some of the actual building materials fromthe Oakland campus—like the cedar siding on the painting studios—in the newconstruction.

“There’sgoing to be a kind of déjà vu moment, if you’re an alum, and you visit this newcampus,” Meckel said. “It may not hit you immediately, but on some fundamental,subliminal level, you’re going to feel like, ‘I’ve been here before.’ It’s aCCA kind of experience.”

Although the college will not beaffiliated with the Oakland site after the land sale is finalized, facultymembers and administrators have collaborated with the developers, Emerald Fundand Equity Community Builders, to come up with a plan that they say willpreserve their legacy. The current plan includes a public park, the preservationof the college’s historical buildings, and new housing units. And, rathercontentious among neighbors: A proposed 19-story high-rise residentialbuilding.

Preliminary drawings show an uninhibitedview of the campus from Broadway, looking east. The iconic stone stairs andwall that line the western border of campus will remain, but large swaths oftrees and shrubs will be cleared to make the space visible from the street, andthe historic Treadwell Mansion will be an aesthetic centerpiece of an opengreen quad. Surrounding the 1.5 acres of open space and sculpture garden on allsides will be tall residential buildings, all windows and balconies. AlongClifton Street, marking the northern edge of the campus, will be a businesscorridor, where developers hope small shops and restaurants will move in tocreate a walkable enclave off busy Broadway.

Developer Marc Babsin of Emerald Fundsaid the site—four acres in an established neighborhood within walking distanceof BART—is an extremely rare development opportunity. His team has attempted tostrike a balance between public functions like affordable housing and a park, whichthe developers would pay for and maintain, and the market rate housing thatwould subsidize these features. He believes the proposal, with its space forhousing and retail and public use, is the smartest way to use the land. “Thisopportunity is not going to come around for another century,” Babsin said.

The college required the developers toinclude affordable housing units, to give artists a space to live in the priceyBay Area. The current plan allocates 35 affordable units, to be converted fromthe college’s freshman dorm. But many, including Oakland City Councilmember DanKalb (District 1), say 35 units are not enough, given the more than 500 market-rateapartments planned for the space. Members of the college’s staff union agree, and proposethat 30 percent of the new units should be affordable, rather than the current 6percent.

Babsinsaid those numbers would make the project unsustainable. And he believes that adding more market-rate housing citywide willhelp level out the average rental rate. He said that Rockridge—which hasn’tdeveloped housing projects as quickly as other neighborhoods—is “crying out forhousing.”

And in a post on the project’s dedicateddevelopment website, 5212broadway.com, Babsin said that their proposal wouldalso provide needed public space. “In addition to providing much neededhousing, our goal is to open the site up to the community and create a placewhere neighbors will gather and engage with one another, much like TemescalAlley or First Fridays,” he wrote.

But some of the neighbors, including artist Leslie Correll, who has lived there since she graduated from college in the 1960s, aren’t sold on the plan. Correll said Oakland has overbuilt on luxury units and that “building and building and building” market-rate housing isn’t the answer to the lack of affordable spaces. “CCA wants to get maximum bucks out of the property,” Correll said. “And they can only do this by ratcheting up the number of units they’re going to squeeze on to that property. So that’s the big albatross driving this whole thing.”

Correll sits on the steering committeefor the Upper Broadway Advocates, a group of neighbors who live near the campusand hope to guide plans for development. Around 200 residents showed up to theircommunity meetings this summer to voice a variety of concerns about theproject, including the size of the buildings being proposed for a smallneighborhood made up primarily of one and two-story houses.

Correll points out that earlier projects—likethe Safeway construction and two large-scale mixed-use apartment buildingsalong Broadway—created some headaches for the neighborhood already. “There arethe traffic problems, and the lack of planning on the city, the lack ofcoordination among the city and the developers, the lack of forethought andplanning, so that what we’re left with is a real dog’s breakfast here,” Correllsaid.

She and some other neighbors approachedthe fire marshal with fears that such high-density housing along narrow CliftonStreet and the ridge at the edge of the property could pose problems in theevent of a disaster. And she wonders if the very infrastructure of theneighborhood can support a spike in the number of people and vehicles.

As for Kalb, he has never been on boardwith the campus’ closure. “They have a lot of students in the East Bay, and forthem to think that all of them are going to go into San Francisco isdifficult,” he said. “I urged them not to close at all, but they made adecision.” He said Oakland is nationally recognized as a center for the arts, so“losing this campus is a disappointment and, in my opinion, a mistake on theirpart.”

The development plans are in the earlyphases with the city’s planning office, and several stages of feedback couldmean a potential redrawing. Because the plans are still in the process of beingapproved, Kalb said he can’t comment on them. He said the high-rise is “farfrom a done deal,” but that residents should be aware that no matter what theplan will bring a lot of new people into the neighborhood. The plans, Babsin agreed,are not necessarily final. The developers are still in the beginning stages of conductingan environmental impact report for the city.

A lot may still change in two years.

***********

In the basement of the Oakland campuslibrary, students tenderly sort through archival photographs and artifacts withwhite gloves.

The students are in a course for juniorsand seniors called “Legacy Starts Here: Oakland Campus.” It’s a semester-longclass open to students of all majors, led by Victoria Wagner, who has taught therefor nearly two decades. She started the course two years ago as a way to helpstudents understand the history of the college during the unification process.

“The class gets very granular on thehistory of the Oakland campus and California College of Arts and Crafts,specifically where the college began and where it is now,” Wagner says. She saysthe class considers how the college “sort of shifted and folded and overlappedand become this living organism.”

The students start the course with someexploration: They sort through photos in the library and sit down with campus archivists,they wander through the abandoned sculpture garden and see if anything catchestheir eye. The goal is for each team of students to pick one aspect of the campusand honor it in some way. They may choose to recreate a sculpture from thegraveyard in a new medium. This semester, one creative writing student is puttingon a marionette performance to honor the college’s short-lived theater program.Over the course of the semester, the students also track down someone who’smade their mark on CCA—literally or otherwise—and interview them to capture anoral history.

Wagner has seen the college changesignificantly in her time as a teacher. She was there for the name change andfor the growth of the San Francisco campus. Her connection to Oakland runs deep—herrole at CCA was the first teaching job she got after college. She said sheloves Oakland for its “dappled light” and the “privacy and poetry in itsspaces.”

“It’s very different from San Francisco, and I felt like it should be captured in some way,” Wagner says. “Not just captured in the way that a librarian would do it…but captured in a way that a student experiences it.”

For the next two years, Wagner’s students will create these projects honoring the campus’s past, documenting the process on video as they go. The videos will become a sort of meta-history, highlighting the campus as it was decades ago through the lens of its students today. In this way, today’s students, who will be the last to walk the halls in Oakland, will become part of its 100-year history.

Until the very last minute, Catleya Sherbow will surely be out there with her plastic watering can, tending the campus she loves.

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