By Roni Gehlke
OAKLEY -- Art can be used in so many ways. It can promote dialogue and social consciousness and can be a natural expression for many people.
The You, Me, We Oakley! group is hoping that art can be a common ground for the community, where people can collectively come to together and see various heritages expressed through art.
Earlier this summer, the Oakley nonprofit sent out a call to artists who live within the city's boundaries to prepare an exhibit for its inaugural community art exhibit titled "Origins of Oakley."
The event, which is being co-hosted by the city, will be the first art show displayed in Oakley City Hall.
The event, which will go on display from Oct. 26 through Nov. 22, will feature multicultural heritage and immigrant stories of Oakley's past and present.
"The idea is to incorporate art into the You, Me, We, Oakley! ways and to bring people together to appreciate each other's stories," said Gabriela Baños-Galván, coordinator of the event. "We want to showcase their history through art in hopes of unifying us all."
The You, Me, We Oakley! group was started several years ago as a program that seeks to integrate immigrants and newcomers to the Oakley community.
"We believe that it is important to increase the participation of all our community members, including immigrants and newcomers. Through this program, we want to be proactive in avoiding any tensions that may arise due to the changing demographics of our small city," Baños-Galván said.
It is programs like the "Origins of Oakley" art show that the organization hopes will build continued understanding among the various cultural backgrounds that make up the small community.
Already, Baños-Galván has heard of a few exhibitors that she thinks would make great additions to the show.
"One Oakley artist plans to make a 'Day of the Dead' altar where he will introduce several famous Hispanic people from history," she said.
The building of altars like the one Baños-Galván describes is a practice many people in Mexico create during the same time of year as the "Origins of Oakley" art exhibit, as Day of the Dead is celebrated on Nov. 1 in Mexico.
Baños-Galván said another local resident makes beautiful Portuguese dresses, and she has asked whether it would be appropriate for something of this nature to be displayed at the event.
"This is an all-media art showcase," Baños-Galván said.
As long as the art fits within the specified size of the exhibit and is appropriate to the theme of the show, it should work.
"It is all about how you interpret your own heritage," she said.
All art in the exhibit should be the work of the person who is entering the piece in the show. That can include a whole assortment of media; even a framed poem written about one's heritage would be acceptable, as long as the person who is entering the exhibit writes it, Baños-Galván said.
Entry forms and further details can be found online at www.youmeweoakley.org. The committee is asking that artists submit the entry form as soon as possible so they have an idea how many pieces are to be exhibited to set up the display area in advance.