Ghost Ship: Remembrance, Grieving, and Healing Through Arts

By Kadesh Carter

On the Friday night of Dec 2th, 2016, many in Oakland were met with the shocking news that a space that was being served as a venue had been engulfed in flames, and many were unaccounted for. Upon hearing this people immediately turned to Facebook asking for a response from posting on friends and loved ones pages. Steady checking if messages were read, or responded to. Phone calls were made with the optimistic, yet frozen in time, hope that the person receiving the call was at different location for the night. It was the longest weekend in the history of the Oakland arts community.

Because of how the arts community in Oakland is shaped — both music and visual arts are intertwined and connected, attracting like minded individuals to this particular venue on this night. Locally there are people of various ages, ethnic backgrounds, art mediums, music genres who make up the artist community, therefore it was not clear of exactly who was apart of the missing when the news broke. Of the 36 who were killed that night it was astounding to many to learn how in some way, they were all connected in the art community.

Here in Oakland, art is what brings together people, and mends creative makers together. Making art a voice of many voices.

Upon hearing about the tragedy Howard Flax of the generational owned Bay Area art store Flax And Design, contacted a group that had been formed from the Ghost Ship tragedy by the name of We The Artists of the Bay Area to see what could be done to honor those who were not able to return home after a night of the enjoyment that is frequently shared by both artists and Oakland community members week after week.

Together Flax Art And Design and WABA has teamed up to produce the tribute art show “heArt Is Oakland” which will be held July 1st at Classic Cars West. Flax Art And Design providing art materials for the first registered 100 artist to create tribute artwork which will be sold in a silent auction for DIY artist spaces. A genuine gesture that has connected many, and created bonds in the process.

Though the media announced Ghost Ship as a rave site, many know that the conditions of this particular DIY artist space is not a reflection of all creative spaces within the city, and yet it’s uniqueness was still was one that brought people together for the appreciation of the arts.

Faced with immediate evictions from cautious landlords since the fire, many artists have been displaced as recent as the last 7 days. Families of loved ones lost are still seeking answers and are still overwhelmed with sadness. This is a time that many need something to feel safely connected to while rightly grieving. This is a time to express emotions of a shift that has forever changed Oakland arts

Oakland is a field of creative flowers that bloom through the cracks of cement despite Oakland being one of the most unaffordable places for artists to live, and create. Resulting in artists live work spaces, and venues that are created by artists for the arts.

Through it all, and through out time, the arts has always been a language that many speak. People coming together at a current time when racial tensions are high, learning how to ignore economic status differences, art driving city festivals, directing achritecture, artists turning street walls into canvases and influencing the world, it is the artists of this unique town who have helped shape to make Oakland, California as beautiful as it is. And this is why we as a city wide community, and global arts community must always remember Ghost Ship.

Community members who would like to remember those who were at Ghost Ship can do so by creating a piece for the July art exhibit. Rather you are a beginner or advanced artist all submissions are encouraged and welcomed.

To register as an artist for the “heArt Is Oakland” exhibition visit

Artists and landlords seeking resources for managing creative/DIY safer spaces visit


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