OAKLAND -- The historic landmark at 1625 Clay St. is now home to Oakland's Museum of Children's Art, and the staff couldn't be happier.
"I walked by this building and thought, 'I have to have this,'" said MOCHA's new Executive Director Quincy McCoy.
Complete with soaring ceilings and Corinthian columns, the 1920s high-rise offers 5,000 square feet of space that is more museum than office space. The new location is part of a full makeover for MOCHA, which includes a reorganized team and a clearer vision.
"I'm here to turn this ship into calmer waters," said McCoy, who left his position as chief of operations for Salon Studio to join MOCHA in December. "MOCHA's not in good shape. Not having an executive leader for five years and no developer work means some foundations have abandoned us."
With its 25th anniversary approaching, MOCHA's commitment to bringing quality art experiences to Oakland's youth is stronger than ever but in need of an update, said Development Consultant Promita Chatterji.
"We want to change our focus. We're really inspired by participatory museums," Chatterji said. "Rather than a passive viewer, the art is in the person. We're also creating a space for teens to come in and maybe an 'after dark' event for parents in the near future."
Interior renovations have been planned by Gyroscope Inc., whose projects include the Bay Area Discovery Museum and the San Francisco Zoo Lemur Forest.
MOCHA had raised $6,688 as of Friday out of a goal of $30,000 through its Indiegogo campaign.
"It will barely scratch the surface of what we need," McCoy said of the fundraiser. "We've got to pay the architect, become ADA compliant, child- and artist-friendly, lighting, operational costs -- aside from applying for capital grants, there's nothing the city could offer us."
MOCHA's look might be changing, but the mission to teach through art has remained constant. While providing a brick-and-mortar space for creating, MOCHA also offers Professional Development workshops for teachers interested in integrating art into other subject areas.
Director of Programs Roxanne Padgett, a member of MOCHA's team for the past 17 years, has seen firsthand the effect art can have on students in unstable areas.
"Sometimes, it's like there's so much grief in a kid's life, and art is a place for them to breathe," Padgett said. "It's a way for them to express themselves. I cannot imagine them not having that outlet to express themselves, whether it's grief, rage, happiness."
Rather than teach 20 children, Padgett says she would rather teach adults and reach a greater number of children through professional development.
"Sometimes it's the principal that comes to us," Padgett said. "We're filling a niche. Due to budget cuts, that (art) is what gets cut."
Chatterji said that many of the kids they serve have experienced violent crime.
"One of the schools was on lockdown three times in one year. The academic scores are depressing, and there's no time for enrichment activities," she said. "... This is a safe haven where they can focus on creativity and process some emotional stuff."
One project developed by teaching artist Leticia Padgett focused on the concept of oppression.
"These fifth-graders were learning about civil rights last year, and Emory Douglas of the Black Panther Party did a lot of propaganda posters. The kids created their own posters and wrote down the things that made them feel oppressed on a daily basis," Leticia said. "Using art to model things in life is helpful for kids. If we weren't here, some of these kids wouldn't be exposed to art at all."
MOCHA's grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 5.