PICTURED: Hana Ryan, “Vibing” Photo courtesy of California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks

by Emily Dodi 


California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO) is a “place where ideas are shared and people connect,” but like all indoor museums, CMATO is temporarily closed to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Once again, CMATO rose to a challenge.

“The heart of everything we do at CMATO is to engage our community through the visual arts,” says senior curator Lynn Farrand. But how do you bring art — and everything that comes with it: catharsis, joy, introspection and connection — to the people when the people can’t come to you?

“We felt the best way to fulfill CMATO’s mission was to create an online art exhibit that could provide some of those important connections for the community,” Farrand explains.

The result is Life Interrupted, “a digital art capsule of our time through the lens of Generation Z.” The timely and powerful exhibit features works in painting, illustration, digital art, mixed media and music by local student artists. The art reveals “the context and reality of life during a time of distance learning, social separation and uncertainty.” The pieces were chosen in a competition initiated by CMATO that aimed “to capture the perspective of Generation Z artists — a generation that will likely be defined by growing up in a post-pandemic world.” Currently on exhibit are works by students from Oaks Christian School and One Spark Academy. The exhibit will grow as more works by other students from various schools will be added through Dec. 31, 2021.  

On the exhibit’s landing page, the viewer is invited to choose a color that best describes their state of being. The choices are blue, representing “sad, isolated or loss”; yellow for “hopeful, united or creative”; and red for “strong, anxious or fearful.”  

One of the pieces on view is “No Peace” by Emily Rodgers, an eighth grader from One Spark Academy. The work is a collage made up of newspaper clippings and a sketch of a girl. 

“This piece shows how hard it is to find a safe and beautiful space to get away from so many of the scary things around us,” Rodgers explains. “I drew a girl with headphones. I imagine she is lost in her favorite song so for a moment she is transported to another place.”

Each work strikes a different chord, but as the exhibit shows, the overall theme is that Generation Z is being “particularly hard hit” by the pandemic and they have something to say.

This is not the first time that CMATO has responded to a crisis. They created powerful exhibits and programs in response to wildfires as well as the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill.  

“In times of crisis, we do everything we can to keep CMATO open because we know how important it is for people to have a space for contemplative experiences, where they feel connected to something larger than themselves,” explains Farrand. She added that CMATO felt the best way to fulfill its mission was to “create an online art exhibit that could provide some of those important connections for the community.”

Another way in which CMATO is providing connections right now is through their upcoming Family Art Day on Saturday, Sept. 26. The event invites viewers to create self-portraits in anticipation of their annual juried art competition Defining Beauty, set to premiere in May. 

Life Interrupted will be available for viewing online through Dec. 31. For more information on this and other exhibits, or on the upcoming Family Art Day on Saturday, Sept. 26, visit cmato.org.