OCEANSIDE — Twenty-five years ago a community dream to bring more culture and art to North County came to fruition when the Oceanside Museum of Art opened its doors.
Now, the museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary throughout 2022 with multiple exhibitions and events celebrating its legacy.
The museum, or OMA, opened and held its first exhibition in 1997 following a community-wide push calling for a museum to provide more opportunities for art in Oceanside. At the time, there was some question as to whether an art museum in the city was even possible.
“As the story goes, just the idea of opening an art museum for some people was really very daring and far-reaching,” said OMA executive director Maria Mingalone. “Some people would question it, while others were so excited by the idea and wanted to help.”
Before the museum opened, Oceanside did not have the heavy art and culture presence that it does today. Now, the city is considered a leader in North County’s art scene, and its downtown area is one of 14 designated cultural districts throughout the state.
“Oceanside’s art scene has grown in step with the museum,” Mingalone said. “We certainly hold the ground for art and culture for the northern part of the county.”
Together, OMA along with the Oceanside Public Library, MainStreet Oceanside and Visit Oceanside were the four partners that came together to apply for the cultural district designation. These partners developed an advisory steering committee that helps guide the vision of art and culture in Oceanside.
For art lovers, the opportunity to have a museum in their own backyard was a dream come true. No longer would they have to drive to San Diego or Los Angeles for an art experience.
Mingalone said the community-mindedness and spirit that helped to create the museum is instilled within its mission to reduce barriers and bring people together to celebrate art and stories of Southern California artists.
OMA ticket prices are relatively low at $10 for general admission, $5 for seniors, and free for military, students and kids 18 and younger. The museum provides free admission to all on the first Friday and Sunday of every month, with live music on First Fridays during the spring and summer months.
“We invite everyone to come and use the museum as a gathering place,” Mingalone said. “It’s not just a quiet art museum where everyone walks around whispering in hushed voices, but a place that’s fun and engaging for all.”
The museum kicked off its 25th celebration in late February with a gala at the Seabird Resort. OMA is responsible for curating all of the art throughout the Seabird and Mission Pacific, the two newest hotels by the pier, as well as a smaller standalone gallery in the Seabird.
Throughout the year, the museum plans to hold several events and an exhibition showcasing artwork displayed in the museum over the last 25 years. The exhibit is set to open in October.
The museum is also in the planning stages of expanding its space.
“We want to expand our education studio classrooms, possibly bringing them up from the basement to street level, and expand our collection storage capabilities,” Mingalone said. “We’re looking to include some soft spaces where people can hang out and use the space as a creative gathering space.”
The museum also wants to include more family-friendly exhibitions that appeal to all stages of life.
Plans are also underway for the museum to absorb the historic Fire Station 1 building, which is set to be replaced by a new fire station building nearby. The building is one of two that still remain from architect Irving Gill’s 1929 city hall complex.
While the museum showcases artwork from artists throughout Southern California, its team strives to have an “O-original” focus through its events.
“We take great pride in our city,” Mingalone said. “It may have been underappreciated before, but now I think we have a growing art scene on many levels.”