Art School

Lexa Walsh

It was during a 10-minute break from Camille Pineda’s Creative Writing class at CCAC. I had moved to California just the year before, having transferred to CCAC from Parsons, which was a new day dawning, so to speak. I loved how I could be free to be myself and ‘let my freak flag fly’ in Oakland, not to mention the weather and food were great.

So there we were, playing double dutch or small talking, when the shaking began. “Whoa! This is sooo coool!” I thought. The glass windows of a new, not so popular gallery space were shaking right next to us, and we all cheered for them to break, in a moment of anti-construction solidarity. The shaking eventually stopped, and the windows did not break. We went back to class, remarked a bit about it, but moved on.

Upon leaving the classroom, word got out about the damage. My free wheeling attitude quickly changed into shock. I rode my bike home to my shared house on Monte Vista Avenue and found only a few things shaken off the windowsill, but the phones were dead and I felt lost. I rode back to school, as did many others, and we stayed there on campus most of the night, ruminating about the state of the world, the reasons for the magnitude (the military industrial complex, of course!), and simply supporting each other by being together.

The next night someone drove me past the site of the downed Nimitz freeway. We couldn’t get too close. (Unbeknownst to me I would end up settling right in that neighborhood for the rest of my 25 years in Oakland.) I went into a fairly deep depression for a few months after, and made art about destruction: cracking buildings, giant rats. overflowing toilets… it was hard but a good creative tool.

I have feared being stopped under highway overpasses ever since.

When a quake shook me out of my sleep last month I thought to myself: no big deal- this isn’t as big as the Big One.