Oceanside has an unmistakable sense of place, thanks to its strong local community and unique Southern California culture. That’s thanks not only to action sports like skating and surfing, but also a thriving arts scene powered by a diverse community of sculptors, weavers, painters, photographers, and muralists,. Their work includes something for everyone, and it’s easy to discover, from the walls of local shops to the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA) and The Seabird Resort’s own one-of-a-kind collection.
“The art scene here is really eclectic and full of experimentation,” says Maria Mingalone, the Executive Director of OMA, which curated the collection shared by The Seabird and Mission Pacific. “There’s not a particular style, which is why the museum’s programming is diverse.” The city is full of unexpected art at every turn — which means kids who roll their eyes at traditional museum trips will have plenty of exposure to the different forms creativity can take. Here’s a guide to some of our favorite places to discover art around town.
EXPLORE THE SEABIRD’S OWN COLLECTION
Featuring ceramics, fiber arts, metal sculptures, prints, and paintings, the dozens of pieces in The Seabird and Mission Pacific’s collection were intentionally chosen to represent a diverse group of artists — and reflect the true spirit of the Oceanside area. “Our goal was to personalize the hotels, so they’re about this specific community,” says Mingalone. “I think people can really feel that,”
Mingalone collaborated with the hotels as well as with Rebecca Webb, the museum’s Special Projects Director and Curator, to select the works. Right now, in the Grand Coastal Foyer, you’ll spot Michelle Montjoy’s Chorus, a 75-foot sculpture woven from recycled t-shirts sourced from local thrift shops. The lobby displays Elegantly Destroyed, a massive cyanotype by Andrea Chung, and Ben Wei (shortboard), a black-and-white boardwalk print by photographer Zach Cordner. In addition, the resort features its own gallery called OMA West at The Seabird, which will rotate exhibits three times a year.
Webb sees the partnership between the hotels and the museum as part of a larger trend towards accessibility in the art world: “There’s a paradigm shift towards inviting guests and visitors to be able to access the art more easily. It’s private and public coming together. A lot of the spaces, like the lobby and the pool deck, are public access, so these pieces are available to everyone.”
TOUR OCEANSIDE’S FAMOUS MURALS
When we say art is everywhere you turn in Oceanside, we mean it literally. Throughout downtown, the walls have been transformed into a brilliant, eclectic, ever-changing collection of murals by local artists. They’re easy enough to stumble across, but this handy map will help you plan your own DIY tour. Some of the more celebrated works include prolific painter BB Bastida’s snake mural outside Coastal Market and his shark and ballerina piece outside Cadence Dance Project, plus the historic Cruisin’ mural by artist Larry Hill outside the classic 101 Cafe.
To learn more about the murals and their history, sign up for the O’Side Murals Walking Tour, led by local arts activist Brigid Parsons (the $15 tour also includes entrance to OMA). To see the most pieces at once, head down to Artist Alley, located between Mission Avenue and Pier View Way, which features a high concentration of murals as well as artists’ studios. The alley is also the starting point for the monthly Art Walk event, when shops and small galleries open their doors and artists show their work outside.
VISIT THE OCEANSIDE MUSEUM OF ART
Once you’ve explored our in-house collection, plan a trip to OMA, which offers rotating exhibitions as well as programming like the First Friday Art Walk starting at the museum. OMA helps new artists get discovered; unlike traditional museums, says Mingalone, “we work closely with the living artist community, so we often take a lot of risk in terms of the artists who we show. It might be their first exhibit, but we believe their work deserves to be seen. That is rare, since so often museums want to share the art of people who are already famous.”
In practice, that means getting to discover artists you can follow throughout their careers — or even meet as part of the museum’s programming. Current exhibitions include Twenty Women Artists: NOW, which shows both current and older works that reflect the struggles women face today. OMA also hosts the annual Plein Air Arts Festival (July 24–31), which encourages artists of all skill levels to create a canvas in the great outdoors, and features artist talks, an art sale, and a juried exhibition that will be on view through October.