Spring 2012

Harrison Hotel

The Harrison Hotel, a residence for the formerly homeless, in Downtown Oakland, marked the site of collaboration and community building between students and residents for a mural series. Celebrating the residents’ personal stories, the seven murals show the value of public art by weaving together urban architecture, landscape, and language.

Project Objective:

Under Muralist, Eduardo Pineda’s instruction “Harrison Hotel” students gained valuable experience in the role of art making to strengthen community relationships by co-creating 7 murals. Informed by his experience in the Community Mural Movement, Pineda placed particular emphasis on the process of making a community art piece. ENGAGE students were asked students to learn about the complexities of the community ecology and cultivate trusting relationships through volunteering and working with the Harrison Hotel residents on mural designs. At each stage in development, “Harrison Hotel” collaborated with community organizations so that the final piece would give voice to the questions or issues that concerned each particular community group.

Project Outcomes(s):

“Harrison Hotel” resulted in seven murals exhibited along Jefferson and 12th Street in Downtown Oakland aptly titled “Building Community.” These murals showcase the residents’ personal stories as metaphors that weave together urban architecture, landscape, and language as a connection to the greater Oakland community. A collaborative effort on many levels, “Building Community” represents the efforts of residents, local nonprofit organizations and businesses to develop community ties.


Presence and Absense

Interdisciplinary students met with terminally ill individuals living at the Zen Hospice Project Guest House to design soft objects for them. Inspired by the resident needs, the students took elements of touch, memory, and intimacy to knit pillows that provide comfort for residents missing human connection.

In “Presence and Absence” students worked with terminally ill individuals to design and create soft objects for the Zen Hospice Project Guest House.  ENGAGE students met weekly with staff and volunteers to make guest house pillows inspired by residents and the qualities of touch, memory, and intimacy in honor of their experience at the Guest House. Enriched by the participation of the Zen Hospice community, each pillow was formed using a ‘freeform knitting and crochet’ technique with imagery inspired by interactions time spent in the Guest House. Since residents did not receive regular visitors, these textiles were a way to provide them with comfort during their stay and later gifted to their families.


Final textiles were dedicated and installed at the Zen Hospice Project. Students developed deep relationships with Zen Hospice staff and were invited to participate in the end of life blanket ritual to honor a resident as they leave the Guest House. Working with individuals who were terminally ill and their care providers, offered students extensive opportunities to conform death from a maker space and the potential for a more inclusive understanding of human experience. In addition to the dedication of their textiles to the Zen Hospice Project, ENGAGE students also published a book of reflective writings drafted throughout the class.