Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Comparative American Studies


Wendy Kozol

Committee Member(s)

Pablo Mitchell
Janet Fiskio


Art, Community, Community based art, Social practice, Race, Class, Gentrification, California, Oakland, West Oakland, Black Panther Party, Aesthetics, Social justice, Social change, Community formation, Politics of aesthetics, Black art, Latinx studies


Community Based Art is a model of art making which centers community and interpersonal interaction. Through an in depth case study of Brett Cook's West Oakland based project "Reflections of Healing" this thesis attempts to understand how community is both reflected and constructed in Community Based Art, as well as the political, social, and aesthetic consequences of this construction. Of particular interest are the relationships between art, community, race, class, gentrification, and self-determination. Ultimately, this thesis finds that through an ambivalent and sometimes messy process of collaboration, Reflections of Healing constructs a hopeful and positive image of community that prefigures a better world. This image does not come from nothing, but is built from a long history of organizing, activism, and community formation in Oakland, reflecting the importance of the creation of counter-hegemonic images of community, even while remaining open and inclusive for all. Although Cook intentional chooses not to face many social and political issues head on, the community constituted in the project carries with it the potential to make radical political change, and reflects the radical history of West Oakland, most significantly the history of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cook's emphasis on healing reflects the deep traumas, both historical and contemporary, faced by many Oakland residents, particularly long term Black and Latinx residents, while remaining positive about the future. While it is not without room for critique in terms of the relationship to and definition of community, Reflections of Healing proves to be deeply meaningful for some of the participants and residents, and creates possibilities for community self-definition.