Ghost Ship artists and musicians may have died, but their work lives on

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Thirty six people died nearly a year ago in Oakland's deadliest building fire while attending a dance party at a Fruitvale warehouse called the Ghost Ship.

They were artists and dancers, and musicians, whose art is still living on, thanks to those around them who are continuing their legacy.

Some of the sharing is personal. David Bernbaum and his family in Berkeley gave all of his brother’s belongings away, including Jonathan's Bernbaum’s treasure trove of videos after he died, so that other VJs could use his masterpieces.

“We were thinking very much of the Tibetan tradition where the birds come and every bird comes and take a little piece,” David Bernbaum said. After the Dec. 2, 2016 fire, the Bernbaum family invited Jonathan’s friends to an event where they could take his work, his clothes, anything that belonged to him.

It made us “feel really good knowing that his work was continuing to be seen,” David Bernbaum said.

Other friends are keeping alive the music that their late friends worked on. Before Barrett Clark died in the fire, he was part of a Santa Rosa electronics duo called POLAR. His friends re-released POLAR’s “How many Grey Dots” album this fall in his memory.

And all across Oakland, there are visual reminders of those artists who lost their lives. Norman “Vogue” Chuck of San Leandro, for example, painted a mural along E. 12th Street between 22nd and 23rd avenues in Oakland, showing a huge ship with the names of the 36 people who died on the mast. White birds fly above.
In a separate exhibit, Chris Treggiari co-created a Ghost Ship tribute to the late video producer, Alex Ghassan, which is now up at the Oakland Museum of California through Jan. 14. A tall ship rises to the sky. The names of the dead are hand-stitched into the mast. The public is invited to share their thoughts and feelings on cards next to the exhibit.  

“It’s a memorial in a lot of ways,” Treggiari said. “But it’s also a living, breathing artifact.”
Treggiari said building the exhibit in memory of his friend has been hard. But worth it.
“Building it out was emotional, long process,” he said. “It is bringing up these emotions that we were feeling a year ago...But it’s a way for people to remember, and that’s where we are right now.”