Walking into Ed Bernbaum’s house, you see a family photo snapped last Thanksgiving — 8 days before his son Jonathan died.
In this photo, nine family members smile, arms wrapped around shoulders. No one in his family expected Jonathan to die. Last year on Thanksgiving, none of us were expecting this tragedy. When we dished up favorite foods, called relatives from out of state, and pieced together quirky holiday playlists, no one was imagining the fire that would wipe through Oakland’s Ghost Ship warehouse. Last year on Thanksgiving, when we said how much we loved each other, no one imagined that we would lose 36 artists, students, parents, and musicians in a single night.
Headlines hit hard. In the context of holidays, they were impossible to comprehend: “36 Dead in Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire,” the “Deadliest Building Fire in 100 Years.”
At first you don’t know what to think. And once you begin to grasp the thoughts — “My child is dead.” “My fiancee.” “My dad.” “The only home I can afford to live in has been destroyed.” You didn’t know what to do.
Vital Arts was founded in the wake of Ghost Ship to provide an outlet for action: to build a positive response to a collective tragedy; to secure safe and affordable live/work/performance space for artists; and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the creative communities that Ghost Ship victims cherished.
Last year, many of us were unconscious of the urgent threats facing artists. But this #GivingTuesday, we can respond.