Alex Frantz Ghassan was one of many artists and community members lost in the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland this past Saturday morning. Alex was a talented filmmaker originally from New York City whose work with PBS and KQED, in addition to his independent documentary work and production for FuseTV, helped him gain notoriety in the industry. Through his production company, Think Ahead Studios, Ghassan was the director and producer of three short films for the recent Oakland Museum of California exhibition Oakland, I want you to know… In his memory, OMCA released the two remaining films in the series on YouTube this week, highlighting just a small portion of the incredible work he produced during his prolific career. On this project he collaborated and and worked closely with OMCA Curator of Public Practice Evelyn Orantes as well as Oakland artist and California College of the Arts professor Chris Treggiari. Here Chris and Evelyn write about Alex to honor his memory and share what he meant to them, to the Museum, and to the creative community.
On Tuesday morning, I gathered with my colleagues at the Oakland Museum of California to share a moment of silence together to mourn and remember the lives of those who perished in the Ghost Ship fire. As part of our healing ritual, we used small bubble wands to blow bubbles—symbols of our hopes and wishes for the Oakland community—in support of each other. During a moment when the room was filled with bubbles, my thoughts and prayers went to Alex Frantz Ghassan and his two little girls in particular.
I recently collaborated with Alex on a project that captured the voice of Oakland grappling with past, current, and future economic and social changes. Working with collaborators often presents moments of creative tension, which is not unfamiliar territory to any curator or artist. Alex was incredibly committed to his craft and to the beautiful, everyday moments that we take for granted. I remember getting an email from him shortly after he filmed footage in West Oakland in which he described his experience as, “a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture what we did. And this happened every time my camera shot in this neighborhood.”
Alex’s work speaks loud and clear. That’s the reason that I knew I wanted to work with him. It wasn’t until I watched him interact with his family and friends that I saw who Alex truly was. If there was a moment in time that I could preserve and send to his loved ones, it was when he came to a community gathering in OMCA’s Oakland, I want you to know… exhibition space with his fiancé Hanna, his twins Alexandria and Lucy, and other family and friends to celebrate his work and contributions to the project.
That afternoon I had the privilege to share a special moment in time with all of them. When Alex wasn’t working the room proudly sharing the films he created, he was doting on his daughters and making sure his two girls shared that moment with him. Alexandria and Lucy were roaming around the gallery wearing bunny noses, and Hanna was wearing a duck bill. They pretended to munch on one of the exhibits that featured a felt vegetable garden, and made us all laugh. That day I witnessed them together as a family celebrating art, community, and each other.
It was easy to miss that Alex was a newcomer to Oakland because he seemed to know everyone and had a friend in every corner of this city. He commented on a couple of occasions how much Oakland reminded him of the east coast. To me that meant Oakland embraced him as much as he embraced it—Oakland was his home. I mourn the loss of his powerful voice to our creative community and will cherish the work and time we got to spend together.
Thank you, Alex.
I’ve been thinking about you a lot over the past couple of days. I’m writing today to tell you thank you…
Thank you for you sense of humor and your wonderful smile. Thank you for your hard work and passion. Thank you for your creativity and point of view. Thank you for your pushback and critical thinking. Thank you for your wonderful personality and charm. Thank you for your two beautiful children. Thank you for you being you and making me smile whenever I saw you. Thank you for your laughter.
Alex, I’ve been thinking a lot about you over the past couple days. I just wanted to say thank you for being my friend.
Contributions can be made to an education fund for Alex Frantz Ghassan’s twin daughters on YouCaring.com