Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Students discuss their work in class at the MESA center at American River College on April 25, 2024. (Photo: Cristian Gonzalez/CalMatters)
California boosts spending to help students earn math and science degrees
Li Khan, via CalMatters • July 9, 2024
Carpentry instructor spruces up department
Carpentry instructor spruces up department
Rym-Maya Kherbache, Staff Writer • April 24, 2024
Breaking: PCCD appoints former San Leandro police chief to Interim Executive Director of Public Safety
Breaking: PCCD appoints former San Leandro police chief to Interim Executive Director of Public Safety
Abdul Pridgen will lead the district’s community-based safety program
Li Khan, Editor in Chief • June 21, 2024
Student Trustee Natasha Masand believes her voice has the power to impact the PCCD community.
Student Trustee Natasha Masand finds her voice
Isabelly Sabô Barbosa, Social Media Editor • March 19, 2024


    Three visitors of the Autumn Lights Festival in the Gardens at Lake Merritt look into a mirror, alit by its frame of dotted blue and pink lights. The festival occurred October 19–21, marking Laney College Ceramics’ fifth year contributing ceramic lanterns in an installation called “Mudlights.” Photo by Jessica Prado

    Laney Ceramics installation shines in Autumn Lights Festival at Lake Merritt

    By Chandra Faulkner and Gregory Lowrie

    The Autumn Lights Festival lights up Lake Merritt’s botanical gardens for one colorful weekend every October, when the nights start early.

    “It doesn’t really get magical until the dark hour,” Tora Rocha, art curator for the festival, said.

    The artists who contribute to the festival don’t get paid, but they can sell their pieces in the museum store.

    Rocha believes they contribute out of love for the garden. Rather than displaying this kind of work in a gallery or in the middle of a desert (like Burning Man), they get to see their work tucked into nature.

    This series of ceramic castle-shaped lanterns by Doris Saberi is nestled into a garden bed as part of the Laney installation, “Mudlights.” Photo by Chandra Faulkner

    “The fact that you have one community, the arts community, rallying around another, the garden community, I think that speaks volumes about Oakland.”

    The gardens welcome a wide variety of community artists, including one nine-year-old artist named Dahlia who has contributed clay creations for two consecutive years. Last year it was rockets; this year, squids.

    For five years now, Laney Ceramics has contributed ceramic lanterns to the festival, lighting the winding paths of the raised-bed herb garden called the Sensory Garden.

    Nancy Cresta, a retired art and design instructor who is now a Laney student, came to ceramics instructor Anna Vaughan about the possibility of having students contribute to the festival through contacts she had at the festival. 
    Seeing it as a great opportunity for independent projects and the experience of participating in a group show, Vaughan agreed and acts as the show’s curator.

    A lantern modelled after the Oakland clock tower with octopus tentacles protruding behind. Laney student Chris Perata created this work for Laney Ceramics’ contribution to the festival. Photo by Chandra Faulkner

    The Laney contribution, “Mudlights,” featured pieces from 36 students of all ceramic levels this year. The pieces were created free of any theme or design requirements other than it can be illuminated, resulting in a vast array of work.

    The collection included Japanese-inspired pagoda lanterns by Cresta, female bust shapes by Vaughan, miniature structures, abstract shapes, statues and more.

    Rocha has watched the art submitted by Laney Ceramics evolve into more interesting pieces year to year. “Now they come up with some wild stuff,” she said.

    She’s grateful for the relationship they have with Laney Ceramics, and wishes more students would apply from other art departments.

    “I’m a Merritt alumni, so I’m partial to the Peralta system,” she said. Students who wish to apply to be involved with Autumn Lights can look out for a call to artists on their website and on Facebook around March 2018.

    Visit the Gardens at Lake Merritt at 666 Bellevue Ave in Oakland, 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. daily. The Gardens welcome the community with free admission.

    More photos below:

    Attendees at the Autumn Lights Festival pass by inwardly lit inflatable structures that shoot upward in whimsical spikes and swirls. A young visitor crawled under one of the structures, embracing the immersive nature of the piece. Photo by Jessica Prado

    A visitor of the Autumn Lights festival at the Gardens at Lake Merritt takes a photo in front of a panelled wall of dotted lights, which change over time. Photo by Chandra Faulkner

    A ceramic work by Laney student Martha Storm is lit by a circle of glowing yellow bulbs in the Sensory Garden. Photo by Chandra Faulkner

    An intricately latticed spinning lantern is suspended within a circular frame, illuminating the gardens in patterns of yellow light. Photo by Chandra Faulkner

    More student work below:

    By Rachel Altman

    By Nancy Cresta

    By Bridgitte Landau

    By Sandy Olgerson

    Chandra Faulkner and Gregory Lowrie are Tower Staff Writers. Email Chandra at chachachachandra(at) and Gregory at grilla0899(at)

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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