The Adopt-a-Grave Project
approx. 3 minutes

Video shot at Mountainview Cemetery in Oakland with spoken word piece about how I discovered a grave with my mother's name on it and adopted it. I thus became part of the community of people who tend the graves of people they don't know.

Dona Turner

Oakland, CA

Artistic Disciplines:
New Media

Artist Statement:


The Adopt-a-Grave Project/Dona Turner

Oakland is home to the enormous and beautiful Mountain View Cemetery located on the hills at the end of Piedmont Avenue. Graves of the famous and not famous dating back to the 1860’s can be found there. I have noticed that numerous communities overlap in the cemetery; the largest being, of course, the “dead” community; then there is the walking community: dog walkers, stroller pushers, and joggers; and most interesting and secretive—the Adopt-a-Grave community.

I’m a story-teller working in video and the story I have to tell is one in which happenstance, love, and a random act lead to my inclusion in the community of un-named individuals who for reasons of their own tend the graves of people they don’t know.

To make this video as un-studied as possible, random, textured, and on the fly, I shot it using a flip mini camera and filmed just two sessions at the cemetery. I have begun the process of tracking down other grave tenders and the next film in the adopt-a-grave series will (hopefully) be interviews with some of them.  

Community. What is community? Where is community? Communities are built in odd ways and intersect at odd places, often in secrecy. A community might be both more and very much less that you think.

Art Statement:

This is what I think:

I think Art is the practice of making something profound out of nothing remarkable. Art is about capturing moments and the experiences of life in forms unlike the moments and experiences themselves. I think Art is the flash of lightning that isolates, illuminates, and enhances selected bits of our perceived reality. Art lifts these bits out of context and gives them meaning—we see them differently because they’re not connected to the other things we’re used to seeing them connected to any more. In this manner, art captures time. Art finds the stuff that exists beyond what we know, beyond what we can see or hear, and makes us think about it.



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