Bay Brilliant: Anyka Barber
Welcome to KQED Arts’ Bay Brilliant, a series celebrating 10 local artists, creatives and makers who are pushing boundaries in 2018. Driven by passion for their own disciplines—music, dance, theater, visual art, performance, writing, illustration and more—these artists are true vanguards paving the way in their respective communities.
When Anyka Barber founded Oakland’s Betti Ono gallery, she intentionally combined the names of two powerful, courageous female artists: Betty Mabry Davis (singer-songwriter and wife of Miles Davis) and Yoko Ono (conceptual artist and wife of John Lennon).
“Both of those women have been relegated to ‘the wife of’ or ‘the lady of,’ and they actually were a lot more,” Barber says. “What they contributed has completely shifted the way, I think, people make art.”
That name is a crucial representation of the space Barber has created over the past eight years: a multicultural community hub that tells authentic stories and encourages participation.
For Barber, who was born and raised in Oakland, every aspect of the gallery—including exhibitions, youth programming and lease negotiation—is an opportunity to promote equity, fight anti-blackness and provide space for audiences to see themselves reflected positively through art.
“It’s a stance. It’s a demand,” Barber says. “This is not a passive space nor a passive intention at all. It’s very, very proactive.”