“It’s kind of wild to be here at seven years,” Anyka Barber says, founder of Oakland’s Betti Ono gallery in downtown Oakland. “Space is a premium, as we all know. So being able to hold this space for seven years was no small feat.”
It's also no small feat that Betti Ono opened in the first place. Tucked into the corner of Frank Ogawa Plaza, Betti Ono has brought exposure to emerging artists and fostered critical conversation around topics like race, sex, politics and identity in ways that simply did not exist in Oakland seven years ago.
At the time, while working in both museum spaces and community art centers, Barber noticed a lack of opportunity for women of color to enter into leadership positions — as well as a pronounced void of accessible spaces inclusive of black, brown, and indigenous bodies and art.
“In terms of actual venues and spaces to make your work visible, to put your work out there professionally, that provided artists of color opportunity to exhibit — those were the barriers we were pushing against [in Oakland],” Barber expresses. “Breaking the mold, breaking the boxes [by saying that] artists of color — black women, black men, people of color in general — have things to say with their work. That they are talented. And deserve a platform.”
In an era of Oakland’s rapidly changing landscape, Betti Ono became a haven of community, accessibility, and cultural stronghold.