Introducing Anyka Barber, OMCA's New Director of Engagement
Anyka Barber knows firsthand the powerful impact that the arts can have on a community. The Oakland native founded downtown’s experimental Betti Ono gallery in 2010, attracting more than $2 million in neighborhood-level investments in the process. Barber also worked as a Multicultural Fellow and Program Officer with the San Francisco Foundation—focusing on grant-making initiatives—and served as an adviser for a wealth of civic organizations. Now, she brings that leadership and fundraising experience, along with her deep commitment to community and cultural development, to OMCA as its new Director of Engagement. “Nina Simone said, ‘An artist’s duty … is to reflect the times,’ ” Barber shares. “I gravitate toward that idea, and the role of art and culture in amplifying the times.”
How have you seen the Oakland arts scene evolve, and how have you been a part of that change?
I studied art [at Clark Atlanta University] and got involved in museums and small arts institutions in Atlanta. One of the opportunities I recognized was that gap between representation, access, and visibility, particularly for communities of color. I saw an opportunity to create a space where those voices could be elevated.
Coming back to the Bay Area, I wanted to connect with the artistic community and also recognize the one-on-one exchange that happens when artists come together, so I started a live art night that was a base for building those relationships, which resulted in the creation of the Betti Ono gallery in Oakland. I found a real excitement in that intersection of what it means to be creative, have access to art, and excite people who wouldn’t normally be engaged.
How are you bringing what you have learned as an activist and an entrepreneur to the Museum?
I have more than 15 years’ experience in arts and culture as a practitioner and as a developer. I know how important culture and healthy neighborhoods are to a thriving city. I want to help create more access and more equity around culture making, and I am excited to make those connections with an institution like OMCA that also has prioritized those ideals.
How will you further your community development efforts through OMCA?
I call the work that the Museum is doing heart work—connecting, understanding, and growing community life. I want to continue to develop relationships between OMCA and our community in order to achieve our social impact goals through programs like Friday Nights @ OMCA and other endeavors that help people connect to the Museum and each other. There is an exhibition coming up in March 2018 that explores hip-hop culture and wisdom—I see that will be a real opportunity to flex our muscles around engagement.
I love getting to know people’s stories and am enthusiastic about the relationship we have with our Members. I’m also excited about starting relationships with philanthropic institutions that share our values and that recognize how special the Bay Area’s diversity is, and how critical it is to work together to help preserve that DNA.
Photography: Terry Lorant.