Alternative Histories, May 21 2016 | 3:00 – 5:00 pm | Pro Arts Gallery

In conversation about the past and future of alternative art spaces: Anyka Barber (Founder and Director of Betti Ono), Nick Wylie (Development Director of Southern Exposure and Co-Founder of ACRE), Renny Pritikin (Chief Curator of The Contemporary Jewish Museum, curator and museum director in Northern California since 1979, including Co-Director and Executive Director at New Langton Arts), and Sarah Lockhart (Co-Founder of 21 Grand and Oakland Art Murmur).

Moderator: Helene Fried, Helene Fried Associates in San Francisco

While most of the histories of the Alternative Space movement of the 1960s and 70s focus on New York, the Bay Area was also significantly involved. Our first alternative space, San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts, was founded in 1965. In the early 1970s, Southern Exposure and New Langton Arts emerged, as well as Site/Cite/Sight (run by artist Alan Scarritt), La Mamelle, Inc./Art Com (run by Carl E. Loeffler), Galeria de la Raza (run by René Yañez and Ralph Maradiaga), San Francisco Camerawork, Kearny Street Workshop, 80 Langton, and Tom Marioni’s Museum of Conceptual Art among others in San Francisco, while 1974 marked the founding of East Bay spaces, Kala Art Institute and Pro Arts.

The alternative space movement presented a fresh alternative to the stagnant and stuffy Eurocentric museums and cultural institutions and the for-profit sales-driven galleries which domineered the art world during this period of time. The alternative space movement rejected the stifling power dynamics of the art world and the commodification of art production. This new model strived to liberate art production by tilting the power lever towards the artist.  The artist in this situation, had complete control over their art process, practice and distribution channels.  The space itself was typically organized by a collective of artists who were focused on emerging artforms, such as conceptual art, electronic media, performance art, and interdisciplinary work, and wanted a space that wasn’t the stereotypical white cube. Many alternative space organizers also wanted to promote art that addressed politics and injustice, and promote diversity and community at a time where “The Artist” most attractive to and represented by the art world, was a white male solitary genius (e.g. Pollock, Picasso, Dali).

Back to the Bay Area, hundreds of alternative spaces opened in the next four decades, most of which had short lifespans, and weren’t seriously focused on longevity and becoming institutions like their predecessors: Intersection, Southern Exposure, New Langton, etc. The economic state of the Bay Area of the last two decades have made alternative art spaces even more challenging to operate. The panelists will discuss the challenges and achievements of Bay Area alternative art spaces,  the impact of technology on creating culture and community here, and the specific changes and issues facing alternative arts spaces and the artists they support.


About the Panelists

Anyka Barber is born and raised in Oakland, Anyka Barber is a mother, an artist/activist, curator and entrepreneur. She has over 10 years of experience working professionally in Bay Area arts organizations, designing and producing visual arts, performing arts and community arts programs, exhibitions and curatorial projects. Anyka has spent the past 5 years developing community arts projects and programs that activate vacant, blighted and non-traditional properties as sites for artistic intervention, commerce and community building. Betti Ono (founded in 2010), is one such project that has emerged from a pop-up engagement into a long-term, active space for arts, culture and community that includes an art gallery, retail design shop, and multidisciplinary venue. Betti Ono presents visual and performing arts, and public programs that feature the work of emerging and established artists of our time. Betti Ono has been voted ‘Best of the Bay’ by East Bay Express in 2014 & 2015, received the Spirit of the District Award by the Lake Merritt/Uptown CBD, has been an Oakland Indie Award nominee for the past five years and is an anchor in the Oakland arts community and greater Bay Area region.

Behind the scenes Anyka is committed to strengthening the Bay Area arts community as an arts advocate and advisor, including three years as co-chair of the City of Oakland Funding Advisory Committee (FAC), two years as a Mayor appointed Arts Commissioner for the City of Richmond, an Oakland Museum of California advisory board member, and a sought after arts selection panelist for juried city and county-wide artist commissioning programs. Most recently, Anyka initiated the formation and design of a new arts advocacy group, the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition, whose mission is to “#KeepOaklandCreative, affordable and vibrant!” and focuses on equity and inclusion for people and arts and culture communities color.


Nicholas Wylie is an artist, organizer, and educator based in San Francisco. Currently Development Director at Southern Exposure, he received his BFA from Carnegie Mellon University, did post-baccalaureate work in Art History at Northwestern University, and received an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2006 he co-founded Harold Arts, a Chicago-based non-profit arts organization with a residency in Ohio, and was its co-director until early 2010. He then co-founded ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions), a 501(c)3 with a residency in rural Wisconsin and an exhibitions program in Chicago. Wylie served as director of ACRE until moving to San Francisco and joining its Board of Directors in 2015. Before leaving Chicago, he was also Artistic Director at Mana Contemporary Chicago, a large art center in the Pilsen neighborhood. He has worked as an educator with BFA and MFA classes at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and University of St Francis. His art practice has haunted galleries in Chicago and beyond for the past fifteen years.

Renny Pritikin has been a curator and museum director in Northern California since 1979, at New Langton Arts (Co-Director and Executive Director), at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (founding chief curator), at The Nelson Gallery and Fine Arts Collection, UC Davis (Executive Director/curator), and currently at The Contemporary Jewish Museum (chief curator). Career highlights include the Koret Israel Prize to visit Israel; a lecture tour of Japanese museums as a guest of the US State Department; and a Fulbright to give a lecture tour through New Zealand. As a curator he is associated with efforts to bridge the gap between the fine arts and popular culture, having organized the first American museum exhibition of The Art of Star Wars; the early exhibitions of the works and collections of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, the car customizer; the futurist and Blade Runner designer Syd Mead; the magician, writer, historian and collector Ricky Jay; and the tattoo icon Don Ed Hardy. He gave early support to such artists as Nayland Blake, Nancy Rubins, Fred Tomaselli, Barry McGee and Chris Johanson, among many others. He was a senior adjunct professor in curatorial practice in the graduate program at California College of the Arts from 2003 to 2015. He is the author of four books of poetry, most recently A Quiet in Front of the Best Western, Museum Quality Press, 2014.

Sarah Lockhart’s work in the Bay Area’s Alternative Art Scene began almost 20 years ago, when she attended a screening at Craig Baldwin’s Other Cinema in November 1996. That was her first visit to ATA (Artists’ Television Access), where she would volunteer from 1998 to ­2000, and where she met her future (and now former) partner, Darren Jenkins. Sarah and Darren co-­founded and ran Oakland multidisciplinary arts non­profit, 21 Grand (2000­-2010), which was the first of the arts spaces to open in the Uptown / Northgate area. 21 Grand would become an anchor space in that neighborhood’s arts community and one of the earliest members of the Oakland Art Murmur. Besides operating 21 Grand’s art gallery and performance space, they curated exhibitions and programs at The Uptown Nightclub, the Oakland Airport, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, as well as various underground warehouse spaces in Oakland.

Sarah also collaborated with other curators’ projects, Neighborhood Public Radio and The Illuminated Corridor, to produce work at Southern Exposure, the Whitney Biennale, and in various public spaces in the Bay Area. After 21 Grand’s end, Sarah served as Interim Executive Director of the Lab (2012-­2013), rescuing that organization from bankruptcy and closure, as well as guest lecturing at Mills College on business models for arts organizations. Besides bookkeeping and consulting for Pro Arts, Sarah works for the Paul Dresher Ensemble, and serves on the Steering Committee for the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival.

Sarah is also a musician whose current projects include SL Morse, for which she translates literary texts into morse code into compositions for percussion, the neo-No Wave band, Sharon Tate Fetus Explosion, and the embryonic canine-inspired electronica project, Total Bitch.

*Our Public Programs are made possible in part with funds by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The City of Oakland’s Cultural Funding Program, The Clorox Company Foundation, The W & F Hewlett Foundation, and The Zellerbach Family Foundation.