Community-Minded Oakopolis

Gallery shares the gift of art without the commerce.


Tenaya Gunter Brown, Joell Jones in front of Cay Lang’s exhibit.

Pat Mazzera

Like the rabbit hole that transported Alice, the hallway goes on and on, leading visitors to an equally curious destination at its terminus: An art gallery that is not for profit, but not a nonprofit; with time and skills donated by artists, yet it is not a collective. It has no business model to speak of, but draws its inspiration from The Big City, an installation piece created in the early 2000s by its director, Joell Jones, which included “a place where all people could gather and do creative work.” Nebulous and always evolving, it is Oakopolis Creativity Center in Oakland, aka Oakopolis Gallery.

Assisted by Tenaya Gunter Brown, the gallery’s coordinator, and Jan Camp, head curator, Jones shows work by painters and photographers, mixed-media, and textile artists who demonstrate tenacity and authenticity. “It’s hard sometimes to keep going in the face of the art market, to keep that inner ignition,” Jones says. “It’s not the ego, but the ability to stay connected to it, with all of its drawbacks.

She has offered the space “as a gift to the community” since 2007, accepting no commission from the sale of artwork. “I don’t want to take money. I don’t want to get involved in the commercial end and all that entails,” Jones says. A painter herself with a studio in the building, she prefers to focus on her own work. “I’m always trying to help the future in some way, and I do it through my art,” she says. “Supporting the creative spirit in some ways helps the community. In some ways it helps uplift our lives.”

Oakopolis Creativity Center (447 25th St., Oakland, 510-663-6920, is open on the third Thursday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m., the first Friday of every month from 6 to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.

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