Joyce Gordon Gallery art festival creates space for youth artists in Oakland

Joyce Gordon, owner of Joyce Gordon Gallery, opens her gallery to young people.

Inspired by the desire to encourage people about their community and contrast the negative portrayal of Oakland, Joyce Gordon Gallery hosted the fifth annual Oakland Youth Art Expression art festival downtown Oakland. 

OYAE takes place every August during First Fridays. The event showcased all forms of creative expression, from live performances and art exhibits among Oakland’s youth, to interactive workshops for art enthusiasts. Vendors at the invite also sold goods and services to supporters and passerbyers. 

While this art explosion is increasing in its community impact year after year, it’s also important to note that Joyce Gordon’s Art Gallery features prominent artists both local and abroad, esteemed lecturers, and a plethora of charitable events throughout the entire year. 

Mama Joyce’s passion for youth arts

September marked the art gallery’s 20th anniversary as a first class art venue for established and richly talented artists to proudly display their work. 

Gordon, affectionately known around The Town as “Mama Joyce,” has a passion for arts and community. 

Recalling her youthful years as an artist, she fondly shares how her passion for art was reignited when she was traveling as a top-notch hair stylist to different hair shows. The art she witnessed inspired her to open a gallery. 

“I didn’t know anything about running a gallery,” Mama Joyce said about opening the gallery in 2003. “I just wanted to give people space to feel good about showing their art.” 

In the beginning, it wasn’t easy for Mama Joyce. She doubted if opening the gallery was the right thing to do. 

She prayed for God to give her a sign. 

“Young people are doing more things than people know. They have a lot of talent!”

Joyce Gordon

Suddenly kids started coming into the gallery to ask questions about art and whether they could use the space to create. This sign pivoted her focus from displaying and selling art to connecting with the community, especially the young people.

“Young people are doing more things than people know,” Mama Joyce said. “They have a lot of talent!” she continued. 

Reminiscing on seeing talents in the streets of Oakland or events she attended, she imagined the youth being booked for events. Mama Joyce also recognized the need for a consistent platform where the youth can be seen instead of by happenstance. “Most of the people that I am around are young people. They know things I don’t know.”

Creating space for youth creativity

With a renewed vision, she started to notice activities, or the lack thereof, for the youth at festivals. “There are all kinds of festivals, and there is always a section for the kids,” Mama Joyce said. “There may be a bouncy house or something for them to play on.” However, having met so many talented young people, she decided that young people needed their own festival, somewhere they could “do more than just jump up and down and play,” she said. 

The unique name, OYAE, was developed with art and Oakland’s youth in mind. Yet, she was still unsure how to describe it. She recalls her daughter walking up the stairs of their house exclaiming that the youth art festival would be “an explosion!” 

Every year, Mama Joyce and participating organizers work with art instructors of several modalities to serve as part of the festival’s art crawl. Attendees can learn and engage with professional artists from all over the world and even take their creations home. 

Mama Joyce’s main mission is to shine a light on talent who are overshadowed by negative news in the community or simply overlooked altogether. “The young people are really doing great things!” Mama Joyce said with rejoycement. Some talented youth either have their gifts dismissed because they are not as visible or yet established. The festival gives exposure to creatives in their mid-20s. 

Andre Harris’ artwork at Oakland Youth Arts Expression at Joyce Gordon Gallery.

OYAE inspires artists, supports career development

Artists submit applications and art selected by Eric Murphy, a director at the Joyce Gordon Gallery and one of OYAE’s organizers. Murphy said that festivals and the gallery enrich his natural inclination to preserve and promote artistic legacy with young people.

The festival fosters their careers and develops their work with a respected and established gallery

Eric Murphy

“The festival fosters their careers and develops their work with a respected and established gallery,” Murphy said.

Oakland artist André Harris, whose inherited talent from his dad and granddad, said OYAE is a source of inspiration. 

“I’m motivated as an artist by my family and going to Mrs. Joyce’s gallery,” he said. “Exploring the artwork in the downtown Oakland area gives me tons of intel. I take notes and come up with ideas for my painting canvas.”

The great thing about this event is that it’s not exclusive to just talent. Business owners can also participate. In addition to exposure, both creatives and entrepreneurs are supported with a business structure to guide them in advertising, communication, and budgeting strategy. 

Registered participants give back portions of their profits. The purpose is to encourage participants to remember their roots as they grow their businesses and artistic practices

Joyce Gordon Gallery turns 20

The initiative is similar to the principle of the Adinkra symbol, Sankofa: “return and get it.”
In September 2023, Joyce Gordon Gallery made 20 years. The gallery has been a first class space for artists to be proud to display their work.

So, whether you desire to exhibit your work, promote your business as a vendor, or show love for The Town’s talent–keep up with future events and opportunities at the gallery by visiting Joyce Gordon Art Gallery website.

Author Profile

Patricia Morrow, also known as "Fox", is a Brooklyn native and self-proclaimed "Renaissance Woman" who is relatively new to the Bay Area. With fresh eyes on the Town and a beautiful network of friends, Fox is exuberantly immersed in Oakland's dynamic culture. As a published
writer and advocate, she's passionate about reporting stories with a tone of compassion and a splash of abstract thought. A fun fact about Fox is that she's a beauty influencer.

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