I met Githinji Mbire in a parking lot while interviewing aerosol artist Desi Mundo in front of the Alice Street mural. I’d asked Desi who he’d recommend I interview next. “That guy right there walking by,” he pointed to a fast-moving Mbire. Last week (unannounced) I dropped by the Omiiroo Gallery in Oakland on a stretch of 15th street that was abandoned when I lived in the area. Now, it’s lined with art spaces and art businesses.
Mbire describes himself primarily as a sculptor/painter who has also moved into film and performance. He kindly obliged a spontaneous chat.
What drew you to this block?
Omiiroo has been in the space about a year now. Before, we had a gallery on Franklin and 14th. One of my friends had moved in here. And one day I was passing by here as they were working on the block and I thought, I want one of these. Another day when I was on 15th, she (my friend) just opened the door and I was like “WHAT?” She happened to be moving to New York, though, and she asked “do you want a space?” That’s how I ended up here.
The landlord’s been incredible. I always call him a business partner (read more about the building owner here). He really cares about people and the community.
How do you find your artists?
Some of them find us, some of them we know from being around for a while but that’s the easiest part of this business: finding artists. There are so many, that’s wonderful.
What motivates you to do this at all?
Oh, just a sweet life. I’m independent, it’s a small business, and I’m not stressed. My time is my own.
What’s up – Events
Sometimes people can rent the space to put your own show or performance – it varies. You can sometimes see people dancing here for a whole month, sometimes films – showing clips.
We do Second Saturday. That’s when we have a lot of people here – just to have a different day (than First Friday). Then you have a full month of art, not just one day.
I don’t like to be promotional (about my own work). I really like to mix the work so people can see how they relate to each other. When we look at art in an egocentric way, it’s very limiting. Everybody should be valued.
He took me to the studios downstairs where his own artwork and others’ are made and stored.
Then, he walked me across the block to another gallery getting ready to open that night for the first time. He left me there to get to know his new neighbors.
At Omiiroo, a month long art show (all under $100) kicked off on First Friday and runs to the end of the month.
The show’s featured artists, among others include:
Sacha Kelley – photographer www.sachakelley.com
Chris Jones – paintings