Inside Phoenix’s first Black-owned art gallery

Onyx Gallery continues to succeed in its quest to connect visual and performance artists to patrons of the arts and collectors.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 10:50 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Onyx Art and Events located off West Roosevelt Avenue is the first Black-owned art gallery in Phoenix. Owners Vernon and Kathi Williams are Chicago transplants who created this space in 2016. The couple wanted to create a space that celebrates Black stories through art.

“Black art ... what it means to me is the ability to see myself on a canvas,” Vernon said.

They have provided a new platform for artists in Arizona.

Darrell J. Cunningham (right) with Onxy Art and Events owners Vernon and Kathi Williams
Darrell J. Cunningham (right) with Onxy Art and Events owners Vernon and Kathi Williams(Arizona's Family)

“There was a need at the time that we started. In 2016, there were no Black-owned galleries in Phoenix, and so we decided to fill that void,” Kathi said. “And whereas the gallery is Black-owned, it’s all-inclusive. We’ve shown artists that are not Black Americans. Our focus is really just on the art culture, overall, but specifically giving a home to Black American artists.”

Artist Phalen Booker is a Mississippi-born, Arizona-based creator whose artwork is currently up at Onyx. He described one of his pieces named “The Work.”

“[It] represents focusing on getting back to you - putting in work internally, bringing yourself back to square one, and making sure you feel whole,” he explained.

"The Work" by Phalen Booker
"The Work" by Phalen Booker(Arizona's Famly)

The Williamses say they named their gallery after the gemstone; onyx is believed to invoke peace and comfort.

Onyx is not just an art gallery but also an event space that celebrates all forms of art, like live jazz music.

“Art is just a peek into the soul,” Vernon said. “It shows you everything that that person is about - what they’re thinking about, what they’ve been through, what they’re going through, and how they express themselves to show who they are.”