Brian Eder and his partner Cherri Lakey started Anno Domini in July of 2000, branding their space as “the second coming of art & design.” Eder and Lakey are almost single-handedly responsible for making downtown San Jose cool again after the beginning of the SubZERO Festival, an annual street festival that draws crowds of up to 10,000 celebrating South Bay artists and performers.

After graduating from San Jose State with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in photography, Eder found ways to keep his artistic spirit alive with a variety of projects. After meeting nearly 20 year ago, he and Lakey worked together at a digital pre-press company, putting out film for businesses that were transitioning to digital printing. In 1995, the two started their first design company called Two Fish Design.

Eder continues to contribute to the growth of the San Jose art scene with the popular monthly First Fridays Artwalk event that draws more than 1,000 people to the SoFA District.

Name: Brian Eder
Occupation: Graphic Artist and co-owner of Anno Domini

How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
I moved here by train from St. Louis, Mo., with my family in 1976. The furthest I have lived from here since then was Mountain View for a couple years, and then I moved back this way sometime after 1995, self-employed as a graphic artist for the company my partner Cherri Lakey and I started called Two Fish Design.

What do you like most about San Jose?
Mostly the people—the artists, the musicians, and the geek culture, of course. There’s a palpable energy here that stands out from other areas I’ve lived in or just visited on a regular basis. The spirit of what it takes to actually thrive here as an an independent creative or small business really stands out. 

At what point did you decide to stay in San Jose and pursue your career?

As I mentioned earlier, I had moved as far away as Mountain View. However, in 1995 my partner, Cherri Lakey, and I started our own business freelancing as graphic designers. We knew we wanted to start an art gallery at some point as well. We looked to San Francisco and we thought it would be really easy to start there—the culture would be more embracing. But growing up here, I felt we could add something to what was going on here, and even though it would be a harder path we chose to move here. We thought if we could start something here in San Jose that actually helped to change the culture, it would really be an accomplishment for us.

What inspired you to organize First Fridays?
It just seemed like something that most cities had as part of their normal urban culture. It really surprised us that our city had never had anything like this. We thought if there was to be an art and culture scene in our city, that something like an art walk would definitely be one of the things at its center.

How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t at the gallery?
Most of my free time is spent doing something that keeps me inspired. I love sound art and field recording. I read a lot too—everything from mysticism to tech books. I find inspiration on both sides.

Where are some of your favorite places in San Jose?
I really like the independent places like Good Karma, Empire 7, Black & Brown, The Usuals. For instance, Good Karma is a vegan restaurant, but the owner, Ryan, has live music there on a regular basis and he shows art on his walls too. The same goes for The Usuals, they’re a clothing store but they have a little stage in their space where they have music performances and they have art exhibits, too. Black & Brown has been doing that for years, as well.

They’re all independents that contribute to the culture. It goes far and beyond selling food or clothing or art. There’s not always a way to make money with those extra things, but what they seem to understand is their contribution to what we refer to as a subculture economy. They support the community and the community supports them. We want places like that to thrive. Great cities aren’t built on chains, they’re built on the unique individuals that make this place feel like home.

If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?
Getting more money into the hands of independent artists, musicians, and creatives is something we constantly work towards. It’s definitely moving in the right direction, but we have a long way to go.