Is this art? Are we in San Diego?

Saturday, March 10, 2007, 12:12 —by JeSais
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One Response to “Is this art? Are we in San Diego?”

  1. Gordon Wells said on Sunday, March 11, 2007, 1:40

    The Art Seeker’s Journal:
    Where to Find Local Art in San Diego

    San Diego is a city known for its local talent in the arts: music, theatre, and the visual arts. Many public murals and sculptures adorn the parks and boardwalks, exemplifying San Diego’s commitment to displaying art to express a community identity.

    Our first stop in search of local talent is the Spanish Village, a colony of studios adjacent to the Zoo in Balboa Park. Here a number of local artists and craft persons display their wares in small studios, housed in typical Spanish style buildings, surrounding a colorful courtyard — an historic landmark, built in 1935 as part of the California Pacific International Exposition, and becoming an art center in 1937. Entry is open and free, and the village offers a nice respite from the more formal museums populating the famous park. These are working studios where visitors can watch and interact with artists involved in the creative process. In addition to the forty studios displaying works of over ninety local artists and eight regional art guilds, the Spanish Village hosts a number of art shows throughout the year that give exposure to other San Diego area artists. I was there in February and viewed the 32nd Annual Small Image Show, juried by Arthur Ollman, which allows area artists to enter pieces in a variety of mediums but no larger than 10″ across. Very fun.

    A leisurely stroll through the park leads us to our next stop, the San Diego Art Institute: Museum of the Living Artist. Tucked in amongst several international art galleries, this classy venue is dedicated to displaying and fostering local talent (and the charge for admission is less than bus fare). The Museum of the Living Artist hosts over thirty juried exhibitions throughout the year, featuring many of its more than three hundred members, including shows for juniors and emerging artists. Art classes and other educational programs are also part of the regular offerings of this non-profit organization. For a unique art adventure (for both pros and novices), attend one of the SDAI “paint-out” sessions, which take place on the third Saturday of each month. Come ready to paint or draw in the park during the morning, and review over a potluck meal that afternoon. Visitors in search of this type of interaction with San Diego artists are encouraged to go to the SDAI website or view the calendar of events provided by the San Diego Visual Arts Network.

    Straight down Laurel Street, which runs through Balboa Park and across the picturesque Cabrillo Bridge, on down towards the bay, rests our next destination, “Little Italy.” I shouldn’t have said “rests” because this part of town is always hopping. Great restaurants, lively nightclubs, and cute boutiques line India Street, the main drag — this part of town is a vibrant mix of traditional Italian-fishing and urban-artist villages. One block off India, at 2400 Kettner Blvd., we find San Diego’s newest local artist haven: The Art and Design District. This group of art lofts, studios, retail shops, and eateries is just a couple years new, and is quickly becoming known for its high caliber of resident artists and interior design firms. At least one Friday evening each month, they host an open house of sorts, which usually ends in a party. Fun people and great art, too. Down the street, on the corner of Kettner and Beech, is another little hotspot called Gallery680 — they always have a local or two on display. Very near to this is the office for ArtWalk SanDiego. This is a humungous outdoor fair for artists where they close off Little Italy to street traffic in April, and is so big it gets its own article.

    A short trolley ride north connects us with Old Town, where Presidio Park serves as landmark for San Diego’s earliest Spanish origins. The trolley drops us off right in “The Birthplace of California” and visitors are treated to a visual history lesson, as the entire town is either replica or restoration of some of California’s earliest structures. Housed here are at least twelve art galleries with the same flavor, featuring many area artists and images. And the Mexican food is as authentic and delicious as you can find anywhere. The highlight for art viewers is the annual Old Town Art Festival held in September, which boasts over 30,000 visitors.

    Way up over the hill from here (just take the #10 bus) is another art enclave in North Park called the Ray Street Art and Culture District. North Park’s redevelopment plan six years ago included funding for the creation of the art and culture center, and it has blossomed into one of the most noted art spots in the city. Every second Saturday, from 6 to 10 PM “Ray At Night” erupts on this little one way street, and 1500-or-so visitors flood the galleries, studios, shops and restaurants. If you are in town on some second Saturday, don’t miss it! If you live in San Diego, what have you been waiting for?

    Our nautilus shell shaped route in search of local artists has taken us over, up, around, and now all the way back downtown (the #7 bus is best) to San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter — a quaint combination of stores and restaurants amidst early-twentieth-century architecture, beautifully restored. Here, shoppers can find just a few establishments displaying original works by local artists, most notably, the L Street Fine Art, near the ballpark, the Simayspace at 840 G Street, and the Brokers Building Art Gallery, on Market between 4th and 5th. The L Street Fine Art is located in the Omni Hotel building and features the winners of the San Diego Art Prize, which pairs an established talent with an emerging artist from the San Diego area. The Simayspace is located inside the Art Academy of San Diego and shows the art of instructors, students, as well as other San Diego artists. The Brokers Building Art Gallery primarily displays the work of artists with studio lofts in the building. You might want to hit these spots during daylight, because the Gaslamp explodes with scantily clad twenty-somethings at night, and other art forms prevail.

    Our last stop downtown is a ways to the East into Barrio Logan, known to locals as the historic center for Latino political identity and culture. Out near the colorful murals of Chicano Park, at 1122 Cesar E. Chavez Parkway, we find the Expressions of Mexico Gallery. Here, we experience the color and passion of Mexican and Latin American artists, many of whom live in or have close ties to San Diego. This museum is part of a local movement to revitalize community pride through the arts and education, and is well worth the trip.

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