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The Arts: What San Diego Wants

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The latest polling numbers capture the attention of most of us these days, not that we can escape from them, as they appear to be everywhere and on about every conceivable subject, most notably of course, the presidential election. Alongside the backdrop of political buzz and speculation, the art world continues its often lethargic march towards defining itself as a viable and purposeful entity. A body that strives to be always on the cutting edge but also is prone to doubts and self-reflection. "How can we make things better?" Well, with the help of Patricia Frischer, we asked, and the following is a very brief survey of what the cultural actors who live and work here in San Diego want. You might be surprised.

It turns out we got more than we bargained for when we asked forty Movers and Shakers, “What is your vision for the visual arts in San Diego?” They gave a pretty precise view of their particular aspirations, seen by us as a larger reflection on what exists here already and what is ultimately needed. This included more public art, increased exposure for local artists and sales, more galleries and cultural art centers. Is it worth taking a closer look at what direction we want to take? Which of the following topics below needs to occur first, to break the logjam leading to a healthier art scene? We decided to find out by commenting on these flashes of the future.

Collaborations between art activists and exhibition venues are needed to travel some of our best curated shows within the county and across the border into Tijuana. Ultimately these shows could be seen statewide, nationwide, even worldwide. Collaborations work well for press promotions, showing the strength of the visual arts to the community at large. What about a month where only local artists are exposed in museums on down to the neighborhood hair salon?

Galleries and museums are only viable with support from artists, the public, and a strong collecting population. Major collectors are the backbone of our museum boards, but what we also need are fields of grassroots buyers who learn that owning original art adds a tremendous value to the quality of their lives. As for galleries, more of them mean larger amounts of artwork shown. With encouragement and a little competitive spirit, artists are pushed to do their best work and we benefit from a higher level of quality as the bar is raised.

Collectors and community dialogue supply that vital commodity: feedback. For example, collectors buy, giving reinforcement to artists and emerging artists can be mentored by established artists. An active community arts voice insures success by dissemination of information in the form of printed media and Internet resources such as SDVAN. SDVAN is founded on the principal of encouraging these exchanges and is starting a new feature, Picked RAW Peeled which will reveal artistic events in more detail. Too, the mushrooming of collector clubs all over San Diego can build a larger social network with peer education in the arts while at the same time supporting artists monetarily and proudly.

Art fairs like the one in Miami/Basel could become a standard feature on our events calendar. The fair could encourage art collecting, showcase our art organizations, and attract cultural tourism. Let’s start by focusing on emerging artists in the first year of the event.

Youth and education are fundamental. Teaching art as parents and volunteers, in most public schools, makes it obvious that we need a consistent and comprehensive arts education curriculum for every institution. Go talk to your son or daughter's principal now or write a letter to your school's superintendent, asking for more art. Creativity knows no unemployment.

Public art created a general consensus heard loud and clear. San Diego needs more of it. There was a slightly higher demand to integrate art and artists into any future city planning or development. We like the idea, mentioned more than once, to have temporary outdoor public sculptures placed throughout the city. Rotating them out as new ones come in would be stimulating, exciting, and opens up the possibility for fresher, stronger works.

Studios and housing are a county-wide issue. Only three people thought artists could benefit from more affordable housing and studio space. It is probably safe to say that not just artists but anyone living and renting within the county of San Diego could use less expensive housing. In the end, you still have to make the art no matter how big the loft is. So, the question is, does every artist need a studio these days? Not likely. Live/work spaces and art centers for multiple artists seem to be the way forward.

$$$! Everyone wants it, but artists and the people whose support they depend on hardly get any. Less bartering for services and goods when putting on shows and productions, more local public and private grants and funding, city and local government philanthropy, small business loans for galleries, and the buying of art, just might do the trick. Let’s stop thinking of art as a charity and remember it has great value.

Finally, a special award is given to Jean Lowe, for her cheerleading efforts in support of the arts: “San Diego has a really energetic and interesting art scene — it just needs to believe it!”

The answer in the end might be just a question of confidence.

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About Kevin Freitas

  • Good plans for an area that is one of the most arts encouraged around.