Patricia by Patricia

Patricia by Patricia
Patricia by Patricia

Monday, February 23, 2009

Snapshots: Changing perspectives in the San Diego Art Scene

Snapshot – One women’s personal views on Changing Perspectives in the San Diego Art Scene: Notes from the panel discussion.

Snapshots: Changing perspectives in the San Diego Art Scene was held on Sat. Feb 21 at 7:00 pm. This was a panel discussion with Philly Joe Swendoza (
ArtRocks!), Robert Pincus (SD Union Tribune), Patricia Frischer (San Diego Visual Arts Network), and David White (Agitprop Gallery) and moderated by:Katherine Sweetman (Director, Lui Velazquez) held at Art Produce Gallery (3139 University Ave, SD 92104) but organized by Kevin Freitas (Art as Authority) 619.337.4891.

Your can now see the entire panel on video by Lynn Susholtz and transcribed for UTube by Katherine Sweetmen. Enormous thanks to both for the time and effort.

Why does one agree to participate in a panel discussion and why does someone show up to hear the panelist. I am trying to make sense of the evening activities and so am presenting this personal view to help me clarify my thoughts. I have added my speakers notes to the end of this blog to show more clearly the sequence of questions and my own personal responses for those who were not there or need a refresher.

I think some of the audience will have come away from this evening with frustration…yet more talk and no action. Others will have been highly offended by what was said. But I came away with a sense that there was a strong need for an arts community in SD. This is something that I have been noticing for years. In a conversation I had during the wind down of the evening with Mark Rodman Smith, we discussed how the Arts supply the tools to define community. Definition of community is a commodity that every SD communities (not just the arts) is looking for especially right now as we all struggle to survive. I think that the arts community is built through collaborations and we have an opportunity now to help the general community define itself.

My husband, Darwin, says that SD has an inferiority complex. This is bad in itself but also produces some bad behaviors. Some people self aggrandize to build ego. (Am I guilty of this? I hope not but I have been accused.) They can become territorial and combative instead of collaborative. My stance has always been that we have to pull together to create a tide that raises all boats.

Luis Ituarte described us as an area “under construction trying to find out who we are.” We have turned north to LA, but can also turn south to the “fire of TJ” as Perry Vasquez suggested. I would like to see SD defined community by community and not branded in a big corporate way. That is not to say I don’t appreciate the appeal of branding. Pierrette Van Cleve volunteered her expertise on the high end art market, but missed the point that most of those present were at the event seeking community not a ticket to ride. But I certainly appreciate her effort to attend and participate even if her views were labeled by one as fascism! I am sorry that excitement was at her expense, but at least it was controversy which was otherwise too lacking. I was expecting to be grilled for choosing Movers and Shakers and promoting Art Stars. But I got off lightly.

Robert Pincus and Pierrette agreed that art collectors in SD lack confidence to buy here. I don’t think we did enough to address that problem. Certainly it was mentioned that Museums are not doing enough to support new talent. We would like to see a curators open competition established to suggest shows outside of the white box. Lynn Susholtz called this “curator wars”. I would also like to see collectors wars with a competition and a cash award for the best compilation of art work. There are not enough professional art galleriest. Kyle Forbes did suggest privately that as a non artist he was surprised how non-inclusive artist were. He thinks there is a grass roots yearning for artists to speak directly to potential patrons. Galleries struggle with this we know. Artists do too little to help market their own work and need to make better work and raise the bar higher. And yes, I agree that making good art is not enough. Too bad, but true.

But it was Philly Joe Swendoza’s constant call to those present to get off their duffs and do something that rang true to many all night long. David White’s remarks that “all the things we hate are also our opportunities” was so hopeful and his closing reminder to “not be afraid to fail” are engraved on most artist hearts but still needed to be stated and expanded to include community projects as well as the art itself.

Kevin Freitas was extending a conversation that started on Art As Authority with this panel. Robert Pincus agreed to be present as this was also a discussion they were having privately. Now you are invited to join in if you wish. There are those that observe, those that complain and then those that do. Which are you?

Here are my notes. I hope you let us hear from you.

  1. In your opinion what are the problems with the San Diego Art Scene?
    Jealousy over funding and contacts holding back collaborations.
    There are not enough collaborations to show the strength of the visual arts in SD to the great mass of disinterested casual observers.
    Artists wait for galleries to build a market. Instead, a partnership should be created between artists and galleries to promote art.
    Art Associations are not educating artists on marketing and concentrating on building audience.
    A lack of curators hunting out artists of excellence and producing exhibitions of their art. This is one of the reason it is hard to discover new talent. Who is looking for it?
    There are too many boring juried shows where the fees finance the show.
    There is massively uncreative programming from the arts administrators at city and county levels and lack of collaboration amongst them so they are constantly each reinventing the wheel.
    Obviously there is a lack of funding for arts education in the schools.
    The attempts to involve the corporate world in the arts are too few and far too ineffectual.
    Finally, networking opportunities for artist are lacking.

  2. Why do we stay in San Diego?
    There is incredible artistic freedom which I compare to the Wild West.
    No one is really watching what artists here do which means anything goes.
    If someone like me can come and help create the SDVAN visual resource in just 10 years, the sky is the limit for young entrepreneurs with energy and creative ideas.

  3. How do we get more/better/diverse art coverage from the media? / What should the arts be asking of our writers?
    I would like to see more curated shows of excellence with intriguing themes which attract a new audience.
    We need to encourage any good writer to write about the arts.
    Museums and Universities should give more awards for art writers. We discovered and encouraged two art writers from the Vision to Page competition. Students are also a good source of art writing which is untapped.
    More online interviews and videos (new technology) featuring artists and reviewing shows are needed and could be the breakthrough to a new audience.

  4. What sells in SD? How does market affect what is made here?
    Works made by children to their parents, highly discounted art at charity art auctions, art made by an artist sold to another artists (luckily we have artist with money) and a few commercial galleries who know their clientele have survived from selling art.
    What could sell here might be a better question? Icons of the youth culture and art as status symbols if we could convince the rich that local art is a status symbol.
    I do not think that any honest artist seriously thinks about what sells. And most do not have a clue what sells. Making art is a calling. If a few artists are only concerned about marketing and have some success, this is not prevalent or interesting to me except as a phenomenon.

  5. What can we do to make the art scene better?
    Sharing contacts through more collaborations instead of withholding that information would be a good start.
    Artists should learn to understand how to be professional and help galleries to build a market
    New Galleries should be correctly financed to survive the seven years it take to break even.
    Underground art spaces should be supported as they help enormously to build community.
    I would like to see each museums holding at least one open submission for curated shows which showcase artists of excellence.
    If the various City Arts Commissions/Board could form some sort of an Association it might go a long way to creating synergy and build projects across the county.
    Corporate funding for arts education in the schools needs to be coupled with corporations receiving recognition for this effort.
    More and better parties and not just because life is often too serious but because that is where artists usually network, relationships are started and people discuss art.

Patricia Frischer, coordinator, San Diego Visual Arts Network 760.943.0148

Your can now see the entire panel on video by Lynn Susholtz and transcribed for UTube by Katherine Sweetmen. Enormous thanks to both for the time and effort.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Economy and Affordable Live/Work Spaces

The Economy and Affordable Live/Work Spaces

In this time of economic downturn, the Arts are seen as a way to revitalize communities by creating audience, involving our children, protecting and valuing cultural heritage, and reaching out to community to participate in projects. The Arts metaphorically till the earth in preparation for financial growth.

SDVAN is lucky to be one of the few non-profits confident we can maintain all of our programs with no cut backs. We budget with existing funds and not projected ones. We have found that the financial climate has made it easier to form collaboration, which is one of our major goals. We have a loyal base of volunteers which remain excited and dedicated. In fact, we see this as an excellent time to widen our scope and influence and show how important the visual arts are to our community. The county wide
Little & Large promotion is a perfect example of this growth.

Affordable Live/Work Spaces
Abridged and adapted from an Article by
Kelly Bennett for Voice of San Diego

We see it time and time again. Artists move into an area which is affordable for them which usually means quite low rents. They energize the community, draw crowds which draw new businesses. Then property prices go up and the artists can no longer afford to live in that community and have to move on.

Naomi Nussbaum of
The Synergy Art Foundation, and Mario Torero, a Chicano Park artist could see this pattern repeating it self and decided to form a project BL./EV (for Barrio Logan/East Village and pronounced as Believe) to try to build up this area for artists and make sure that when they succeeded in creating a new art district, artist might remain long term. Cheryl Nickel joined the group as an artist also passionate about this cause.

Earlier this year this core group joined with the North Park and El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement/Arts Districts who are also interested in affordable artist and arts organization space. With funding from the
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) the fee was paid for ArtSpace, a non-profit property development organization out of Philadelphia to speak about their organization. Many ideas were generated at this meeting and although ArtSpace is a rather expensive choice for property development, their format for encouraging creative centers could be adapted for San Diego.

The BL/EV group wants to take a lead in creating permanent, affordable artist live/work space to attract and keep artists in their downtowns. There are a variety of ways this can happen and each would evolve organically and in accordance with the needs of the artists involved.:

  • Fixed lower rents subsidized by city, state, federal (tax credit not taken advantage of yet in our county), and private funds.
  • Lease to own options for those wanting to invest and reap the benefits,
  • Family options and Cooperatives

    Beyond work/live space there could be other facilities including the following examples:
  • An exhibition space, a performance space, perhaps even a community organic garden.
  • A community center or even a specialized museum to acknowledge the cultural heritage of the community.
  • Artists' support services such as . printing facilities, recording studios, framing shop, etc.
  • Other creative enterprises which support local small-scale economic development, mass transit, and emphasizing local character.
  • Affordable low-income housing would be part of the centers, thus helping retain the socioeconomic and ethnic character.

    Although the initial focus is the Barrio Logan East Village district, those nearby urban areas such as North Park, El Cajon Blvd., City Heights are all areas where these plans could be seeded. Elsewhere in the county, for example El Cajon, San Ysidro, Encinitas, Vista, Oceanside, there is also an interest in creating arts districts.

    The results of these creative centers would be increased community pride and economic growth. For poorer neighborhoods, this means artists need an opportunity to grow economically with the creative businesses in their neighborhoods. For more affluent areas, artists can help to renew creative elements in neighborhoods, bring appreciation of local character and culture, assure aesthetic quality, support economic development and aid with arts education. These are all core needs of the creative class (as described by Richard Florida), which comprises about one-third of the work force in the most successful cities and is the sector that will define successful, dynamic cities of the future,

    Our biggest challenge is the high cost to rent or purchase space together with the limits spent on art in San Diego, which help support artists with sales of art. San Diego government and civic leaders must realize that the best investments in the future are not giant ballparks, but are the much less costly, much more cost effective investments in supporting the creative economy.