In my home, art is personal.
Each piece is a quiet reminder for me to smile to myself or contemplate the world. Sometimes both. Outside of my home, art is community. We gather around it to consider, collectively, another human’s ideas made manifest. Museums aside, I look for spaces that cultivate communities — of artists, of students, of appreciators — and allow us the opportunity to come together and celebrate our humanity.
1439 El Prado, Balboa Park
San Diego Art Institute
This artist-run nonprofit organization was barely a blip on my radar before last year, when New York transplant Ginger Shulick Porcella took over as executive director. Now the 10,000-square-foot gallery is art-party central, housing events that showcase live music and a diverse selection of works from contemporary regional artists. With guest curators, workshops, concerts, and mixed-media events, sometimes the most exciting part about walking through the doors and down the stairs is the impossibility of knowing what to expect, with the assurance that whatever I find will be new and interesting.
103 S. Main Avenue, Fallbrook
Fallbrook Art Center
There’s something wonderful about perusing world-class works of art without the side of pretension that, unfortunately, tends to come with the moneyed, and quite exclusionary “art world.” Under the art-savvy eye of longtime executive director Mary Perhacs, regional, national, and internationally known visual artists are cycled through, and emerging artists are expertly escorted into the spotlight. Here, you’ll find museum-quality work in a museum-quality space at affordable “everyday art lover” prices. There’s also a gift shop stocked with fun and unique items and the Café des Artistes, where you can sit and grab a snack with coffee or glass of wine.
200 E. 12th Street, National City
A Reason to Survive (ARTS)
Art feels best when its purpose is noble, such as “healing, inspiring, and empowering youth facing adversity.” At ARTS, troubled kids are given opportunity and resources to creatively express themselves. The immense center is colorful and lively, filled with the creations of the students it serves, kids who have taken workshops on visual, industrial, literary, music, performing, media, and even culinary arts. Founder and CEO Matt D’Arrigo works to help young artists become “compassionate, creative human beings who make a difference not only in themselves, but in the world they live in.”
4610 Park Boulevard, University Heights
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
Many events at this co-working space, or “club for the creative,” are open to the public, but not just anyone can rent the space for a party. Events are produced by the club’s diverse membership, comprising artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs of all kinds. Owner and founder Peter McConnell lives for the enrichment and stimulation his creative members provide. In this space, I have experienced art exhibitions, film screenings, live music, and even a shodo (Japanese calligraphy) performance. McConnell considers himself, and all his members, a “Hmmanist,” as in those who say, “Hmmm to possibilities.”
725 West Broadway, Downtown San Diego
SDSU Downtown Gallery
I used to go straight to the source, the School of Art and Design at San Diego State University, to check out (and purchase) amazing artwork from the latest crop of masters of fine arts students. But those shows are only as frequent as the end of semesters. So, in between thesis shows, we can still connect with the school at its satellite gallery where work by faculty artists are more likely to be seen than that of students. With the once-a-month event Downtown at Sundown, the gallery (in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art) offers free admission and guided tours of both Downtown Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located right around the corner.
540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas
Encinitas Library Gallery
With an open floor plan that includes wooden beams and huge glass windows that provide a view of the ocean, and a giant patio lined with vibrant fuchsia bougainvillea, the Encinitas Library is a work of art in and of itself. Just inside the entrance is the 3-D exhibition area, with six lighted exhibition cases to display artwork. Further inside is the Community Room/Art Gallery, in which free concerts, artist demonstrations, and art exhibitions are held. And perhaps the best part, 100 percent of the sales go straight to the artists.
530 Sixth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
Artists love a great exhibition space, and the Sterling Hardware Building from some of San Diego’s earliest days (1924) fits the bill. Hardwood floors and beams complement the red brick walls and black steel fixtures of the historically renovated interior. What’s even more interesting, though, is the art to be found within these walls. Named for its owner and curator, Sonya Sparks, the collection is eclectic, from jewelry and ceramic to sculptures, mixed media, and, of course, paintings and photography by the local and loved, as well as the internationally renowned.