Ruby Room outdoor art murals facing threat of removal on Monday

On Monday Nov. 5, Hillcrest's live music and art showcase may go from psychedelic to slate gray

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by Jay Allen Sanford

The outdoor mural paintings covering the exterior of the http://www.sandiegoreader.com/places/ruby-room/">Ruby Room in Hillcrest have been up for less than two years, and yet operators say the property owners want the artwork removed.

"My heart is broken right now," says Ruby Room co-owner Brittni Leigh Cute. "So many places in our neighborhood have turned to murals on their walls since we did ours." Nearby businesses who've since incorporated outdoor artwork include Filter Coffee House, the Crest Cafe, Urban Outfitters, LIV Juice Bar, and even longtime Hillcrest landmark the Alibi.

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by Jay Allen Sanford

Though primarily a live music venue and bar, the RR has carved a unique co-operative niche with local artists, incorporating events like live art demonstrations and local art showcases into their already-offbeat nightclub template.

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by Jay Allen Sanford

The artwork covering the venue's exterior was painted by Alex Julian (http://www.facebook.com/alextheartist">http://www.facebook.com/alextheartist). "He has been a part of the Ruby Room's artist community since our doors opened four years ago," says Cute. "He does live art and shows his work here on a regular basis...he specializes in comic book art, airbrush, murals, and computer generated animation."

The club leases the locale situated on University Avenue, and the property owner has control of the exterior. "I must say though that our property owner has been very generous and very good to us over the years," says Cute. "They have been very fair and supportive of us."

However, "The owner of the property is the one who suggested the mural's removal. Because of the recent closing and gutting of The Range, the business that was located directly in front us, the property is now vacant and in disrepair. It's my understanding that the property owner is trying to find an easy fix or enhancement of the building's curbside appeal...they want to make improvements on the property, and we suggested some other things [aside from the mural] that could be focused on."

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by Jay Allen Sanford

Cute notes that "Murals in San Diego are sparse and just now gaining momentum in comparison to cities like San Francisco. I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder on this one. I see a beautiful vibrant piece of art in the middle of a community that embraces it."

The proposed new Ruby Room exterior color scheme would be slate grey.

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by Jay Allen Sanford

"The mural is something that I had envisioned from the very beginning, and I've always loved Alex's whimsical, colorful, and lighthearted style," says Cute. "The concept of the mural was mine, and he brought that vision to light. It took four weeks to complete. The mural has been named 'The Ruby City,' with an ode to my favorite film The Wizard of Oz. Each character represents key players within The Ruby Room." Below is Cute's illustrated cameo in the mural.

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by Jay Allen Sanford

"The main goals with its creation were to gain excitement for the local arts, create something enticing for people to come and see that may have shied away from before -- [Our] dark building down an alley was intimidating to some -- and to make our vibrant community a more beautiful place."

According to Ruby Room operators, they've only received one complaint about the mural since its creation almost two years ago, which Cute says came from "A nuisance neighbor that has perpetually complained about various aspects of the business. He is actually my next-door neighbor as well. Complaints have ranged from noise issues, issues with our signage, structural issues with our gate. On a personal level, he has done things such as calling animal control saying that I abuse my pets, and that my husband threatened him with a weapon, all of which are not only ridiculous accusations, but also untrue. I have taken him to court to get a restraining order [but] that is a whole different story and fight."

As for the outdoor artwork, Cute says "City Code Compliance has been out to investigate the mural and deemed it art, not graffiti."

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by Jay Allen Sanford

Cute is herself a working artist whose creations can be found at http://www.bcutephotography.com">http://www.bcutephotography.com. "It was my vision when opening the Ruby Room to facilitate the growth of local art within our community by bringing to light the brilliant but unseen, giving people within the arts the opportunity to follow their dream, and to open doors for people that may have been closed. The mural has been a huge part in fulfilling this vision. I like to think we are more of a cultural venue supporting the growth of both the visual and musical arts in San Diego."

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by Jay Allen Sanford

"We did not just want to be a venue where you come in and have a cocktail; we wanted something more then that. We wanted something that was fun, interactive, and inspiring."

"Everyone needs a little color in their life right now. We are already living in pretty dark times."

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by Jay Allen Sanford

The artwork could be covered in gray paint as soon as Monday, November 5. Cute posted a notice on Facebook requesting feedback on the situation, resulting in over a hundred responses, most all of them in favor of KEEPING the mural intact.

"I've written a letter to our property owner and included the responses to the idea of its removal. Hopefully, I will hear back from her today."

Anyone wishing to have their own messages forwarded to the property owner as well can send messages to [email protected].

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by Jay Allen Sanford

Several local musicians have already weighed in on the paint-over proposal, including http://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/chad-cavanaugh/">Chad Cavanaugh. "That's ridiculous! Why paint over it? That what I loved about San Francisco is that they have murals painted in buildings all over the city and, from what I've been told, it keeps the taggers away. Why is San Diego, as a city, constantly trying to remain in the dark ages on so many levels?"

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by Jay Allen Sanford

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/tori-roze-hot-mess/">Tori Roze, who produced the Female Fronted Bands concert series at the Ruby Room: "Leave it! It's a marker of heart, soul, love, and investment as a community."

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by Jay Allen Sanford

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/cover-me-badd/">Adam Gimbel: "In all honesty, I was not thrilled when I heard you were doing it. I've seen plenty of murals and I can't think of anytime I've ever liked one. Ouch. But i was really impressed with the style and, of course, it was a blast finding you all in it. Hope you win the fight."

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by Jay Allen Sanford

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/london-below/">Zoe Tantrum: "Keep it! Or...swap it out once a year with new art. But don't look like everyone else please! Part of what makes Ruby Room special is its punk rock attitude it's maintained regarding art and music. Don't let that go!"

Here's footage of the Reader's own Overheard and Famous in San Diego comic strip art show at the Ruby Room, set to the "Overheard in San Diego" comic strip theme song as performed that evening (for the first time ever in concert!) by songwriters http://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/cathryn-beeks/">Cathryn Beeks and http://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/sven-erik-seaholm/">Sven-Erik Seaholm and shot and edited by videographer Duane Dimock.

Comments

Anyone wishing to have their opinions heard RE the artwork removal should send their comments to the email addy provided ASAP - the entire mural could be covered up with gray paint as soon as Monday, November 5.

I believe strongly that the success of a civilization can best be repusinted by its art through murals and architecture. If you look back throughout history you will take note that this is true. I am relived that the graph police deemed my art non-graffiti though I do see some beautiful painted pieces around town and it would only be ignorant of me not to appreciate them as art. They are beautiful and inspiring. When I painted Cut's Vision of the mural I was inspired by live music. You can see the inspiration in warm colors and fluent lines. If the mater of this topic knowing now that the city has approved it, is a mater of taste, then it is time for a new mural and let a new artist shine. To paint the mural gray would be like painting its environment depressing. A) Keep the mural B) Paint new mural that property owner likes. This is the average response.

"Just got word that the mural stays," reports Brittni Leigh Cute at the Ruby Room. "Thanks to everyone for all your support. Long live local art!"

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