There aren’t enough public parks and community meeting spaces in San Ysidro, but an influx of cash will fund two cool new projects for the historically underserved community that butts the international border.

A $450,000 grant will help pay for the transformation of a historic church and its adjacent parking lot into a community center and outdoor urban park and event space.

Casa Familiar, a nonprofit that serves southern San Diego County, and UCSD’s Center on Global Justice, partnered up on the project. They won the grant from ArtPlace America, a collaboration of foundations, federal agencies and financial institutions that funds “creative placemaking” efforts, or projects that involve using arts, culture and creativity to cheaply and quickly improve the urban environment.

The old church will become El Salon, and the parking lot will be branded as the Casa Patio Project.

Casa Familiar has been trying to develop the church site into a community center and housing project with the help of UCSD’s Teddy Cruz for over a decade.

“We were trying to move the project forward as an affordable housing development project, but we kind of said we are really, really trying every policy and every financing mechanism in order to move this forward as a housing project, but it’s not happening,” said Casa Familiar’s development director, David Flores. “So we said, let’s just flip this whole thing on its head and let’s focus on building the community spaces first, because that’s what’s really exciting to new philanthropists.”


We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?

Flores said the projects will get under way as soon as next month and will likely be completed by 2018.

The spaces will be in addition to Casa Familiar’s nearby venue The Front, a fine art gallery that holds a few exhibitions a year. The Front used to be more active, but Casa Famliar underwent big budget cuts in 2014 and the arts and culture programming has yet to fully bounce back. Flores said El Salon and the Casa Patio Project will build on the programming already happening at The Front.

“We really see very diverse community art and culture projects happening at the space, where we can transform it into a theater, we can transform it into a Saturday event with the community, or use it as an additional gallery or for an arts workshop,” he said. “This is more about how do we activate more social interaction in San Ysidro?”

Flores said the hope is to find invested community members who could become stewards of the two new venues and help Casa Familiar and the Center on Global Justice run and manage the spaces and get more people from the neighborhood involved.

In the meantime, Flores said he and Cruz will continue working on getting an affordable housing project built near the church.

“In the future, I think we can leverage this investment, these two interesting community projects, and build the housing next to it,” he said.

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Where’s the Art in the IDEA District?

I went looking for art and culture in a section of the East Village that’s been envisioned as a future innovation, design, education and arts district: Here’s what I found.

The IDEA District is a plan put together by two private developers who are currently building their first project there. It isn’t part of any official city plans, though, which means the 13 projects currently being planned or built in the district can either follow the lofty ethos laid out in the plan, or ignore it.

The one thing I couldn’t find anywhere in the IDEA District was any solid guarantee that artists and other creatives without a lot of money will be able to afford to live or work there.

In terms of public art planned for the neighborhood, there are a handful of private developers who aren’t required by the city’s public art policy to include it in their projects, but are adding art anyway. Only one project of about 30 in the entire East Village actually triggers the city’s public art policy, which is geared toward office space, not the mixed-use residential/commercial projects being built.

Rendering courtesy of Carrier Johnson
Rendering courtesy of Carrier Johnson
The public art elements planned for one of the Makers Quarter projects

There are several existing murals and a few pieces of built or planned art in the IDEA District that didn’t make it into my story. There’s the city’s “Fault Whisper” pieces at Fault Line Park and a coming installation by artist Mark Reigelman planned for East Village Green, a public park that will replace a parking lot at 13th and F streets.

And Brent Schertzer, who works with Holland Partner Group, the development company behind the project in the IDEA District at Park Boulevard and Market Street that will replace the Quartyard, called me after the story ran to tell me that project plan includes a public plaza that’ll be programmed with cultural events. Schertzer said the project will also include 85 low-income units that many artists could afford.

Schertzer also said Holland just sold Form 15, a building at the edge of the IDEA District on 15th and Market. Outside and inside that building are various art elements, including a collage of items from Bob Sinclair’s personal collection of art and artifacts from old industrial machines. Sinclair is often thought of as the father of the East Village since he bought and preserved many of the neighborhood’s old buildings before he died in 2011.

Sinclair’s vast collection, by the way, still sits in an old warehouse in the East Village. Many folks have suggested that the proposed 14th Street Promenade project and other future public art projects in the neighborhood should incorporate Sinclair’s eclectic collection.

• Here’s some insight on my story from an artist in the IDEA District who’s being displaced by the development boom.

Goodbye Matthew Mahoney, La Jolla Music Society’s New Home and Other Arts and Culture News

• If you missed last Saturday’s panel discussion about the health of San Diego’s art scene, the full audio from the talk is here.

• Matthew J. Mahoney was too young to die. The former San Diego artist, who moved to New York to continue his art career, recently passed away unexpectedly. The San Diego Art Institute is holding a celebration of his life on Saturday. SDAI is also renaming its artist residency program after Mahoney. The sculptor, who turned discarded materials into whimsical, wild worlds, was the artist-in-residence at SDAI in 2015.

• Vanguard Culture covers arts and culture events happening in San Diego. The outlet has a new office, and you’re invited to check it out this week.

• The La Jolla Music Society broke ground on what will be its new permanent home. (La Jolla Light)

• The U-T’s Karla Peterson investigated Fleet Science Center’s new “Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery” interactive-mystery exhibit.

Patricia Frischer wrote about San Diego artist John Dillemuth and his exhibition showing at the Oceanside Museum Of Art through July 2. (Visual Arts Network)

The inaugural San Diego Film Week is under way.

San Diego poet, writer and art critic David Antin died in October. A memorial for Antin was held recently in Los Angeles, and the artist and husband/wife team Debby and Larry Kline created a special performance piece based on his writings that they presented at the event.

• Join a combat veteran panel discussion and art show happening at the University of San Diego.

• The Old Globe is partnering with other Balboa Park institutions, local artists and scientists in events that bring to life some of the themes in Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” showing at the theater through March 12.

KPBS’s art expert Nina Garin lists a few of her favorite venues.

My husband’s birthday is in October, but it took me until this past weekend to finally deliver on my promise to take him to see a musical (yup, he’s a fan). I think La Jolla Playhouse’s “Freaky Friday” was worth the wait, and it looks like other San Diegans agree, since the play was just extended through March 19 due to high demand. (U-T)

• Italian-born artist Italo Scanga, who died in 2001, is one of the region’s best-known artists. A La Jolla gallery is showing for the first time some of Scanga’s work that’s been locked away in storage since the artist’s death.

• The folks behind Encinitas’ “Surfing Madonna” mosaic are working on a new public art project. (U-T)

• KPBS has the details on a study looking at the impacts of incorporating the arts into other areas of learning.

• Richard Gleaves wrote a review of Sandow Birk’s recent “Depravities & Monuments” exhibition that was staged at San Diego State University’s Downtown Gallery. (Art and Cake) A new exhibition is opening at SDSU’s Downtown Gallery this week.

• Inventive choral group SACRA/PROFANA has put together a concert featuring African American music from slavery to the Civil Rights movement.

• UCSD professor Harold Cohen, who died last year, once made a computer that could paint, raising all kinds of hard questions about the nature of creativity. An exhibition of his artwork in opening at the university this week.

• This collage and assemblage show at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library looks like a good one.

• I’m glad to see that art is continuing to be added to Tijuana’s Pasaje Rodriguez, an old alleyway that was revamped a few years back.

Food, Beer and Booze News

• Portside Pier, a three-restaurant project by Brigantine Restaurants that’s meant to replace Anthony’s Fish Grotto on the embarcadero, ran up against some hurdles. (U-T)

The founder of San Diego-based Eclipse Chocolate won Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games.” (U-T)

• The new Pendry San Diego hotel sounds like a good place for a food and drink-filled staycation. (Eater San Diego)

• I don’t really know what this Taco Fights series I keep seeing on Instagram is, but it sounds delicious.

• Check out all of San Diego’s 137 breweries written in chalk on one wall. (The Brew Project)

• Food delivery services are the secret to eating crappy food without shame. (San Diego Magazine)

• Remember Saska’s in Mission Beach? Welp, it’s back.

• San Diego CityBeat rounded up a few of the region’s most underrated breweries.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Matthew J. Mahoney’s last name.

Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at kinsee@vosd.org. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

    This article relates to: Arts/Culture, Corrections, Culture Report, Must Reads, Public Art

    Written by Kinsee Morlan

    Kinsee Morlan is the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. Contact her directly at kinsee.morlan@voiceofsandiego.org. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe to her podcast.

    1 comments
    John H Borja
    John H Borja subscriber

    What do the people at Casa Familiar really want to accomplish with a dilapidated old building on Hall in San Ysidro? That street is very narrow and lends itself to a residential milieu, not an invitation for cultural celebration. The homeless situation in San Ysidro is severe. At least, 30 percent of enrolled children in San Ysidro are homeless. There are more and more elderly that are destitute. And, most of these people do not have an immigration problem. 

    The young need more places to socialize and drain their energies in positive ways. And, the young make up a huge portion of the population in San Ysidro. The issues in San Ysidro are huge and disturbing an already highly impacted neighborhood will not help anything. It just seems that an "art" focus is poorly conceived. After all, this is not a well healed community a la Marina or Russian Hill districts of San Francisco. Art is wonderful and should be promoted. But, the gentrification of San Ysidro is not the answer to these huge social problems.