“I don’t wanna build this thing and then charge fancy rents,” Robert Leather, co-founder of Space 4 Art , said Thursday at a community forum.
The longstanding nonprofit, which — as its name suggests — provides workshop and living space for artists, opened up its existing facility in San Diego’s East Village 10 years ago, but in 2016 drastically cut back  its available studio space and the entirety of the gallery space after the building was sold. The Space 4 Art crew had already purchased a plot of land in Sherman Heights with the hopes of building its permanent home.
Approximately 50 curious community members and artists gathered in Space 4 Art’s original gallery location, now operated by The Sandbox as an event venue, to discuss updates on the new building and gather surveys and intent-to-rent forms.
“I don’t want to hear stories of you moving to Tijuana or Carlsbad or L.A.,” said Jonathon Glus, Commission for the Arts and Culture director, at the end of his brief comments.
Glus spoke at length to Voice of San Diego in December  on his aims for the Commission for Arts and Culture, and reiterated last week the points he’d made then: Housing is essential to a culture ecosystem, and the mayor is committed to maintaining current levels of arts funding. While many would consider Tijuana or Carlsbad natural extensions of a metropolitan San Diego art scene, Glus’ comment illustrates a perceived need for a vital central arts hub.
The San Diego Housing Foundation’s Stephen Russell, one of several guest speakers, set the tone for the night, providing hard and critical data regarding the city’s relationship with both housing development and the arts.
“We are short about 75,000 housing units,” Russell said. And given that, unlike 50 years ago, when he first moved to San Diego, there is no more new land upon which to build, plus the shifting of development priorities and public perception of makeshift, DIY spaces, he said: “Naturally affordable spaces don’t exist.”
Russell, however, applauded Space 4 Art’s aim. “Here’s a chance to support a project that’s looking at the purpose, not the economic purpose, but the purpose of space and the purpose of culture,” he said.
Average monthly rents in San Diego are approaching $2,000 , according to the Union-Tribune. Finding an affordable place to live — to say nothing of performance or workshop space — will determine whether individuals or groups can continue working on art full or even part time, or send them to another city.
During a slideshow that showcased the structure’s variety of live/work and work-only spaces , Leather — who is also the project’s primary architect — highlighted the rents for each unit. A one-bedroom unit with a large studio workspace and kitchen, plus a loft bedroom and bathroom and deck overlooking the city and the bay, would run $970 a month. The room erupted into applause. Larger or co-living spaces would mean different rates, of course. Several much larger units with internal elevators and other accessibility options would run over $2,000. Some work-only units, including larger, shared studios, will be around $330 per month.
Eventually, the conversation shifted to government-funded affordable housing programs. Space 4 Art is not seeking federally funded Section 8 affordable housing funding because it requires concessions that limit the ability of organizations to define “artist.” Or rather, it broadens the definition to include professions like nail art.
Space 4 Art Executive Director Jennifer De Poyen said she wants the artistic community in San Diego to self-define what counts as the art they’d like to support. The building, however, is designed for multidisciplinary use, with metal- and wood shops, sound-proof studios, an auditorium with proposed full-stage support (lighting, sound, greenroom, etc.), classrooms, pop-up gallery spaces, dance facilities and large event space.
Leather also pointed out that the rents — low for 2019 standards — are secured for the Sherman Heights building for remove ready, in three years’ time. Construction begins in a year and a half.
A New Spin on Coffee House Music, Triage for The Book Catapult and More News for the Culture Crowd
- Exciting news from UCSD’s department of theater and dance this week. Three playwrights — alums Emily Feldman and Lily Padilla, and one current MFA student, David Harris — were selected for the Humana Festival of New American plays . The works will premiere in March. Harris’ play, “Everybody Black” will also open at UCSD March 8.
- We’re all rooting for The Book Catapult’s Seth Marko. The way the bookseller community rallied behind the shop after Marko underwent emergency heart surgery has attracted some national press . (Publishers Weekly)
- There’s an Augmented and Virtual Reality Festival  at the Fleet on Saturday.
- Breakthrough is Vanguard Culture’s quarterly spoken word soiree , themed around a historical era. Saturday’s event at Bread & Salt (rainy day plan) is Roaring Twenties-themed and produced in collaboration with poet Gill Sotu.
- On Sunday, San Diego writer Keith McCleary  celebrates the first of many upcoming “book-in-hand” events after the release of his novel, “Circus + The Skin” at NOW 51 , alongside Los Angeles poet and cartoonist TM Lawson.
- At the Diversionary Theatre, “The Hour of Great Mercy”  opens Thursday and runs through March 3. It checks a lot of boxes for me: emerging playwright, post-church existential wandering, arctic isolation.
- Dark Horse Coffee, now four locations strong with a fifth coming soon to Chula Vista , also has a record label. Late last year, it put out its debut release, the Petty Saints “Wild Young Love” EP . I recently listened and it slaps, as the kids say.
- The annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea  takes place Monday through Thursday, featuring workshops and evening presentations from visiting writers like fantasy, sci-fi and magical realism author Nnedi Okorafor, who is known for penning Marvel’s “Black Panther” and “Wakanda Forever” comics.
- Eva Struble and Scott Polach’s joint show at Sparks Gallery , a landscape-based mixed-media show as part of the ongoing “Convergence” exhibition closes on Sunday.
- Tim Shaw’s stunning “Beyond Reason” installation at SDMA  closes on Feb. 24. There’s luckily even a Residents Free Tuesday  remaining next week (SDMA is free to San Diego city/county residents with ID every third Tuesday of the month), though as a special exhibition, you’ll need to pay the extra $3 to access the Tim Shaw rooms.
Food, Beer, Booze and Cannabis News
- Hundred Proof is hosting a Valentine’s Day pop-up called “Rare Hearts,”  which boasts six (!) cocktails, each with an aphrodisiac ingredient, but my question is how are people supposed to drink six cocktails.
- Also on Valentine’s Day, Seven Grand combines creepy stuff and love and whiskey . Sounds normal.
- I was already thoroughly enjoying this Tacoma, Washington, news piece about the prominent use of french fries as a “San Diego Mexican food” calling card , and then suddenly it starts name-dropping legitimate former-Bertos staffers and quoting the ubiquitous CityBeat food critic Michael Gardiner. (The News Tribune)
- The San Diego Fermentation Festival  is this Sunday. Demos, lectures, workshops, DIY fermentation, wellness stuff, and of course, lots of beverages.
- CityBeat’s Love and Sex issue  has a couple of cannabis-meets-romance pieces. Maybe when you’re not using your office internet, click on the surprisingly pragmatic “Getting Cannabusy, ” about cannabis products and the research about its impact on … getting busy.
What’s Inspiring Me Right Now
- Triangle House Review just published a fantastically weird and sad short story, “Love Triptych ,” by Sarah Rose Etter, whose work I love. And the relatively new-on-the-scene Triangle House also consistently puts out amazing work. Opening line: “We removed our heads to achieve a new level of intimacy. I read about it in the magazines, and I thought we should try.”
- The San Diego City Clerk has a phenomenally comprehensive digital archive of these street videos , from 1970. I especially loved coming down the Texas Street hill into Mission Valley and seeing … green pastures. Sorry about the hour you just lost watching all the streets you’ve ever lived on.