Culture Report: Writerz Blok's Future Comes Into Focus
Peter Fink toured the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge ahead of his dramatic light project, landowners who lease space for community gardens are about to get a tax break and more in this week’s roundup of the region’s arts and culture news.
Writerz Blok is ready for its reboot.
The graffiti park in Chollas View has been closed since last fall. Its parking lot is still closed and razor wire has been mounted atop the chain-link fence, but a soft reopening is now tentatively planned for this spring.
The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, the nonprofit that runs the art park, has tapped the San Diego Cultural Arts Alliance to help run the outdoor venue — which hosts festivals and music concerts — and its programs. The alliance will partner with Jose Venegas, one of the artists who’s been with Writerz Blok since its founding.
Since 1999, Writerz Blok has served youth in southeastern San Diego and other parts of the city by channeling illegal graffiti into more productive art skills. Artists like Venegas and Sergio Gonzalez ran the park for years as a legal space for kids and others to practice graffiti art. The Writerz Blok team also offered training in graphic design and screen-printing.
Linda Sheridan, the founder of San Diego Cultural Arts Alliance, said alongside a physical redesign of the park intended to make the space safer and more open, she and Venegas will be making some program changes in an effort to reach a broader audience.
“It’s a time to recreate and raise the bar and make this something that appeals to many and not just a few,” Sheridan said.
She said the San Diego Cultural Arts Alliance’s mission aligns well with Writerz Blok. She started the alliance as a nonprofit that helps kids caught doing graffiti find legal ways to express themselves through art. The nonprofit runs a mural art program and a diversion program for the county’s juvenile probation department. For years, Sheridan has been pushing city and state officials to let her turn a graffiti-covered underpass in Mission Valley into a legal art park much like Writerz Blok.
Last Thursday, Venegas and Sheridan opened Writerz Blok’s locked gates for a group of female middle-school students from a private religious school in La Jolla, were they’re enrolled in a street-art class. Even though the art park is still closed, it’s occasionally made available to student groups and some visiting artists who want to paint a piece while they’re in San Diego.
Sheridan said while she and Venegas are still hammering out the details of the relaunch, they know they want to introduce more formal mentorships at Writerz Blok, use the venue for the alliance’s juvenile diversionary program and start more classes designed to prevent kids from getting in trouble in the first place. She said they’re also exploring how to develop a new social enterprise that would borrow business strategies and help Writerz Blok eventually become financially secure and independent.
“We can continue to teach the youth, but also run as a business,” Venegas said. “It’s always been our ultimate goal to be self-sustaining.”
Part of the plan is to figure out how to make the art park mobile since the longterm future of the Writerz Blok site is uncertain. Like the rest of the land the Jacobs Center owns, the art park is slated for redevelopment. The land will likely become home to a residential housing project in the next few years.
Sheridan and Venegas said they’re working on a long-term solution.
“We’re thinking about how could we pick it up and take it anywhere,” Sheridan said. “We want to create a template and make it transferable.
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
Concerns Over Bridge Lighting Art Project, and More Culture News
• Peter Fink recently toured the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. He’s the British artist selected by the Port of San Diego for a public art project to dramatically light the bridge. VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga talked to some people who think officials should first do something to stave off the number of suicides off Coronado bridge before proceeding with the lighting project. One critic feared the lighting would attract even more people to jump from the iconic site.
• A former floral delivery truck driver-turned-opera singer is just one of the stars singing in San Diego Opera’s staging of “Turandot.” (Union-Tribune)
• On Friday evening, Barrios Hermanos, a group that promotes cultural connections between neighborhoods in Tijuana and San Diego, is hosting a pop-up exhibition featuring art by Tijuana-born Jorge Tellaeche and prolific Mexican street artist Rod Villa at the Rose Wine Bar in South Park. (Times of San Diego)
• City Heights-based Fern Street Circus was one of eight programs included in a recent study that looked at the impact of circus programs for at-risk children. (KPBS)
• CityBeat rounded up a few cultural events to help you celebrate Black History Month and Black Solidarity Week.
• If you like the “MythBusters” TV show, chances are you’ll dig the new “MythBusters” exhibition opening this week at the Fleet Science Center.
• Here’s a Q-and-A with Anne Bown-Crawford, the newly appointed director of the California Arts Council.
• The Chinese Historical Museum, which, according to NBC 7, is entangled in a lawsuit, is opening a new exhibition this week focused on Shih-Liang Chien, his family and their set of rules and beliefs.
• Convincing, detailed virtual reality travel to historical sites could be a thing soon. Check out what’s happening at UC San Diego.
• Arts groups Blindspot Collective and Bocón are staging a new play for families and kids inspired by a local teenager and her experience as a Zimbabwean immigrant.
• The San Diego History Center is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and will unveil new programs and a shift in its overall direction.
• Brooklyn artist Martha Rosler, who got her master of fine arts’ degree at UC San Diego, will return Monday to give a public talk about her life and work.
• Don’t miss this talk at San Diego State University next Tuesday with Cassils, a transgender artist and rising star in the contemporary art world.
• Speaking of not-to-miss cultural events, this poetry night features four of my favorite local poets: Edwin Decker, Al Howard, Anna Zappoli Jenkins and Viet Mai.
• San Diego Theatre Week, which wraps up Feb. 25, includes $15, $30 and $45 tickets to see local theatrical productions.
• Political wonks might like this Lamb’s Players Theatre production. (Union-Tribune)
• Y’all can now cast your votes for this year’s San Diego Music Award winners.
• Aspiring playwrights who’ve never attempted to write a play are invited to workshops in City Heights.
• Music and arts programs are on the chopping block as San Marcos Unified faces significant budget cuts next year.
• This upcoming TED-style talk event is R-rated.
Food, Cannabis, Beer and Booze News
• Local landowners with vacant lots under 3 acres are now eligible for a property tax incentive if they lease their land to a farmer or a community garden organization for a minimum of 5 years.
• Speaking of community gardens, Lemon Grove residents are starting one. (Union-Tribune)
• Stellar interior design and delicious steaks make the trip to Little Italy’s Born & Raised worth it, according CityBeat.
• Fewer than one percent of California’s cannabis cultivators have been licensed, according to a new report published on Monday by the California Growers Association. (The Californian)
• The Encinitas Union School District recently voted to let The Ecology Center environmental nonprofit start a 10-acre “Farm Lab” site that will work to educate the district’s students, their families and the neighboring communities about sustainability.
• Here’s a sweet Reader story about some of the philanthropic endeavors of San Diego’s breweries and a local beer writer.
• Blind Lady Ale House is turning 9 and is celebrating in all sorts of ways.
• Although questions remain about the legality, cannabis-infused pop-up dinners are now officially a thing in San Diego. This CityBeat food columnist went to one and liked it.
Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with arts and culture news and tips. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.