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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.
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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.