San Diego's alternative art spaces rise, fall, and rise again"
by Susan Myrland - San Diego City Beat - November 13, 2013
Excerpt featuring Art Produce:
Lynn Susholtz’s North Park space Art Produce is one of the few alternative galleries with longevity. Susholtz purchased the building in 1999, renovated it and reopened it as an art gallery in 2001. She added a community garden in 2010, used for film screenings, workshops, art installations and events. A third renovation in 2012 expanded the gallery and made room for a café, creating a synergistic relationship between the tenants, restaurant and art.
“I wasn’t going to show typical commercial work,” she says. “It’s very hard for anyone to survive on selling paintings and sculpture.”
Giving into what she calls her “citizen artist alter-ego,” she elaborates on what alternative spaces mean for an urban area:
The gallery “gives folks a chance to have public culture in their own neighborhood and a sense of what it’s like to be in a creative space. A lot of people who live around here, [they’ve] never been to a gallery. They’re not going to pay $12 to take their family to a museum. It should be free and it should be in their neighborhoods. Everyone should have an opportunity to be engaged.”
Susholtz works to build dialogue between her gallery and the public but sees San Diego as lacking in opportunities for citywide discussion—a thought echoed by many of the others interviewed.
“There’s a tripod of art production, art patronage and art criticism, theory, discourse,” she says. “We don’t have many options for cultural discourse. Once you’re out of school, it’s done. We can’t be a growing, changing community if we don’t have places for discourse and public culture. There seem to be a lot of people in the art-production piece of the tripod, fewer people in the patronage, and even fewer in the cultural dialogue.
“There’s the building of public space, creating infrastructure. Everyone’s talking about that because that’s where the dollars are,” she adds. “But who’s actually creating the culture? Who are the artists, who are the theorists, the thinkers, the doers and the makers who need to be part of the discussion? Where’s the leadership?”
Susholtz hopes that the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture will soon find “a dynamic, visionary force” and that the next mayor will support the nascent Civic Innovation Lab that former Mayor Bob Filner created. It remains to be seen, though, if art—particularly experimental visual art— will be at the table. San Diego is a theater-and-music town first.
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