The Thriving Art Community of San Diego
Beyond the big headlines, the city’s contemporary art scene is rooted in its diverse, community-centered art spaces.
By Jordan Karney Chaim October 13, 2022
Art Produce, another multifaceted, multi-use art and culture center, is an extension of artist and educator Lynn Susholtz’s public and community-based practice. Susholtz purchased and rehabbed the boarded-up North Park Produce Market in 1999 and it now serves as a cultural hub, where community members can gather and “envision what life in a rich cultural environment could look like,” Susholtz explained. The building houses gallery and studio spaces, community rooms, an art lab, its own offices, a retail tenant, and a sustainable garden. Anyone can apply to Art Produce’s artist residencies, propose an exhibition, or attend its free, all-ages, art making events and workshops. Resident artists and exhibitors are strongly encouraged to propose or develop projects that engage the local community.
When Susholtz moved to North Park 30 years ago, she got involved in neighborhood politics and encouraged other artists to do the same. Art Produce has continued to respond to the needs of artists and community members as the neighborhood changes, always with an emphasis on public engagement. Its gallery is entirely visible from the sidewalk, making exhibitions accessible without even entering the space. “I’m trying to present other opportunities for the neighborhood to engage in art and feel like it’s part of their daily lives,” Susholtz said. “Artists [have been] challenged to experiment with their work and to really learn what community engagement can be, and what it means to their practice and to their teaching.”
Meet artist Evan Tyler: weaving his own story
By Seth Combs, Contributor, San Diego Union Tribune
Textile artist Evan Tyler, in residency at Art Produce in North Park, found his artistic calling on a loom
Evan Tyler knew he was onto something. He’d been weaving and dyeing his own brand of textile-based art and was beginning to feel he was on the “right path” with his art, but he couldn’t help but feel he had one thing holding him back: He needed a better frame loom.
“This is the biggest type of weaving I could do at the time,” says Tyler, pointing to one of his earlier works in the studio space he’s currently working in at Art Produce, an art and performance space in North Park. “I was only making smaller pieces, but I wanted to do bigger pieces. I was watching all these videos and I saw a loom in a documentary and immediately started looking everywhere online.”
Still, new quality looms can cost thousands of dollars, and with pandemic demand and a backlogged supply chain, he knew his chances of finding one would be tough. He eventually found someone selling a frame loom online in September 2020, but it was located in Ventura.
“I was like, ‘How am I going to get this?’” recalls Tyler. “My mom, who I hadn’t seen in months because of the pandemic, told me, ‘If you really want it, I’ll pick it up and drive it down for you.’ It was in bad shape, but I cleaned it up and was so happy.”
Nearly two years after Tyler found that loom, he’s now set up at Art Produce, where he just started an artist residency. He’s sitting in a quaint studio space called the Cooler Room, where he will be creating some new pieces and have an open studio event on Aug. 6. On the wall are some of his woven pieces, vibrantly colored and more abstract in nature even while adhering to the intricate roots of the art form.
Written by Bhavna Mehta for San Diego Visual Arts Network, June 2022
Imagine you are a woman of color that is above all curious. You see a free workshop offered to explore who you are in your journey of life with a chance to gain some new art skills. Now imagine you are a recognized public art consultant who is also an artist and a passionate community gatherer. Art Produce in North Park brings these two together for a workshop during the artist residency of Constance White. Ms. White held a gathering to discuss all sorts of social issues and then prepared individualized packets of materials for each of the participants. She then stood back and watched what happened when reality meets imagination. Each woman revealed herself in the free choices she made, but was guided to make compositional decisions based simply on added knowledge of foreground, middle ground and background. The results are fascinating, revelatory, and stunning. The bonus: Ms. White declared she continues to learn how to be a better art teacher by listening to her students during a series of these outreach workshops.
The Artist in Residence program is in its third consecutive year and it provides both emerging and established artists with a 4-6 week residency and a small stipend. This year, the residency is awarded to 11 artists, many of whom will also offer a workshop to the community during their time at Art Produce. As the circle of participating artists expands, connections are forged among the artists that are ongoing and beneficial in various ways beyond the residency. A group exhibition of all 11 artists will be held August 13 - September 17.
This is an award-winning artist-run non-profit, a public/private enterprise, linking cultural programming and community development in North Park’s Arts District, an historic urban neighborhood of San Diego. Founded by Lynn Susholtz, the mission is to integrate community voice and vision into the cultural and physical landscape through art and education. Many have called and claimed Art Produce as a “third space” —it provides camaraderie, support, and encouragement along with time and openness to investigate ideas and experiment with materials.
Artists of all stripes continue to gather, exhibit, perform, and teach at Art Produce in 2022. Artists in Residence have quiet spaces to create, performers are bringing music and dance to the gallery and to the garden, artists are exhibiting provocative work, and workshop teachers are reaching out with fresh projects to work with community. The key word here is community engagement and interaction as the gallery transforms with each show. Walls and floors are occupied with work that is made with thought and action with art as an exchange between maker and viewer. It is a busy, productive, and lively time at a beloved community gallery and space. Earlier this year, a joint exhibition of artists Marianela de la Hoz and Helen Redman drew visitors and interest from all over San Diego. Viewers came to see the extraordinary paintings and to understand the artists' motivations in making them.
The flourishing community garden on Herman Avenue is the other public front of Art Produce. It is a place where flowers, fruit, and vegetables are in a continuous flux, reflecting the growth and completion of the numerous happenings at the non-profit.
This year, summer FREE art classes in the garden for all ages starts on every Saturday June 4, 12-2pm through August 27. These weekly sessions are a great place to learn a new skill—printmaking, drawing, creating sculpture using simple materials—and to spend time with family and friends. Sometimes you may meet a stranger and make a connection with them. You may go home with a spark or a thought about the possibility of art-making in everyday life. You may return time after time to be with this ever-changing community.
Finally, this summer, Art Produce is creating and staging a unique dance event called Sauced. Choreographed and performed by veteran San Diego dancers, Sauced offers audience members an intimate view of contemporary dance while enjoying a specialty cocktail or mocktail. To attend this saucy performance, get your tickets here
Art Produce is located at 3139 University Avenue. Be part of its vibrant community by attending the Garden pARTy Fundraiser on Saturday September 24, 2022. To be notified of everything happening at Art Produce, sign up for the newsletter at artproduce.org and follow on Instagram at @artproduce.
Every Picture Tells a Story at Art Produce Gallery
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt, FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2022
On April 3rd, my husband and I drove south to North Park for what we thought would be a quiet chat with Marianela de la Hoz, who is doing Sunday paint-ins at Art Produce Gallery where, along with Helen Redman, she is half of the bilingually-titled exhibition Retelling/Recontar.
We had no idea that, in the hour or so we spent in the small-but-mighty gallery, more than a few members of San Diego’s art world would show up to see what Marianela was up to. What she is up to is showing some terrific new pieces in an artistic dialogue with her co-exhibitor.
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