San Diego’s Latinx art community is as complex as its geopolitical circumstance. Its proximity to Tijuana means that it often a dominating theme in art. And collaborative spaces focused on border issues, couples with its own history in the Chicanx community, has created a strong presence in the city’s growing art scene. San Diego’s quick gentrification rate is forcing artists and entrepreneurs to find viable and affordable spaces to open galleries, create afe and all-ages spaces for events, and enlist DIY practices – often footing the bill or juggling the few funds available.
What is true is that the communities that are injecting art into San Diego – be it academic institutions, city run spaces or private initiatives – have found strength in numbers by showcasing each other’s work and building stronger bonds that extend to other pockets of the city.
Historically Latinx areas such as Barrio Logan have strong community ties forged from years of defending its identity and public spaces. Its strength and integrity has empowered many to pursue self-referential projects that embrace the city’s complex identity.
It’s common to see artists leave San Diego for cities with a more diverse artistic community and larger creative workforce, but here is a list of people who have chosen SD as their home and are pushing the art scene forward.
Founded by Alejandra Frank as a magazine in 2012 and later opened as a physical space in 2015, Teros embodies Frank’s work as a curator and a physical connection to art. Her vision is to showcase visual art and music in a manner that is adjacent to social media. Located in a guest house in San Diego’s City Heights Neighborhood, Teros has held more than 20 exhibitions and pop-ups and has served as one of San Diego’s few DIY venues for all-ages shows.
A second-generation seamstress, Claudia Rodriguez-Biezunski founded Sew Loka in 2013 in San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood doing custom sewing work, holding workshops, and giving private lessons. She has now moved into a space in the heart of Barrio Logan and has grown exponentially. Facebook contacted her to film a commercial in her studio, an opportunity that led to her face being shown on public transportation nd billboards across town. Her goal is to grow the studio in such a way that she can employ other seamstresses and focus on designing and growing her brand.
Edna Lugo originally conceived Cut Hair Like Female in 2016 as an apparel shop, but it gained recognition as an influential brand in the hairdressing community. In 2017, it became a salon and product brand as a well as a partnership between Lugo and Diana Reyes. The idea arose after noticing that the majority of successful hair education companies and salons are run and/or owned men.
Mauro Donate is an artist who actively promotes other artists from San Diego and Tijuana through organizing events. He also uses his time and resources to provide a much-needed link between both cities’ new generation of artists. Weird Hues is joint effort between a cohort of volunteers and collaborators and it’s brand is a self-referential statement of the identity of the border’s youth. He is currently working on remodelling a physical space in the unlikely industrial area of San Ysidro where he plans to have artists in residence, gallery space and a venue for live music.
Justin Fogle is an illustrator and musician who comes from a mixed background, not only because he is half-Mexican, but because his life oscillates between border towns in California and Arizona. One of the more striking aspects of his art is how intimate it can feel. Yet, his work touches on mental health and dissociation lined with a touch of humor. He remembers having a moment of desperation, where he grew tired of showing his work online and began to plaster stickers and posters in the street. Through travels to Japan and Mexico and other places, he has slowly connected with fans of his work and with roots in his identity that seemed latent during his upbringing. He hopes to evolve as a human and allow his craft to follow along.
The Front is a multidisciplinary space that has become a fixture in the border town of San Ysidro. It sits between a restaurant and used car lot on the busy boulevard, but to many people, it goes unnoticed. It originally opened its doors in 2007 as a community oriented art and cultural space founded by Luz Camacho and Andrea Skorepa and it has taken on many roles as a gallery and performance space as well as community center for touring acts. The Front survives as a non-profit that depends on grants and fundraising efforts. It has also managed to become an important symbol of the potential that the city has and adds ballast to an area mostly known as a residential and commercial area. Maintaining a balance between bringing new and fresh ideas and art, while respecting the traditions of the community has been a challenge that The Front hopes to tackle as the space evolves.