Category Archives: Arts in San Diego

Modern San Diego by Keith York

The Golden Hill Cafe is a great example of San Diego's Streamline Moderne architecture from the 1930s & 40s.

While I’m on the subject of modernism in San Diego, I wanted to point out another amazing San Diego webpage celebrating San Diego mid-century style:  Modern San Diego.

Modern San Diego was started by San Diegan Keith York, who works as program director at KPBS and teaches courses in media & communication at SDSU.  York’s love of mid-century architecture & design has led him to document San Diego’s architectural heritage, and we have York to thank for this terrific website including an online archive of photos of San Diego’s mid-century homes and buildings.   Check it out!


The Ned Paynter Collection: San Diego Architecture

The Friends of San Diego Architecture have just posted an amazing collection of architectural images donated by the local historian Ned Paynter (1935-2007).  Paynter was an avid traveler with a passion for architecture, and his collection of 10,000 images includes 500 photographs of buildings in San Diego.  Many of San Diego’s architectural treasures suffered from San Diego’s zeal for rapid commercial development and were demolished years ago–these exist now only in photo archives like this one.

Click on Ned Paynter Collection for the home page to this terrific, searchable archive.

And a big thanks to the Friends of San Diego Architecture!

>sdspace4art acquires artist live/work studio spaces: Apply Now for Your Own Space


by Jill Holslin

San Diego- In 2002, bestselling author and cultural critic Richard Florida posited that cities “without gays and rock bands” would lose out in the race to redevelop America’s urban core. In 2002, San Diego ranked #3 in the nation according to Florida’s Creativity Index, following San Francisco and Austin, and far outranking New York and Los Angeles.

But when you think of artist lifestyles, San Diego is not the first city that comes to mind. Just trying to survive in San Diego is a real challenge. The artists, architects, and real estate professionals who make up the group sdspace4art are changing all that. The bohemian artist collectives and warehouse lofts ubiquitous in neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Bushwick are now popping up San Diego.

The group called sdspace4art epitomizes Richard Florida’s “creative class:” we are progressive San Diego artists, architects, writers, filmmakers, musicians and dancers with background and experience in affordable housing and community built projects. Sdspace4art will partner with progressive developers and forward-looking engineers and contractors working to empower artists and neighborhood residents through participation in the collaborative process of designing and constructing these buildings together.

Sdspace4art will establish the real, practical living and working conditions that make it possible for artists to do their work and practice their craft in a way that strengthens and enhances the traditional cultures of the neighborhood.

We have just acquired a beautiful 1920s warehouse space in San Diego’s East Village, and we are accepting applications now (from November through February) from artists looking for studios and live/work spaces. The spaces will be move-in ready by March 1.

The existing space has 13-25 ft. high ceilings and heavy timber trusses with windows through the ceiling bringing in natural light in the full length of the warehouse. 26-28 Studios will be built into the existing warehouse space, some divided by 8 ft. high walls and open at the top, with 4ft. sliding doors to maximize space and allow access for large objects.

Other more specialized spaces will be available for welding, painting, pottery making. The spaces will be nice, yet rough (ideal for messy work), and also very unique.

There will also be a significant gallery space where we will have art shows, dance, poetry and theatre performances and other events.

Between four and six spaces are available for live/work with a variety of kitchen/bath arrangements.

Live/Work residents may choose to share one of many collective kitchens, or may opt to have their own space with kitchen and bath.

The studio and live/work spaces range from 150-1740 sq.ft. and prices will be affordable, between $250-$1600 and will vary depending upon which space you are renting. Utilities will be included (some studios heated and air conditioned).
Studios share common space, which includes:

• Large Gallery
• Event/Performance Space
• Outdoor Gathering and Meeting Space
• Conference Room
• Kitchen
• Bathrooms
• Woodshop (potential)
• Kiln (potential)
• Welding Space (potential)
• Gated parking offered at a small additional fee.

We are open to artists of all mediums and practices, and we recommend that potential residents to participate with us in the processes of renovating these spaces to make them work for your own art practice. The more you participate in the building process, the more money you can save, and the better you can tailor the space to your own needs.

Apply NOW for space, and we may be able to accommodate you right away. If we don’t have space for you now, we will put you on the waiting list.

Please complete the below form and provide the following information:
(Copy and paste into an email and send to

• Name ________________________________
• Contact info _________________________________________
• Art practice/medium(s) __________________________________
• How much space you’re looking for __________________________________
• Pictures/documentation of your work _______________________
• Do you need any special accommodations? (i.e. 220 power, special ventilation)
• Will you volunteer in the renovation? ____________________________________
• Do you have any experience that would be helpful in the renovation? (i.e. construction, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, etc.) ________________________________________

See us on the web at

Please contact us if you have any questions! We will be showing the space frequently between November 30 and December 15.

Write us at:

>The 800 Mile Wall: film challenges the deadly politics of border security

>Screening Dec 3, 2009 at Joe & Vi Jacobs Center, 404 Euclid Ave

by Jill Holslin

San Diego, CA- So far this year, 206 migrants have died in the harsh deserts of Arizona trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the humanitarian organization No More Deaths. Since Operation Gatekeeper was instituted in 1994, over 5600 innocent men, women and children have died in the attempt to migrate from Mexico to the U.S. through our borderlands, driven from their homes by the economic collapse in Mexico caused by NAFTA, and drawn here by a once-robust U.S. economy and the concentration of capital and jobs on both sides of the border.

A new film by John Carlos Frey, The 800 Mile Wall: The Deadly Reality of Border Security, puts this brutal and tragic situation in the context of U.S. border policies beginning in the early 1990s during the Clinton administration. In 1995, a new border security policy was initiated under then Attorney General Janet Reno and “border czar” Alan Bersin. (Bersin had just moved to San Diego in 1992 with his wife Lisa Foster, and in short order accepted an appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, then the position of “border czar”). The policy of “prevention through deterrence,” the brainchild of Alan Bersin, was based on a cruel logic of preventing Mexican immigration to the U.S. by upping the ante: border enforcement manpower, technology and border wall infrastructure was concentrated in four short segments in San Diego, El Paso, Central Arizona and south Texas where 70-80 percent of migrant border crossing was taking place. With these four regions secured, it was argued that the harsh terrain of impassable mountains and scorching deserts would prove an effective deterrent to further migration.

This assumption proved to be deadly, and dead wrong. While border enforcement expenditures quadrupled in the period from 1993 to 2009, migration flows did not stop; they merely shifted geographically into very same dangerous terrain that was believed to act as a deterrent. And thousands of people have died as a result. Evidence has shown that costly border walls, massive government spending on surveillance technologies like Boeing’s failed “virtual fence,” and a tripling of border patrol manpower has been met by a robust growth in the number of undocumented workers living the U.S. during this period. Only in the past two years, with the economy of the U.S. in free fall, have we seen a decrease in the numbers of workers crossing into the U.S. for jobs.

Frey’s film documents the effects of this policy, telling the story with the compassion and commitment of an insider. Born in Tijuana and raised in south San Diego, Frey brings a keen understanding and the spirit of advocacy to his work.

Join us for a screening of The 800 Mile Wall: The Deadly Reality of Border Security, and a panel discussion with the director, joined by Pedro Rios of AFSC and Kevin Keenan of the ACLU.

DATE: Thursday, Dec 3, 2009 beginning 6 PM
LOCATION: Joe and Vi Jacobs Center, Celebration Hall, 404 Euclid Ave, San Diego, CA 92114.
ADMISSION: Free. Suggested donation- one gallon bottle of water.
FOR MORE INFO: (619) 233-4114

And see also Matt Potter’s new article in the San Diego Reader Obama Taps Alan Bersin to Oversee the Border


>On Friday night Sept 11, and Saturday and Sunday, Sept 12-13, a design workshop will be held at the New School of Architecture. The overall objective is to involve the greater San Diego arts & music community in developing prototypical designs for future affordable work/live space for artists and arts organizations.

Friday September 11, 5:30-9:00 PM All participants invited to workshop designs
Saturday, September 12, 10 AM-6 PM Architects and Designers, but all interested are invited
Sunday September 13, 10 AM-2 PM Brunch and display of completed designs
LOCATION: New School of Architecture 1249 F St Downtown San Diego

The project of sdspace4art, initiated in 2005, is to develop and build specific key sites in San Diego for affordable live/work spaces for artists and arts organizations. The process for establishing live/work space will involve local architects, artists, designers, arts organization and neighborhood residents. Through a series of design workshops (called charettes) and community built projects by members of the local arts community, unique, one of a kind solutions will be realized which will reflect and preserve the diversity and culture of the people of the neighborhood.

Approximately 25 local architects will each lead different design teams on Friday night to brainstorm ideas for designs for six specific San Diego building sites. Teams will be comprised of artists, musicians, designers, developers, arts organizations, contractors and arts supporters. Saturday the architects will draw up blueprint plans based on Friday’s design ideas, and Sunday’s program will involve presenting the the drawings to all participants who are interested in continuing to attend through the weekend.

The result of the collaborative design process will be unique building designs responding to the needs of the artists, musicians, and organizations who will live and work in the buildings. The construction phase of the project aims to also include the community in a series of volunteer-built projects.

Artists, musicians, writers, and arts organizations interested in participating in the workshop are invited to attend. Please help us out by filling out the survey at SURVEY Thanks!

This event is sponsored by Synergy Art Foundation, a non-profit foundation, together with the New School of Architecture.


Cheryl Nickel, 858-243-1312
Email: sdspace4art
See our Facebook page at SanDiego Liveworkspaces Forartists

>’Sleep Dealer’ stars Luis Fernando Pena, Leonor Varela



Rating: 3 stars (good)

By Michael Phillips | Tribune critic
June 5, 2009

Present-day Tijuana is one of the most compelling places on earth. It’s a symbol of the push-pull co-dependency of America and Mexico, a city defined by a fence that runs straight into the Pacific Ocean.

Alex Rivera’s overstuffed but intriguing feature debut, “Sleep Dealer,” takes a speculative leap into Tijuana’s near future, imagining the next evolution of cheap labor. Its protagonist, Memo (Luis Fernando Pena), comes from a farm in Oaxaca. The region’s water supply is controlled by a federalized, heavily armed dam, and the price of a jug of clean H{-2}O has skyrocketed.

A born hacker, Memo’s homemade radio surveillance activities attract the attention of the military. After tragedy strikes, in the form of remote-controlled bombers, he sets off for Tijuana. En route he meets an aspiring writer (Leonor Varela) who sells her diary entries and computer-visualized memories on the Internet. So much remarkable technology; so many dubious results.

The writer introduces Memo to the underground world of node implantation — he must decorate himself with metal thingies to plug into the global workforce grid. Memo operates a robot, via virtual-reality gizmos, high atop a skyscraper under construction in San Diego. Finally! America has solved the undocumented worker problem: work without the workers.

It’s dizzying, this premise, and Rivera doesn’t always make it easy on his audience. Conceived and filmed in the Bush era, Rivera’s film is a despairing one. It is, however, pretty effective science fiction, with one foot in its imagined world, and the other in the one we know.

Rivera creates a neon-soaked Tijuana that grabs the eye without settling for pretty pictures. One drawback: Even when Rivera sets up an elegant composition, often he undercuts it with antsy editing. Leave that manic edge to Robert Rodriguez. If a budding filmmaker can fashion a detailed, low-budget vision of the near-future, an adventurous audience can afford to spend more than a second or two with an individual shot.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some violence and sexuality).

Running time: 1:30. Opens: Friday at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema, 2424 N. Clark St. Chicago.

Starring: Luis Fernando Pena (Memo Cruz); Leonor Varela (Luz Martinez); Jacob Vargas (Rudy Ramirez); Tenoch Huerta (David Cruz)

Directed by: Alex Rivera; written by Rivera and David Riker; produced by Anthony Bregman. A Maya Entertainment release.

San Diego Style: Playful Entryways, Classic Streamline Moderne Bunglows

This article kicks off a new column at The San Diego Border Observer: San Diego Style will document both innovative and classic architectural styles in the mid-city neighborhoods of San Diego.

Here’s a lovely entryway in North Park/Normal Heights: a classic Spanish style bungalow. Notice the elegant entryway, painted a contrasting burnt orange to accentuate the depth and dramatic curvature of the interior walls of the entrance.

Classic Arts and Crafts designs are a clever way to add ornamentation and historical reference to a plain residential building.

In the 1930s, residental architecture picked up on the sleek curving lines of Streamline Moderne, a late development of Art Deco style. The style reached its peak in 1937, and we see lots of these homes in the older neighborhoods of mid-city San Diego.

Here’s a classic Streamline Moderne with the smooth curving line accentuating the flat roof. Streamline moderne draws upon futurist design and doctrine, emphasizing speed and efficiency, metallic trim celebrating the machine age.

Art Deco on Meade