Art alive in the East Village

Posted: January 5th, 2018 | Features, Top Story | 1 Comment

By Margie Palmer

IDEA1 may be new to San Diego’s East Village, but project developer David Malmuth of I.D.E.A. Partners, hopes its design aspects will make a longstanding imprint on the Downtown landscape.

The $91 million, 93-acre project broke ground in late 2015 and the long-term vision for the upper East Village project — deemed the I.D.E.A. District — is to become a focal point of education, innovation, arts and technology canvassing 35 city blocks.

“Eastern Dreams” by artist James Reka adons a side of a building in East Village’s I.D.E.A. District. (Photo courtesy of SNAP)

Today, phase one consists of a mixture of apartments, restaurants, live-work lofts, retail and creative office spaces built around an open communal gathering space aptly called The Hub. It also includes eight public art installations and an onsite gallery which should all help inspire the developing creative community.

“Seven years ago, the attitude we took was that we wanted to articulate something aspirational and inspirational,” Malmuth said. “We came up with four pillars — innovation, design, education and arts. It was clear to us from the outset that in order to make a place that is inspiring and appeals to creative people, we’d need to incorporate art as a physical element.”

Six major art pieces and two art installations have already been selected, he said, adding that Ginger Shulick Porcella, former executive director of the San Diego Art Institute, assisted in the selection of the artists and the specific pieces.

Bankers Hill resident Cy Kuckenbaker is among the artists being featured in the first round of public art. His submission, “The Cardinal Directions,” is described as a photo and video series that’s focused on his relationship to the city of San Diego and his need to orient himself within its narrative.

Kuckenbaker said that while he had some familiarity with IDEA1 because he works in the area, he didn’t know much about the project until he met the team. What surprised him most, he said, was that the developers chose to prioritize art and color.

“Most new developments in San Diego are aesthetically conservative, so it’s very nice to see a different vision,” he said. “I hope others follow IDEA1’s lead and tap local voices to contribute.”

“Current” by Natalie Lanese was designed for the IDEA1 building at 899 Park Blvd. (Photo by SNAP)

Malmuth hopes the same.

“We chose to include art because we felt it was the right thing to do and that it would make the project better,” he said. “If other people see that it’s successful, maybe they will think they should [incorporate more art] as well. I think that’s happening with some of the other projects and there is more discussion of how to incorporate art, because it elevates the importance of art and artists.”

The overall reception, he said, has been positive thus far.

“It’s been so gratifying to have people come walk the project and share their enthusiasm,” Malmuth continued. “Having installations in The Hub and the gallery that are focused on local art and artists, that give emerging artists a chance to show their work, or do an opening around that where they can invite people, it helps expose art to the residents of the building. People see that having art as a part of their environment enriches it.”

Malmuth said that the artistic and creative components of the building are what help make IDEA1 a living, breathing, “always changing and never complete” entity.

“We are even more excited to see what happens as [IDEA1] evolves and how the creativity of the district will play itself out.”

Following is a list and descriptions of the public art pieces commissioned for the first round, courtesy of the project’s PR team at Olive Creative Strategies.

These six public art pieces will be rotated out within two years:

  • Cy Kuckenbaker, “The Cardinal Directions” — A photo and video series created with handmade stereo (3-D) cameras that take hours to expose an image.
  • Lana Z. Caplan, “13th Street Boogie Woogie” — This looping, site-specific video artwork was made to echo themes of transformation, fluidity and reciprocity in urban space.
  • San Diego Letters, “Let’s Get Physical” — Vintage, faded mural reflects an abandoned sign from a decades-old gym.
  • Natalie Lanese, “Current” — Designed specifically for IDEA1, “Current” is part of Lanese’s continuing exploration of color, pattern and perception of space. It moves from the entrance of the building to The Hub, encouraging exploration of the public space inside.
  • Lisa Levy, “The Thoughts in My Head” — A selection of some of the thoughts that circulate around Levy’s mind.
  • James Reka, “Eastern Dreams” — Explores personal themes of relocating to Berlin from Melbourne. The work touches on the topic of immigration and the positive process of traveling and relocating to another country to start a new chapter.

These two installations will be permanent:

  • Rocio Gertler and LdG Landscape Architects, Green Soffit “Floating Wave” — Tillandsia (air) plants create an artificial and urban environment that will continue to grow, flower and even multiply while providing an urban green respite.
  • Ben Dalton and Miller Hull Architects, “Found Objects” — Hand-selected steel punch-down plates collected from a local fabrication yard and integrated into a deconstructed wood screen. The wood is reclaimed teak from a boatyard in Indonesia.

IDEA1 is located at 899 Park Blvd., in East Village. To learn more, visit

— Editor Morgan M. Hurley contributed to this report.

— Margie Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer. Reach her at

One Comments

  1. SListon says:

    This effort is very positive. Thank you, San Diego needs this.

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