KENDRA SITTON | Downtown & Uptown News
A new space for artists recently opened on 30th Street after it was vacated by the Art Academy of San Diego in the spring.
Connect San Diego is a place for artists of multiple disciplines to create, practice, sell their products, host events and connect with each other. The storefront on the busy street opens into a main room where bands can practice or photographers can host a photo shoot. Already, a dance crew used it to film their debut. The walls are lined with paintings, clothes and other merchandise artists are selling. In a post-COVID-world, it has the potential to host events.
Past the main room, a lounge filled with couches connects to two small recording studios. On the other side, a narrow passage leads to an outdoor patio thats fenced walls are already covered in graffiti art. The graffiti is just one of the ways that the new storefront is connected to its next-door neighbor Visual, an art supply store that sells spray paint.
When the Art Academy left the space earlier this year, the owner went to long-time tenant Jason Gould, the owner of Visual, to see if he wanted to expand into the space. The owner of the space contacted Gould to see if he would be interested in the vacant space.
“It basically just sat there empty… and took a lot of energy away from the art community,” Gould said. “I wanted to set up a collective of artists because it was already set up for artists.”
Gould was overwhelmed with his own business, art gallery and other projects in the community so was not sure he could run the collective himself. After a couple months of searching for a new tenant that would match his vision and debating whether he should acquire the space, he reconnected with Robert Blume, a former student of the now-defunct Art Institute of California-San Diego.
Blume is a young photographer, DJ and artist from New York who moved to San Diego for art school. Blume was a RAW artist and even planned quarterly shows for the network. While doing this, he saw many of the artists struggle in the long gaps between shows. He began planning his own events that would be less expensive for artists.
“I was meeting all these artists from these RAW shows. It just seemed that nobody was able to fill this void of meeting each other as well as just showing their artwork. I was meeting a lot of new artists who just wanted to showcase,” Blume said.
Through the RAW shows and other event planning, as well as art school, he met a network of artists in different disciplines that largely did not know each other.
“These rappers and hip-hopper guys and these techno DJs and these artists and these dancers — in San Diego, nobody knew each other somehow and I knew them all. I knew each one of them but they didn’t know each other,” Blume said.
He decided he wanted to make events that would ultimately connect San Diego artists with each other.
Blume began hosting events for artists of all types starting in March 2018. He named the interactive art events Connect San Diego and made an old-fashioned gold telephone its symbol.
At one of the first events, Gould created a large mural for attendees. The pair reconnected when Blume offered to help watch Visual while Gould was out of town. When Gould returned from the trip and saw Blume had successfully cared for the shop, he realized Blume might be the person he is looking for to lead the artist collective.
When he raised the idea, Blume immediately came on board and contacted the owner of the building. Within a couple weeks, Blume took up residence in the storefront.
After three years of pop-up events across San Diego, Blume is excited to expand into a permanent space in North Park. The business is funded through monthly membership fees. At different tiers, artists have access to the building to practice, perform, sell merchandise and host events. Memberships start at $50 per month with a one-time fee of $50. There is no long-term agreement so members can quit anytime. In the first two weeks, 27 members joined.
The space is free to enter for non-members 11 a.m.-8 p.m. but costs money after hours. For members, it is always free to enter the space.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.