By Vince Meehan | Community Profile
Combining art and science, creating a new world
“Innovation lies at the edge of your field. So if you push yourself to get involved in additional projects outside your normal profession, then innovation will find you.”
This is the philosophy of artist Pete Garcia, who is also a founder of I.D.E.A Partners, LLC. Garcia and his partner, David Malmuth, formed the development firm 10 years ago with the dream of bringing their I.D.E.A concept to the Downtown’s East Village. I.D.E.A. is an acronym which stands for Innovation + Design + Education + Arts. The plan is to bring 13,000 design and tech jobs over the next 12 years to a part of the East Village dubbed the I.D.E.A. District. Garcia and Malmuth are also responsible for the creation of IDEA1, the first apartment community of the I.D.E.A district; which features apartment homes, commercial space and live/work lofts.
Recently, Garcia joined forces with fellow artist Kate Goodson to create a unique public art installation on the southern wall of the Salvation Army building at the corner of Park Boulevard and E Street across from the IDEA1 complex. Goodson is also Founding Principle of Pop Arch, a place-making design studio located in North Park that specializes in working with neighborhood planning groups and business improvement districts to create urban public spaces such as parklets.
Both Garcia and Goodson have made major career goal changes since their college days. Garcia originally studied as an engineer and Goodson as an architect before they both decided to explore their artistic impulses.
“I was actually a neuroscientist at Tulane University in New Orleans before I switched to architecture,” said Goodson. Both still use their original expertise to complement their artistic streak.
“It’s the new model for the 21st century,” said Garcia. If you are going to get ahead today, you will need to combine both art and science in your skill sets. And that’s what the I.D.E.A. concept is all about.”
Goodson was introduced to Garcia by his wife, Beth Callender, who works with him as a co-founder of Urban Interventions, a nonprofit dedicated to creating public art installations. She recommended Goodson when the art project was offered to Garcia through the San Diego Downtown Partnership. Urban Interventions funded two-thirds of the project with San Diego Downtown Partnership picking up the remaining third.
The project is called “Window Stories’ and features four lightbox panels designed to look like apartment windows. Each panel has its own theme and it is left to the passerby to interpret that story. The pieces include characters and props that are clues to the storyline.
“I believe you need create a ‘wow factor’ if you want public art to be successful,” said Garcia. “I didn’t want to create another static mural Downtown, I wanted something unique, innovative and engaging.”
The panels are equipped with solar powered motion sensors that light the panels when a pedestrian passes by. This is designed to provoke curiosity from the viewer. “Both Pete and I brainstormed the concept as if we were creating a movie,” said Goodson. “We came up with a storyline for each frame and worked to tie them together. There was definitely a show business theme in creating this work”
This came as a natural process for Garcia who has numerous writing and producing film credits from his days in Hollywood where he worked for Disney among others. The frames also feature sound effects, which are triggered by the motion sensor. Even the credit box, which accompanies the art display, is designed to look like a billing block from a motion picture.
The debut party for the installation had a cinematic theme as well, complete with freshly popped popcorn for the guests. “We ended up installing this work in the wee hours of the morning the day before our showing,” noted Goodson. “It was surreal, but everybody who happened to be roaming around at that time of night stopped to watch and gave us tons of positive feedback. Even some of the homeless offered to help and that was quite special.”
The artistic duo has labeled their project as “tactical urbanism” because they created high impact art at a low cost.
“If this was a movie, then we created an indie film as opposed to a giant studio production,” said Garcia. “Along with keeping the cost down, we retained a lot of creative control over the project and got it done in three months.”
The art project has served as a catalyst for additional beatification because the Salvation Army created significant landscaping and structural improvements as a result of the display. This has transformed a blighted avenue into a vibrant new public passage. And that is the result that both artists were hoping to achieve.
“I really want to create the same sort of innovative artistic spirit you see in cities like Seattle, Denver, Barcelona and Berlin here in the I.D.E.A. district,” said Garcia. “I’m pleased with this and looking forward to creating more projects.”
— Vince Meehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.