Art San Diego Marks Debut at the San Diego Convention Center

by Alex Wehrung September 6, 2019


art-san-diegoIf you thought Comic Con was the biggest event this year at the convention center, you’d be right, but Art San Diego is a giant all its own; it’s just as dedicated to showing off an enormous palette of art and creative talent, jump-starting careers and enriching San Diego’s modern art scene by allowing people to peruse a professional gallery.

The event, (Oct. 11-13) is the only modern art gallery showcase in San Diego. The event is owned and managed by Redwood Media, an organization that helps professional artists get their start.

“We own Art Expo New York, which is kind of considered the granddaddy of art fairs; it’s been around for 42 years,” explained Linda Mariano, Redwood’s Managing Director of Marketing. “We own Art Santa Fe, which is done every year in July, Art San Diego in October and then two shows during Miami Art Week: Spectrum Miami and Red Dot Miami.”

2019 marks the fifth year of Art San Diego’s management under Redwood Media, and has been seeing steady growth in attendance since then. “It’s been growing by about a five to ten percent rate each year. We actually moved … this’ll be three years ago, from the Balboa Park Activity Center to the Del Mar Fairgrounds, because it had outgrown the space in the activity center,” Linda said. Moving to the significantly larger San Diego Convention Center will allow Art San Diego another opportunity to continue growing and expanding.

Moving to the convention center will facilitate this growth “in a couple of ways,” Linda explained. “The first way is by being able to partner with the community. Not only in terms of the visual arts, but in terms of the programs that we’ve created.”

For instance, there’s the Palette of Desserts program, where selected chefs and bakers from the San Diego area will create concoctions that will be paired with chosen works of art. While the list of participating confection-crafters has not been nailed down just quite yet, Linda anticipates some of them will be returning from last year.

“The art is selected by our curatorial committee. So let’s say there [are] twelve pieces of artwork, and then the chefs and bakers choose which piece they want to use as inspiration. And they make a dessert based on the inspiration based on that individual piece of artwork. So last year, there were cakes and you saw the artwork on display right beside the cake, and you could see how it had been interpreted into the dessert.”

“So that’s really how the bakers and the chef incorporate the artwork into their creation. And then they are also serving samples. During the show, every attendee that comes in that evening gets three voting tickets, and there’s a ballot box on each dessert table, and they get a chance to vote for their three favorites. And then they vote, and at the end of it all, there’s a declared dessert winner.”

There’s also the [SOLO] Project exhibit, which allows both established and emerging independent artists–solo artists, hence the name–to showcase their work, though they . must be approved by a curatorial committee first. The gallery provides these artists the opportunity to be discovered by gallery owners, fellow artists, art collectors, art publishers, etc.

“One of the missions and visions of Redwood Media Group is that in every community where we have a fair, we like to really become part of the community,” Linda said. “We don’t see ourselves as just an event that comes in for a week. Rather, we partner with organizations, museums and cultural institutions, nonprofits throughout the year to really create a partnership that hopefully has an impact. And we even–for San Diego–created last year [what] we call Access to Art, where we work with local organizations and their clients: Monarch School, Rady Children’s Hospital, Art Reach, to bring an educational aspect to the visual arts world.”

“One of the things that we do in Access to Art, for example, is in working with the Monarch School, we give their middle and high school students access–access to art. We bring artists into their art program to create art projects with them. They have a display space at the show and then the students are then able to not only display their art, but sell their art. We bring them in as interns to the show so they get a full, rounded idea of what being an artist is, how you can monetize being an artist, how an art show works, so that we really create a[n] opportunity of awareness for the kids at Monarch. We’ve partnered with the San Diego Film Festival, so we take them to the film festival and they see art from a different perspective there, where they’re meeting with producers and directors and the films they’ve produced.”

“We’ve worked with Liberty Station and their Liberty School program, where Liberty School will be coming, actually, to Art San Diego and creating a make-and-take project for families and children that come to Art San Diego. So giving exposure to Liberty Station and Liberty School and the art and artist studios at Liberty Station, but also taking the Monarch kids to Liberty Station and Liberty School. So again, so they see another way that artists are monetizing as well as working in the visual arts industry.”

The event not only strives to enrich children’s education, but also help adults kick-start their own careers. Linda also explained that being a part of Art San Diego has helped more than one aspiring professional artist “in multiple ways. Number one, if they make it into the show, they are juried in by our curatorial community. So they’ve already made it through a process where their story and their artwork has been recognized. So they’ve been acknowledged. And now they’re on display with a group of 65 to 70 other exhibitors, where they’ve got the opportunity right within the framework of the exhibitors to network with galleries and other artists.”

“They also get the opportunity–not dissimilar, quite frankly, to the Access to Art program–to see how they can monetize their artwork. It’s not a street fair, it’s an upscale gallery-like presentation at Art San Diego. So they are presenting in that kind of format. So they also get to see their artwork presented in that kind of format.”

“Additionally, there are thousands of people that come to Art San Diego who are collectors, art aficionados, press, media, as well as the industry itself. So there are opportunities to create a collector base as well as to, once again, network with opportunities; opportunities for gallery placements, opportunities for media coverage, and all of that happens within a four-day timespan. So it’s a unique opportunity, and it’s unique in San Diego. This is the only contemporary art fair in the area.”

There have been a number of artists who have gone on to be artistically successful after exhibiting at Art San Diego. “One would be Anita Lewis, she began a couple of years ago at Art San Diego and has now had gallery representation as well as been invited to some very prestigious, high-end events as the principal artist.”

Others include Gedion Nyanhongo, a sculpture artist based in Phoenix, and Kris and Angela Gebhardt, who own the Gebhardt Gallery in Indiana.

In addition to its mission to start off careers and provide a viewing space for modern art, Art San Diego also carries with it a dynamic agenda meant to strengthen San Diego’s art scene. “We partner with the museum of contemporary art, the San Diego Art Institute. Since the beginning of the show, we’ve been a partner with the San Diego Visual Art Network.”

“And every year, the San Diego art prize winners have a booth, and do a complete exhibition at the show. So in terms of partnering with museums, we’re corporate partners with some of the museums, some of them will actually be at the show, doing exhibitions, special installations. We try to give a forum for the visual arts community in as many ways as we can.”


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