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Thursday, November 10, 2005 | To read Jeremy Gaucher’s impressive resume, a crescendo of responsibility within arts organizations, you would think he’s a middle-aged, solemn-looking guy who’s well-versed in P.R. speak.

Instead, the new artistic director of Sushi Performance and Visual Art is like a kid on Christmas morning, wide-eyed at the prospect of earning such responsibilities at the age of 29.

“I’m so excited to have this job,” he said.

Gaucher’s appointment is just one in a series of rapid changes with the edgy, unpredictable arts organization. Despite a strong core following and an annual fund-raiser, the Red Ball, Sushi’s fate was cause for speculation when Petco Park landed in the East Village. The arts community wondered whether the rickety building on J Street, which Sushi called home, with its narrow staircase leading up through modern art and photographs into a tiny lobby, would find itself tangoing with a wrecking ball.

Fast forward a few years, and the façade of that home, The Carnation Building, is still standing amid a flurry of construction. The development company that purchased the property to build condos and the requisite retail outlets understands, it seems, the need for art amidst the Starbucks and souvenir stores.

Sushi will again have its own space in which to continue performing and exhibiting visual art, in what will be dubbed The Icon Project. Architect and urban artist Teddy Cruz is designing the new digs.

“He’s the coolest guy,” says Gaucher of Cruz, “…so conceptual and so driven by this environment, and the border.” Much of Cruz’s work focuses on border issues so it’s no surprise that he is marrying art and commercialization.

It will be another year until Sushi’s homecoming, so until then, they will keep doing what they’ve been doing, which is wandering from space to space, and collaborating with other local arts organizations.

The current “Sushi Takeout Series” called “Rebels and Pioneers” has brought the company’s modern performances to places such as St. Cecilia’s Playhouse, home of Sledgehammer Theatre, a natural fit for several reasons. The two nonprofits share a penchant for the avant garde, besides having offices in the same building.

“The serendipity of being two offices down the hall from one another,” Gaucher says, brought the partnership about organically. Other symbiotic relationships include borrowing space at San Diego State University, the Museum of Photographic Arts and The Wonder Bread Factory.

Gaucher’s other former local employer, the San Diego Performing Arts League, has helped build the artistic director’s network of affiliates. “A really exciting connection just came through today,” he hints, referring to the season after next, the first he will plan from the outset.

Sushi Performance and Visual Art has a niche audience, and stands in stark contrast to the “Triple Espressos” of the city. Upcoming seasons of Sushi promise increased diversity, and integration amongst not only different organizations, but amongst different media, Gaucher said.

Productions will include theater, film, dance and just about anything the artistic staff and board can dream up. Modern dance company Lower Left will remain in residence, as it has for over a decade.

Gaucher envisions opportunities to “make art out of different elements” and “engineering social interaction.” For example, during last week’s screening of “Boxers and Ballerinas,” a documentary film set in Miami and Havana, the evening included a post-film question-and-answer session with the filmmakers, as well as reception complete with Cuban cuisine and music.

“I see these four or five different series going on,” he explains, citing dance, film and theater as some examples of what these might be. “This diversity of art will speak to people.”

Having a background in painting and photography, Gaucher sees opportunities to nurture his own creative side through his day job. “You have to be very creative with how you put the season together,” he said.

Though much of the current season was planned before he recently took up the reigns, he clearly relishes the idea of booking for the new space, and taking advantage of its high-traffic location.

“It’ll be open and lit at night,” he said, “so people can maybe accidentally come upon this art.”

He is not worried that urban redevelopment will be the death of character for the location. “It is definitely going to be industrial,” he says, while the surrounding East Village grows its yuppie quotient. “It was really, really rough down there from 1980 until about three years ago,” he said.

With more than 20 years left on their lease, once Sushi comes home to the Icon Project, they shouldn’t be leaving again soon. Those in the arts community know how hard it is to lure San Diegans to the edge. Sushi, with its new digs and juxtaposition with the high-profile ballpark, just might bring the edge a bit closer to them.

Kristina Meek is a local writer.

For more information on Sushi and a schedule of events, including this weekend’s “The Satellite Project,” visit www.sushiart.org.

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