When Lynn Susholtz first bought the big building at University and Herman avenues in North Park, she knew exactly what she wanted the former grocery store to become – a place for the community and culture to come together.

It’s taken 15 years, but Susholtz can finally look around Art Produce and feel like she’s just about done it.

“It’s coming into a place I had always imagined,” she said.

Art Produce includes a large outdoor garden and patio, a community classroom that hosts art classes for kids and families every Saturday afternoon, performance and workshop spaces, a public gallery a tostada restaurant and an outdoor beer bar.

On Saturday, Susholtz will celebrate the last 15 years in the space with a group show featuring over two dozen artists who’ve exhibited at Art Produce gallery.

As a public artist, Susholtz said she knows how much art and artists can impact a community. But she also knows there’s a huge swath of the population that doesn’t necessarily seek out cultural experiences. That’s why she wanted to make Art Produce an approachable neighborhood center where artists and community members of all ages would encounter one another.

Susholtz said the beer bar and the restaurant are crucial, both in terms of helping subsidize the public art spaces in the building and attracting people outside the normal art-going crowd.

“It’s funny, people are reluctant to pay $10 or $15 to see a live performance, but if you give them a beer they’ll pay $35,” she said.

Susholtz calls herself a citizen artist. She said that means she uses arts and arts education to get people civically engaged. She recently got the go-ahead from the county, for example, to have her art gallery serve as a polling place in the June primary.

“It’s really my citizen artist dream come true,” she said. “Having to go and vote at churches has always gotten under my skin.”

Another lifelong goal for Susholtz has been encouraging artists to come together with people of all ages. She said she thinks everyone can benefit from spending time with 2-year-olds and 92-year-olds.

“There’s a low-income senior housing project going in across the street and I can’t wait to see how I can get some of the residents involved,” she said.

Just over a year ago, Susholtz had an epiphany and realized that she’d been operating Art Produce as a nonprofit nearly since its inception. She applied and got official nonprofit status and just recently scored her first grant, from a new pilot program by the California Arts Council that seeks to fund artist residencies in community settings.

She said it’s a perfect fit for her continuing goal of shaping Arts Produce as a community arts hub.

“It gets back to this whole idea of the citizen artists and how cultural activities can stimulate civic engagement and democracy and dialogue, and I’ve always wanted this to be a place for that,” she said.

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

A Bright Idea to Fund a Bridge Lighting Project

The San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge lighting project will make an iconic landmark even more noticeable by outfitting the twisting cement structure with dramatic lights.

Rendering courtesy of the Port of San Diego
Rendering courtesy of the Port of San Diego

That was the idea, anyway, and it was first brought up back in 2005 as a partnership between the Port of San Diego and Caltrans. The project progressed for a few years and the Port even selected an artist to help realize it, Peter Fink and his team of collaborators.

They imagined it as a privately funded project backed by the city’s biggest donors, but so far they’ve raised just $75,000  of the estimated $8 million needed.

There’s some light at the end of the bridge, however, because Marshall Merrifield, the Port board’s chairman, has a bright idea.

Merrifield wants to modify the Port’s public art policy, which currently requires Port tenants to put 1 percent of any new projects toward a piece of public art on premises. He wants to give tenants an option to direct the money toward funding the bridge lighting project.

He’s pitching the idea to the full board of Port commissioners Tuesday.

“With the commission’s approval,” he said, “We’ll pull this project off the shelf.”

He said there are a lot of big Port projects coming up – the redevelopment of Seaport Village among them – so the tweaked percent-for-art policy, if it passes, could fund the project in the next few years.

“I’m optimistic that if the commission passes this, we can get this project funded,” he said. “It’s an important project because it’s one of the most iconic structures in the region.”

New S.D. Music TV, Circus at the Airport and Other Arts and Culture News

• A group of San Diego architects and designers want to transform the west side of Normal Street in Hillcrest into a long, narrow park. To get folks behind the idea, community leaders have organized a four-day event to close down Normal Street and simulate what the park might look like. There will be all sorts of events happening in the space, including free concerts, talks, bike-in movies and more.

Some local arts leaders were at Monday’s City Council meeting to ask Council members and the mayor to fulfill the promise it made when it adopted the Penny for the Arts plan adopted in 2012. I wrote more about that plan and the numbers it envisioned here. The revised budget numbers will come out later this month.

 This week, the San Diego International Airport is announcing the launch of its new performing arts residency program. The first group to take up residency in the airport is Fern Street Circus, which will be clowning around with travelers for a year.

Back in 2006, when I moved into an apartment in Tijuana’s Estacion Federal buildings that nearly butt the U.S./Mexico border wall, I thought, Man, this place has sooooo much potential. Famed Tijuana artist Marcos Ramirez “Erre” lived above me, there was an experimental art gallery down the hall and other interesting tenants. But the building itself was deteriorating, so I had to eventually move on. It’s been a decade, but finally some developers have seen the building’s potential. The U-T reports on the current redevelopment of Estacion Federal and other properties in Tijuana, and architect Rene Peralta provides some obscure history on the building and its eclectic tenants.

Furniture designer Peter Nelson Scheidt’s tells CityBeat about the “mobile spoon-making workshop on a bicycle” he made for the Art Prize exhibition showing at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.

• Parklets, or small sidewalk extensions that act as public parks, are big in places like San Francisco and Chicago. San Diego, though, has missed the parklet party. I looked into why.

• San Diego Opera is staging Jake Heggie’s new opera “Great Scott,” and critics are both raving and mostly raving about it. (KPBS and U-T)

An artist sketched some of the performers in “Great Scott” and shared them via Twitter.

• I’ll just come out and say it: Journalists often take advantage of questionable public relations stunts, free dinners and other promotional perks with no intention of ever writing a word about any of it. CityBeat’s Ryan Bradford, though, says yes to these type of things and writes about every tiny detail, and it’s hilarious.

• There’s a new San Diego-made television show in the works. It’s called “Unherd” and it’s focused on music and pop culture news. Alex Zaragoza, who penned the Culture Report column for VOSD in the past, is the host and she checks in with local experts like CityBeat’s Jeff Terich and 91X’s Michael Halloran. Scott Richison, a former producer of late-night music show Fox Rox (which was huge in Tijuana, btw) is the show’s producer and creator. It airs airs Saturday nights at 11:45 p.m. on KGTV and ABC10.

• San Diego musician Candye Kane lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. (U-T)

• Feminists artists are putting on a show in Barrio Logan.

•  Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and its Writerz Blok program was awarded a city grant of $211,991.

North Park gallery and art center The Studio Door has put together a publication featuring 50 artists to watch this year.

• CityBeat has a piece on the arcHIVe project, a nonprofit that blends visual art and HIV awareness.

 On a rare night out with my husband last weekend, I came across this new mural on the outside of the Bread & Salt art center in Logan Heights. The piece is by longtime San Diego graffiti artist Saratoga Sake and it’s part of his upcoming “Rust Magic” show at Ice Gallery, which looks like it’ll include a scale model of a train.

• Um, I guess a boat made to look like Noah’s ark is sailing to our city. (CBS8)

• Artist and urbanist David White tackles homelessness, displacement and gentrification in his latest show at Space 4 Art.

• “Tonight in San Diego” and its host Jesse Egan got some press. (sdnews.com)

Food, Beer and Booze News

Local cocktail experts share their favorite boozy recipe books. (San Diego Magazine)

• There are a lot of backhanded compliments of Lemon Grove, my current stomping ground, in this food roundup in CityBeat. Note to the author: The reason people don’t bring up Lemon Grove when they think of San Diego’s hippest dining ‘hoods is because LG isn’t in San Diego. It’s its own city, bro.

High-five for pointing out our tasty holes-in-the wall, but you missed the famed El Pollo Grill. And the latest foodcitement in LG, thanks to an epic glowing review posted on the Nextdoor app, is this legit Italian joint that just popped up in a crusty bar on Broadway.

San Diego Eater’s got a map of the hottest restaurants this month. The site’s also got details on a new female-owned distillery opening in the East Village.

• Mission Brewery recently debuted a new tasting-room extension in its East Village locale. The Reader talks to the brewery’s owner about the plans for a new stadium in his neighborhood.

“My tasting room sits in the middle of the field on the 50-yard line,” owner Dan Selis told the paper.

Green Flash Brewing Company has committed to putting some of its beer in cans. (Examiner)

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She also managed VOSD’s podcasts and covered...

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