When Lizzie Rodriquez’s car battery died, she was temporarily stranded on Logan Avenue in Barrio Logan. By chance, Remel “Real” J. Wallace walked by and the two started chatting.
“As we talked more and more, I think the way we approach things, the way we look at art, the way we want to support the community and residents was very much in line,” Rodriquez said.
Wallace is one of the co-owners of thChrch (pronounced “The Church”), a co-working space that recently re-opened at the corner of Sampson Street and Logan Avenue. For months, Rodriquez and her sister, Dani Cisneros, had been holding pop-up events in Barrio Logan for Chicanista Boutique, their brand of contemporary handmade aprons, bags, accessories, home decor and other things mostly made from reused or recycled materials. Wallace asked if they wanted to develop their business and open a permanent space at thChrch.
The sisters took the leap and celebrated the grand opening of Chicanista’s new home at theChrch over the weekend. They have a cart displaying their goods that they set up both inside and outside the coworking space. They also use a communal room at thChrch to host cultural workshops on things like sewing, making piñatas and cooking.
Chicanista Boutique is just one of several small businesses and art galleries that have opened on Logan Avenue between Chicano Park and 26th Street over the past few years. The renaissance has residents and community activists concerned about gentrification and the displacement of the neighborhood’s longtime residents and businesses – I’ve been covering that tension in the first season of VOSD’s Culturecast podcast.
When I first started working on the podcast, the space currently housing Chicanista and thChrch was inhabited by a small business selling a mix of used goods. The owners spoke only Spanish and didn’t want to talk to me. That business was closed and the building was repainted and re-branded as a space for artist lofts just a few months before thChrch moved in.
I asked Wallace and Rodriquez, who lives in Barrio Logan, what they thought about the neighborhood’s rapid transformation and their role in it.
“I think change is inevitable,” Rodriquez said. “I tell my neighbors that live off of 33rd Street with me that change is coming … but we have to be active participants in the community. The businesses have to be active participants so we can direct the change in the manner that we want it to go. … We are Latina women, so when people get worried about gentrification, I call it gente-fication. In Spanish, the word gente is people, so we are the people, Latin people, coming in a Latin area to maintain the culture.”
Wallace describes thChrch as a place where they turn creative people into business owners. He said they’re building out a music studio and will be looking for neighborhood musicians to come in to use the space. He said he thinks thChrch can play a role in maintaining and even amplifying Barrio Logan’s culture by helping residents become entrepreneurs.
“I also want to see less talk of the gentrification being put over the renaissance that’s happening here,” he said. “Because the renaissance is divine.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
San Diegans on Who They Really Are
Ozzie Monge, a lecturer in San Diego State University’s American Indian Studies Department, is the activist behind the latest campaign to get the university to change its mascot. Monge says the Aztec warrior mascot is racist and misrepresents the native history of the region.
“They should replace it with, I don’t know, maybe something that isn’t racist?” he said. “I have a joke mascot that I offered – the red Solo cup, because that’s what outsiders think the campus culture is.”
Monge is one of a handful of San Diegans who’ll be talking on Saturday at the New Narrative, one of San Diego’s newest live storytelling events. He’ll touch on the SDSU mascot controversy, but mostly he said he’ll be talking about how he’s slowly unraveled his native roots over the years. When he was born, he said he was told he was Mexican, but he’s since learned otherwise.
Other speakers who’ll touch on the theme of identity include Patricia Aguayo, who opened a free lending library for Chicano literature in Barrio Logan, and Omar Passons, who grew up in a multi-racial adoptive family.
The Symphony’s New Season, a Big San Diego Premiere and Other Arts and Culture News
• The San Diego Symphony’s new season is under way and the Union-Tribune says it offers something for just about everyone. This marks Jahja Ling’s 13th and final season as the symphony’s music director and conductor.
• The New York Times just released an exclusive video of actress Daphne Rubin-Vega (remember Mimi from “Rent”?) singing a song from the new musical “Miss You Like Hell,” which premieres at the La Jolla Playhouse later this month. The Times calls the show “one of the most anticipated new musicals of the season to not have its premiere in New York.”
• President Barack Obama has named October National Arts and Humanities Month. The Port of San Diego’s arts department is celebrating by rolling out a month-long calendar of special events.
• The Liberty Station art scene just grew again. CityBeat’s got a look at a new art gallery there.
• Talk about a rave review: The U-T’s Pam Kragen has a lot of good things to say about Diversionary Theatre’s season-opening “Lizard Boy the Musical.” Here’s just one part of the praise: “The 95-minute musical blends comic books, Godzilla mythology, ‘Spring Awakening,’ cello music and a surprisingly sweet love story in an innovative, funny and wildly entertaining way.”
• Stars of the Russian Ballet are headed to San Diego’s Spreckels Theatre. (San Diego Gay & Lesbian News)
• An exhibition of rare guitars is showing at the Museum of Making Music. (The Coast News Group)
• Ever wonder about the origins of the dog mural in downtown La Mesa? CityBeat has the story behind it.
• It sounds like folks had fun at the new esert Trip music fest, dubbed “Oldchella” because of its lineup and matured target market. (The Guardian)
• The San Diego Art Institute is hosting an event with some of the people and organizations who have arts funding to offer.
• The Mesa College Art Gallery is hosting a panel on collecting art.
• The biggest hits and misses of San Diego’s built environment – new buildings, parks, public art and interior design – will be talked about on Thursday at the 40th annual Orchids & Onions event.
• The idea of imperfection is explored in a pair of exhibitions on view at the Athenaeum in La Jolla. (La Jolla Light)
• Photographer and longtime labor activist Fred Lonidier is giving a talk in Tijuana.
• Over 100 artists will be doing some fast and furious live drawing in Balboa Park Friday night.
• Congrats to these young local playwrights. (U-T)
Food, Beer and Booze News
• A fancy Basque-influenced restaurant offering classical French and Spanish dishes is now open in Rancho Santa Fe. (Modern Luxury)
• These Halloween cupcakes by a San Diego foodie are to die for.
• The guy behind the new Leap Coffee shop in Carlsbad pivoted from his real estate career so he could serve craft coffee. (Reader)
• This dude knows a thing or two about growing peppers.
• Karl Strauss Brewing Co. was named the nation’s best midsize brewery at the Great American Beer Fest. That’s a big-time award, but this Ohio blogger reports on the big misstep that happened right before the San Diego brewery was named. The West Coaster has a rundown of all the awards picked up by San Diego brewers at this year’s Great American Beer Fest.