border wall protest art
Jill Holslin, Andrew Sturm, the Overpass Light Brigade-San Diego and People Over Profits of San Diego projected images on the border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa. / Photo by Jill Holslin

To artists, the eight border wall prototypes recently built in Otay Mesa look like blank canvases.

As soon at the austere slabs went up, photographer and activist Jill Holslin knew she wanted to project anti-wall images on them.

Voice of San Diego Culture Report

“I wanted to point out the surreal absurdity of the border wall prototypes,” Holslin said. “They are these weird structures standing in the middle of nowhere – they’re just absurd, and they have this weird science fiction dystopian future look to them.”

She teamed up with artist Andrew Sturm and the activist groups Overpass Light Brigade-San Diego and People Over Profits of San Diego.

On Saturday night, about a dozen people drove to the Las Torres neighborhood of Tijuana. They parked near the existing border fence and stood on top of their cars and trucks and projected light through stencils, creating images of a human figure climbing upward with the word !LLEGALE! (a play on the words “illegal” and “come on in”), the mask of famed lucha libre wrestler Blue Demon, a ladder, the Statue of Liberty with the words “Refugees Welcome Here” and other messages like “Build Bridges Not Borders.” The whole thing took just under an hour.

Tijuana-based freelance journalist Jorge Nieto was there, and made a video of the projections.  Both the video and Holslin’s photographs of the projections, or “light graffiti,” have been viewed and shared hundreds of times. 

border art prototypes protest
Jill Holslin, Andrew Sturm, the Overpass Light Brigade-San Diego and People Over Profits of San Diego projected images on the border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa. / Photo by Jill Holslin

William Johnson, one of the founding members of Overpass Light Brigade, a group that’s done dozens of similar projects in locations across San Diego, said he hopes the imagery helps people see the wall as lffensive.

“The entire concept of a border wall insults all of our humanity and insults basic human rights,” Johnson said. “It’s ridiculous, because if you have a 30-foot wall, someone will invent the 31-foot ladder.

While big, chaotic protests over the border wall prototypes never materialized, the light graffiti project is part of a new wave of border protest art happening across the region. There’s a long tradition of protest art at the border that often tackles themes like immigration, human rights and binational policies.

Johnson said he hopes more artists use the prototypes as a canvas for protest art. He think the images can help influence public opinion when it comes to the border wall.

“This is an immense waste of money and resources all around,” he said. “We wanted to point that out.”

Here’s a look at how the improvised border-themed mural that Hugo Crosthwaite and José Hugo Sánchez painted at the San Diego Art Institute turned out.

Tijuana artist Marcos Ramirez, known as “ERRE,” built a border wall-like installation at the Oceanside Museum of Art as part of the “unDocumenta,” exhibition showing there. (Los Angeles Times)

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

The Great Art Space Debate

Last week, I moderated a panel discussion about the lack of affordable space for artists in the region to live, work and perform.

arts panel san diego
Panelists at the “Vanishing Art Spaces” discussion at Bread & Salt / Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Panelists at the “Vanishing Art Spaces” discussion at Bread & Salt / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

A few days after the talk, the Union-Tribune dug into whether the region’s underground art scene is dying.

At the talk and in the U-T article, the same issues I’ve heard for years came up yet again: San Diego is too expensive, there aren’t enough serious art collectors here, artists need to get politically organized and collaborate more. ICYMI: I dug in to the 10 points that continually resurface in these types of talks earlier this year.

You can listen to audio of the talk here. And if you want to weigh in on the conversation, you can fill out his form.

Who knows, maybe this is the talk that finally spurs local artists to actually get organized and take action.

• A DIY arts space in City Heights is raising funds to help it keep going.

Bench Graffiti in Barrio Logan, San Diego Chicken in a Museum Show and More Arts and Culture News

• Former San Diego Junior Theater teacher Eric von Metzke pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor and was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this year. A new lawsuit filed against the city by Matt Valenti, whose kids were in the Junior Theater program for eight years, and his lawyer Cory Briggs, accuses two deputy city attorneys serving on the board of the Junior Theater of failing to “comply with ‘mandatory reporting’ requirements when they learned of sexual abuse allegations against some of the theater’s teachers.” (Union-Tribune, Courthouse News)

BuzzFeed says San Diego artist Sarah Stieber is one of “50 Badass Figurative Painters To Follow On Instagram.”

• The San Diego Chicken is one of the mascots featured in a new exhibit at the University of Connecticut’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. (WPXI)

• A new one-act play by local director/playwright Aimee Greenberg being staged in City Heights is garnering some good reviews. (Union-Tribune)

• CityBeat’s annual roundup of the “Best People in San Diego” includes several movers and shakers in the art scene like Andrea Chung, Dinah Poellnitz and Joshua White.

• We talked to businesswoman Diana Ocampo, who runs a sports complex in Barrio Logan, for our I Made it in San Diego podcast. Ocampo is now in the news again after a platform at a parkour gym inside the building she leases from the Metropolitan Transit System collapsed and injured several children. Construction of that platform, and other construction inside the building, was not properly permitted, so now MTS says it’s looking into terminating its lease with Ocampo. (Union-Tribune)

• Speaking of past podcast subjects and Barrio Logan, Alan Cassell, one of the Barrio Logan business owners I talked to for my Culturecast podcast series n gentrification and the arts renaissance happening in the neighborhood, has been named in a conspiracy and bribery case involving the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (The Star News)

• KPBS’s Nina Garin is out with her annual guide to the many different “Nutcracker” performances happening in San Diego.

• San Diego author Marlene Wagman-Geller is out with a new book about women who’ve overcome adversity. (KPBS)

In case you didn’t make it to the paper art exhibition I told you about in last week’s Culture Report, here are several photos of the event.

• I took my first-born son to see kids perform “Elf the Musical JR” in Ocean Beach and it was good.

• SDVoyager drops in on David Skelley, the guy with a good eye who runs the Boomerang for Modern shop in Little Italy.

• The Desert View Tower site in Jacumba is for sale and it’s destined to be mine, real estate developers, so back off. (Union-Tribune)

• San Diego Unified plans to offer music programming to fifth graders at all of its elementary schools. (KPBS)

• Artist and musician Ramel J. Wallace snapped a photo of a bench in Barrio Logan that was temporarily altered by an unknown artist who weighed in on the modern fruteria that tried to open in the neighborhood, but was shut down after community backlash. Wallace says the city has removed the message.

barrio logan bench
A bench in Barrio Logan was altered with an anti-gentrification message. / Photo by Ramel J. Wallace

• Here’s a good explanation of why the San Diego International Fringe Festival and similar festivals exist, and what they set out to do for artists and performers who operate outside of a city’s mainstream art scene.

• I loved this KPBS profile of twin sisters who work hard to keep the Old Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument in tip-top shape.

Food, Beer and Booze News

• The San Diego restaurant scene is booming. (Union-Tribune)

• Here’s everything you need to know about Shake Shack, the New York-based chain that just opened in San Diego. (San Diego Magazine)

• The folks behind Cafe Chloe have opened Minou, a charming little crepe shop in the East Village. (Eater)

• San Diego Magazine claims this vegan taco is actually good.

• A Colorado brewery filed a lawsuit against San Diego-based yeast supplier White Labs, alleging that the company sold the brewery contaminated yeast, which led to an expensive recall. (BrewBound)

• Check out the first-ever Paradise Hills Night Market on Saturday.

• CityBeat says SouthNorte Beer Company exemplifies a “cross-border and cross-cultural collaborative spirit.”

• Rebecca’s Coffee Shop in South Park is closing. (NBC 7)

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at with arts and culture news and tips. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

Kinsee Morlan

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

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