San Diego Art Department spawns art, community and more
Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
A small group of local artists, mentored by Mission Hills resident Ari Kate Ashton, inadvertently created a community while honing their artistic skills at the San Diego Art Department (SDAD) five years ago. The group recently published a book highlighting many of the artists and three of their best works, most of which originated through class participation at SDAD.
Titled simply, “Ray Street Artists,” the 78-page, glossy, 8-inch by 8-inch soft cover book quietly hit the shelves near the end of 2013, but its contributors are now gearing up for an exhibition that will mark its official launch.
To be held March 1, “Art in the Garden” will consist solely of work found in the “Ray Street Artists” book. Lisa Tear, one of the many artists profiled therein, is opening up the idyllic outdoor garden patio of her La Jolla home for the four-hour exhibition.
“The home has always been owned by an artist,” said Ashton.
Ashton, who assembled the group in 2008 after recognizing the talent had “moved well past being students,” named them after the North Park art school’s address.
As the educational arm of the non-profit San Diego Art Institute headquartered in Balboa Park, the SDAD currently hosts 19 different instructors and supports dozens of classes for all ages on various art subjects, from introductory classes on watercolor and drawing, to stained glass and basket weaving and everything else in between.
According to SDAD’s website, their mission is “to establish itself as a sacred place that encourages the creativity of artists of all ages and stimulates the ongoing flow of ideas and expression.”
Ashton — who has taught at SDAD for the past six years — said she assists her students in first establishing themselves as artists and then taking their art beyond the studio, something she calls “art to market.”
“I teach them to find their visual voice and develop a body of work that they can then sell,” Ashton said.
She said her “Developing the Artist” is one of the only classes of its kind. as many often frown upon teaching the semantics of marketing an artist’s work, but Ashton feels it is an important step in any artist’s career.
“Some disagree with me, but what’s the point of making art if it never leaves the studio?” she said.
Patric Stillman, one of the artists profiled in the book, agrees.
“So many young artists are rooted in an esoteric mindset — a bohemian lifestyle creating art that is not meant for everyone,” he said. “In contrast, I find Ray Street Artists as a whole are more interested in connecting with and sharing their messages with the public. They are happy to have their works appear in ArtWalk, local galleries, salons, coffee houses and online.”
The Ray Street Artists group is comprised of 25 members but only 18 were included in the book, a decision Ashton said was based on the quantity of work they have accomplished. Ashton and Lesley Anderson, the current education director at SDAD, reviewed dozens of pieces put forth for inclusion and chose the artwork that best represented each selected artist’s work. The art that made the cut runs the gamut of mediums, and makes use of acrylics, oils, metal, wood, and mixed media. Along with the three pieces chosen, an extensive bio for each artist accompanies their work, and both Ashton and Anderson have work in the book as well.
Though members of the Ray Street Artists group often participate in Ray at Night, North Park’s monthly art event, none of them own studios on the actual street and many even travel from as far away as Poway and Carlsbad to attend their weekly classes or meet ups at SDAD.
Through their artist community, group members often get exposure as guest artists at SDAD’s own in-house exhibitions, Ray at Night, other solo shows, and are showcased together at the annual Mission Federal ArtWalk.
In addition, many works from the “Ray Street Artists” book will be on display in the lobby of the Lyceum Theatre during “Detroit,” a play running Feb. 22 through March 16, and group member Nancy Plank currently has work on display at SDAD through March 8.
Aside from their recent shared interest in the book’s publication, the Ray Street Artists have become a tight-knit group over the last five years. They meet weekly to paint, critique each other’s work, discuss ways to further develop their portfolios, and to generally support one another’s artistic endeavors.
“It gives me a creative community that encourages, pushes and helps me realize my personal artistic goals,” Stillman said. “I’ve found an enclave of simpatico souls, which offers me an alternative to being alone with my work all the time. It’s very gratifying to have that interaction with others.
“As an artist, you never know where you’ll find that spark of innovation, and for me and this crew, we often provide that to each other.”
Others profiled in the “Ray Street Artists” book and the March 1 exhibition include: Bronle Crosby, Sheila Daube, Ann Golumbuk, Pat Harris, Vanessa V. Hofmann, Lorraine ‘Rain’ Iverson, Lisa Kohl, Dawn Kureshy, Jan Lord, Shirin Nikoukari, Nancy Plank, Tricia Skoglund, Tammi Smith, Lynn Steffner, and Lisa Tear.
“Art in the Garden” will take place from 1 – 5 p.m. at 6112 Waverly Ave. in La Jolla. Wine and appetizers will be served, the “Ray Street Artists” book will be available for purchase for $27.95, and music by local musician Mike McGill will be provided. Admission is to the event is free.
For more information about the exhibition or the Ray Street Artists’ group, visit raystreetartists.com or find them on Facebook. You can also learn more about art classes and in house exhibits at sandiegoartdepartment.com.