Sunday, July 14, 2013

Art Alley and the Beginning of an Idea…

When first coming to Oceanside in 1991, I had my sculpture studio in the Tech Park area. The studio was a gift really for the entire Park was virtually vacant. My landlord let me have 1200 sq. feet of 20 ft. sky lighted space for 150. which was decadent in its amenities. As luck would have it for him this changed after about one year. Then the search began for a new studio space, one which would offer the ambiance of the beach, people about and most important a place coffee with colleagues.

So began my tenure in an alley which was the most God forsaken place in downtown Oceanside. You might think that being located just across from the incredibly beautiful Civic Center Plaza it would be just the opposite. Not So.

The Alley was strewn with unmentionables left from each nights visitors of nefarious ways, and the detritus was so odoriferous, that walking down this Alley was a Physical Challenge.

However, and this was the big attraction, it was a Downtown commercial/retail space for only 350. a month.

The unit was the best one on the Alley for it had a skylight, and was next to the walkway into the Art Building as it was to become known. The space was dark and had carpet with living creatures in it and walking into it I knew my work was cut out for me. As a former Newport Beach Designer for 20 years I was up to the task, and before long the cement floors gleamed and the walls were painted white.

Now, I had a Studio. It really was a place for the creative muse to hang out with me and some of my most original work was done there both in paintings and sculpture.

After about a year, the building was filling up with artists both on the Alley and upstairs where there were nine more studios. We met from time to time and became kind of a unknown force of underground artistic abilities who were on the outside of anything related to the downtown of Oceanside. This was a Town of Pizza joints and Marine barber shops, strip joints and cleaners.
The  Playgirl Club" was not the "New Oceanside Image" and it was finally closed by the City.  

There were no upscale Restaurants, Hotels, or Theaters which ordinary folks could patronize. Certainly there was no Art.   

About this time, in 1992, I was offered a seat on the Cultural Arts Commission for the City of Oceanside. At the same time a seat on the Redevelopment Committee opened up and I was accepted as a Citizen/business member.

As my involvement in the Oceanside Community became more intertwined with folks who could help the Arts precipitate change, the idea of Art Alley developed. On the other side of Art Alley was a wonderful Community minded man, Jim Terry, who became my ally in approaching the Council. He owned the Building which is now part of Church related activities. 

The proposal for a Closed Walking Promenade for Artists to show their work was made and Councilman Terry Johnson asked if we could hang a banner and lights to make this venue a true Art Alley. He said, “it could become another Gas Lamp district”. This was in the year 1993.

It Happened! The Banner was hung, the days for our Art walks were to be Thursday mornings which coincided with the Farmers Market and we were in Business.  With the songs of Jamaica Steel drums on the tape in the Alley, folks came into a place which had NEVER before been attempted.

I journeyed to Carlsbad and conscripted the Community Arts group who painted on Coast Highway in front of a Hotel every Sunday. About seven came up that first day, and eventually they filled the Civic Plaza every Thursday during the Farmers Market.  

That first morning at 5:00 AM I was there with my German Shepherd Kruger, and we hosed down the Alley. With the music, the fragrance of Coffee in the Air and Paintings lining the walkway, we would become the one of the driving forces for the New Face of Oceanside, a new element injected into a heretofore Marine Town and a place for the birth of Energy for The Arts to be Realized.

I will never forget our first day. One of our Artists sold a painting for 1500.00 dollars. It was if we had come from outer space, but incredibly the alley was to become a force because of the talent and drive which lived and breathed in this place once considered the armpit of Oceanside.

Members of this group were James Aitchison, Ginny Thompkins, Michael Rosenblatt, Andre Blaine, Gigi the photographer, Sally our wildlife portraitist, and others who filled the upstairs studios. From this group the beginnings of the Arts Commission were infused with real artists whose commitment to our City has become legend.

The Idea of an Art Museum was being Born. 

Going Back to the Future: