It seems that every city with a developed creative community has a combination of two kinds of people: artists and musicians who work hard at what they do, and people who put in equally hard work to support those artists and spread the word. For our budding creative community here in San Diego, Kinsee Morlan has been a patron saint for building an active, thoughtful, and sustainable network of artists. Founder of Adapta Project and former Arts & Culture Editor for the CityBeat, Kinsee invested eight years doing the hard and often unseen work of planting necessary seeds. Recently relocated to Colorado, we asked Kinsee to leave us with a few snippets of insight from her time here.
When did you move to San Diego and how did you get involved with all of the projects you worked with here?
I moved to San Diego in 2001, went to college and stayed in my little campus bubble pretty much until I graduated. That's part of the problem with San Diego, by the way, there are so many universities there bubbling with activity, but rarely do the students see the bigger picture in terms of getting involved with the community at large. I digress. I didn't really get involved with the arts until 2005, the year I started working at San Diego CityBeat. And from then on, it was a huge part of my life. It took up weekends, ruined relationships and damn-near made me have a nervous breakdown during some of the bigger events, but it was worth it. I fell in love with art and bringing people together in the name of art.
What were the best things that you saw happen in San Diego? What are some good memories?
I loved seeing San Diegans buy art -- mostly because everyone thought it couldn't be done. San Diego and Tijuana have more artists than the local galleries know what to do with, but the problem is the local art collectors.
The people who make a gallery and art scene possible (read: La Jollans with money) buy their art in New York or London and don't give enough credit to the artist painting right next-door. In the beginning, I saw that starting to change; we had shows that sold near $10,000 in art. But when the economy tanked the art sales slipped down to nothing and I started getting weary of asking artists to make work that I knew wouldn't end up selling.
Art is about more than money, but unfortunately, cash buys art supplies and affords the artist the time to create.
What good things did you see that need to happen more often?
Seeing artists collaborate and get creative in the weird spaces Adapta Project ended up showing in was amazing. I'd like to see more artist bypassing the whole gallery or even curator/organizer thing and collaborate with one another in putting on shows. I'd also love to see more self efficacy in the art scene in general -- less dependency on being "discovered" by an outsider and more dependency on technology and using websites, blogs, social networking and the internet in general to spread their artwork across the world.
And to the art-show-going public in general, my message is this: Art shows need to be less about the alcohol and the "scene" and more about the artist and the artwork. San Diego has such a hipster scene, which means there's lots of young people who dig cool, indie art and music, but those kids need to stop spending $100 a month stocking up on cool shit from the thrift store and start using that money to actually support the art and music scene.
In your opinion, what are the San Diego creative community's biggest needs, challenges, hang-ups, etc?
San Diego is too damn sunny and perfect on the outside. It takes a little San Francisco and New York grit to make artists think and create. Part of the reason I moved to Tijuana after living in San Diego for a few years was that I wanted to feel something. TJ is gritty, but it's also alive, vibrant and made me feel more inspired and alive than I've ever felt before.
To answer the question, though, I'd say the hang-up is in the city's spread-out disconnection. There's no center, no heart of the city, so it's hard to feel connected to San Diego. I guess artists just have to sink their teeth in where ever and however they can -- go into Southeast San Diego, spend a night on the streets downtown, try to find the pulse of the city and paint it or communicate it in whatever medium you use. We need to find San Diego's style, because it's not LA and it's not TJ. It's something, but I don't know if the artists have found out what just yet.
What can artists, musicians, and art/music fans do to help build it?
Don't be lazy. If you find yourself bitching about San Diego, do something to fix it.
Why did you decide to move to Colorado?
1. Family. 2. Trees. 3. Change.
How has it been so far, and tell us about the art opening you somehow already managed to pull off?
It's been great. I love having my mom and dad right next door, I was able to get a house with a yard, so I have a cute little puppy sleeping at my feet right now. The first opening of the so-called Red House Gallery was great. I was able to use an empty building across the street and used my livingroom and kitchen in my house and about 50 or 60 people showed up (which is good for a small town like this). We sold some artwork and I met lots of talented local artists that I can't wait to show. I'm also getting involved with the downtown association here and going to try to get the entire main street of Bayfield to be involved and start something like Ray at Night.
Any other words of wisdom, shoutouts, thanks, rants, etc. for San Diego?
Shoutout to San Diego CityBeat, which continues to be a huge supporter of the local arts, Sanctuary 143 and Sezio, which have picked up where Adapta Project left off, and to all the local artists who let me show their work -- Mike Maxwell, Pamela Jaeger, Joshua Krause, Bret Barrett, Foi Jiminez, Perry Vasquez, James Ivey and all the rest.
Keep up with Kinsee's latest adventures on her new blog, Durango Dirt.