In an old Victorian house located on Island St. in the barrio of Sherman Heights sits San Diego’s newest art gallery. Casa Galería, located at the historic Founders’ House, is managed by the Historic Barrio District Community Development Corporation (HBD CDC). The HBD CDC is a nonprofit organization committed to addressing the needs of the communities of Sherman Heights, Logan Heights, Grant Hill, Memorial and Stockton. The Historic Barrio District presents itself as a Mecca of art, culture, history and activism that promotes community pride, economic opportunities and a healthy environment for all of its residents.
The HBD CDC’s latest project, among their many, is Casa Galería. Casa Galería is a community space dedicated to cultivating and celebrating Chicano/Latino arts and culture in San Diego’s historic barrios. The gallery will provide a space for local and international Chicano/Latino artists to showcase their art and will embrace visual, literary, musical, textile and craft artists by presenting quality work that will engage the residents, neighbors and the San Diego community at large.
The grand opening of Casa Galería, located at 2260 Island Ave. next door to the Sherman Heights Community Center, was held on January 24 and featured the exhibit “5to. Tour de Artistas.” The show, organized in partnership with The National Foundation of Independent Artists and Talento Hispano, showcases the work of over 30 Chicano/Latino artists. The exhibition runs through February 28 with open hours Monday through Friday from 4pm-7pm. All future exhibits will run about six weeks each with two weeks between shows to allow for installation and break down.
“We are excited to open this unique space that will allow us to continue cultivating and celebrating arts and culture in our community,” stated Jerry Guzman-Vergara, HBD CDC Executive Director. “We hope to merge our current partnerships with the San Diego Museum of Art and local artists to provide quality art education workshops in our new gallery space.”
He goes on to say “I think more than anything what we’re doing is bringing awareness to our community of what is happening in the barrio. And the fact that we are trying to continue to be stewards of what is happening here so it doesn’t ultimately change and become different for us. Where we no longer have a place to celebrate our families’ history and the things that have happened here. And continue building community by celebrating what’s been happening here for the past 34 years. This is just another opportunity for us to continue preserving our communities.”
In the past the Founders’ House was used for board meetings of the Historic Barrio District and as a gathering space for a variety of community groups including Gamblers Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, House of Mexico, various PTA’s and other organizations. It was also rented out for a variety of functions. The space will continue to be utilized in the same manner but instead of drab, old walls there will be vibrant colors painted on canvasses throughout the house. This in turn will help promote the space and help generate more income for the HBD.
It took a lot of hard work by a team of dedicated community members to get the Founders’ House up to the standards needed to become an art gallery. The inside was remodeled only two months ago and still has that just-been-painted smell.
I asked former HBD board member Liliana Garcia-Rivera what she thought of the finished product: “I think it’s awesome. A lot of the floor space has been empty. It hasn’t been used for months. I think this is a perfect opportunity to bring art, bring people to make use of the space. And the people can see the inside of the house and learn about the history of the house itself. I’m really happy with the results. We’ve done some work to the inside. It wasn’t like this when we acquired it. It’s taken a lot of work. The idea of restoring the house and making the house a separate entity [has been on our minds for awhile]. The house has always been called the yellow house. And its a lot more than just the yellow house. It has a history of its own and a life of its own separate from the building of the actual community center. The last two years we’ve been working on the idea of having the house have its own identity and have it be a multipurpose venue. So I think that the art gallery coming in here is perfect. Perfect timing for the vision we have of the house.”
During the opening reception I bumped into artist and former San Diegan Diego “Yeyo” Aguirre Macedo. A year or so ago I curated an exhibit at the Centro Cultural de la Raza and he answered my submission call for artists and I was lucky enough to be the first curator in San Diego to show his work. When asked what he thought about Casa Galería he said “its a huge honor for us [artists]. This spot is really nice. Really great. Very historic. It has that mystic feel to it.”
It is an honor to be in the first show at Casa Galería. And its an honor knowing that the Historic Barrio District has a dedicated team of talented community members willing to put the time and effort into presenting art and culture. It’s a thankless task promoting the arts. I know. I’ve been doing it for over 15 years in San Diego. And I appreciate the efforts of people like Jerry Guzman-Vergara and the people that work under his leadership. We need more stewards of our communities. And we need art galleries and cultural spaces throughout every barrio in San Diego, southern California and beyond.
For more information on Casa Galería and the Historic Barrio District contact Devonna Almagro at devonna@