… A whole lot of artmaking in a one-of-a-kind visual arts space
By Linda Caballero Sotelo
If you haven’t made it out to the southernmost part of San Diego county, where the San Diego/Tijuana border meet, then you’ve been missing out on one of the most unique spaces and areas in San Diego: San Ysidro’s only space for art, culture, design and urbanism: THE FRONT.
Since its opening, THE FRONT has enabled the production of new social and cultural relations bringing together arts and social programming, affordable housing and urban research at the border, straddling San Diego and Tijuana.
THE FRONT is part of Casa Familiar’s Arts & Culture Division, under the able hands of its gallery Director, Leticia Gomez Franco, this space was conceived as a cultural think tank that would amplify the “neighborhood” of San Ysidro as a site of cultural production, while engaging local residents and claiming the border region as a unique artistic laboratory. The Salon is a second arts space in the area; housed in what was once a church, in fact, San Ysidro’s one hundred year old Catholic church. The structure was acquired by Casa Familiar and has been repurposed as a gallery and meeting space, serving as the second of Casa Familiar’s art galleries, and a part of an ambitious multi use development project entitled ‘Livingrooms at the Border’.
These spaces, related projects, and partnerships are integral to Casa Familiar’s ongoing efforts to thread art spaces into community and artistic creative placemaking. In essence creating an interwoven community ‘campus’, with galleries and visual arts spaces, affordable housing, public spaces and social services infrastructure.
At the core of THE FRONT’s programming is Casa Familiar’s Arts & Culture Division, which was established to promote cultural identity, the preservation and celebration of traditions, and to integrate the organization’s social service agenda with a local cultural policy, resulting in the production of new ideas, new spaces for art and economy by fostering creative expressions and collaborations with artists, curators, writers, architects, designers, cultural producers, and the community.
Over the last five years, the programming and exhibitions calendar has been growing and expanding steadily, while gaining wider and more diverse audiences eager to preview emerging artists and community-based artmaking. In recent years THE FRONT has hosted high profile events and forums such as the internationally acclaimed Political Equator, under Teddy Cruz. Casa Familiar has been producing the annual Fronteras Festival with performers, booths, ethnic foods, children’s art experiences and an annual binational exhibition—all taking place over a weekend in late May; other celebrations and exhibits include the Dia de la Mujer juried exhibition in March; November’s Dia de Los Muertos culminating in the creation of spectacular Altares in the San Ysidro Civic Center; as well as the Hecho en Casa, where local artisans, artists and crafters congregate to market and sell their creations in early December, in time for the holidays.
This cross border region has always been charged. The artistic & curatorial residencies will play a more prominent role in stimulating and provoking conversations in communities like San ysidro and beyond—across the border and into Tijuana.
Casa Familiar’s arts and culture divisions kicks of its artist residency season for 2014 with the dynamic artists duo of siblings, Jamex & Einar De La Torre, master glassblowers and established visual artists creating box lit work with layered photo technology layering lenticular photographic images in 4D! The De la Torres were selected as the 2014 artists-in-residence recipients through a rigorous process and thanks to a generous grant of the San Diego Foundation.
Visit THE FRONT next Spring as it will host studio visits in San Ysidro and install a show at the Front in May 2014. In addition, this year, THE FRONT is hosting long time collaborator, architect and artists, Teddy Cruz, in his Curatorial residency for 2013, a recipient of the prestigious Warhol Curatorial Grant for Casa Familiar.
There is so much to see and experience through the calendar of events, exhibitions and classes at the Front. Take advantage of the strategic educational partnerships with other arts organizations that are underway including that with MOPA, MCA, the New Americans Museum operated by Casa Familiar, and others.
THE FRONT is reachable by trolley or an easy 20 minute drive from downtown San Diego. Share the best kept secret: THE FRONT in San Ysidro. Check us out on FB or at www.casafamiliar.org to learn more, schedule a tour or view the calendar of exhibitions, events and talks
Linda Caballero Sotelo is the Arts & Culture Advisor for Casa Familiar’s The Front.