By Anna Daniels
San Diego Free Press contributors are a diverse and talented group of individuals. It will be a busy weekend for three of them with the unveiling of Jim Bliesner‘s sculpture Cultural Fusion, Casa Familiar’s Abrazo Award for Barbara Zaragoza and An Evening of Provocative Poetry with Jeeni Criscenzo. These events follow upon last week’s screening of SDFP video- journalist Horacio Jones‘ short film “Wingin’ It” at the 48 Hour Film Project in San Diego.
What: Unveiling of Sculpture Cultural Fusion
Where: La Maestra Health Center, 4060 Fairmount Avenue, City Heights
When: Friday, August 21, 11:30 am
RSVP: Avital Aboody 619-961-1080; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Bliesner is the Director of the Center for Urban Economics and Design at UCSD, a lecturer in Urban Studies at UCSD, resident of City Heights and long time activist there and an urban artist in sculpture and painting. Jim’s contributions to SDFP, not surprisingly to those of us who know him, draw upon all of those endeavors.
Jim provides an intellectual framing for the impacts of urban policies and economic inequity on poor, demographically diverse communities–City Heights in particular. He also provides insight into the way these same communities can mitigate those effects, as in one of his most popular articles I-15 in City Heights: How a Freeway that Divided the Community Became an Urban Monument to Citizen Activism or assert a more pro-active and alternative vision as in Urban Design for Climate Change- The Third Way.
Art has consistently been the manner in which Jim synthesizes the intellectual and the ceaseless pursuit of justice with the truth, beauty and meaning that he finds in the streets, among the people. He has visited the streets and countrysides of China, Greece, Kenya and Mexico; talked to people, listened, looked–and painted, drawn or executed works in block prints.
His artwork has appeared unexpectedly and sometimes surreptitiously in public spaces, aka Free Art Gallery. They are adhered to overlooked, neglected walls and presented to an audience of people passing by on foot. Ephemeral works, they are subject to the vagaries of weather, municipal cleansings and street critics. Jim has documented his public art installations in his two books “Clouds of Summer-2011” and “Crowds of Summer- 2012”.
Jim’s City Heights neighborhood has been a source of inspiration and a canvas for his artistic expression. In the 90s, he wrapped the entire fence of the City Heights Community Garden with a red, white and blue plywood ribbon and bow. Jim has provided sculptural pieces for the Azalea Park Water Conservation/Sculpture Garden.
It is fitting that the unveiling of Cultural Fusion is co-sponsored by the City Heights Community Development Corporation. Jim was one of its founding members in the late 80s. La Maestra, the other co-sponsor as well as the site of the sculpture, will provide entertainment and refreshments. District 9 Councilmember Emerald will be one of the speakers.
What: Award Recipient, Casa Familiar Abrazo Award Gala
Where: Hilton San Diego Bayfront
When: Friday August 21, 5-10 pm
Last year, SDFP singled out Barbara Zaragoza as one of the people who made San Diego a better place in 2014. We described her web site Southbay Compass as an antidote to bland booster-ism and applauded her for the well researched, in-depth and nuanced articles found there. Barbara provides superb writing about under-reported areas in South Bay. Her recently published book San Ysidro and the Tijuana River Valley captures what it has meant to live in that small border community back to the 1800’s.
Her articles are popular with SDFP readers. They cover subjects as diverse as Andrea Skorpea of Casa Familiar, border markers, the Chinese in Mexicali and lowriders in National City. Barbara consistently conveys a mixture of good will, curiosity and intelligence in her clear beautiful prose.
What: When the Purple Arrives-again! An Evening of Provocative Poetry
Where: The Grass Roots Oasis, 3130 Moore St., San Diego 92110
When: Saturday, August 22 7:30 pm
Jeeni Criscenzo founded Amikas, a non-profit that works to house homeless women and children, particularly veteran women. She was one of the founders of Women Occupy San Diego and remains active in supporting many liberal causes, locally and nationally. In 2006 she was the Democratic candidate for the 49th Congressional District, running against Darrell Issa. She is an avid gardener, relentless feminist, performance poet and proud grandmother.
Jeeni is one of SDFP‘s newest contributors. She writes the weekly column My Niche. Her columns cover a broad range of topics that include the frustrations of signing up for Medi-Cal, unexpected termite swarms and politics. Jeeni effortlessly moves back and forth between prose and poetry in her columns.
During a recent conversation she noted how gratifying it is to read and perform poetry before an audience. I asked her about the all too common perception that while there are poets and poetry, poets who are women are still too often treated as a sub-class, not quite the real deal. Jeeni’s response was quick. “Women are angry.” She emphasized that women write about economic and racial and environmental justice and they often do so from the unique perspective of mothers and grandmothers who have a deeply personal stake in the future. That is as real deal as it gets.
The evening of poetry will include guest performances by local women poets.