How 23 San Diego artists will transform the city’s parks

San Diego’s park system will serve as a backdrop for local artists starting in May. The city announced a public art collaboration, Park Social, in which 23 local artists were commissioned to create 18 projects that use local landscapes as backdrops for site-specific projects, interactive works. Artists will transform open spaces in 28 parks, including canyons, urban and residential neighborhood parks, great hiking destinations and waterfront spaces.

Each artist or artistic collective received $15,000 to create new works. Art – especially works and performances based on installations – will be presented in different city parks from May 21 to November 20. All of this will be free to the public.

The overall goal of Park Social is to reconnect members of the public with each other as well as with the city and its natural spaces after years of pandemic isolation, said Christine Jones, chief civic arts strategist for San Diego.

“It’s about bringing people together and celebrating art and parks,” she said. “Reconnect and celebrate.”

The artists spent months researching San Diego’s 42,000 acres of parkland and developing their projects. Public space is a priority.

“There’s an exploration of social space,” Jones said, “and some exploring social cohesion, belonging, collective expression.”

Sheena Rae Dowling and Yvette Roman created a Memory Dome for San Ysidro Community Park. Visitors will be encouraged to sit inside the structure, made of leftover fabric, or lie on blankets around it, to process experiences and emotions that may have accumulated during the pandemic. The work, called “Collective Memory,” includes community members’ own memories, written on strips of fabric suspended inside the structure, as well as an Instagram archive.

A detailed rendering of Trevor Amery’s “Barely Touching”, a sculptural installation. The work invites visitors to Kensington Park to rub paper on its surfaces.

(Trevor Amery)

Some artists address change and healing. Trevor Amery has created an interactive sculptural installation, “Barely Touching”, which draws inspiration from the ocean as well as “geological changes”. The work, in Kensington Park, includes a central round sculpture depicting waves and aquatic plant shapes on a flat surface; it is surrounded by wooden “rocks” which have plant formations carved into them. Visitors are invited to make stamps, with paper, on their surfaces.

“For me, it’s a lot of elements of change — erosion, but also ecosystems and how kelp is a key species to form the basis of an underwater ecosystem,” Amery said. “It’s a metaphor for how parks, during the pandemic, were a haven where people could feed themselves socially.”

The projects also address issues such as “cultural boundaries, prejudices and identities”, said Jones.

Mario Torero and Sarah Bella Mondragon’s “Toltec totems” – pop-up sculptural installations that will be on display in four locations in Balboa Park over two days – were inspired by the history of the Chicano art movement in San Diego, which led at the foundation of the city’s Chicano Park and the La Raza Cultural Center in Balboa Park.

“Walking the Wall” by sculptor Tim Murdoch in Fault Line Park is a participatory performance in which dancers – Murdoch Collaborating Artists — reconfigure wooden crates made from shipping pallets, create a moving wall or morph border. The play’s character architects will wear backpack-shaped speakers playing salsa music. The work is about “ownership of space through collaboration”, he said.

“Ever-changing boundaries and walls,” Murdoch said. “It’s a political subject, but I try not to be too political or didactic. I want it to be a party, an ever-evolving thing. Walls are built, walls move, countries change – changing borders.

Park Social, he added, “is a big city project. It highlights the idea of ​​community in an artistic way. And it’s all communities because we use city parks.