“I think there’s a lot of innovation in San Diego right now in relation to arts education for young people,” said artist Perry Vasquez, who also teaches at Southwestern College. “I would point to the Children’s Museum … and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego has a program up and running that’s aimed at art education for high school-age students, a very difficult audience to attract. Those two institutions have gone a long way in developing outreach.”
Vasquez, a graduate of UC San Diego’s MFA program, will be speaking at the MCASD in La Jolla on Thursday, June 21, along with fellow artists Misael Diaz and Amy Sanchez in a program titled “Perspective: American Art Today.” They’ll be discussing the challenges for artists throughout our border region and their positions from a global standpoint.
Some fledgling Mexican artists are discovering a “dual life” in San Diego, said Vasquez, the former assistant curator at the Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park and onetime operator of the ICE Gallery in North Park.
“Grass-roots community artists are emerging in Southeast San Diego,” said Vasquez. “They live in Tijuana and are finding places to exhibit their art here, places like the Roots Factory (in Barrio Logan). The Centro used to be the only venue in town — it’s not the case anymore.”
While artists from the U.S. and Mexico continue to produce dynamic and emotive work, their inspirations and their pedagogies are very different, Vasquez said.
“If you go to Chicano Park or to the Centro, you see these old-school murals and a lot of references to Aztec culture,” he said. “These artists have a cultural connection to their past. In Mexico, they are more international in their outlook, more conceptual, more abstract. Less likely to be looking that far back into history.”
Considering the dichotomy another way, many of the Mexican-American artists are drawn to street art, said Vasquez. “That’s the art of their generation.”
The Tijuana artists, on the other hand, “are coming from a more formal education, from the Catholic schools, for example. So they’re more interested in the figurative, European tradition.”
The 90-minute event at the Museum of Contemporary Art will be an “ethical conversation,” Vasquez said, examining how globalism has impacted the art world as a business, and posing the question, “Are artists across the world being given genuine opportunities to show their work and have an impact on what people are talking about?”
It’s a question that Vasquez’s students may one day be facing. He’s optimistic.
“They have a very strong vision,” he said.
If you go...
“Perspective: Mexican-American Art Today”
7 p.m. Thursday, June 21
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
700 Prospect St.