Everything’s been building up to this moment, says Southeast Art Team President Kim Phillips-Pea. The painter and mother had spent the last ten years tirelessly supporting Southeast San Diego’s artists on a community and county-wide level. There were mural projects, partnerships with SDG&E to paint utility boxes, workshops, and collaborations with other neighborhood nonprofits, like San Diego Hip Hop 5K, all to give artists a platform and to uplift the community through art. It was by no means a slow or quiet process. The passion was always there. The community was always there. Phillips-Pea says that what held them up in the past was simply a matter of finances and getting the right people to take notice. But then, last fall, they caught a break.
“I had reached out to the Jacobs Center just to see if we could get some of our art on display there because, though we always wanted a gallery, it just wasn’t in our budget at that time,” she says. “Instead, the CEO, Reginald Jones, showed us this place around the corner from the center. When I saw the ‘for lease’ sign still up in the window, I just started crying.”
The gallery opened in late 2020, housing the work of Phillips-Pea and co-owner Raquel Rhone alongside a curated selection from other local artists. Beyond fine art, there’s colorful jewelry, decor, prints, and handmade goods on display and for sale. It’s an opportunity for the artists, but Phillips-Pea also stresses that it’s an opportunity for those in the community to get curious about the arts. Before the pandemic, they offered a space for locals to come in and free-paint on blank canvases. Now they offer virtual workshops and post DIY projects online.
“We are an underserved community and feel the effects of what it means to be an underserved community,” she says. “But the response to art has always been positive. When you tap into what you’re passionate about, you positively affect everyone else around you. It doesn’t have to be drawing or painting. Whatever it is that excites you, we encourage you to pursue it.”
Southeast Art Team’s rally for artists goes beyond placing their work in a gallery. When they see potential, they go into overdrive to keep that artist well and working. “I recognize the signs when people are not honing in on their full potential, because I was there myself once, too,” she says. Whether it’s getting someone off the street or offering them business advice, the team positions themselves to help “find the awesomeness in you.” In the future, Phillips-Pea envisions the organization expanding into a full-fledged artists’ union, providing housing, gallery space, business resources, and counseling to anyone they take under their wing.
It all comes down to generational wealth, she says. “We are all about taking our community to the next level and laying down the pavement for future generations, like my son, to continue down that path.”
The pop-up gallery is open through the end of February in Market Creek Plaza. Due to COVID-19, to tour it you must make an appointment online.
342 Euclid Avenue, Suite 406, Lincoln Park