Three years ago, the San Diego Foundation and its former director of arts and culture, Felicia Shaw, came up with the novel idea of funding artists directly. The result was the Creative Catalyst program, which has had an effect well beyond the approximately $485,000 it provided artists in 2012 and in 2014.
The 25 artists — 15 the first year and 10 the second — who partnered with a sponsoring nonprofit cultural institution ranged from pipa player Wu Man to artist Margaret Noble, from puppeteer
Iain Gunn to the pop musician Joel P. West, and almost without exception, they continue to be a vital force in the community.
“Artists are obviously a really important engine for the local economy,” said Emily Young, the foundation’s vice president for community impact. “Investing in these artists and their development really helps to fuel San Diego’s creative economy for the future.”
The foundation has just announced the 10 Creative Catalyst program recipients for 2015. It’s a diverse group that includes filmmakers, writers, musicians and playwrights.
Each will receive $20,000 to work on a project that goes beyond just being a work of art.
“The common denominator between all of them is enthusiasm and a deep understanding and desire to learn more about their art form, collaborate with others, and give back to their community,” said Jill Hill, who has been a key panel member with the program since its inception.
“At this point, we’re not just looking at a great art project, but what it will do to make San Diego better.”
Here are the 2015 Creative Catalyst artists:
Alicia Peterson Baskel
Bio: University of California San Diego dance graduate who has danced and choreographed for numerous local companies on both sides of the border
Project: “Process Works”
Purpose: “Bring the experience of dance performance to local science institutions and their employees, encouraging professionals in various fields of science to value their own creative processes.”
Form: A series of touring dance performances
Bio: Veteran San Diego theater artist whose numerous credits include director, dramaturge, performer, playwright, producer from companies ranging from Sledgehammer to his own Dream Immersion Theatre
Sponsor: Playwrights Project
Project: “Dark Matter”
Purpose: Involve an audience in an immersive, interactive theater experience the considers what might happen “if we all had to escape (the world) because of the ravages of extreme weather, water wars, overconsumption and unsustainable population and ideological strife which become too much to bear.”
Form: Script development, workshop production
Bio: UC San Diego art graduate who is now artist-in-residence at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles and a research fellow at the Institute of Public and Urban Affairs at San Diego State University
Sponsor: SD Writers, Ink
Project: “Olfactory Memoirs”
Purpose: Work with community members “to identify a topic that engages their collective memory and challenges them to approach it using the sense of smell.”
Form: “A literary reading that is choreographed to coincide with an orchestrated delivery of artist-made fragrances.”
Bio: Assistant professor of furniture at SDSU and a graduate of UC Berkeley and the California College of the Arts
Sponsor: Escondido Arts Partnership
Project: “Information Retrieval”
Purpose: “To explore the effects of information technology on our experience of the landscape.”
Form: Solar-powered, kinetic dioramas built from used filing cabinets
Bio: An artist who specializes in paper cutting with recent works in shows at the Encinitas Community Center Gallery, Art Produce, Art San Diego 2014, Helmuth Projects and the San Diego Art Institute.
Sponsor: Oceanside Museum
Project: “Paper Pattern Story”
Purpose: “To collect stories of San Diego’s rich diversity, find common patterns and rhythms, and build a cut paper installation in which a larger overarching narrative will emerge.”
Form: Art installation
Bio: SDSU film program graduate whose “I Am Not a Hipster” was screened at Sundance in 2013.
Sponsor: Media Arts Center
Project: “American Babylon”
Purpose: “My hope is to shine a little light and to show some humanity in a group of people who have struggled to start a new chapter of their lives here in America.”
Form: Film documentary of three Iraqi refugees trying to assimilate to American culture.
Bio: Recent graduate of the University of San Diego whose art has been a part of the New Children’s Museum “Mass Creativity Day” and other local exhibits.
Sponsor: New Children’s Museum
Project: “Untitled Space”
Purpose: To create “an alternative, unconventional, yet utilitarian mobile space for artists, performers, musicians, etc., to conceive their work within the context of a site specific neighborhood.”
Form: A 1967 Chevy Step Van
Bio: UC San Diego graduate who has made a significant regional impact through his public art, most notably his “Tribute to Martin Luther King” at Front Street and Harbor Boulevard downtown.
Project: “The Silent Buzz: The Plight of the Honeybee”
Purpose: “To build awareness of the importance of bee pollination on future populations”
Form: Large-scale Plasticine sculptures
Bio: San Diego-based actor and writer whose works have been read at Compass Theatre and Stone Soup and who has performed with the Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse
Sponsor: The Old Globe
Project: “When It Comes”
Purpose: “Langston Hughes spoke to the dream deferred. I would like to speak to the dream denied. Working in the realm of magical realism, I plan to create a raucous, funny and poignant theater piece that follows a young seamstress and her mechanic husband on a journey to achieve their deepest wish, only to learn that it will never be theirs for the having. How they navigate this loss will change their lives forever.”
Form: Play with original score created and performed by the G Burns Jug Band and shadow puppets created by The Animal Cracker Conspiracy
Bio: A well-known violinist, composer, filmmaker, writer, photographer and playwright whose “Chagall” is expected to be premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in 2015.
Sponsor: San Diego Repertory Theatre
Project: “Common Chords Extreme!”
Purpose: “Bring chamber music to two of the newest refugee groups in San Diego — Somali and Chaldean.”
Form: A string quartet (performed by the Hausmann String Quartet) and a jazz quintet (Tripp Sprague Jazz Quintet) using Somali and Chaldean folk tunes