Dec. 11 2013 03:13 PM

San Diego arts community grieves the death of an enthusiastic curator

Angela Sahyoun (center) at an Arte Fresca exhibition
Many in San Diego's arts community are grieving the death of independent curator Angela Sahyoun, who lost her battle against breast cancer on Dec. 1. Sahyoun was a founder and director of Arte Fresca, a roving arts project that held art and music exhibitions in nontraditional venues throughout San Diego. She was also the curatorial director of FIGMENT San Diego, an annual community event that celebrates participatory art.

"Art was her passion, pretty simple," says Nikkie Stars, Arte Fresca music director and Sahyoun's coworker at a local school for children with special needs, which was Sahyoun's day job. "She loved putting shows together and bringing people together."

Sahyoun saw a need for venues and opportunities for artists who weren't scoring gallery shows.

She and artist Jason Acton, her friend and roommate, started Arte Fresca in their apartment in Ocean Beach in 2010. They cleared out all the furniture, filled the walls with art, put a DJ inside and a band outside and kicked off what became a popular and valuable resource for emerging artists and musicians. The project has since averaged one event every month, including a recent Day of the Deadthemed show at Hillcrest bar The Merrow and an art exhibition and community mural currently on view at The Broker's Building Gallery (402 Market St., Downtown). Sahyoun had been battling breast cancer since 2011, but she didn't let the disease or all the time-consuming treatments keep her from doing what she loved.

"She was all about just giving people opportunities to show their art in the community and getting their voice out there," says Acton, who'll try to keep Arte Fresca going. "‘Art without attitude'—that was the main mantra of Angela. It was always about the art and just having a good time."

A celebration of Sahyoun's life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at Mosaic Wine Bar (3422 30th St. in North Park). Attendees are asked to wear pink and, in lieu of flowers, make donations to The Cancer Society or participate in the Relay for Life or Bark for Life events.

Sahyoun's lasting legacy, say friends and artists who've worked with her, is the many connections she made among people in the arts community.

"She made me feel super-comfortable, relaxed and introduced me to other artists," says Michelle D. Lubin-Ferrera, an artist who moved to San Diego last year and credits Sahyoun with getting her involved in the scene. "The one thing I got about her right away is her huge heart and immense love for the arts and helping others to meet and interact. It's a shame we've lost a beautiful spirit like hers."

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