"I freakin' love Vista," says Sarah Spinks, an artist who was born and raised in the North County town and doesn't plan to ever leave it. "I don't know what to do about problems in Afghanistan or homelessness, but this is something I can do."
Spinks is standing in a dilapidated, city-owned building at 230 S. Santa Fe Ave. The space is just south of Vista's Main Street and has been vacant so long that Spinks can't remember it ever being functional. She and the rest of the core members of the arts collective The Backfence Society are in the midst of cleaning up and activating the building. Summer Nocturne, their pop-up art exhibition featuring more than 30 artists, will open inside the space from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 21.
Vista's downtown, Spinks says, is quickly becoming hipper than it's ever been. The Backfence Society's show, which was made possible with help from the city of Vista and the Vista Art Foundation, is another example of how the perceived sleepy bedroom community is upping its cool cred by embracing young entrepreneurs and supporting the arts.
"The city, they're open to the idea of us making this space look fun," Spinks says. "Downtown, there's been a lot more activity going on. Vista has been more open to things.... We're getting a second brewery downtown and there's a winery—there's just more life happening down here."
Spinks, a busy tattoo artist in Bonsall by day, started The Backfence Society with a pop-up show in the now-disbanded Vista Art Foundation's Gallery 204 in 2011. From there, the group of mostly young North County artists staged a few other shows in breweries, boutiques and empty warehouses. Spinks takes a small commission from artwork sales to help fund more ventures. For Summer Nocturne, the collective's small budget will be used for things like insurance and the creation of dozens of cockroach sculptures that'll be mounted to look like they're crawling out of a hole in the wall near the front entrance. They're also painting murals on cloth canvases to hang over boarded-up windows.
"We're just looking to make a very imaginative, interactive evening," Spinks says, finishing up one of the murals. "It'll be a night most people wouldn't associate with Vista—a little more youthful and edgy, maybe, but hopefully not offensive to anyone."