Aug. 25 2014 06:25 PM

There's no money yet to run City Gallery, but the faculty's staging exhibitions there anyway

YC Kim and Terri Hughes-Oelrich
YC Kim (foreground) and Terri Hughes-Oelrich inside the new City Gallery
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Longtime San Diego City College arts professor YC Kim remembers talking to school administrators almost two decades ago about the need for an art gallery. That was long before two ballot measures—2002's Prop. S and 2006's Prop. N—provided the San Diego Community College District with more than $1 billion to pay for campus construction projects.

The money's funded more than 100 new projects, including the recently completed Arts & Humanities building at City College, a striking, contemporary structure designed by local architecture firm Roesling Nakamura Terada.

Kim, who attended almost every school planning meeting since first bringing up the need for a gallery, says the nearly 20-year push for the space was well worth it. Walking through the new City Gallery, located in Room 314 of the Arts & Humanities building, she describes the 2,400-square-foot space as top-notch.

"We might be the best college gallery in town," she says, "Even if we don't have staff for it yet."

Kim, who teaches ceramics, contemporary craft and 3-D design, and Terri Hughes-Oelrich, who also teaches ceramics and 3-D design, are two of the four City College faculty members who've stepped up to run the gallery until the school can find funding to hire staff. Rather than leave the new site empty, the professors will donate their time and even materials and money to get the space operating as quickly as possible.

"Right now, there's just absolutely no budget," Hughes-Oelrich notes. "We're just putting in requests for anything we can get at this point."

The team's already booked the gallery through the end of the year, and, this week, they'll celebrate a private, VIP opening for their inaugural show, Centennial Alumni Exhibition, which features work by more than 50 alumni and faculty artists, including Victor Ochoa, James Watts and Vicki Walsh. A public opening will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11.

City Gallery includes an outdoor sculpture garden and an extra room that'll serve as a gift shop. The plan is to showcase student and faculty work a few times a year, but mainly art by well-known working artists from San Diego and beyond.

While there were some unfortunate surprises in the ultimate layout of the new gallery, including a partially dropped ceiling to cover an air duct and a kitchen without walls that'll eventually need to be closed to the public, Kim and Hughes-Oelrich say that, overall, they're overjoyed.

"We had to fight for this gallery a lot and, finally, it's here," Kim says. "We'll use it for our arts education... But this is just so needed for the entire community."

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