Sept. 22 2014 06:19 PM

Organizers behind new grassroots community cultural center Acá want to think big but keep things casual

Mario Chacon (left) and Hector Villegas at Aca
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

A cool, wedge-shaped building at the corner of Commercial Street and Ocean View Boulevard in Barrio Logan has been transformed from a quiet office space into a buzzing new cultural center.

Acá (1904 Ocean View Blvd.) looks more like a cozy living room than an art gallery, and that's by design. Artist Mario Chacon—who'll help curate and program the space along with artist Hector Villegas and a charismatic building manager who prefers to go only by his nickname, Rafa—says the spot is meant to be casual and informal.

"What you'll see here is not only art on the wall, but art integrated into the nooks and crannies," Chacon says as he walks through the small building, which also serves as a curio shop featuring mostly vintage goods and knickknacks that Rafa finds around the neighborhood. "When you come in, you'll feel like you're kind of at an art show, but in a living room."

Chacon and Villegas both have small studio spaces inside the building and will serve as resident artists. They'll show their own work at openings but have already started reaching out to other Chicano artists. They'll kick things off with a solo exhibition of Chacon's vivid paintings, opening from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27.

There's no website or Facebook page for Acá, and that's also intentional. At first, at least, they want to keep things somewhat organic and underground, which is why they were somewhat leery of even inviting CityBeat in to take a look.

"It's pretty low-rider, low-tech for now," Chacon laughs.

In fact, while the three know they want to show art and host events like poetry readings, they're not exactly sure yet what Acá will ultimately become ("Acá," by the way, translates to "here," but Rafa says that in cholo slang, it means "cool" or "fresh"). Currently, it's a nice place for their friends to hang out and have a cup of coffee. And their friends have helped get the space cleaned up and ready for its public opening.

"We were naming this place today, and we were, like, 'Acá what?'" says Rafa, a de-facto interior designer with a knack for seeing potential in old buildings (he runs two nearby buildings that have been transformed into community hangouts). "'Are we a gallery? Are we a store?' I said, 'No, we're a stadium. We're a convention center." I want to think big... We could be everything."

"Border Democracy" (left) and "Comandante Chicomecoatl" by Mario Chacon


Write to and follow Kinsee on Facebook or Twitter 


See all events on Tuesday, Dec 6