Ann Berchtold can't seem to sit back and relax until San Diego catches up with other cities when it comes to coolness and creativity.
"I've always been interested in creating more opportunities for artists and architects and designers to exhibit in this city," says Berchtold, best known for her role as the founder and current director of Art San Diego, the contemporary art fair happening Nov. 6 through 9 at the Balboa Park Activity Center. "There's no getting around the fact that we're losing galleries by the minute, and there are very little opportunities here for artists and architects to show their stuff. I see place-making as looking at the urban canvas, if you will, and allowing creative people to just play on it and show what they're doing."
Berchtold is one of a growing number of local movers and shakers pushing for quick, cheap, easy art and design projects that will make the urban environment more interesting. She's involved in several efforts that seek to make San Diego more hospitable to creativity.
Berchtold's part of the team behind place[Hub], a venture that includes Howard Blackson and David Saborio, who were part of the San Diego Civic Innovation Lab—a now-defunct arm of the city that was positioned to lead the way on tactical urbanism and other innovative approaches to urban design. Berchtold says the new organization will assist with project management, identifying funding sources and moving projects through the complicated city-permit process. The group already has a few small projects underway.
Berchtold's also the driving force behind Art San Diego's new initiative, the Open Walls Project, which, from Tuesday, Oct. 14, through Nov. 14, will put high-end art on billboards throughout the region in an exhibition called [inter.play].
Berchtold put out a call for submissions for the billboard exhibition to another of her place-making projects, Co[Lab] sd_tj, a consortium of artists, architects and designers from San Diego and Tijuana. Among those selected from that group were artists Einar and Jamex de la Torre, Matt Forderer, Raul Guerrero, Cesar Vasquez, Anna Stump, Victor Payan and Perry Vasquez.
Billboard operators CBS Outdoor Americas Inc. liked the Open Walls Project so much that it became an official partner and offered deals on the normally expensive spaces. The first piece will go up Oct. 14 on a billboard at Interstate 5 and Sycamore Street near the San Ysidro border, and more will soon follow (check openwallsproject.com for location updates and details about an upcoming social-media contest).
"I look at this project like I'm curating an urban gallery and providing opportunities for local artists to show their stuff out in the public domain," Berchtold says.