Jan. 26 2015 05:38 PM

New arts venture tries unsuccessfully to keep programming in the former San Diego Art Department building on Ray Street

Patric Stillman
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

For more than a year, Patric Stillman has been developing The Studio Door, a venture he says will assist artists with the business side of selling art while also creating opportunities—through juried exhibitions, national marketing efforts and more—that'll help bring more attention to San Diego's visual artists.

"Now I just need to find a permanent home," says Stillman, who's endured a series of setbacks while trying to secure a space.

CityBeat spoke to Stillman at the San Diego Art Institute-North Park on Ray Street, better known as The San Diego Art Department. At the time of the interview, he was hoping to take over the institute's lease and transform the space into The Studio Door. He's even giving the location a dry run and hosting one-third of the 90 works in The Studio Door's first juried show, The Crow Show: An Homage to the Raven, at the space (3830 Ray St.). The exhibition will be on view Feb. 2 through 27, with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6 (the rest of the works will be showing at the Art Institute of California in Mission Valley and in an online gallery here).

San Diego Art Institute (SDAI) took over the spacious Ray Street building in 2007 but recently chose not to renew its lease. The Balboa Park institute's new executive director, Ginger Shulick Porcella, says SDAI never successfully branded the space and ultimately decided that the building's use for fee-for-service instructional programs no longer aligned with SDAI's mission. Shulick Porcella says SDAI did its best to transfer the lease to Stillman and keep art programming in the space, but she says the landlords want to move their own offices into the building.

"It's like the death rattle of arts on Ray Street," a disappointed Shulick Porcella told CityBeat in an email, acknowledging the building's role as one of the cornerstones of the Ray at Night monthly art walk and the area's overall art vibe.

Stillman's disappointed, too, but this isn't his first dance with bad news. The Studio Door launched briefly back in November inside a building at 4434 30th St. in North Park. But his partnership with co-founder Kate Ashton didn't pan out. They parted ways, and the space was rebranded as Art on 30th, a similar business that offers art classes and workshops and hosts exhibitions.

Stillman—one-time executive director at Space 4 Art, former chief operating officer at World Trade Center San Diego and a serial entrepreneur—certainly isn't a stranger to the difficulties of running a business. He says he's confident that The Studio Door will eventually find the right home.

"I've spent so much time and thought on this that it's going to happen, regardless of the challenges that come my way," he says. "I just see us, at the moment, as the ultimate pop-up."

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