Like any arts district in an older urban neighborhood thats undergoing gradual revitalization, North Parks Ray Street has struggled to keep its vibe alive.
As numerous art galleries have opened and closed on Ray Street over the years, Ray at Night, the art walk that launched in 2001, has remained constant. The monthly event is a reminder that Ray Street has people behind it who are dedicated to making sure the place lives up to its official arts and culture district tag. For nearly 14 years, that revolving team of folks has been creating at least one night a month when people can experience diverse visual art in one place.
Most recently, Ray at Nights been run by a nonprofit-affiliated organization, North Park for the Arts, which is powered by business owners. Tee Taylor, owner of Ray Street business OH MY Dog! Photography, has been leading the efforts. Especially over the past few years, she says, Ray at Night has become too much for the small team of volunteers.
It had really outgrown what we could handle, Taylor wrote in an email.
Entrepreneur Brian Beevers stepped up to help. He runs a handful of farmers markets around the county and owns Simply Local, a shop that sells items handmade by San Diegans. He opened his second Simply Local location in North Park in November and, as soon as he heard about the need for new blood flowing through Ray at Night, he happily offered his time.
Im an event planner by trade; thats what I do, Beevers says. It just makes sense for me to do it.
Beevers, who put on his first Ray at Night last month, says hes making the event a for-profit venture so that he can pay for the permits and other costs. Hes bringing in prepared-food booths (as opposed to just food trucks), more local artists and artisans and is planning other subtle changes.
So far, so good, he says, citing vendors and others who called the January Ray at Night the best one in years. His next Ray at Night will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14.
Ray Street itself, however, is undergoing an ebb as a notable home for the arts. Theres currently just one fulltime art gallery and studio (both San Diego Art Department and Positive Space Art Gallery have closed in the last six months), two vacancies and other non-arts-related small businesses, some that participate in Ray at Night and some that dont.
Thereve been a lot of changes on Ray Street itself, Beevers acknowledges. But it doesnt mean we cant have a great art festival in the streets.
Beevers says hes interested in keeping the streets visual-arts going. He made a point of encouraging artists to apply to rent a booth at Ray at Night online at rayatnight.com, but he says his definition of art includes artisans, as well—anybody making high-quality, handmade things. He says hell curate the vendors and try to turn the monthly event into a more diverse festival that he hopes will have a wider appeal.
Gustaf Rooth, one of the founders of Ray at Night who used to run a gallery on Ray Street, says he thinks Beevers changes could be just what the long-running event needs.
Ray at Night needed to be revived somehow, Rooth says. Barrio Logans taken up the lead on the visual-art scene right now anyway. North Park is just kind of shifting, and Brian seems like hes just shifting with the tide.