May 12 2015 05:10 PM

The third in our series on the artists awarded grants through the Creative Catalyst Fund

Noe Olivas in his City Heights studio
Photo by Seth Combs

Noè Olivas has always had an interest in all things automotive. Way before becoming a full-time artist, he was considered a life as a mechanic. 

"I actually didn't want to go to college at first," says Olivas, a first-generation Mexican-American who grew up in Linda Vista. "I actually wanted to go to auto mechanic school. I've wanted to be around cars since I was a kid." 

Whereas locals might have lost an honest mechanic, they gained a promising and prolific young artist. He did end up going to college at the University of San Diego and throughout his time in school, he was showcasing his work at local galleries. Still, he always had a project in the back of his mind—one that would allow him to combine his passions. 

"I wanted to create a micro institution," he says. "Something that you can take anywhere and just pop up guerrilla style."

What he ended up creating was Untitled Space, an art project focused around a 1967 Chevy bread truck that he's using as a mobile exhibition space. He came up with the idea around 2011 during an internship at Voz Alta in Barrio Logan. He found a truck online and he and his dad drove to Jamul to pick it up. Olivas found that the truck needed a lot of work, so it turned into even more of a passion project. 

"I'm married to this, man," says Olivas. "I do all the dirty work. It's been a blessing and a curse." 

That dirty work eventually paid off. Olivas was actually working at the New Children's Museum when he heard about the Creative Catalyst grant. He was awarded $20,000 through the program, and is using the funds to make repairs, get a proper studio in City Heights and hire two artists for an NCM show called Low 'n' Slow that he hopes will open in mid-summer. The exhibition will include piñata and homemade-instrument workshops, along with abstract pieces that Olivas created using the truck's original oil and brake fluid. 

Olivas plans on eventually going to grad school, but isn't sure what he'll do with the truck. He might create an artist residency program around it, or let another artist take over the mobile pop-up activities. More immediately, he says once the Children's Museum show is finished, he wants to take the Untitled Space truck for a little ride to show his love for local low-rider culture. 

"There are signs all over Highland Avenue in National City that say 'no cruising,'" he says. "At the end of the project, I'm gonna cruise that bitch and get my ticket." Olivas laughs, then adds, "The ticket is something like $1,000. I might have to create a Kickstarter to help me pay that." 







Email or follow Seth on Twitter at @combsseth.


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