"When the sun sets, it's like bird city, because all these flocks of birds migrate back to the lake," says RJ Brooks, executive director and co-founder of local arts organization A Ship in the Woods.
"There might be a mountain lion as well," adds Ship curator Lianne Mueller.
Brooks is quick to point out that he recently spoke to a park ranger and has been assured that there are no mountain lions, but if they sound awed, it's because A Ship in the Woods has landed, quite literally, in the woods. After nearly a year of looking, the self-described "culture capitalists" have found a permanent home on a two-acre estate in Escondido. Brooks and Ship assistant director Addison Stonestreet have been working nonstop to convert what was a residential property (3007 Felicita Road) into an art showcase facility that will include several gallery spaces—and a swimming pool.
"We've been putting everything we have into this house," says Brooks, who along with Ship co-founder Dan Fauchier, purchased the property outright instead of renting. "This really is a labor of love. Emphasis on the labor, but we're really blessed to have found this spot."
Brooks and Stonestreet have done almost all of the construction themselves, which includes everything from ripping up tile and knocking down walls to installing a drip irrigation system to save water. They're also building a "crash pad" that they hope to use for an artist residency program, and are planning for an underground recording studio. In the past, Ship has been particularly keen on throwing events that find novel ways to combine the music and visual arts scene, and Mueller wants to continue that intermingling approach.
"Whatever we can do to amp that up and create a space that incorporates both," Mueller says. "We'd like it to be an internationally known place to record. Something that's really unique."
Once everything is up and running, they plan to throw monthly Saturday night openings. The first one, tentatively scheduled for May 28, will feature the work of local artist Adam Belt and will open almost a year to the day after their last house show at their Del Mar location. They're also in talks with neighboring Felicita Park about the use of the parking lot and want to collaborate with the park for shows and events that tie into the park's movie night and upcoming Renaissance Faire.
"We want to work together with a lot of other organizations," Mueller says. "We want to create the ultimate art world here."