If you are like me and you think too much, you may also be guilty of asking yourself absurd and churlish questions such as "Why does humankind continue to create art, when all the walls in the free world are already fully covered?" and "Do people make art more from their need to express themselves than from anyone's need to behold same?" (The correct answers to the above are, respectively, "Because they can," and "Yes." I know this because I continue to create art, even though I am out of space, and I do so out of a deep need to purge my soul.)
Since you have undoubtedly (and correctly) concluded I'm a raving, opinionated narcissist, I challenge you to grapple with your own existential issues on the meaning of creativity by attending this week's Ray at Night. A North Park neighborhood art stroll, the route will take you through some 30 venues within an eight-block radius along University Avenue, with heavy concentrations along Ray and 30th streets.
The monthly event, which takes place every second Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m., will lead you through galleries and studios, but also shops and other assorted businesses. To check out the locales highlighted on the map-helpfully provided by the organizers of this 4-year-old endeavor and available at any of the designated spots-you will trudge along rather unprepossessing but well-loved city blocks, littered with street detritus and peopled with the sad survivors of Big Lots! and 99-cent stores, apparently oblivious to the artistic environment in which they have their beings. You will also pass many sincere and even some trendy shops, because this is, after all, a real neighborhood. Or, you can take the complimentary jitney that will hopefully again roam the streets for the occasion, as parking may provide a challenge.
In any event, even if you go merely to gawk at the art and partake of the free wine, brie and licorice whips and not for any deeper, more spiritual motives, I think you may come away from the experience richer in intangible ways (not to mention fatter, thanks to the unconscionably decadent chocolates). I know I did recently.
An artaholic relatively new to San Diego County, I didn't know what to expect when I decided to attend June's art ramble, but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be an epiphany. Fortunately, long before I had poked my ex-New Yorker art-snob nose into the last of the exhibits, I had a moment of clarity: Perhaps the experience of art may not best be found in philosophy, but in community.
Bearing this potential revelation in mind, I decided to get off my intellectual high horse and enjoy myself, as the dozens of others crowding and jostling, laughing and scarfing down the goodies were doing. I bopped along with the seriously hip musicians whaling away on drums and guitars and listened in.
One mellow fellow, Michael Potter, said he had left a very serious group of people to attend this, his third, art walk. "I like the flow of people here. It's... sanguine," he decided, launching into an extemporaneous poem in praise of the ambiance. His companion, first-time art walker B. Garcia, was captivated by the "whole atmosphere. I like observing the people and being surrounded by all the creativity."
Inspired by all this quotability, I headed to one of the newest additions to the scene, The Arts and Entertainment Center. The owner, Troy Washington, noted of his elegant 6-month-old enterprise, "I created this to be a safe haven for artists to perform without the compromising pressures of acceptability from the corporate world. They are free to start and fail here." Without going into detail (because this month's show will be completely different from the last and you will have to attend if you want to know what is on offer), I will simply note the art on display reflected that philosophy. And no matter your taste or opinion of the art, music, poetry or whatever, I dare you not to appreciate the hand-blown lights in the back room/performance space.
And so it went. I checked out R Spot Barbers and Books, a local haircuttery of ultimate grace, coolness and blues where the hanging out was fine. Next door at the Controversial Bookstore everyone also seemed happy to be part of the general euphoric haze floating around the area. Community, that organic but mysterious entity, was-at least for the evening-casting its needful net over those who ventured from their isolation to join the party.
Highlights included the end of an Afro-Cuban class I watched at Stage 7 School of Dance, all hips and attitude. Others were a stop at Caffe Calabria, where I immersed myself in the aroma of roasting coffee beans and the tap-tap of laptops; and Gallery 504, which promises abstract photos of nudes and those addictive chocolates for your troubles. Stone Paper Scissors continues an intriguing installation of hollow-core structures fashioned from materials found at the dump, a process which "speaks of redemption," according to the explanatory notes.
The San Diego Art Department, a school as well as an exhibit space for students and staff, will provide viewers an opportunity to watch the creation of various art forms, to question the artists and even sign up for classes. Look for a demonstration in stained-glass production, complete with assurances from the instructor that he has never cut off any digits with that sharp knife he wields.
The Sierra Club, frame and ceramics shops, an expressive arts studio (unfortunately dark this month), several gift shops featuring original artwork, music stores, other cafés, restaurants, a vegan market and more art galleries will boast a smorgasbord too extravagant to describe. So live a little; become one with this temporary community and then tell me I'm wrong. We paint to know we are not alone.
The next Ray at Night happens Saturday, July 7.