By the end of the last art opening at Sanctuary Gallery and Boutique, Alana Sills had ditched her shoes, changed into something more comfortable and had half her body air-brushed by the night's featured painter, Chris Elliman.Basically, she made herself at home in the middle of an art opening.
It makes sense, though, since the top two floors of Sanctuary are Sills' home. The 30-something recent divorcée and mother of three moved into the brand-new four-story condo at 1700 National Ave. a couple of weeks ago. The development is the first of several contemporary, mixed-use buildings to pop up on the Barrio Logan block, but Sills is a tad ahead of the gentrification curve, so she has few neighbors. The space and location allow her certain freedoms—at the opening, for instance, the back balcony was the viewing area for a huge projection dancing across the empty neighboring condos.
And while the dishes from the night's chef demonstration piled up next to her kitchen sink—not to mention the staggering stack of glasses, evidence that Sills refuses to serve wine and champagne in plastic cups—and late-night stragglers danced and chatted, looking as though they planned to stay the night, Sills smiled, chatted and danced, too, appearing to have as good a time as anyone.
Sills is breezy and bohemian-like, especially when she's strolling barefoot across the raw concrete floor of the gallery, describing the art and the artist she's chosen for a show.
Since Sanctuary's grand opening in July, Sills has had three major openings and a few other special events, like the indie runway show she held in August. So far, she considers her post-house-mom experience a success.
“It's just sort of always been this dream of mine,” said Sills. “It's part of my never-ending search for truth, beauty and grace, and this gallery is bringing everything together. It's nice. I like it.”
Sills' taste is for young, contemporary artists, and, luckily for the local scene, the farthest she's gone so far to find artists is Oceanside.
“I'm trying to put San Diego on the map artistically,” Sills said. “There are a lot of talented artists out there, and I want to shine the light on them, but I'm not going to have the typical landscape or seascape paintings, because I have to like it, too.”
Beyond the solo shows, Sills hopes to help make Barrio Logan the next North Park and eventually team up with nearby businesses in starting a Barrio Logan art walk similar to North Park's Ray at Night. With the economy crashing around her, though, selling artwork hasn't been the easiest thing to do, but Sills has a plan. To help cover rent, starting in October, Sills will use her space for cooking classes, yoga classes and paintings classes for teenagers and kids.
“I have this mindset where you can do anything you set your mind to, and you're only as successful as you're expecting to be,” she said. “So, I guess I'm just hoping that it'll work, and if it doesn't, then it doesn't, and I'll move on.”The Timing featuring Chris Elliman runs through Oct. 10. Abstract vs. Pop featuring Todd Sanders and Jacki Geary opens Oct. 11. Day of the Dead Art Show: Evil Revolution featuring Chanel & Christine Penly opens Nov. 1. Art Exhibition: Rich Walker opens Dec. 6.
Living in art: The Lux Art Institute continues to be the best thing to happen to San Diego since Shamu. If anything can put this city on the international map, it's this smart, forward-thinking center, where artists are invited to weeks-long residencies and the public's invited to, as Lux says, “see art happen.” The first artist of the institute's 2008-2009 season is painter and sculptor Ray Smith, whose anthropomorphic and surrealist visions will be focused on his Mexican-American heritage for his stay. See what Smith is up to at the next Lux at Night event from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the Lux campus, 1550 South El Camino Real in Encinitas. And stay tuned for the next artist's opening, Alison Moritsugu, from 5:30 to 7:30 Nov. 8. www.luxartinstitute.org, 760-436-6611.
Art for the environment: The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's Human/Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet exhibition is something that can't be just glanced at. The very complex project is the collaborative effort of two art museums and an international conservation organization, and it involved 10 artists working in 10 different environmentally fragile areas throughout the world over a period of a few years. You can get your feet wet by visiting the museum's Downtown location; you can wade into the water by then visiting the website, www.artistsrepond.org—but you can really dive in by attending one of the upcoming educational programs introducing you to some of the Human/Nature artists and ideas. Exhibition-related workshops and lectures are happening Oct. 18, 23, and 25 and Nov. 8, so get out your iCal and check www.mcasd.org for specifics.
La Mesa is hot: We're convinced that something is going on in La Mesa. In fact, San Diego's eastern neighbor may be the next stop for young bohemians looking for affordable housing. There's already a bit of an art scene over there thanks to Gallery La Mesa at Rick's Custom Framing, 8808 La Mesa Blvd. The curators have been putting on consistently good shows since the beginning of the year, and they're keeping up the tradition with Day of the Dead Celebration, featuring photographs by Victor Balcazar of traditional celebrations in graveyards throughout Tijuana. The show opens from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 18 and will be on view through Nov. 28.
Tourist take-back: You've probably never been to Balboa Park's Spanish Village Art Center. You've probably written it off as a tourist trap and, therefore, uninteresting. But from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 25 and 26, you should let the cobblestone pathway escort you to the heart of Spanish Village for the annual Fall Arts Festival, where more than 250 local artisans and craftspeople, live music, refreshments and art demonstrations will woo you and hopefully convince you that this ain't no Seaport Village. The Village is located at 1770 Village Place in Balboa Park. www.spanishvillageart.com.