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It’s been seven years since a few North Park galleries first had the idea to close down Ray Street to traffic and open it up to art-loving pedestrians. Since then, the monthly gallery art-walk on the second Saturday of every month has outgrown the small one-way street. Now, coffee shops, clothing boutiques, and record stores on 30th Street and University Avenue are opening their doors, providing further evidence that North Park is turning into a haven for all branches of art and design.

David Reyes’ clothing store, Material, is sandwiched between Claire de Lune coffee house and Off The Record music store. During Ray at Night, he invites art enthusiasts to come in and enjoy a beer and some finger foods while checking out his new line of designer clothes. “Just in the past year, there’s been a huge difference. There are so many new restaurants, boutiques, and galleries coming into the area now. This whole scene is just blowing up.”

George Lofland, founder and board member of the San Diego Art Department, located on Ray Street, has also noticed a big change since opening up the art school in 2003, ”Last year we merged with the San Diego Art Institute, so, it says a lot that major non-profits are coming in to North Park and taking the community seriously for the art movement here. You can see the change in the number of ways; the whole art scene is bringing in more good restaurants and bars, plus a year ago people were only wondering what was happening in Hillcrest at night and now it seems like they’re asking more about North Park.”

The art scene is even driving community organizations to respond. Local artists competed in a contest, held by the North Park Main Street Association, for a chance to display their work on the 15-foot panels of the newly built North Park Parking Garage. Elizabeth Studebaker, executive director of the non-profit organization, says her small office on University Avenue was flooded with submissions. Those submissions are still under review and the committee plans to announce the winners by the beginning of summer.

The North Park Main Street Association is currently gearing up for the 12th annual North Park Festival of the Arts. The event is on Sunday May 18th. More information is available at northparkmainstreet.com

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