Tasha Zogo wants to give the old library to artists
  • Tasha Zogo wants to give the old library to artists
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“‘Nobody cares about your shitty arts organization.’ Those were her exact words,” recalls United Artists of San Diego chief executive Tatjana Zogovic, who goes by the name Tasha Zogo. She’s referring to a phone call she got a few months ago from local arts writer Kinsee Morlan then of CityBeat, currently of Voice of San Diego.

Tasha Zogo at her San Diego art gallery, Dolphin and Hawk

“The establishment sees us as a threat because we’re not part of their small, tight circle of cronies,” Zogo says. “We make them nervous because we’re telling the truth about what’s been going on in the San Diego art community.”

Zogo’s claims that a handful of elite, local arts organizations, not least among them San Diego Art Institute, keep philanthropic and government money away from struggling artists.

“The establishment groups are ignoring artists while taking money from philanthropists and the government in the name of art and doing nothing but making the establishment and companies that put on street fairs richer,” says Zogo. “Meanwhile, artists are slaves to their day-jobs, and they’re forced to pay big money for booths at street fairs, where they’re lucky if they sell a single painting or sculpture.”

Street fairs, says Zogo, enjoyable as they may be to the public and as lucrative as they are for event producers, “keep artists in the dark ages.”

A multimillion-dollar downtown space that no doubt has developers and entrepreneurs salivating sits between the two camps of San Diego’s bickering arts groups. That coveted space has been vacant for nearly two years — since before the city’s central library got its rakish new, dome-topped digs adjacent to Petco Park in 2013.

“We have a vision for the old central library,” says Zogo. “It’s going to be an incubator — a kind of lab where educators, entrepreneurs, and artists can all come together to make a better community. We see art, science and economic opportunity all together under one roof. We want the surrounding neighborhood to be part of our vision too.”

United Artists of San Diego’s proposal is now before Civic San Diego, the city’s quasi-governmental nonprofit organization overseeing redevelopment of the nearly 145,000-square-foot former central library building. The group’s idea sounds a lot like the kind of project mayor Kevin Faulconer says he wants to see take shape inside the vacant building, which has become an eyesore in East Village.

“This is a real opportunity for the city and one of the ideas I’m personally excited about is an incubator lab,” Faulconer told the Union-Tribune. “It would attract brilliant minds to come together and new companies could grow out of it and spread.”

Though a sizable group of San Diego artists and community leaders say they want the old central library building, on E Street at Eighth, turned into a community-driven arts center for exhibitions, education, and live performances, there’s no guarantee an arts program will be included at the site at all. “If the arts do not end up with a place in the revitalization of the old library, it will be another example of failure by the old establishment and the people at the top like Kinsee Morlan and Dana Springs,” says Zogo. Springs is the executive director for the City of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture.

“They do almost nothing to help the larger community of artists,” Zogo continues. “Why aren’t they out front shouting from the rooftops, ‘Give the old library to artists!’?”

Dana Springs

If Morlan and Springs won’t shout from the rooftops, Zogo will and is doing just that — at least figuratively. Even if her organization’s plans for the old library aren’t adopted by the city, she’s already shaken San Diego’s arts establishment up.

Morlan bristled at being lumped in as part of the establishment, noting that she works at an alternative weekly— “the very definition of antiestablishment.”

“Everyone knows the community wants art and educational opportunities in East Village,” says Morlan. “All communities and neighborhoods need those opportunities in order to thrive. I just don’t think Tasha Zogo is the right person for the job.”

Morlan, who recently took a new arts-writing job as Voice of San Diego’s engagement editor, says she regrets what she said during her phone call to Zogo. At the time, she was on maternity leave, holding her newborn in one arm, her cell phone in the other hand, all while trying to tend to her upset two-year-old. She says Zogo demands immediate attention when she decides on a plan. She says anyone who doesn’t respond promptly and affirmatively to Zogo will soon know her wrath.

“How about just a little patience?” Morlan asks. “I mean, come on, you can’t expect me to just drop everything because you sent an email. I mean, these people started slandering me on Facebook because I didn’t reply according to Tasha Zogo’s timetable.”

One of United Artists of San Diego’s members, and one of Zogo’s most ardent supporters, showed me screenshots of Facebook posts meant to illustrate Morlan’s alleged favoritism to artists who are “in” San Diego’s so-called arts establishment, and hostility toward those “on the outs.”

However, those screenshots as well as group emails did as much to illustrate the upstarts’ hostility toward the establishment as they did the opposite.

“Why would I call you?” reads one post to Morlan from a United Artists of San Diego member. “You obviously have mental problems.”

But another post from the San Diego Artists Facebook page — which was purportedly established by the city’s Commission on Arts and Culture and was handed over by Dana Springs, who once moderated the page, to Kinsee Morlan — seems to confirm one of Zogo’s complaints. In fact, the post seems to confirm at least anecdotally that there is a tendency among established members of the local arts community to limit, even stifle, local artists trying to make a living by selling their creations.

“Please refrain from posting these types of things,” Morlan’s post begins, continuing with a three-bullet list of no-nos on her San Diego Artists Facebook page. “Show event/announcements, art-for-sale announcements, self-promotional content/friend-promotional content.”

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Comments

Tim Fisher Nov. 5, 2015 @ 10:49 a.m.

The artists of San Diego and the public have a right to know how Dana Springs, appointed by Bob Filner, is spending the $10 million dollars per year and which individuals/groups are benefiting from her being in her position. Take the time to contact the UT Watchdog to investigate this matter: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/ut-watchdog-request/

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petezanko Nov. 11, 2015 @ 9:06 p.m.

Are you the guy who just said she looks "slutty" on the facebook page? Did she turn you down when you asked her out? Sure sounds that way...

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RyBeloin Nov. 5, 2015 @ 11:53 a.m.

Every community in any discipline has its share of politics, cliques and obnoxious narcissists, and every community has people that feel like all their problems are someone else's fault. They imagine that if only "The Man" would stop being so unfair, then all things would fall perfectly into place and life would be easy. You know what they say though; Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Grain of salt: For every person loudly proclaiming their self-appointed authority and demanding attention and praise, there are a dozen better-qualified and more accomplished individuals who just don't care about being in the spotlight. And for every brilliant artist who has to work day job just to stay afloat, there are a hundred untalented, unremarkable self-labeled artists, who will just-as-fervently clamor for the same level of respect and support. The fastest way to kill the legitimate voices is to add a thousand others crying wolf.

And since genuine critique is practically taboo in San Diego, no one calls bullshit.

Kinsee isn't an art critic, she's an event promoter. Zogo isn't an artists' champion, she's a narcissist who needs a hobby. San Diego artists aren't victims of any conspiracy, just victims of a culture that could care less about excellence in art, and institutions that systematically favor the rich and well-connected. That's just the world. Everybody take a Xanax.

Reader, if you care about local artists, stop reporting on just the parties and cat-fighting for the arts section and run a consistent column that's real art critique and discussion.

Or change nothing. We'll just keep on doing what we do.

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Ian Anderson Nov. 8, 2015 @ 1:26 p.m.

Wow, sounds like somebody graduated from the Kanye West school of self-promotion: claiming to be a victim while attacking people, overly concerned with fame as a metric of artistic merit, appointing herself on some other "level" where her opinions on what constitutes quality count more than those of other vested parties.

This is not Monet and the Impressionists staging a stylistic revolution against the Académie. Based on what I've read, it's a business owner lashing out over not receiving free publicity (and... [sigh] getting free publicity for it). IMO, any legit artists would immediately disassociate themselves from the sort of rhetoric that populates Zogo's social media presence (see screencap).

All creatives know going in that pursuing their dreams is going to be a financial and psychological struggle. No genuine artist wants to succeed because somebody stomped their feet, waved their arms and cried for attention.

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petezanko Nov. 10, 2015 @ 10:17 a.m.

If that photo depicts Zogo standing in front of her own works, then we know the problem right there: Tasha Zogo is a shitty painter and her "art" sucks.

At the same time, Morlan's lame excuse ("my baby was crying!") is an insult to working mothers everywhere.

Good artists don't talk -- they let their works speak for them.

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dwbat Nov. 10, 2015 @ 2:23 p.m.

Her body stance and outstretched arms makes her look like a model showing off products on "The Price is Right."

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petezanko Nov. 11, 2015 @ 9 p.m.

The products on "The Price is Right" are worth more.

I wonder if she is reading us. I hope so.

Hey Tasha, your paintings suck.

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Rocket_J_Squirrel Nov. 12, 2015 @ 9:57 p.m.

They said the same thing about Picasso. A masterpiece is Gustav Courbet's "Origin of the World" - That's art! I love that painting so much that I want to just bury my face in it.

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