Art FORM. It makes sense to appropriate would-be garbage into art supplies.
  • Art FORM. It makes sense to appropriate would-be garbage into art supplies.
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Nonprofits nationwide are nervously waiting to gauge the impact of the recent tax overhaul, which reduces the number of taxpayers who qualify for the charitable deduction by about half and is predicted to slash giving this year by 4.5 percent, or over $13 billion. In the meantime, San Diego’s arts nonprofits continue to provide access to art education, therapy, resources, and exhibition spaces for underserved and at-risk populations. Responding to funding priorities outlined by foundations, government organizations, corporate sponsors, and private donors, arts nonprofits help to diversify the local art scene and uphold San Diego’s art spaces as more complete representations of our city’s many villages and communities.

8 West is sheltering  fourteen 18–25 years olds.

8 West is sheltering fourteen 18–25 years olds.

The Front Art Gallery

268 W. Park Avenue, San Ysidro

A project of South Bay nonprofit Casa Familiar since 2007, the Front is San Ysidro’s only art gallery pending the opening of the organization’s sophomore space, El Salon, in about a year. The 1929 structure plays host to rotating multimedia installations as well as a paid art docent program currently in its fourth cycle, training 11 teens for an accumulated 60 hours in photography, video-making, and gallery management. Mexico City artist Francisco Eme has been curating the space for over a year now, putting a special focus on cross-border collaborations such as the current PRISMAS exhibition co-produced by Relaciones Inesperadas and the Contemporary Art Production Program in Tijuana, running through February 17.

AjA Project

4089 Fairmount Avenue, City Heights

San Diego has long welcomed refugees and, last year, received more than any other county in California. Seeing an opportunity to foster our young immigrant communities, Japanese artist Shinpei Takeda (now a resident of Tijuana) purchased 20 point-and-shoot cameras in 2001 to hold AjA Project’s first black-and-white film photography classes. The organization has since grown to incorporate other visual art forms such as murals and videography, which have been exhibited — often to a chorus of polemic reactions — in forums such as the Museum of Man, the San Diego airport, and, more recently, on the Hillcrest corner of Sixth and Pennsylvania with a photomural exploring themes of homelessness.

San Diego Visual Arts Network

2487 Montgomery Avenue, Cardiff

Like it or not, just about all art requires some amount of money and logistics to actualize. The San Diego Synergy Arts Network tackles both of these necessities head-on via their Synergy Arts Foundation and San Diego Visual Arts Network. The latter is an online directory dedicated to linking up artists with the resources they need to transplant their vision from headspace to art space. The former, established in response to San Diego’s devastating 2003 Cedar Fire, provides grants to local visual and performing artists, writers, filmmakers, and arts organizations affected by medical crisis, accident, fire, or loss of personal and professional property, as well as arts education and healing-arts programming for at-risk populations.


2210 Columbia Street, Little Italy

When school budgets are cut, arts are often the first program to go. To address this ongoing and ubiquitous issue, sisters Judy Berman Silbert and Sandi Cottrell founded ArtReach in 2007, which today provides free and fee-based supplemental art classes — with the help of a small administrative staff and eight teaching artists — to 26 K–6 schools countywide, or more than 30,000 local youth to date. Incorporating multi-disciplinary practices, artistic journaling, arts integration (in which artists co-teach with educators to relate concepts back to the syllabus), and community-based learning, ArtReach helps young students develop both a technical and conceptual understanding of how to interpret their environments into unique works of art.

The New Children's Museum

200 W. Island Avenue, East Village

The New Children’s Museum

Leading up to Mass Creativity Day, the New Children’s Museum will be holding community place-based workshops throughout the county with the objective of bringing the arts directly to underserved populations who have historically lacked access to cultural resources and institutions. Then, on the annual Mass Creativity Day (Saturday, June 23, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), everyone is invited back to the museum for a free, all-inclusive, hands-on art-creation event featuring live music, craft stations, and open admission to the museum. Visit year-round for daily workshops designed to introduce children of all ages to a variety of mediums.


3316 Adams Avenue, Suite B, Normal Heights


In a world where deceased house pets are being upcycled into lip balm (look it up), it makes sense to appropriate would-be garbage into art supplies. Enter Art FORM, a nonprofit creative reuse store founded by teaching artist Erin Pennell in 2011 as an extension of her Rare Hare Studio — an Adams Avenue hub for art camps and workshops built around donated and collected materials. An acronym for “Found Objects Recycled Materials,” Art FORM provides free arts education to Title I schools and vends or gives away supplies such as fabric, paper, yarn, design samples, textures, plastic, and found nature every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

8 West

311 Fourth Avenue #405, Downtown San Diego

8 West

Getting homeless youth off the street is only part of the equation. The next step is keeping them off the street, and that means employment. That’s why, in 2015, nonprofit homeless outreach Urban Street Angels developed their 8 West transitional employment and housing program. 8 West is currently sheltering 14 transitional-age youth (18–25 years old) who undergo a 6-to-18-month job-training program built around the production of artisanal, handcrafted bath, shower, and spa products. Participants not only learn an artistic skill that can be taken with them wherever they go, they are also taught fiscal-responsibility strategies and a work ethic that will allow them to retain employment and break free from the cycle of poverty.

Combat Arts

The process of creating and sharing art produces proven results in anxiety reduction, community building, self-confidence, and depression relief. Combat Arts San Diego harnesses the therapeutic properties of creativity to help rehabilitate post-9/11 combat veterans who struggle with PTSD, active-duty servicemembers in residential treatment facilities, and at-risk teens incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities. Founded by fine artist Elizabeth Washburn, Combat Arts provides arts instruction to servicemembers undergoing treatment at the OASIS facility on the Point Loma Submarine Base and recently partnered with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego to exhibit the work of the program’s participants.

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