Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

Rebuilding San Diego's African American Museum Of Fine Art

February 11, 2014 1:32 p.m.


Gaidi Finnie, Chief Operating Officer, Bayview Baptist Church

Related Story: Rebuilding San Diego's African American Museum Of Fine Art


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Building a museum almost from scratch is a major undertaking that the people were working to build San Diego's African-American Museum of Fine Arts say that is well worth the effort. Louisiana has found a home on the campus of Bayview Baptist Church. Organizers have hopes of redesigning the space and eventually welcoming national exhibits. The museum celebrated its opening in its first show this month and joining me to talk about this are my guests Gaidi Finnie and Carolyn Smith. Let us start with the history, how did the San Diego African-American Museum of Fine Arts started?

GAIDI FINNIE: That started with Shirley day Williams who was the executive director back in the 90s and she passed away the Nate late 90s and the thing is happened since then, it's so suspended if you will from that time That I was on the board back then it be to number of exhibitions around town it was a museum without walls. It means that you don't have a particular space that you hold your events or your exhibits but you move around, but we did at that time as we went to be street. We did shows at the theater in that kind of thing and we would move around and find a space for the exhibit that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How successful was that?

GAIDI FINNIE: It was pretty successful because as we talk to people make me now, one of the things that people remembered it was how excellent of a job that she had done it, so we would kind of piggyback on her success and the success I think was making our success

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What you think of the museum hasn't faded away?

GAIDI FINNIE: I think that she was a dynamic lady who is really the leader of the museum in which he passed, it did not have the same dynamism that kept it going.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What expired you to bring this museum back?

GAIDI FINNIE: I am an ardent enabler, I have been doing things to contribute to the art scene in San Diego for many years and when I started working at the Baptist Church I a look at the space that we had there the Martin Luther King Ctr. in a thought it would be a great gallery space and then I spoke to the senior pastor at the time see if they were interested in it and I do me and I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get it done and wanted make sure that they were okay with it and they were very enthusiastic and the push for good this point.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When did you first hear about this project Carolyn?

CAROLYN SMITH: About the same time about six months ago.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And you are involved with the very first exhibition at the Museum is putting up?

CAROLYN SMITH: Yes I was able to assist the curator and it seeking photos for the exhibition.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us about this exhibition.

GAIDI FINNIE: The one that we're doing now really has to do with timing we really wanted to bring back the museum and we tried to figure out what we could do before we went out to the renovation of the space and what we do, and because of the civil rights legislation being fifty years for the time it was enacted, the width of the would-be good starting point and I intend I contacted Ebony and Jet magazine and asked them if they would be willing to help us with this and they said most of the images came from them and they give them over at Wilson of this there were some things missing that we wanted to provide for people to see Billy got those from the Associated Press. Between the two of them, that is the body of the work that is the exhibit.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Can you describe some of these photographs for us?

GAIDI FINNIE: They're not the usual photographs, they are more candid with the exception of the ones that we brought from Birmingham's protest mute movement. In May 1963 You will see these photographs of Birmingham and the struggles of the African-Americans by the these are the ones with the closes the documents, things That date if you put it in ill, but that is also what Kennedy's Island to see menu images of the year times To have that and be we also gave the exhibit after a cover of Ebony which was called in our lifetime That is the name of the exhibit that is showing what has happened in our lifetime so it that this would be a good read piece to have that Those of developer and what happened in our lifetime and talking about for the 60s until the present, belief or photographs that take place during that time, and we have a picture of Obama, and Marvin Gaye, and Jesse Jackson playing basketball, very interesting.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is the more relaxed kind of picture and not up portrait, time of tight credit that you don't usually see.

GAIDI FINNIE: Gracious those types of photographs that were very different I think people may come to see the exhibit, what has happened to his people start top stories of the life, one of the interesting things about this exhibit is we have to kids between twelve and eighteen trained in studying the civil rights unit movement in order to get descriptions of pictures to the adults, and that is really one of the important parts of the whole exhibit that we're bringing it forward making leaders of having kids talk about the segment about this but each time an adult watches this based on stories of their own life This thing happens where kids are learning and do the learning and we're all learning better from it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Carolyn you celebrated the grand opening early this month, how is it news of the busy being received?

CAROLYN SMITH: Is being received very very well. People are very excited to know that there is another institution to rally around and support and we're getting great support of corporate and as well as members of the community across the board including San Diego State.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What was the civil rights era like here in San Diego?

CAROLYN SMITH: Part of that is stories because I was six or seven years old but as a young person coming up it was an interesting time and for us a carried on into the 70s for instance when they had the voluntary busing, be the first to get on a bus to get out point Loma in a very controlled environment and I just pulled up the copy of San Diego magazine that was 1965 that said that is the Negro thinking? It would be interesting to say if they had that survey can The things that changed and I would say that there are some things that would change and some resources that would not.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: People may remember that you ran into trouble with the economic development Corporation of resulted in a guilty plea to embezzlement, what are the assisting in the show may be part of a new public life are you?

CAROLYN SMITH: Exhibit a household that had by example a expectation that you get back and as my father says leave it a little better than you found it, this is another opportunity for me to do that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And this month as part of this exhibition of their movies as well as photographs?

GAIDI FINNIE: What we did to help with the exhibit is put together programs and one of them is coming up this Saturday the fifteenth we're showing Fruitvale station and Coupeville station is a story mimicking the Trayvon Martin issue and why America is afraid of these young black men That is a question they will discuss this abundant after the movie, as one of the things that we're doing this but the show

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You have what really seem like ambitious ideas for the safety and big for this museum You like to see the space renovated and you'd like to bring and eventually national exhibitions? Are you also trying to build a collection?

GAIDI FINNIE: We're not talking about being a collecting institution right now but people always encourage you to do that for whatever reason but I've been throughout this region in touch with the Smithsonian in helping me guide to this kind of thing and asking them questions about who to contact for this may also help me to get contact with Ebony and the ideas at some point will be a traveling exhibit exhibit stopovers for the spider exhibits over the country and will stop. LA or New York or whatever but that is the idea And already we had the architect David Singer come and look at the space and he brought us consultants and contractors out to give us an idea of what it would cost to renovate to become a permanent halt the museum.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What do you think that the African-American unity in city debates this museum?

CAROLYN SMITH: The contributions of African-Americans nationwide have been somewhat diminished That he can San Diego even more so because there's not that opportunity and I think that the vision that Gaidi has to resurrect this museum is timely and I think it will give again something for the committee to rally around and that is very important the contributions of Africans Americans in the arts and culture and our country since the history of the United States I think that we need to have that presence here in San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Gaidi you come from specifically San Diego's Museum of graphic arts and I'm wondering, where African-Americans concerns and history etc., was that a large part of what was being shown there? Or was there also a gap in the museum of the arts as well?

GAIDI FINNIE: In the museum another guard covers all the genres and they are great museum and there was there I worked with a close friend of mine in the code covered everything That of the music Thing and makes to go to them has a mentor said speaking with this exhibit. And other figures get there think they discovered the gamut of photography and I this is not necessarily a photographer at photographic museum this is just one of the exhibit the verdict.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What other exhibits do you have going on?

GAIDI FINNIE: We have nine going on but we have a number of shows that we are thinking of doing, but what happened was the response to this first exhibit has been so overwhelmingly positive they want to do something equally as great as this one to follow it up, now those ones that we looked at her possible that might not be where we come out next, but other whatever it is will be a fantastic exhibit.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There is an effort fundraiser for this new museum is with the renovations ideas with which you are bigger ideas for this into how has that been going?

GAIDI FINNIE: The fundraising has been phenomenal, we half without having a website, give raised a lot of money for this exhibit and we have some really good funders including any bank and Walmart in San Diego state, the Paradise Valley Hospital and Union Bank, we also have AT&T and some others, it's been really phenomenal and people have it has been amazing how concerned and how people feel about this. They really want to contribute.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to let all of our listeners know that a photo exhibition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the civil rights act act of 1964 will be at the Bayview Baptist Church in San Diego, my guests have been Gaidi Finnie and Carolyn Smith, thank you both very much

GAIDI FINNIE: Can I say one more thing?


GAIDI FINNIE: This marks the day February 11, 1990 when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, I want to mark the date because it happened in our lifetime.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you, thank you so much.