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Del Mar House Provides Artists Sanctuary, For Now

Video by Nicholas Mcvicker

In an enclave in Del Mar, a group of artists have transformed a dated, rundown home into an artist community and gallery space. But they don’t own the house, and the house has a date with the wrecking ball.

Anyone who knows me, knows that a mid-century house turned gallery by its artist occupants would peak my interest. Throw in the possibility that it might all disappear, and I'm officially interested. I'm hardly the first. CityBeat has been following the threat to the house dubbed A Ship in the Woods since last November.

I decided to drive up to Del Mar and check it out - camera in hand. Above is the video I made about the house and its occupants, including A Ship in the Woods co-founders RJ Brooks and Kiersten Puusemp.

Brooks found the house on Craigslist four years ago. It was dated. He and his new roommates pulled up carpet and tile, did some painting, and transformed it.

It's four years later, and A Ship in the Woods holds regular arts events. They present emerging and mid-career visual artists, bands, comedians and invite people to lecture. But the owners of the house, a couple who live in Washington D.C., are still planning to demolish the building and build a modern home on the property, which is surrounded by lush, mature trees (apparently they want to preserve the trees). As their plans keep getting delayed, they've consistently extended Brooks' lease.

Brooks says they've now been told they have to leave in August. You can't blame the home owners for wanting to build their dream home.

But it makes the story of this historic house (it was built for film actor George Brent), and the artist community that's blossomed within it, bittersweet.

Brooks and Puusemp have formed a non-profit and plan to continue their arts programming regardless of what happens at the house. They're currently looking at a commercial gallery space.

The next A Ship in the Woods event takes place off-site, at the La Paloma theater in Encinitas. It features actor, director and author Crispin Glover. He'll screen his films and give a reading. For more information on that event, visit A Ship in the Woods.

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