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Online Art Auction, ‘Through The Blue,’ To Support Tijuana’s Most Poverty-Stricken Region

Credit: Annie Buckley

Above: "Now," 2020, cut photograph, 9"x15"x2, by San Diego artist Annie Buckley, featured in the Through The Blue art auction to benefit Tijuana.

Tijuana's El Florido region has a historically high poverty rate. Now, as the border region is ravaged by the coronavirus, the neighborhood is even harder hit.

This month, some San Diego artists are raising funds to do what they can to help the area, through a new project based out of San Diego State University's art department in collaboration with Bread & Salt. "Through the Blue" is an online art auction with nearly 40 participating artists, and all funds will be donated to Build A Miracle, which is an organization that distributes food and basic necessities and provides community and building resources throughout El Florido.

Photo credit: Neil Shigley

"Kevin 51," by Neil Shigley, silkscreen portrait of homeless man, 16" x 20", 2005, part of the Through The Blue art auction.

Arts faculty at SDSU — Carlos Castro-Arias, Jinichi Satoh and Arzu Ozkal — combined forces with James Brown at Bread & Salt to put together the auction. They asked other faculty, alumni and students — many of whom are celebrated artists in San Diego — to donate pieces for the show.

They named it "Through The Blue" to evoke not just the emotional meaning of "blue," (Castro-Arias referred to it as "the melancholy of the pandemic,") but also because the color is a source of inspiration for painters. "We're open to many inspirations, but artists can take it wherever they want," he said.

Raised in Colombia, Castro-Arias said that the city of Tijuana reminds him of home. He often takes students from his SDSU painting and printmaking classes to visit Tijuana’s cultural and artistic landmarks on field trips, and looks forward to being able to do this again. He said that if San Diego's culture isn't already intertwined with that of Tijuana, it should be. "These two big cities, 20 minutes away from each other. The cultural variety and the things that people can explore are endless," he said.

Adjusting to remote learning with his art students was challenging at first, and seemed almost absurd. How could he possibly teach painting online, he asked himself at the beginning of the pandemic. But ultimately, he was surprised by the experience, citing the richness of adapting and innovating together, but also getting an unexpected glimpse into each student's life, which he says can help his teaching.

"They are in their house, you know, in their room. You get to see the posters they have on the wall and then you say, 'Ah, you like horror movies? Use that aesthetic in the paintings,'" he said as an example.

Castro-Arias will auction his own work, a painting, in the show. In addition, organizer Junichi Satoh will show a mixed-media work titled "Spatial Study #5," created with his partner, Taylor Stahle. And organizer Arzu Ozkal has donated a piece created in collaboration with ceramics artist Ashley Kim.

Photo credit: Satoh + Stahle

"Spatial Study #5," by Junichi Satoh and Taylor Stahle (Satoh + Stahle), 2020.

Other artists with work in the show include Griselda Rosas, Chitra Gopalakrishnan (if you do not already follow Gopalakrishnan on Instagram, the artist has been painting powerful portraits of fallen Black women on lined paper, with proceeds supporting local nonprofits), Annie Buckley, Kerianne Quick, Aren Skalman and more.

The auction kicks off Tuesday, July 7, and buyers can place bids on pieces for a week. Castro-Arias said that the pieces are priced reasonably, to encourage people to build collections of local art and support the cause. He also added that while the artists were asked to either participate in donating 100 percent or 50 percent of the profits to Build a Miracle, so far every artist has opted to donate 100 percent, despite the difficult economic conditions for artists right now.

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Julia Dixon Evans
Arts Calendar Editor and Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in getting San Diegans engaged with the diversity of art and culture made by the creative people who live here.

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