After years of planning, construction is underway for a new Space 4 Art center at its future location in Logan Heights with help from some students and volunteers.
Students from King-Chavez Community High School in downtown and High Tech High in Chula Vista have been an instrumental part of the development project, from helping to design the new facility to building it.
The half-acre property is located on Market Street, between 25th Street and 26th Street. The small, hillside lot will eventually become an affordable artists' colony. The hope is that it will house 55 artist studios with space for 35 artists to live.
"It might feel a little crowded, but our goal is to create it in the same view of a tiny home," said Regina Kruglyak, a teacher at High Tech High. "It might feel really small, but the way that you design it, it feels roomy on the inside."
Space 4 Art, a non-profit organization, has been leasing property on 15th Street in East Village for the last several years.
Since the building is being redeveloped, the group is losing about a third of its space. Ten of the 42 artists who worked on projects at the Space 4 Art center were forced to move to another studio.
"We lost our stage, we lost our classroom, we lost our tiny home, we lost our outdoor work area. It's all becoming a high-rise," said Bob Leathers, co-founder of Space 4 Art. "So that means, this is where we're going to have our permanent home."
For the last few weeks, students, volunteers and architects have been building a temporary amphitheater with an indoor/outdoor gallery and a place for artists to work and host events at the Market Street location.
"We're taking out the trees, but we're leaving the hillside," explained Kruglyak. "We didn't want to level out this entire land. We want to mostly focus on working with the land."
One student was surprised by the work.
"This is not at all what I expected. I thought we would be working indoors, possibly making small frames," said Elizabeth Aguilar, a ninth grade student at High Tech High.
"But once we got to work out here, everything was hands-on. It's definitely not something I would assume we'd do in ninth grade, but it's been a great experience."
On June 2, the center will hold a public event to celebrate the project's completion. You can also donate to the project here.
For Leathers, who is overseeing the entire project, the work is far from over.
His biggest challenge is raising enough money to finish the new facility, which he estimates will take about $10 million to build.
Even with bank loans, tax credits, private grants and donations, Leathers estimates Space 4 Art still needs about $1.5 million.
That's why it'll be at least a few years before a permanent facility is in place, and artists can move in.
"What San Diego needs is something that is created by the artist for artists," said Leathers.
He's very grateful for the help of volunteers and the community's support, and he's especially impressed by the students' hard work.
"Even though we're making it [as] affordable as possible to build, the kids are making it affordable," said Leathers. "They've already built 8 houses, all the modular units."
The project, which is part of the students' STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education, is also helping some with career goals.
"I know I really want to go into architecture and design," said Drake Prince, a ninth grade student at High Tech High.
"This had a big influence on me. Just being out in the field and being able to work with so many cool people. It changed my perspective on this line of work."