Nonprofit Plans to Build Art Center, Home for Emerging Artists in Sherman Heights

The planned Space 4 Art center and home would be built on Market Street, between 25th and 26 streets in Sherman Heights as a work/live site for artists

San Diego’s community of emerging artists may soon have a place to call home as a nonprofit organization drafts plans to build a house and art center in Sherman Heights for budding talent.

Space 4 Art, a San Diego-based nonprofit, is in the process of designing and building a unique place where artists – and the community – can inspire one another.

In spring 2014, the organization purchased a half-acre vacant lot of land on Market Street, between 25th and 26th streets, to pursue the construction of a permanent space where local artists could live and work.

According to the nonprofit’s website, the art center and home would be a way for artists and Space 4 Art to have lasting impact in San Diego.

The space will house approximately 50 artists in units where they can work and live. The 50,000-square-foot building will be a combination of private and public space, designed to feel like a small neighborhood around courtyards.

“There’s going to be galleries, performing arts, there's going to be education, there's going to be workshops where people can come and work with artists,” explained Bob Leathers, co-founder of Space 4 Art.

Leathers said the live-in units will be an affordable housing option for artists – something the area currently lacks.

The project is very much a collaborative effort that is designed and built by community volunteers and driven by artists.

To that end, students from High Tech High in Chula Vista are helping with the building’s design.

Recently the students, who worked with architects at Space 4 Art, presented their renderings for affordable rental units within the home.

“We're making them from actual blueprints and on sketch up, too. And we're going to actually build them too," explained Vania Alonso, a 9th grade student at High Tech High.

Teachers, architects and even the future tenants sat in the audience and assessed the students’ layouts.

For the students, it was an educational experience that also taught them the value of team work.

“I think it's a pretty cool project because I've never done this and it's an experience to learn,"Javier Belendez, a 9th grade student at High Tech High, told NBC 7. “Group work is very good, [compared to] an individual because you get things done and they turn out better.”

Aleks Loera, also a freshman at High Tech High, has been working with Javier and Vania the last few months on the design project.

Loera said the project has also helped him overcome his shyness.

“I think I did good. I feel good,” the student said, beaming.

Currently, Space 4 Art is housed in a rented location in downtown San Diego’s East Village, with 35 spaces for artist studios and another five spaces where artists can also live.

Musicians Chris and Arianna Warren live in one of those five units, but plan to move into Space 4 Art's future home in Sherman Heights.

The Warrens sat in the audience while the High Tech High students gave their design presentation.
“They definitely took a close listen to our ideas about what would be helpful and they ran with it. They made brilliant things with it,” said Chris.

“Being two musicians in the house, we need two separate spaces,” said Arianna. “One big one to do big rehearsals together, and one smaller one for me to practice my own instruments and teach lessons.”

There is much work ahead for Space 4 Art, but the plans are moving along.

Space 4 Art had to wait until the city approved zoning changes for Southeast San Diego early this month before it could move full-steam ahead with its plans for the new building. Currently, the architects are meeting with city planners and going through environmental reviews.

Over the next few months, students and architects will be creating a prototype of a work-live loft. They'll place it at the new site later this year.

In March, High Tech High students and their teachers will begin building three of the work-live lofts, which they call “tiny houses,” at the school.

They need $50,000 for raw materials for the project and have created an online Kickstarter campaign where they are accepting donations. As of Saturday morning, the group had raised nearly $2,000.

On the Kickstarter page, Regina Kruglyak, a 9th grade teacher at the high school, lists the group’s goals:

• To raise a minimum of $18,000 in order to buy all of the raw materials it takes to build one tiny home from scratch. We will be making everything (this includes windows, doors, any metal work, etc).
• But our hope is to exceed our fundraising goal, because if we double the amount, we will be able to buy better quality equipment and transportation for getting to our build site so we do not have to rely on volunteer drivers on a daily basis.
• And if we triple the amount of money we hope to raise, we will be able to build communal spaces for the artists that will help enhance their living space in their tiny home community.

After they’re built, the “tiny houses” will be placed at the new space in Sherman Heights this summer.
Vania told NBC 7 she can’t wait to see the students’ hard work and creativity come to life.

“I feel like that's going to be mind-blowing because we designed these, we built these, we put out everything into these houses. And actual real people are going to be living in these houses,” she said.

Space 4 Art architects hope to begin construction on the home in 2018.

When everything is said and done, Leathers hopes the project will have deep ties to the community that helped build it and, in its own unique way, gives back to the community for decades to come.

“So it becomes a force in the community where the art reaches out into the community and really changes the neighborhoods,” he added.

For more details on the project, visit Space 4 Art’s website.

Contact Us