Mural, Lights and Charity at Culture Brewing Co.

by on January 19, 2016 · 2 comments

in Culture, Media, Ocean Beach

Gretchen Weidner mh artist

Artist Gretchen Weidner and her mural, lights by Brady Ridenour, owner/operator of HelioDesigns. (All photos by South OB Girl)

A Conversation with Muralist Gretchen Weidner

Editor: This Thursday, January 21 from 5 – 9 pm, Culture Brewing Company will be opening its doors for another art opening, this one featuring artist Gretchen Weidner, who has painted a mural and created a light installation in collaboration with Brady Ridenour of HelioDesigns. 20% of beer sales will go to benefit Father Joe’s Villages. Our own “South OB Girl” interviewed the muralist. 

By South OB Girl

“Muralist. Painter. Teacher” is how Gretchen Weidner describes herself on her webpage. Add to that philanthropist and sports coach.

A conversation with Gretchen makes it clear what an inspiration she is. She is actively making a difference in the world. And she does all of the things she does for children, for art, and for charity, out of a genuine love for helping people. Without trying to impress you with her resume, passionately, humbly, and with a strong work ethic she throws herself into her work and her resume is growing longer and longer.

Gretchen Weidner mh mural1

Gretchen wanted to include a major OB landmark in her mural and selected the pier.

Gretchen moved to San Diego from Buffalo, New York a year and a half ago, and after living in Clairemont for a short time decided OB was the place for her. She is happy to call OB home for most of the same reasons many have chosen OB — the beach, the shops and restaurants, the sense of community. She teaches art at Lexington Elementary, and works with each grade level separately teaching art, K through 5th grade.

Gretchen Weidner mh fish

Detail of mural

Since moving to San Diego she has had a myriad of projects commissioned. Which she has done in addition to teaching. That whole starving artist image — throw it out the window. Gretchen has had work and lots of it. It has literally rained opportunity for her. That whole flamboyant artist stereotype — throw that out the window too. She is still down to earth with a small town charm about her, and let’s hope that doesn’t change as she becomes bigger in the art world.

Gretchen Weidner mh mural2Shortly after moving to San Diego she had a gallery opening at the Brokers Building Gallery downtown. As a result of that she was approached to do 6 sixty foot murals at the Lafayette Hotel. Those murals feature Hollywood stars that stayed at the hotel. She was then asked to do 3 more murals at the Lafayette– Lance Alworth, Johnny Weissmuller, and a theater box office mural capturing the old Hollywood vibe of the hotel.

Gretchen Weidner mh bulbShe has been asked do a variety of murals for a few different businesses around town and she also has teaching jobs outside of Lexington. She teaches a “Canvas & Cocktails” class on Saturday’s, 5-7 pm, at Emerald C Gallery in Coronado as well as “Painting by the Sea” at the Hotel Del Coronado (monthly schedule can be found here.) And she will be starting a “Paint & Pint” class at the Lafayette Hotel in February.

Gretchen Weidner mh lites3She has been interested in art pretty much since day one. Winning art contests in elementary school, crafting with her grandmother, making gifts for people, painting her first mural in her high school cafeteria, and selling her first painting at age 16. She attended art school at Alfred University in New York, receiving a BA in fine art, and then she did a Masters in Art Education at Buffalo State.

Gretchen had approached Culture Brewing Co management about doing a show. A few months after first approaching management, she was called to schedule her show. Gretchen and the manager jointly came up with the idea of featuring canvases as pieces within the mural — those canvases have already been sold and can be removed as pieces from the mural when the show closes at the end of the month.

Gretchen Weidner mh lites2As a teacher she has seen aspects of the educational system she found less than desirable. Out of that sentiment she generated the mural at Culture. She wants the viewer to come up with his or her own ideas of what the mural means. But she had a message of her own behind the mural.

She didn’t like how teaching these days felt confined to a box – and learning for children therefore confined as well. The light-bulbs in the mural represent ideas to Gretchen. The unbroken light bulbs represent traditional schools — trapping ideas inside. The fish represent today’s children, trapped in traditional school and then swimming free to explore and adventure in the vast ocean.

Gretchen Weidner mh lites4The broken light bulb symbolizes the liberating of ideas and learning and setting children free to explore. Gretchen would like to see her vision for education come to fruition one day — allowing and encouraging kids to explore and in doing so, to discover their innate talents. The large fish near the pier in the mural is a beta fish which is a fighter fish, and it is fighting to be free and liberate ideas and thinking.

Her general idea to start with was to feature a popular OB landmark, the pier, as well as the light bulbs concept. And that developed into the fish and ocean scenery. Three of the small canvases featuring fish were done by children who saw her working on the mural and asked to paint some fish. One of the children asked permission to paint a school of fish. Gretchen said that was a great idea. She was very touched by that and is particularly proud of their contribution.


The light installation as well was added to the show as a result of her being approached while she was working on the mural. She was painting light bulbs and a stranger drinking a beer at Culture approached her. And the project took on a life of it’s own. That individual who approached Gretchen was Brady Ridenour, the owner/operator of HelioDesigns. He offered to provide some unique vintage-inspired bulbs for a light installation. The result speaks for itself as the unique bulbs hang at staggered heights from the ceiling, brightly lighting up the mural underneath.

One would think that having canvases, a mural, and light installation might be enough — but Gretchen is associating her charity efforts with her show. Helping at-risk youth through Father Joe’s Villages.

Thursday, January 21 from 5 – 9 pm, Culture will be opening its doors for a second art opening. There will be HelioDesigns light giveaway, print sale, and 20% of beer sales will go to benefit Father Joe’s Villages. All of Gretchen’s work was already sold, and between the mural work and lighting, all proceeds are going to Father Joe’s, to help house and educate at-risk youth.

Culture has been featuring various artists for some time, and this month’s display varies in scale and approach from some of the previous exhibits. This time artist Gretchen Weidner has painted a mural and created a light installation in collaboration with Brady Ridenour of HelioDesigns. And she is kicking it up a notch with charity efforts. Gretchen is a breath of fresh air and an inspiration — she sees problems in the world and wants to tackle them head on. Up next for Gretchen — a mural on the Emerald C Gallery in Coronado, and it seems the phone will just keep ringing for her.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

RK January 20, 2016 at 11:41 am

That is amazing work! Very nice.


South OB Girl January 27, 2016 at 11:52 am

I asked Gretchen about numbers and she didn’t know how much was raised …. When/if she finds out she will let me know. I do know a friend of a friend bought a light installation — which exceeded my expectations!! And there were lots of people milling around on Thursday enjoying beer :-). Seemed a lot of raffle tickets got sold as the jar was very full. So I think it was a success!


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