San Diego Needs a 3D Art Museum

by on April 14, 2022 · 2 comments

in San Diego

Colleen O’Connor: As a small challenge to a great problem (the modern cacophony of negativity), I have asked my grade school classmates from St. Vincent’s to send one positive idea that the City, County, State, or just individuals can use to improve lives.

The first response came from Fr. Barry Martinson, a Jesuit, now living in a small parish in Taiwan, where he puts his artistic talents (first encouraged by Sister Martha) to not just making, restoring and salvaging remarkable stain glass windows, but selling them to fund the repair and rejuvenation of his entire village. Barry has also trained prisoners and others to use art as a way to discover their talents for good. Other classmates’ Ideas to Follow.

By Fr. Barry Martinson

The world can change for the better by little innovations that start somewhere and then grow. One way to respond to something bad that is rampant in society is by overpowering it with good.

As an example: Graffiti––a destructive pastime for youth wanting to express anger or frustrated artistic talents, or to mark their territory for drug-related commerce.  It’s a world-wide problem.  Some consider it an art.  I think it is an anti-art.  But suppose those who do graffiti had another option.  Suppose they had a way to express themselves artistically by making something beautiful that would result in pleasure and admiration in the viewer instead of anger.  Could they be motivated to beautify the world instead of destroying it?

I’m attaching a few photos of large-scale paintings I saw in 3-D art museums in Thailand and the Philippines.  I was fascinated by the kind of art in those museums, and also by some I see on city walls here in Taiwan, seemingly gratuitously put there for others’ enjoyment.  People crowd around those paintings to take pictures of themselves “inside” of the artwork.  Maybe San Diego also has 3-D museums.  But why should art like this be confined to museums?  Why not on public walls?

Take this situation:  Some distressed neighborhood in San Diego is plagued by graffiti covering its public walls or storefronts.  No sooner is the graffiti painted over (which is probably rarely) than the walls are once again disfigured.  Suppose some 3-D art was painted on those walls. People would stop and take selfies of themselves against the walls. The people living there would be proud of their neighborhood, instead of ashamed of its run-down condition.  Maybe even the graffiti “artists” would respect the artwork.

Or maybe those graffiti artists would like to learn how to spend time making beautiful and meaningful 3-D art themselves instead of scribbles.  Maybe they could get paid for doing it.  What a challenge for city workers, artists  and social activists that would be.  I say this from experience, since we have made over a dozen murals on walls throughout our village, mostly thanks to Vaisu and his gang of apprentices––and no graffiti dares to show its face anywhere around here. The people are proud of their murals and make sure they are clean and well-preserved.

Or suppose some of our friends in jail could start a mural project. This could be done at the actual wall site, although security may be a problem.  Or, the murals could be made within the prison grounds and put up afterwards.  How? By using large sheets of a thin, lightweight, durable hard plastic or other material with the mural design imprinted on it.  The material could be cut into jigsaw sections, with groups of prisoners working on each section.  Then the sections could be taken to some neighborhood and cemented on the wall section by section.  Voila!  A colorful wall mosaic.

The idea would be not to eliminate evil (which is impossible), but to overpower it with good.  Whatever people put onto public walls should be something for the public to see and enjoy or profit from.  Unfortunately, most people who make graffiti do not see their “art” as a gift for the public.  More likely it is a symbol of anger or a surreptitious gesture of territorially.  Could their motivations be uplifted?  Could they be taught to see public art as an opportunity to make something beautiful – an act of love?

I think something like this has been done in Chicano Park.  When I went there many years ago, I took photos of each mural, some so powerful and meaningful.  They are amazing works of public art that must make the people of that area especially proud.  Walking through downtown San Diego, I’ve seen other great murals here and there.  My advice is to make even more.  Have contests!  Spend some city money.  Make classroom projects.  Hire artists to do big public art rather than measly little canvases to sell at neighborhood fairs.

Many of the best outdoor murals and mosaics in the States were made during the great government work projects of the 30s.  Now that there is a US infrastructure bill in the billions, why not make a renewed art for the masses?  Authoritarian countries have always used this method to spread their propaganda.  Cannot democratic countries do the same to promote truth, beauty and goodness?  Mural art does not have to spout out slogans. It can be meaningful without being political.  Most of all, it can be beautiful.  And beauty, in the final analysis, is what gives joy and satisfaction to the eternally-searching heart of humankind.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gravitas April 14, 2022 at 12:20 pm

Great idea….especially:

“The idea would be not to eliminate evil (which is impossible), but to overpower it with good.”


randy April 14, 2022 at 3:32 pm

“This is just great stuff. I used to be in the oldest portable in our Oregon district. So, I went to the art teachers and had them see if one of the students wanted to create on my outdoor walls. Very successful run of five years. Kids liked them, respected them, even in the summer months. Then they were defaced. Sisters and brothers of the artists went looking for whomever…I changed schools. The campus was remodeled and the portable demolished. But, for five years it was a thing. Worth a try in San Diego.”


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