Great artists are everywhere—largely unknown except to the most dedicated aficionados, they go unnoticed in small galleries and underground shows that are often difficult to find. But if you want to see the work of San Diego artists, you’ll know exactly where to go. The San Diego Art Institute’s Museum of the Living Artist is a sort of municipal gallery, with over 30 juried shows a year by local artists.
The sheer variety and imagination expressed in the exhibits make this one of the most exciting art museums you’ll visit. A juried show often runs the gamut of photography, painting, sculpture and collage, with diverse styles ranging from realism to the purely abstract. A recent show includes tribal-inspired sculpture, oil portraiture, a terrifying acrylic of Ronald McDonald and a strangely beautiful piece made of torn t-shirts stretched over a picture frame (works currently on display can be seen online).
The pieces you’ll see aren’t necessarily entirely by San Diego county artists, depending on when you visit. The annual International Award exhibition attracts artists from all over the world, while other exhibits involve artists from the greater Southern California region. The permanent David G. Fleet Young Artist Gallery features a rotating display of work by students in San Diego schools.
The Museum of the Living Artist is an unusual combination of high culture and an almost small-town sense of community. On the first Sunday afternoon of every month the museum is host to The Gathering, a potluck for artists and patrons alike that features brand-new art by attendees. The ongoing Poetry & Art series is a public series whose entry fee is waived if you bring a bottle of wine, and involves food, music, and an open poetry performance award competition. Sunday and Monday evenings are host to a life-drawing event, where all artists, no matter the skill level, can sketch live models. And the Artisan Gallery is the museum’s store, where you can purchase handcrafted gifts—from pottery to clothing—made by local artists.
The museum can be found at 1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101.