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Visual Arts Fair ‘Beyond the Border’ to Debut Downtown in ’08

San Diego art aficionado Ann Berchtold wants the world to know about the San Diego region’s vibrant visual arts community. Her medium for the message: The Beyond the Border Contemporary Art Fair.

Tentatively scheduled for September 2008 at the Omni Hotel and Exhibition Center, this inaugural event will feature more than 200 works by established and emerging artists from select groups of galleries in North America and Latin America.

Partnering with Julie Schraeger, director of development for Beyond the Border, Berchtold wants to create what she calls a “one-stop shopping” event for collectors, featuring artworks from a select group of galleries in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Ore.; Arizona; and parts of Mexico , what she refers to as a north-south axis of art.

“This is being done in most of the major cities , an art fair of this level,” said Berchtold, director of the L Street Gallery. “You invite the best galleries you can and they bring their top artists.”

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Partners in the event are the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the San Diego Museum of Art, UC San Diego’s Stuart Collection, the UCSD Department of Visual Arts, and the Mexican Consulate in San Diego.

As for the collectors she hopes to attract, Berchtold is “shooting for probably mid- to upper-level incomes.”

“Not the super-wealthy collectors, those who collect the blue-chip art,” she added, “but we will have representatives for them, too.”

The fair also can serve as a magnet for untapped markets , smart, successful people, who might not otherwise have the time to dabble in art, said Berchtold.

“If we can make it easy for them and bring them artwork in a fun environment, it will encourage collecting,” she said.

While the event will be for-profit, the fair will be funded and supported through corporate sponsorships, said Berchtold, with the Omni serving as hospitality sponsor and providing the exposition space.

Eyes On The Prize

Berchtold serves as curator of SanDiegoArtist.com, an online gallery launched in 2000 to showcase the works of promising local artists.

Joining in her efforts to nurture the local arts scene are Hillcrest-based art appraiser Joan Seifried, a board member of the International Society of Appraisers, and Cardiff-by-the-Sea-based artist Patricia Frischer.

“Patricia, Joan and I were doing separate things, but we wanted to galvanize the visual art scene here,” said Berchtold.

Their collaboration has brought about the San Diego Art Prize. Now in its second year, the competition bestows cash awards for excellence in the field of visual arts in the San Diego region.

The Art Prize is supported by the San Diego Visual Arts Network, SanDiegoArtist.com, and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Scheduled Sept. 29 at the L Street Gallery, the event this year will award three $2,500 prizes to established artists, and three $1,000 prizes to emerging artists.

“The goal is to build enough following so that we can raise the cash prize and sustain this over a long time,” said Berchtold.

The San Diego Art Prize also is sponsoring the Vision to Page project, designed to encourage “cross-pollination” of the visual and writing arts, and further boost awareness among the public about San Diego’s visual arts community.

Scheduled from March 1 to May 31, 2008, the event also is a collaboration of SDVAN, SanDiegoArtist.com, and the California Center for the Arts.

The project is open to all writers in any format , general interest, critique, reviews or poetry. The subject matter will be related to the work of the 2006-2007 San Diego Art Prize recipients , Ernest Silva, May-ling Martinez, Jean Lowe, Iana Quesnell, Raul Guerrero and Yvonne Venegas.

All of these efforts are designed to foster a greater unity among all of the players in the region’s art scene, both public and private, said Berchtold.

“There are a lot of opportunities where the city doesn’t have to come up with tons of money,” she said. “We just need to support each other.”

Marketing is the key, said Berchtold.

“We can do it better,” she said. “We have what others don’t have , a border town with Mexico, a diverse culture. The art scene is interesting right now, and very diverse, from Baja (California) to North County.”

An art fair can be an ideal way to get the word out, said Kevin Freitas, San Diego-based arts writer, critic and founder of a well-traveled cultural blog, www.artasauthority.com.

“If you want to put San Diego on the map, you have to create a certain infrastructure to support it, as they do in Chicago and Miami and L.A.,” he said. “The San Diego art scene is growing and developing. There are a lot of great artists here. But they work on a more quiet, consistent level that is unbeknownst to the public.”


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