‘Pop-Up’ gallery highlights local visual art talent in southeastern San Diego

The Pop-Up Art Gallery at Market Creek Plaza is a dream come true for Kim Phillips-Pea, curator of the gallery and president of the Southeast Art Team. The community in southeastern San Diego has long been filled with creativity and artists perfecting their work, but the neighborhood hasn’t had much physical space dedicated solely to visual art — until now.

“There’s nothing like this in the community. Our team is used to setting up in the Malcolm X Library or a pop-up in a park under a canopy. We’ve never had a more permanent indoor space to enjoy art,” she said of the partnership between her Southeast Art Team and the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.

The gallery features the work of local artists and highlights a select number of them each month, until the gallery closes at the end of February 2021. This new project also features themed exhibits and online workshops and classes, ranging from jewelry design to T-shirt design and screen printing, or how to frame artwork (visit calendly.com/popupartgallery for more information). The gallery — at 342 Euclid Ave., Suite 406, San Diego — is open by appointment only, between the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, and Tuesday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Phillips-Pea, 43, is also an artist and lives in Valencia Park with her husband and son. She took some time to talk about the work her Southeast Art Team has been doing in the southeastern neighborhood, amplifying the art scene in her community, and her love of performing music.


Q: Tell us about the Southeast Art Team.

A: The Southeast Art Team came together in 2016, through an art opportunity with the San Diego Hip Hop 5K. They were looking for art to include in their event, so we teamed up with local artists to fulfill their request, and that’s how the team was formed. Initially, it was just one or two artists, but as the 5K grew and the organizers wanted more, it became obvious that we needed a team. All of our artists are born and raised in southeastern San Diego, and we want to represent the area … . Instead of the negative stereotypes, we want to highlight that we’re focused on art in the area. The purpose of the group is to magnify the power of art, and potential of art, in Southeastern San Diego.

Q: Why did you want to be involved with the team?

A: I wanted to be involved to demonstrate community engagement to my son and show him it’s possible to get work done in a team environment. We live in a community that’s growing and thriving, and it’s good to have that family feeling.


Q: How would you describe the art scene in southeastern San Diego?

A: Right now, it’s thriving. We have more art than we’ve ever had, and it’s popping up in exciting places, like murals around busy intersections and community gardens. In fact, our team created a mural map for the area. Any family can have an afternoon out on a treasure hunt of sorts, admiring new artwork. That didn’t exist before. We also admire the work Chicano Park has done over the past 50 years, and that’s what we’re looking toward. From hallways to freeway underpasses, we want it all beautified.

What I love about Valencia Park …

In our community, we make a way out of no way. We are resilient, and we have so much potential. It’s family-oriented and everyone is familiar and respects each other. Our Mile of Art is in the neighborhood, as well as a recent mural that includes a variety of storefronts, including a coffee shop and a bookstore. Those storefronts have been painted to manifest what we want to see, and since then, a pop-up coffee shop has been planned. We’re excited to see the momentum.

Q: How has growing up and living in the community influenced your point of view and the work you create as an artist?


A: We live in an underserved neighborhood. When I was a kid, my brother and I went to a music magnet school, and were introduced to the symphony, museums and music. My mom recognized our potential, and we were able to stay focused on creativity, despite all that was going on in our community. I was able to tap into my creative potential at a young age, and that’s made a difference in my life. My son is 10, and I want him in a safe environment and surrounded by creativity, allowing him to tap into his potential. Also, I make sure I’m providing creative outlets for kids in the community. We have a series of art kits that parents in the community can purchase for a small donation and pick up for their kids. They can be reserved on our website (calendly.com/popupartgallery) and picked up at the gallery.

Q: What kind of response has the gallery received from the community so far? And how have local artists responded to having this new space?

A: It’s special for us to see how happy our visitors are to walk in the door, especially those who’ve lived in the neighborhood a long time. Many have expressed wanting a permanent gallery in the neighborhood, but just knowing that we have this one here and now is huge.

Q: Can you tell us about some of the artists whose work is on display this month?


A: Raquel Rhone grew up in southeastern San Diego, went to San Diego State University, and now is vice president of the Southeast Art Team. She specializes in portraits, from celebrities like Nipsey Hussle, Kobe Bryant and Stan Lee, to changemakers like Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisholm and James Baldwin.

Ami Young-Hill grew up in San Diego and has spent many years in the Belizean rain forest. Her work reflects her memories in the rain forest, and she paints completely from memory, without sketching her work beforehand. It amazes me.

JoeNathan Segura is a longtime local artist and muralist, who we’ve worked with in the past on the Mile of Art along Imperial Avenue. One piece he’s displaying in the gallery is a sunset trio, made of three pieces that go together to form a beach boardwalk.

There’s also North County’s Zig Wharton, who focuses on fine art. He’s worked with the Jacobs Center doing murals in Market Creek Plaza, and we’re glad to have him back and displaying art at the gallery.


Q: You’re also an artist. How would you describe the kind of art you create?

A: My art is vibrant and revolves around something I consider a challenge. I’m always trying to find out if I can conquer or achieve something with my pieces. I primarily use acrylic paint. I love the way the paint blends, and I’m very into color blending. I’m going to start branching out to oil paint and watercolor. In fact, the San Diego Watercolor Society in Liberty Station reached out to us, so we’re excited to begin experimenting with watercolor, too.

Q: Who are some of your favorite artists, or specific works of art?

A: I like the work of Brenda De Flanders; she’s my favorite artist and my mentor. She’s the first Black woman to have a juried show at Balboa Park in the 1980s, so she opened some doors for us. She paints, draws, creates sculptures; she doesn’t limit herself. She always invited me to learn new techniques, and she’s shared so many books with me. She did a series of drawings of Africa, and at some point, we will display her work. Another artist I really admire is the late Tamara Natalie Madden, a Jamaican-born painter and mixed media artist who lived on the East Coast.


Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: The best advice I’ve ever received is learning to maximize the potential inside of you. It’s important to find our potential and maximize it to the fullest. If we’re not doing that, it’s a disservice to ourselves and to life.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: I love to sing and play violin! Actually, I love to perform. When most people see me, I’m mid-project and usually covered in paint, but I also like to artistically express myself through music. I love every instrument.


Q: Describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: It would combine doing art (singing, dancing, building something) and spending time with my husband and my son at the beach. We love sand dollar hunting on Silver Strand and in Imperial Beach. Once it gets cold enough, we’ll drive to Alpine for the snow, and then go to the beach in the same day — because you can do that here!