Community Building through Street Art & Culture in City Heights, San Diego
How one non-profit is transforming a California city and supporting local artists with free art.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Love City Heights (LCH) is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating art experiences in City Heights, San Diego, California, with a goal of bringing the entire community together and, in their words; “making City Heights an arts and culture destination.” Not only does LCH make the city more beautiful with their murals but, by working together with local business and property owners, they are also helping to create a safer neighborhood everyone can feel proud of.
The organization is run by City Heights resident Carlos Quezada who doesn’t tout himself an artist, but whose business sense, drive, and love for City Heights has him leading the charge on every mural project and beautifying his city streets. Carlos has lived in many different areas, including Paris, France as an exchange student, but he says; “nowhere felt more like home than City Heights.” And it’s no wonder why he loves it, the city is a diverse slice of culture with the largest Somali population outside of Somalia, and over 50 languages spoken among the 75,000 inhabitants.
The initial contact between Beautify Earth and Love City Heights began when LCH was at a low point and had just lost funding. Quezada went online in search of some information and guidance and he came across Beautify Earth and decided to reach out. To his surprise, artist Ruben Rojas not only replied with great advice, he also supported Carlos’ new non- profit organization by participating in The Avenue Mural Project and painting a mural for them which ended up being the pièce de résistance at their 2nd annual Love City Heights Day, as well as a recognizable piece in Southern California. Pro tip: If you’re visiting San Diego and trying to find local murals, the LCH website is a great place to look!
Although Love City Heights Day was a big success, even garnering attention from the City of San Diego to present a proclamation declaring June 24th the official Love City Heights Day, LCH was still having difficulty finding walls for murals, connecting with business owners, receiving local support and funding artists. By partnering with BE and joining the Local Organizations program, Love City Heights is able to reach more people via a curated roster, gather community input to find popular artists and art, and manage all aspects of their projects from design to post completion maintenance - all in one place. On top of providing a platform to make it easier to manage projects, Beautify Earth also gives 15% of its transaction revenue to participating community organizations. Carlos says, when he found out about the platform it was a “no brainer to partner with Beautify Earth”.
During this crazy time of COVID19, everything was put on hold while the world figured out a new normal for everyday life. This also meant street art and LCH’s Mural Walk was put on hold, but that didn’t stop the non-profit founders from coming up with innovative ideas to keep the community building going strong. They waited patiently until the time was right, partnered with some local businesses, and provided meals to essential workers as well as 2020 graduates of schools in the neighborhood, to show their love and support.
Love City Heights has been featured on news stations such as ABC 10 News on their Stories That Matter segment entitled; City Heights Mural Project inspires Hope, as well as on NBC 7 in a piece entitled Local Mural Project to Deter Graffiti Becomes Place of Inspiration During Pandemic. Check the stories out for some feel-good news, examples of community building, to find local murals and for a ton of inspiration!
When asked what a leader is, this is what Carlos replied: ”To me, a leader is someone who HAS to do something about an issue they are passionate about that will benefit those around them and the community as a whole. It should never be about the leader, it should always be about the cause”. We all admire our local heroes who have shined throughout this COVID19 pandemic, but we also have other neighborhood heroes, like Carlos, who stay steadfast on their community building quest to make our neighborhoods more beautiful, friendlier, and safer for everyone. Beautify Earth is looking forward to partnering with more organizations and making it easier for them to bring people together through art and culture, and easier for you to find local murals in your neighborhood.
Learn more about how Beautify Earth partners with local organizations to help them enhance their communities and cultures through art.