By Diane Y. Welch
Twenty-five years ago a group of fine artists banded together in the spirit of cooperation to provide a venue to exhibit and a place to learn. The association, made up of several La Jollans, called itself the Market Street Group, a nod to its location in downtown San Diego, an area noted for its vibrant art community in the mid 1980s.
In celebration, the public is invited to attend an anniversary art reception at the group's current location — Studio 247, 2400 Kettner Street in San Diego's Little Italy. The studio will open at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11 with an award program starting at 7 p.m.
The Sebastian Capella Scholarship Award, named for the group’s founder, will be given to Barbara Trzcinski, an art student of outstanding ability from La Jolla's Athenaeum. Capella and Athenaeum executive director Erika Torri will present the award that grants free access, classes, and full use of the studio for a three-month period.
“The winners will be able to learn from the others, to receive critique, and to exhibit,” said longtime member George M. Wahab. There is also an additional award for two emerging artists to use the facility, without fee, for one month.
The exhibition will feature the work of Capella, plus art from group members past and present. Much talent has grown from its inception in 1986 when Capella, a transplanted Spanish artist and teacher in the classical tradition, created the Market Street Group with five of his students: Jeanne Zvetina, Ilse T. Hable, Aline Gest, Andrea Gaye, and Alberta Casey.
“He said 'it's not enough for you to take classes, you have to practice art to develop your skills,' ” said Wahab, a retired physician, who joined the group 20 years ago, steered it through its ups and downs, and remains an active member.
“The group also acted as an incubator for emerging artists, protected them, gave them an environment to perfect their skills, and after a few years, they were able to have independent success. Many notable artists in San Diego started in the group.”
Members Ken and Stephanie Goldman, and Kirby Kendrick are three such artists, now enjoying international acclaim.
Figure drawing sessions are a key benefit. “We have models sit, four times a week, for our three-hour drawing classes. As a cooperative studio, each member shares the expenses, making it affordable, and each has the freedom to come and go to work anytime,” said Wahab.
The work created ranges from landscape to portraiture to still life and more. Members are in their 30s through 80s, and the group recently celebrated the 84th birthday of Robert Crisler. Until his death last year at age 94, Ralph Geisberg was the oldest member.
Under Wahab's watch, the group held an exhibition at the Mona Bismark Foundation in Paris in June 1990, and several members have held leadership positions in the local art community. Wahab, like Ron Spelman, was past president of the San Diego Portrait Society. Stephanie Goldman and George Wahab each served as past presidents of the San Diego Museum of Art’s Artist Guild, and were also SDMA board trustees. Other members have been active in the San Diego Museum of Living Artist, the La Jolla Art Association, and the Pastel Society.
“The story of the Market Street Group is a unique one,” said Wahab. “It was kept secret for a long time. It deserves to be uncovered and brought to the public attention.”
If you go
Market Street Group, 25
5:30 p.m. Feb. 11; studio will also be open Feb. 12 by appointment. All exhibited work is for sale.
2400 Kettner St., Little Italy
Carol Prior (619) 702-2130