People in Your Neighborhood: Meet La Jolla artist Jane Wheeler


People in Your Neighborhood:

Editor’s Note: Welcome to La Jolla Light‘s “People in Your Neighborhood” series, which shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to or call us at (858) 875-5950.

Entering the realm of Jane Wheeler (aka her house in Bird Rock) is like walking into a livable — and crowded — art museum. The artist strives to make every corner of her home come alive, as she does with her life.

Wheeler moved to La Jolla 25 years ago and has been married for the same amount of time to her husband Doug, with whom she has has two children: Tom (22) and Kaitlyn (19). Some of her favorite art media are ceramics, water colors, mosaics and baking. She is responsible for the series of five mosaic benches on La Jolla Boulevard in Bird Rock and many other outdoor creations around town.

• Where are you from?

“Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I went to business school in UW Madison, and majored in marketing.”

• How was your upbringing like?

“My mom was a nurse and my dad was a banker, (my three sisters and I) came from a very loving household. My mom’s side was very artistic and my dad’s side was very business-like. And every night my mom would play the piano when I went to sleep. I thought everybody grew up like that! So I kind of grew up in a quintessential ‘Little House on the Prairie’ kind of family. My sisters and I would sing in four-part harmony (to our mother’s music).”

• How did you end up in La Jolla?

“My best friend from college moved out here (to San Diego) when she was 25, and she sent me a birthday card that said, ‘Why don’t you move out here, there are beautiful beaches, it’s close to Mexico and Los Angeles and there’s cute guys out here…’ And I was like, ‘OK.’

I moved out here with $500, my suitcase and my bicycle. That was it. I lived on my friend’s floor for three months, sent 100 resumes and finally got a job in specialized events where I met my now husband.”

• How did your art evolve?

“Ever since I was little, up through high school, I was always down in the basement doing art projects. I always liked art. I did all sorts of stuff … After (high school), I didn’t do much until I moved to Carlsbad, where I took a ceramic class, and that’s when it started up again. I started doing art shows and selling my ceramics. Then I took a watercolor class, and did watercolor. I was testing a lot of different media.

My son went to Bird Rock Elementary School and when he was graduating, there’s a traditional fifth grade gift to the school that parents always do, and each class does a beautification project. So two of my friends and I did a mosaic bench, and once I was in that media I really liked it, because collage is a little more how I operate, I am not really good at drawing people or realistic things, but I like combining things and colors and materials, so mosaic was a really good fit.

One day after that, I ran into Joe LaCava, who was the Bird Rock Community Council president at the time, and he was trying to (replace) all the benches in Bird Rock, so I proposed to do one, and we both liked it so much that I ended up doing a series of five. It evolved into a form of art for the community.”

• What do you like about art?

“One of the things that I really like doing is bringing art alive in the community. I like it when it’s vibrant and constantly changing. My mantra is ‘Beautify the World.’ Its important to add beauty to the world in any way you can. It may be the way you cook for your family or do you job well.”

• How’s your relationship with your husband?

“Relationships teach you the most about yourself (laughs), and we’re in it for the long haul. We just had our 25th wedding anniversary, we went to Death Valley and it was awesome! I say to him, ‘If we are going to make it to the 50th anniversary, it is going to mean 25 more years of peace and tranquility,’ that’s what we are aiming for. Because now we have done our careers, our kids are in college, we are empty nesters, so that’s the vision to keep us going – and both of us come from families (with parents) that were married 50 years.

• What’s something about you that most people don’t know?

“When I was in college I skydived from 3,000 feet. I’ll never do it again, but I did it as a confidence booster in my sophomore year. And in those days, you didn’t go with someone else, you had to train for eight hours on how to land so you wouldn’t break your legs.”

• How do you think La Jolla has evolved in the past 25 years?

“I look at everything from an art perspective. So the Murals of La Jolla project is really good, and it’s the whole art-in-the-community idea, I like that. And the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is being remodeled and the new Conrad Prebys Concert Hall is being built. So I’m seeing a resurgence of the art that I think is good, because La Jolla started as an art colony. People came to the Green Dragon Colony to do art. Keeping that art vibe is super important for a community. When you look at Barrio Logan, Little Italy, North Park or Kensington, you see this vibrancy percolating up, usually there’s art behind it. The more we embrace the arts, the more vibrant our community becomes.”