Village Merchants consider art for vacant storefronts


The La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) is considering a new way to fill the unattractive, unoccupied storefronts in town. As a temporary aesthetic improvement, while awaiting new businesses to move in, LJVMA may implement the Fill It With Art (FIWA) program. At its Aug. 10 meeting, LJVMA approved the formation of a sub-committee program to study FIWA and report back at a future meeting.

When introducing the proposal, brand marketing and art curation firm Plume21’s chief creative officer Thomas Lamprecht said the FIWA program would take advantage of “depressing” empty storefronts by posting eye-catching artistic installations in the spaces until the stores are rented. He said the program would benefit the Village aesthetic by providing public art rather than vacant windows, drawing attention to rentable spaces and solidifying La Jolla as a cultural destination.

“We want to create something completely non-impactful to the spaces, walls or ceilings with no impairment to real estate agents showing the vacant spaces. The installations could be easily placed and removed,” Lamprecht said. Using renderings, he showed the board hanging installations made from reusable materials that preserved the visibility of the space for those considering tenancy. He also said signage on the windows would indicate that the space is for rent, and how to contact the Realtor. “We feel by doing this, everyone wins. Real estate agents win, the Village will see a benefit, as well as visitors and artists,” he said.

When it comes to choosing artists to create the works, Lamprecht said he could give priority and right-of-refusal to local galleries, then to students at area universities, then elsewhere. If working with students — a favorable option to several board members — the galleries would sponsor the student, similar to a residency. So if passersby want to know more about the artist, they would contact the sponsoring gallery.

To avoid competition with existing art institutions, LJVMA president Claude-Anthony Marengo suggested partnering with La Jolla galleries. “One idea is to give students a criteria, maybe by one of the gallery owners, for something that would enhance art that is already showing at one of the galleries. It would give viewers a chance to see the installation in a storefront, and then see the work that inspired it at (for example) Monarch Arredon Gallery,” he said.

Although in support of the idea, board member and Monarch Arredon Contemporary Fine Art gallery owner Elsie Arrednodo said, “If we do go forward with this project, it must not be seen as competitive (to local art businesses). I would recommend that the work in the windows cannot be sold and the artist cannot be marketed at the site.” In favor of the idea to use gallery owners as conduits for learning more about the artist, she added, “A lot of galleries may have artists already that could create work for those spaces, or there could be artists that do not have gallery representation that could partner with us.”

Lamprecht said Plume21 would foot the bill to get the program off the ground, and would not expect any fees. “If the program grows, we would need some sort of pay structure. But right now we’re looking at this idealistically, just to improve how things look in the Village,” he said.

Agreeing that other gallery owners and area real estate agents should have a voice in the conversation, the sub-committee will explore the perimeters of the program and report back.

Offering a preemptive word of caution, Marengo said, “There are going to be people who think if you make an installation, the real estate agents are committing to those installations and the spaces won’t get rented. It’s interesting to see how people view the emptiness. … Connecting the project to us (LJVMA) will give some assurance that the work is temporary and we want to see the spaces ultimately get rented.”

LJVMA member Paul Burke commented, “I’m really in support of this. By implementing this program, instead of walking down the street and seeing all this beauty and vibrancy and then seeing these empty storefronts, we could add some life to the Village.”

In other LJVMA news:

12 candidates for 10 seats: LJVMA executive director Sheila Fortune said 12 candidates self-nominated themselves to fill the 10 board seats that will be up for grabs in the board’s next election. Ballots will be mailed out in the next few weeks and the vote results will be announced at the October meeting. The new board will be seated in November. The candidates are Krista Baroudi, The World Around You; James Niebling, Esteban Interiors; Xochitl Cerda, The LOT movie theater; Lori Bolton, 18/8 men’s salon; Jamie Dickerson, J Dixx Photography; Christina Sandoval, CosBar salon; John Clarke, Your Home Finder; Tiffany Torgan Phillips, Harcourt real estate; Billy Borja, OrangeTheory Fitness; Morgan Barnes, Jonty Jacobs; Alisha Frank, Fiercely Optimistic; Mauricio G’arate, I Love Kickboxing; and Laurnie Durisoe, Pantai Inn.

Business survey results due: As a member of the LJVMA Economic Development committee, Arredondo said a survey to determine the types of businesses locals would like to see in the Village will be active until Aug. 31 and the results will be reported at the September meeting. “We have, as of today, 133 responses with what kinds of businesses people would like to see,” she said. “Our (September) report will include those responses, as well as recommendations for next steps and what we think should come into the Village.” Using the report, she and members Brett Murphy and Ike Fazio would create a package to solicit desired businesses. The survey can be found at

Board seeks non-profit status: President Marengo presented for board approval, the suggestion that LJVMA become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization so it could collect tax-deductible donations for annual events and seek grants. “Since we are no longer operating the La Jolla Village Information & Visitor Center (which closed in September 2015), we have some discretionary funds that I’d like to use to file for the documents to become a 501(c)3,” he said. The board voted to support the exploratory effort.

— La Jolla Village Merchants Association meets 3 p.m. second Wednesdays at La Jolla’s Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave.