Driving force in the visual arts

Every other month, artists from the far-flung corners of San Diego County gather in Cardiff-by-the-Sea for an interactive meeting of the creative tribe. The attendees are part of the San Diego Visual Arts Network, or SDVAN, who come together to meet like-minded individuals, reinforce relationships and share current involvements in the arts.

Patricia Frischer, cofounder and coordinator of the nonprofit SDVAN, has been a driving force in the San Diego arts community for more than 15 years.

Meet Patricia Frischer at the San Diego Art Prize Booth during the art fair Sept. 6 through Sept.9 at Balboa Park Photo courtesy of Patricia Frischer

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Frischer received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California College of Arts and Crafts, before taking a position as gallery director with Archer/JPL Fine Arts in London. She wrote “Artists and the Art of Marketing,” an instructional book concerning the business aspects of art, prior to returning to America as art instructor and gallery director at Humboldt State University. She later returned to the UK as lecturer on the subject of art marketing and held the position of head of the art department at London’s Southbank International School.

Frischer flourished for 25 years in the sophisticated London art scene, but upon relocating to Southern California in 1996 with her husband Darwin Slindee, the established artist and art-marketing specialist initially found herself to be an unknown in a somewhat disjointed art market. She recalls, “I discovered a rich but unconnected vein of creativity in the San Diego region. It seemed obvious to me that the community of artists and art professionals would be stronger together than we were separately.”

In 2002, Frischer invited a select group of other visual arts leaders to join her in founding SDVAN. The initial objective of the organization was to produce a database of information that would aid collaborations and raise the bar on the discourse about art. Over the past decade, the SDVAN directory has grown to incorporate more than 2,015 regional visual arts resources, including artists, and maintains an extensive events calendar. The website currently receives well over one million hits per year.

In addition to providing a resource-rich website, with Frischer’s guidance the organization facilitates countless opportunities for inspiration and collaboration on extensive projects. Each of these multifaceted undertakings is selected on the basis of qualities that assure a successful outcome, which Frischer refers to as “MERC”: Mentorship, Education, Recognition, and Collaboration.

Designed to engage many participants, examples of past projects include: “Little and Large” in 2009, which provided 180 artists and jewelers the opportunity to show their work throughout San Diego County; and “Art Meets Fashion” in 2010, which involved more than 60 participants and resulted in 14 exhibitions and two major fashion shows. SDVAN-sponsored San Diego Art Prize, currently in its sixth year, provides its annual winners with cash grants and exhibition opportunities, including a spotlight at the Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair.

Teams of artists and scientist are currently involved in the “DNA of Creativity” project. One team is developing a smart-phone application called “San Diego View Art Now” which, with GPS technology, will locate events near the user. Projected for completion in 2013, Frischer expects that the phone app “should grow our network to tourists visiting the city, as well as an even larger local population.”

As a 100 percent volunteer organization in which all services are free and financed by donations, Frischer states, “It is vital that every volunteer has a win-win experience with the project. That is why we have no permanent volunteers and no staff.” She continues, “Each project has a start, middle and end and once over, the volunteer is set free. We have repeat volunteers, but we always have a new stream of eager helpers who are not burnt out trying to reach our goals.”

Frischer explains her alternating focus between creating art and supporting the success of other artists. “It takes as much time to market art as it does to create art. Once you realize and accept that, you might as well help other artists as you help yourself. When I see how an artist has raised the bar on the quality of their work because of some inspiration or support I supplied, that is very rewarding.”

Frischer reveals her life aspirations, “My goal is not to be the most successful artist in the world, although my art is one of my greatest joys. My goal is to have life full of wonderful experiences and amazing people, and I achieve that by immersing myself in the artistic community.”

Having earned the appreciation and gratitude of countless artists for her vast generosity of time, energy and expert guidance, Frischer is a treasure of the San Diego arts community. She urges everyone to contribute to the arts community in any way that brings challenge through creativity into our lives.

Learn more about SDVAN at sdvisualarts.net.

Kay Colvin is an art consultant and director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. She specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists and bringing enrichment programs to elementary schools through The Kid’s College. Contact her at kaycolvin@lstreetfineart.com.

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