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In Sherman Heights, a space for artists and musicians to learn, grow and collaborate

Co-owner Antonio Becker poses at Good Faith Gallery, an arts and event space in Sherman Heights.
(Kristian Carreon/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Antonio Becker is co-owner of Good Faith Gallery, an arts and event space in Sherman Heights

When his family lived in Cleveland, Ohio, Antonio Becker recalls tagging along with his musician father as he played shows at a local bookstore. Becker’s grandfather was a studio drummer, his dad plays guitar and sings in rock and roll and blues bands, and his mother is a prolific oil painter. It’s no surprise that he developed a range of artistic interests.

“When (my dad) would play, they’d let me read anything I wanted, and sometimes take books,” he says of that bookstore. “Suddenly, I had access to books on music, religion, civil rights, science, meditation. I think, sitting in the big chair and reading those books amongst those people directed, not just a desire to play music, but many other aspects of my life. I distinctly remember getting an autobiography of Mumia (Abu-Jamal, the political activist and writer convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981 and sentenced to death) and a book on zazen meditation in the same week at a pretty young age. It was on!”

Those interests and influences have led him to his latest work at Good Faith Gallery, where he’s co-owner of the gallery/workspace/mercantile operation with his business partner, Lisa Piper, in Sherman Heights. They opened the space in 2018 to provide a place where artists can learn, grow and create, while also showcasing work they were interested in that they hoped others would be interested in, too. Their space features the work of artists, hosts musicians and charity drives, and offers private studio space to working artists and rehearsal space for musicians. They host a monthly night market event at Quartyard, and they recently started their biweekly summer art school program, which continues through September.

Becker, 31, lives in Sherman Heights with his dog, Butch, and took some time to talk about his creative family and background, his vision for Good Faith, and learning to believe in and realize each person’s talents and contributions.

Q: Why was a gallery something you wanted to open and run?

A: I’ve always wanted to work creatively and to work for myself, but, truthfully, the end game was a bit vague. My dream has always been to open an alternative art school — a place where people can exchange skills and knowledge, make messes, be loud, and for it to be OK. I suppose that still is my dream, and in many ways it’s come true. Now, the goal has become to expand on that and to take the brand to more cities outside of San Diego.

Q: Why was it important to you to provide workspaces for other artists?

A: When we opened the workspace, the goal was to create an environment where artists and creatives would be able to exchange skills within a cooperative working environment. Whether you need a video made, a photo taken, a song recorded, or a shirt made, you can actually do it within the Good Faith workspace. More than just a place to work, we aim to create a cooperative environment, a team.

Q: You’ve said, in part, that you wanted to create a safe space for other artists to learn, create and grow. What kind of difference does it make to have that kind of space when creating art?

A: This may get a bit far out, but if a seed is planted in the wrong conditions, it won’t grow. If it’s given the correct space, it will not only reach its final expression of a flower, but produce seeds, leaving potential for a field of flowers. There are so many of the “wrong conditions” available to us at all times, but very few places where we can leave them behind and just allow ourselves to blossom. I like to think that we help people really flower and that, in that process, they encourage that freedom in others.

What I love about Sherman Heights ...

I really love Grant Hill Park and being able to walk to a lot of the places that I like. TNT Pizza, Mortis Studio and Good Faith are all near my home. It all just works. It’s a nice little area for me and Butch!

Q: In what ways has creating Good Faith helped you to learn, create and grow in your own artistic expression?

A: I think that it has made me who I am now. It’s shown me what I am capable of and helped build a lot of confidence in my ideas. I think that’s the point I was trying to make with the flowers analogy — confidence in self and confidence in your ideas are not separate. When you have a place where your ideas will be received, and received well, it builds confidence in your ability to execute the next one.

Q: Where did your interest in art and music begin?

A: Truthfully, it’s hard to say. Growing up, my mom painted beautiful oil paintings, and I don’t believe they were ever intended to be sold. She did them to hang in our home, or just to paint. Watching her and imitating her meant that I always had a sketchbook or something to draw on. I don’t really remember a time where art and music weren’t interests. The first time I remember really interacting with music was at a Bed, Bath, and Beyond; I heard “Pachelbel’s Canon” and cried.

Q: What was it about your mother’s oil paintings that made you want to try your hand at creating your own visual art?

A: I don’t think it was her paintings as much as her support. If I’m being completely honest, I find painting to be frustrating to no end. I don’t know how she or any other painter does what they do. Maybe the fact that I can’t wrap my head around it is the reason I gravitate toward exhibiting it. That talent is something I am excited for the opportunity to showcase.

Q: What kinds of music does your father play?

A: My father plays rock and roll, and blues, and he plays the guitar and sings in a band now. Growing up, I mostly heard drums and guitar. I think he was influenced by a few classical guitarists, like Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia. Seeing him play like that that stuck with me. I don’t think he’s aware, but I think he’s one of the best guitarists I’ve watched play to this day. There’s a certain amount of freedom to his playing.

Q: How would you describe your parents’ influence on who you became as a visual artist and musician?

A: I suppose I was never talked out of the practicality of art while I watched both of them work hard at careers outside of their creative pursuits to provide for our family. I was never told that art couldn’t be a career. My sister, Brittany, works in fashion and has always been interested in it, so I think that we were just always allowed to pursue our creative interests as career paths.

Q: What’s been challenging about your work running Good Faith?

A: Of course, capital is hard in most any start up. Everything we’ve done has been do-it-yourself and much of it has been funded directly through us. Beyond that, we all have some idea of who we are and what we are capable of, and I believe most of us downplay ourselves in that image. Realizing just how great you are, and how necessary your ideas are, is a huge challenge. Forgetting what you’ve been led to believe about yourself is a huge challenge, but absolutely worth pursuing.

Q: What’s been rewarding about this work?

A: Honestly, just about everything. I’ve met so many great people through my work and have been able to call them friends. I’m surrounded by supportive people and have the opportunity to give that back. It’s a beautiful thing and I really love to feel good about what I do. I believe that what Good Faith represents is something positive. It feels good to call that work.

Q: What has this work taught you about yourself?

A: I don’t know that this is necessarily a lesson about myself, but it has taught me that even a seemingly outlandish idea is very plausible, and typically worth pursuing. Don’t doubt yourself for a second, and if you do, still commit to executing your ideas. I think the regret from not pursuing an idea is greater than that of committing to a bad one and moving on.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: The advice that I use most often is that, when things get really hard, just put your head down and focus on your situation being better for one month, three months, or six months. Then, pick your head back up when that amount of time passes, and things will almost always be exponentially better.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: I’m a pretty open person, so I actually don’t know if I have anything too surprising to say here. Before I played drums or guitar, I played the French horn.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: I love hiking and camping, so I think my ideal San Diego weekend would be to go camping with friends somewhere in the Cleveland National Forest. I’m a bit of homebody, but when I do go out, I like to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. And I really love the San Diego Zoo.


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