New street mural kicks off larger art project in City Heights

With a colorful new mural from Greetings Tour and 10 to 20 more art installations on the way, the Little Saigon District is a part of a transformative new project underway in 2018.

Spanning from Highland Avenue to Euclid Avenue in on El Cajon Boulevard, this area is known for its traditional Vietnamese culture. The Little Saigon Project brings together the San Diego Art Institute, Media Arts Center, Aja Project, El Cajon Boulevard BIA and the Little Saigon Foundation, and will tell the stories of locals by San Diego artists.

The project is spearheaded by Jacqueline A. Silverman, executive director of San Diego Art; the Institute’s new deputy director, Sarah Trujillo-Porter, as curator; and Beryl Forman, marketing and mobility coordinator with the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association.

PACIFIC recently chatted with Silverman to find out more about the project.

PACIFIC: There’s already a Greetings Tour mural in San Diego (at Belching Beaver in North Park), how was the choice made to go with them for the Little Saigon mural?

Jacqueline A. Silverman: Beryl Forman is the inspiration behind the whole operation. The Little Saigon Project is really her vision coming to life to showcase the rich Vietnamese culture in San Diego. Beryl was in conversation with the Greetings Tour and came to me with the idea of using the mural to jump-start the bigger project.

We both felt it was the perfect way to represent the Little Saigon District and to give a sneak peak of the public art we will be installing in the coming year. We were able to collaborate and make it happen and are so excited with how it turned out.

How was it decided what aspects would go in the mural? Did they talk to community members?

Beryl really has a grasp on the Little Saigon community and what community members would want to see in the mural. We really wanted to represent the Vietnamese culture in a piece of art. Each letter shows off a part of traditional Vietnamese culture, in a fun, vibrant way. The amazing part is that Beryl was able to get it all done in just two weeks.

What’s your favorite part of the mural?

I’m a foodie, so my favorite part of the mural is the “O.” I love that is shows traditional Vietnamese food and Sriracha — I’m a spicy food enthusiast. The mural is now an icon for this community and overnight brought Little Saigon a fresh, welcoming look to define this great area of town.

How will artists work with the local community to create the upcoming pieces?

Media Arts Center and Aja Project are going to work with the community to find the real-life stories that will become the pieces of art. The San Diego Art Institute will put out the call for artists and then work with everyone to connect them to a story they feel inspired by. At the end there will be 10 to 20 site-specific works that could be murals, sculptures, light boxes or really anything the artist can think of and implement. It’s really just all about telling the stories of the community through art — I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Who are a few local artists we should look out for in the coming months?

It’s too soon to reveal right now, but stay tuned! We are really excited to give up-and-coming local artists a different outlet to share their work. It really is going to be amazing to see come to life.

What’s your favorite dish in Little Saigon?

You can’t go wrong with banh mi or pho. In fact, I can’t wait for my next meeting so I can indulge!

The Little Saigon mural can be seen on the side of the Sin Lee Food Corporation on the southeast corner of El Cajon Boulevard and Menlo Avenue in City Heights.

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