View from 52: Public art flourishes on Governor Drive in University City
by Sandy Lippe
Published - 09/23/10 - 10:37 AM | 6754 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Deanna Ditzler painting of a duo of lifelike peacocks. Photo by Sandy Lippe
The University City Community Association (UCCA) has undertaken an unusual public art project on its main street: Governor Drive. Welcome to the Louvre.

Since September is art month in San Diego, University City is undergoing an artistic transformation. With permission from San Diego Gas and Electric, UCCA’s Barbara Gellman took chairmanship duties and invited artists to paint designs on the dull green and sometimes rusty transformer boxes.

Two Rubik’s cubes sit at the corner of Radcliffe and Governor Drive on the campus of Standley Middle School. Graphic artist Josh Lary, who also lives in University City, honored the 30th anniversary of the Rubik’s cube designed by Hungarian Erno Rubik. Josh felt the middle school was an ideal place, and the students seem to love the two giant Rubik’s cubes. Check out the www.rubiks.com for the interesting history of the toy puzzle.

Artists Gail and Chuck Conners, the only duo and married couple involved, have dedicated two boxes to children by painting a zoo scene on the three sides of a box in front of the Marketplace Shopping Center. StepStone Realty manages Marketplace and managed to support the project with a $500 donation. A mother and baby giraffe are on one side, a baby panda on the other side, and front and center an elephant and rhinoceros draw many visitors to the box, especially the children. Three toddlers, affectionately called The Miller Men, are frequent visitors in their triple stroller. Grandma Miller is thrilled with this zoo.

The neighboring box at Regents Road and Governor Drive has become an aquarium; the Conners were inspired by their visits with grandchildren to Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. All kinds of fish swim around that box.

Nancy Beck, a Century-21 Realtor and resident of University City, donated $500 to support the project. Each artist earns $100 for her and his efforts. The Conners split the $100 for each box, but the community gets double the work.

Art in front of a gas station? Of course, the gas stations have transformer boxes that have become canvasses for two women. Sarah O’Connor, an art teacher and juried artist, designed wild birds in flight with a warm yellow sky. Sarah studied Rose Canyon birds for her inspiration.

Next to her artwork between the gas station and Curie Elementary School, Deanna Ditzler, a longtime resident of University City, painted three sides of the box — a poignant picture of a mother and child reading a book, a Grand Canyon interpretative art piece and a duo of lifelike peacocks. Ditzler, like the rest of the artists, has had many, many people stop by to compliment her art.

One 9-year-old Curie student became a fan of her work when Ditzler first chalked out the design, the boy’s mother said. He keeps coming back to watch Ditzler’s progress.

Dorothy Annette comes to this project as a veteran of the first transformer box art in downtown San Diego several years ago. She has a resume as an artist as long as Governor Drive. A pair of bright red Converse shoes will be hanging on the box in front of Standley Park’s Swanson Pool when Dorothy finishes. She has earned many awards at juried shows and University City. is glad to have her expertise.

Standley Recreation Council gave $300 to help with the art projects in front of the pool and at McElroy Field. Forbidden Yogurt also donated $100.

Heidi Hugli, who grew up in University City and currently teaches at Patrick Henry High School, took an idea from artist Marc Chagall. Hugli’s colors are vibrant and powerful.

Deanna Ditzler will be painting wild horses on a tall box near the Chagall. United Oil and Coldwell Banker UC Realtors are donating $200 each to the art project.

On the south side of Governor Drive near the entrance to I-805, Jeff Donndelinger, a San Diego State University and University City High School (UCHS) grad, who has recently returned to live in University City, has designed a beautiful, energetic artwork that fits into the industrial park environment. Another UCHS grad, Rebecca Heywood, who will be a UCLA senior, was snapping pictures of several painted boxes.

“This is such a great part of the community,” she said.

Sharon Thomerson, our new head librarian, embraced this project and got the vegetation surrounding the transformer box at University City Library trimmed back so that artists could do their design. Curie principal Chris Juarez came on board when he was told Curie could have its transformer box painted. Both of these important educators, a principal and a head librarian, would probably agree with the British Urban Generation Association: “Public art can make a major contribution to giving a place character and identity, bringing people into and through places, generating civic pride in a neighborhood and improving its image.”

Find your way to Governor Drive and get out of your car and study the work of these creative artists. It will lower your blood pressure and give you a lift.

UCCA will eventually have a “Meet the artist” event. Stay tuned.
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