A city filled with arts and culture: the ambitious ideas behind North City’s public arts program

A city filled with arts and culture: the ambitious ideas behind North City’s public arts program

Color, beauty, community, and new ways of thinking – arts and culture fuel our lives in endless ways. The North City Public Arts & Culture Program is launching an ambitious decade-long investment that will make life in North City not just more creative, but healthier and happier too.

A city is a place full of ideas and fresh energy, where we can step out our front doors and feel connected and inspired – this is the atmosphere that will be nourished by the North City Public Arts & Culture Program, an ambitious multi-year investment into the culture of North County’s most exciting up-and-coming city. 

“Art is an incredible tool for infusing people's lives with inspiration and challenging their expectations,” says Darren Levitt, Vice President and Partner at Sea Breeze Properties, the developer behind North City. 

The vision for North City is for a walkable and sociable city – not just because it’s nice, but because it’s incredibly good for us: research proves time and again that social contact is great for our mental and physical wellbeing. “The Public Arts & Culture Program is a critical step for us in creating a place where people enjoy spending time and forming memories,” says Darren. ”Arts and culture is a fundamental part of what lights people up.”

Desert Cat, Hugo Fierro

Hugo Fierro is based in San Diego, CA. His work is characterized by a surrealist and richly layered style. Desert Cat is an evocative homage to California's wildlife. 

A unique city culture to find your inspiration

Maria Budtz Sørensen is an Associate Director at DVDL, the agency of cultural strategists working with Sea Breeze on bringing this extraordinary vision to life. “We envision a program that is broad and varied, with art installations that prompt people to reflect, smile, or ask questions,” says Maria. She adds there will also be plenty of “everyday creativity” – think arts classes, running clubs, walks on the paseos, music, creative performances, cinema nights, and of course, lots of food – all things that bring people together over the joy of experiencing their city. 

You can already spot art peeking through bamboo stalks as you walk through North City today, while enjoying the vivid murals decorating restaurants and walkways. The vision for North City is to build on an already-great atmosphere and create a culture of possibilities. “Our goal is for arts and culture to seep into all aspects of everyday life in North City,” says Maria. “From the spaces people live or work and to the spaces where the community gathers, we envision North City as a place where everyone can find inspiration, no matter their background.” 

By applying an artistic lens to everything that happens in North City, the result will be a unique culture. “By adding art in unexpected places, like benches and playgrounds, we can create a sense of collective ownership and cultivate a more deeply connected community,” says Maria. 

In North City everyday elements like public benches present an opportunity for creative expression

A new SoCal arts destination

As North City evolves into a cultural destination, it will stay true to its SoCal roots. “We want to strike a balance with local, regional and more globally recognized artists. There’s tremendous benefit in an exchange of ideas, art and culture across boundaries,” says Darren. “The art and culture elements of North City will benefit from new perspectives in addition to our hometown roots.” The La Jolla Murals program is an exciting part of the thriving local arts scene, Maria points out, as the plan is to make North City “a key collaborator and driver for arts and culture in the region”.  

The Public Arts Program will bring major changes over the next ten years, putting North City on the map not just in San Diego County, but as an arts destination that generates social media buzz and impacts travel plans. The city’s big spaces will be a showcase where people can gather to enjoy music and creative expression. “One idea is an art installation at the peak of Knoll Park. We would love for that peak to offer something really beautiful for everyone to enjoy,” says Darren. 

Inspirations for North City include the vibrant Seven Magic Mountains sculptures in Las Vegas – it was originally intended to last two years, but it’s now eight years later, and 1,000 people still stop to see it every day. In Texas, the Austin City Limits music festival shows how you can draw in visitors from near and far, similar to the Japanese art island of Naoshima. 

Landmark arts installations can also contribute to the local economy in surprising ways, Maria points out. In Florida, the Wynwood Arts District in Miami welcomed not just 1,700 residents and six million visitors, but also supported over 8,000 jobs. Over in Indiana, Maria adds, the eight-mile-long Indianapolis Cultural Trail rewarded the community not just with fun recreation, but also improved transportation and safety. 

Batman Playing Checkers, Patrick Amiot

Using "junk" as a material imbues each artwork with the stories contained in the materials' former use. 

Art to make you think and ask questions 

North City has a unique opportunity to bring in thought-provoking artworks and host community events that reflect our care for the environment and invite different perspectives. Locally, Janel Kaden and her Encinitas House of Art showcase how to powerfully engage a community in meeting mental health challenges through art. Research from the National Endowment for the Arts shows that place-based arts and cultural practices “can help grow social cohesion to encourage community wellbeing” – not just in terms of mental and physical health, but even improving happiness and making people more resilient in the face of adversity.

There is live music three times a week in North City — check it out here

The North City Public Arts Program will start rolling out in the coming months. While the vision will take shape over the next five to ten years, there’s already a lot to look forward to, such as the repainting of the silo over by Draft Republic – keep an eye out for more news coming soon. 

A creative environment where people enjoy spending time together is far more than the sum of its parts. It’s a place where people can thrive and fulfill their ambitions, and reach for new ones. “Art encourages people to see their culture, region, and history reflected. It also has the potential to transcend and connect us to other worlds and places” says Maria. “We’re truly excited to see where this takes us!”