Voz Alta Project is more than just a brick-and-mortar gallery and event space—that's the main point Carlos Beltran wants to get across. He's sipping a cup of tea at Cafe Moto and discussing the impending closure of the grassroots arts organization's location at 1754 National Ave. in Barrio Logan.
"We just need change," says Beltran, who runs the space with the help of volunteers. "And [making] rent has always been hard."
Beltran says there are plans to reopen the gallery in Tijuana or, eventually, at another location in San Diego. For now, though, Voz Alta will continue as a roving arts group, popping up in various existing venues (CityBeat plans to follow up soon with specifics in an in-depth feature).
Voz Alta has always had an itinerant existence—it's moved to several different spots since it opened in 2002, first appearing at a location near Ninth and E streets in East Village.
When construction on Petco Park began, the arts organization moved because of increasing rent and parking issues, eventually reopening at 15th and Broadway. But, it wasn't long before that space was bulldozed to make way for San Diego City College's expansion. After a few months without a home, Voz Alta reopened in October 2008, this time in a cozy Barrio Logan space.
The organization's logo depicts a house with arms and legs carrying a handkerchief on a stick, hobo-style, Beltran points out. Since its inception, Voz Alta's been less about a physical space and more about a movement powered by folks dedicated to providing a platform for underground artists, especially, but not exclusively, those with Chicano roots.
Stephanie de la Torre, a former Voz Alta program director who, alongside the Taco Shop Poets and others, helped found Voz Alta, says she understands why Beltran is calling it quits at the current location.
"It's not easy running a space, and especially with rent and Barrio Logan changing so quickly," De la Torre says. "Deciding to take the project elsewhere, I think it's good. It'll allow San Diego artists to show elsewhere, even outside the city."