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Tuesday, Jun 21, 2011 - Canvassed | Art & culture

Clearing out a closet for art

A new alternative gallery and project space at National University's La Mesa campus

By Kinsee Morlan
Dancer and Wipeout on barrel ceiling(2) From the sketchbook of Annette Cyr

When it came time to renovate a room at National University's La Mesa location, Gwendolyn Smith, former director of the La Mesa campus, did Annette Cyr a big favor.

Cyr, lead faculty in the art department and director of the Center for Cultural and Ethnic Studies at National University, had been teaching art classes in a room that really wasn't set up for it. She was constantly covering furniture and carpet and otherwise making adjustments to the space.

When the renovation came up, Cyr, a New Yorker, told Smith stories about the arts renaissance in the East Village.

"During that time, if you had a closet and you were showing good work and word got out about it, you'd be taken seriously," said Cyr, relaying the story's sentiment.

Cyr asked Smith if the renovation of the room could include turning a closet and a storage space into more of an alternative art gallery and project space. Smith, knowing the growing popularity of Cyr's art classes, eventually gave it the go-ahead.

Last Saturday marked the opening of 214a, the small but well-lit, white-walled gallery spaces located on the second floor at National University in La Mesa (7787 Alvarado Road). The inaugural exhibition is called Spiral Bound, and it shows the sketch books and project drafts—digital, paper and even a few three-dimensional pieces—of artists from New York and San Diego. The San Diego side was curated Joan Dart, and the New York artists were chosen by Romanov Grave, a collective of writers, curators and artists based in New York City.

While some of the works in the show may be too far from finished to comprehend, most of the sketchbooks and drafts provide viewers an intimate and interesting view into the thoughtful process behind art-making. It's a rare opportunity, in other words, to glance over the shoulder of an artist during some of his or her most important moments of discovery.

The actual square footage of 214a is modest, and Cyr said the size of the space will dictate what kind of work she'll be able to show in the two to three annual art exhibitions she hopes to organize, but, as an artist herself, she's used to being creative and making supposed limitations work in her favor.

"If you're a painter you have the edges of the canvas, you have to work in that space," she said. "I really liked [Spiral Bound] as a first show. It really worked for me."

Spiral Bound is on view at 214a through July 16. To make an appointment to see the show, contact Annette Cyr at

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