By Michael Klam
Harvard alumnus and well-respected art dealer Alexander Salazar has revolutionized his own neighborhood in downtown San Diego.
In March Salazar opened Alexander Salazar Fine Art (AS) on the corner of Seventh and Broadway bringing a progressive burst of color to broaden downtown’s already burgeoning arts scene.
The gallery’s exhibits range from the alabaster and pink stone sculptures of Fred Briscoe to the evocative mixed media of rock-and-roll icon Grace Slick to the impromptu urban street art of Mr. Maxx Moses.
In one fell swoop, the 2,000-square-foot gallery conversion from a popcorn shop to a fine art space changed Seventh and Broadway from a place to drive by to a place to stop.
The space itself turns heads: its wide, brightly lit windows filled with exceptional artwork and grey stone walls have enough curb appeal to keep the corner flowing with visitors.
In only five months, the gallery has attracted large crowds to its openings and promises to be a home for local and non-local artists and art lovers.
“We had over a thousand people come to our grand opening over two days,” Salazar said. All of the gallery’s events have been packed, he added.
Social media and word of mouth have brought attention to the gallery. On Facebook, Salazar has almost four thousand friends. People find out that he is there, and they link up.
“I plan on being here as long as I can,” he said with the determination of a man on a mission.
“Every art dealer’s goal is to have their own space,” he said, “and represent the artists that they want to represent… and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
With a dual purpose, Salazar aims to support both local artists and local charities. “We don’t have to ship in artwork when we have so many great artists already living here,” he said. “And every event that I do, I donate to local charity,” he added. “My financial adviser told me I shouldn’t do that, but I can, I am the boss.”
For the gallery’s grand opening, Salazar connected with Angela Brannon, co-founder and executive director of It’s All About The Kids, a nonprofit organization that creates innovative programs to benefit children’s charities and enhance the lives of less fortunate children and their families.
After a red carpet weekend of art, fashion, appetizers and spirits, Salazar not only made a cash donation to the charity but also committed to “donating 15 percent of art purchased to It’s All About the Kids when supporters purchase exquisite art from the gallery and mention the charity,” according to the It’s All About the Kids website.
Since March, Salazar has supported nine different charities and philanthropic organizations, including San Diego Youth Services, jeans 4 justice, the San Diego Blood Bank and Equality California.
“I want to help more Latino charities,” said Salazar. “I offer my space for free to any charities that want to hold their event here. They have to cater it and provide everything, but I open my doors.”
In July, the gallery held a live urban street art exhibition, showcasing local and regional talent inside the space — artwork from Justin Bua, Chor Boogie, Saratoga Sake, Crol, Mr. Maxx Moses and Mear One — and outside on the corner. Select artists, with masks on and spray cans in hand, each produced an original piece on large canvas for a crowd of fans and onlookers.
“The experience was outstanding,” said Mr. Maxx Moses. “It was awesome to create in the heart of downtown so people could see just how we create with passion on the spot!” he added.
Supporter and fellow artist, Setom, agreed: “The sublime art of graffiti was definitely shown in this showcase with venerable and amazing artists such as Crol, Pose (Mr. Maxx Moses) and Chor Boogie who can bring beauty to a canvas without touching a single brush,” he said.
Setom explained that the gallery “brought an art form that’s greatly considered as a miasma to our society to be looked at from a different perspective.”
Street art is fine art.
“I don’t believe in exclusivity,” Salazar said. “I’m always looking for artists.”
Salazar has been in the industry for 13 years. “I have met some great artists along the way,” he said. Many remember him from his time brokering at Madison Gallery in La Jolla, and when they found out he had opened a gallery downtown, the phone started ringing.
“It’s called keeping your bridges beautiful,” Salazar said. His affability and talent for making connections vitalize the new space.
“There is always something going on in the gallery,” said Megan Bedford, Salazar’s intern. “There is a lot to do, lots of shows coming.”
Beford, who is currently studying studio art and art history at San Diego State University, said she has learned a great deal from Salazar. Working with him in the city appealed to her. “A lot of younger people come downtown,” she said. “Downtown is more fast-paced and exciting than a lot of other areas in San Diego. It’s a new atmosphere for art,” she added.
Salazar wants to open a Chicano arts exhibition, and is currently looking for portfolios. Artists can contact him through the website, www.alexandersalazarfineart.com. He is hoping to support Latino students as well, inviting them to come in anytime and learn about art. “Hopefully there will be some future Latino art dealers in the mix,” he said.
With ambitious goals and a pretty sweet lifestyle — Salazar is his own boss, makes a one-minute commute walking to work, and has made a name for himself doing what he loves — Salazar is still very much down-to-earth.
“The doors are always open to anybody who wants to come in and chat,” he said.