Entertainment & Events

“SD on the Cheap” — Spanish Village Art Center, Balboa Park

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It’s no secret that Balboa Park offers an abundance of activities for those seeking affordable fun. Each week, tourists and locals alike flock to the park’s many museums, picnic on its lawns, hike along tree-lined trails, stroll through lush gardens, take in some music or theatre — the list goes on and on.

But an often-overlooked area of the 1,200-acre park is the Spanish Village Art Center. Tucked away between the San Diego Zoo and the Natural History Museum, this hidden gem is definitely worth a visit.

Picture this:

You’ve spent an entire morning navigating the masses along Balboa Park’s chief promenade. You turn off of the main strip and, only steps away, enter a small courtyard lined with quaint buildings and flowering bougainvilleas. In some ways, it seems like you have entered a different world. The crowds disappear. The screams of excited children and equally “excited” adults are replaced by the gentle strum of a harp and a woman’s soft song. Bright, multicolored stones blanket the ground beneath your feet. An overwhelming sense of calm fills the air. You’ve discovered a small sanctuary in the heart of the bustling park.

img_2003A creative sanctuary, indeed. The Spanish Village is a collection of 37 working artist studios and galleries, where more than 200 artists from the San Diego area showcase their work and share their love of art. Painters, sculptors, metalsmiths, jewelry designers, clay artists, photographers, mixed-media artists, glass artists, enamel artists — you name it, the Spanish Village has it.

Visitors are welcome to enter the studios, talk to the artists and admire (and purchase) a sampling of their work. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to watch the artists at their craft.

You’re probably wondering how much it costs to attend such an eclectic art show and gain unlimited access to the artists themselves. Well, the answer is absolutely nothing — admission to the village is free.

The original village dates back to 1935, when it was constructed to depict an old village in Spain for the second California Pacific International Exposition. In 1937, a group of artists reopened the village as an art center. During World War II, the military used the cluster of buildings for temporary barracks, and in 1947, artists once again reclaimed the area.

Today the historical village remains a celebration of all things art. It is home to the San Diego Potters’ Guild, Art Glass Guild of San Diego, Sculptors’ Guild, Enamel Guild, Southwestern Artist Association and the San Diego Woodcarvers’ Guild. The center also offers classes for aspiring artists both young and old.


Artists at work in their Spanish Village studio.

So next time you find yourself in Balboa Park, take some time to stroll around the Spanish Village and meet some of the city’s finest artists — or just take a break from the crowds, relax in the courtyard and breathe in the creativity. Whether you’re an artist, an art lover or hopelessly inartistic, you can’t help but be inspired.

Spanish Village Art Center
1770 Village Place
San Diego, CA 92101

The village is open to the public every day from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (except on Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day).

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