RAY at NIGHT, a Beginning
It started with a conversation by local business owners.
“North Park has always dreamed of being an Arts and Culture District. I’ve always thought an art walk would be a good idea, but how?”
“But I’m not a gallery.” one owner replied.
“It doesn’t matter.”
And so it began – a conversation for an event to be called “Ray at Night”.
They talked for months, deciding when and what would be involved to make this idea happen. They realized that they would need the cooperation of as many businesses as possible; after all they were not going to be able to create an art walk with one or two participants. The two galleries on the street had held a few art opening’s with some success, but always they thought it could be more; that it could be something special. The fact that there were other businesses eager to help and become involved was the catalyst needed. A wine bar, a gift shop, an arts training school, and an environmental organization, elements that when combined would make this art walk a little different. Even though some were not true galleries they all came together to create a unique event for the purpose of promoting the arts.
Some were motivated by the idea of increased foot traffic as a way to draw more patrons into their establishments. Others were motivated by creating something bigger than themselves, but all were smitten by the sheer enthusiasm of the arts. Besides it felt good to be a part of something that started with a shared vision.
There were a total of nine businesses that sat down to plan the first “Ray at Night”. They decided to try for a monthly event, initially on the third Saturday of each month. Their first event would be September 15th 2001. The planning had begun three months prior. Just deciding on a name took time, but eventually the familiar “Ray at Night” took root. They divided up all the chores so that each member contributed and could be remembered as a “founder”. They contributed what they could to the cause. After all they were still trying to run their livelihoods’.
Ken and Chris Callaway operated the North Park Studio Gallery where most of the meetings were held. Chris handmade the first banners for each business to hang in their windows. Jim Hammond and Dorothy Annette ran The Publication’s Gallery 999, the other gallery on the street. Dorothy, a member of the City of San Diego Art’s Commission, helped spread the news in the art community and invited many influential art patrons to attend. Jim contributed the printing of posters and flyers through their arts publications. Richard Miller and Curtis Robertson from Lost Your Marbles Too, a long time fixture in the community, knew a lot of people and could get the word out. They were able to negotiate with the local press. That led to corporate sponsorship and free advertising by the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine and North Park News. Judith Greer Essex and Wes Chester, directors of the Expressive Arts Institute, the oldest business on Ray Street, helped this fledgling group of art lovers to find their shared vision and to find the art in each of them, the fundamental foundation for “Ray at Night”.
Gustaf Rooth of Planet Rooth, Samantha Treadwell from The Cabernet and Irene Patton owner of Gallerìa dell’ Aria had recently added their businesses to the what would become a vibrant arts neighborhood. Gustaf led the design of the now familiar “Ray at Night” logo. Samantha worked on developing a data base for postcard mailings and used her business acumen to help in promotions. Irene, with Marvin Sloben of Studio 3026, a long time photographer with a studio around the corner from Ray Street, and long time Ray Street tenant, the environmental organization Sierra Club, added their perspectives. In all, these nine businesses helped shape the first event and were excited to be apart of something fresh and exciting.
Then it happened. September 11th 2001. There they were, their first event planned and one of the worst tragedies in United States history had just happened. They contemplated cancelling the whole thing. The event had news coverage, full page ads, and posters all over the city. What now? Then they decided what the hell, “We have nothing to loose”. That third Saturday went as planned and they had a turn out that was a welcomed surprised. The street filled with people yearning for something to take their minds off recent events and wanted something better in their neighborhoods and in their homes – ART!
In January of 2002 “Ray at Night” moved to the second Saturday of every month, and has gone though its ups and downs ever since. All of the original founders have left, but “Ray at Night” has grown despite its youth and inexperience. The vision for what has been called “San Diego’s biggest regular art event” came about through various different channels, a conversation, a passing comment, something overheard at a gathering. But however it originated it grew out of a meeting that happened between nine businesses with a shared vision.
Since 2002 many changes have occurred on Ray Street. In 2004 the City of San Diego created the “Ray Street Arts and Culture District”. Gustaf Rooth was instrumental in enlisting the aid of City Council member Tony Atkins to provide funding for the street improvements and the iconic sign at Ray Street and North Park Way.
As the businesses changed, new business owners stepped forth to carry on and support this great event. Tee Taylor and Michael Fish (Oh My Dog! Photography), Matt Cirello (Cirello Gallery), Lesley Anderson, Stephanie Berry and Tim Schultheis (San Diego Art Institute / Art Department), and Anney Rosenthal Hall (OBR Architecture) have all served as leaders in maintaining the continuity and quality of Ray at Night.
The business owners on, and around, Ray Street all feel that they are the caretakers of an important community event. “Ray at Night” is owned by no one but supported by many dedicated people.