The sign outside the Watts Towers Art Center | Still from "The Watts Towers Arts Center" ab s11 episode image

From the Center of the Margin: Contemporary Art Galleries in Downtown Tijuana

During and in the immediate wake of the transformation of Tijuana, critical artistic discourse became less about co-opting and more about restoration: art became a way of returning the city to a state of well-being that it perhaps never had actually enjoyed. Independent art spaces altered the engagement and interaction citizens could have with Contemporary art -- transforming the art-going experience from the standard Institutional protocol of strict social codes and surveillance in museums, to a more casual and inviting environment in small galleries where the public could often interact directly with the artist.

The rise of such spaces began with negotiations by local artists and community organizations to rent an arcade in the city center known as the Pasaje Rodriguez, and transform and retrofit shop spaces to house galleries, coffee-shops, bookstores, studios and clothing stores. The success of this initial artistic takeover prompted the similar redevelopment of another arcade in the city center: the Pasaje Gomez, which like the Pasaje Rodriguez before it, catered primarily to locals seeking to experience and learn more about art and culture.

Together, the Pasajes and galleries popping up on the outskirts of the Avenida Revolucion, have established a Downtown Art District in the historic tourist center of Tijuana. I recently spoke to the founders/directors of three spaces in "El Centro", Espacio Freelance, 206 Arte Contemporaneo and Otras Obras, about the role Contemporary Art galleries have taken in rebuilding the city of Tijuana.

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