Interview with Cesar Castañeda 5/21/2020
Cesar Castañeda, the former director of the Chicano Art Gallery, is an artist and major contributor to the Barrio Logan community. Most recently, he has been working alongside the Chicano Park Steering Committee on a fundraiser that would have originally taken place in April 2020, ahead of Chicano Park’s 50th-anniversary celebration. The loss of his Chicano Art Gallery space in mid-2019 was highlighted in the community as a prime example of the ongoing issues with gentrification in the area. Cesar, however, remains vocal and driven in his work with and for the community, putting together exhibitions at Border X Brewing, among other meaningful projects.
What projects are you currently working on? Right now my main focus is the fundraiser for Chicano Park. This is our 6th year of curating this fundraiser to help out the Chicano Park Steering Committee in all of their experiences of the Annual Chicano Park Day Celebration. This year marks 50 years of Chicano Park and we were planning our fundraiser to take place at Chicano Park along with the Turning Wheel Project, (a mobile classroom by USD), and because of the pandemic, we had to take the fundraiser online.
How has the pandemic affected or shifted your practice? It’s been a challenge taking the show online but it has taught me that with perseverance we can accomplish so many things. It left us with no choice but to adapt and work with what we have. I think flexibility is the key.
What has your journey been like as a creative/artist/small business owner? It has been an incredible journey. Many good times and not so good times, but I learned a great deal of things. I have learned to trust my instincts more and go with the flow. Things are much less stressful when I don’t take things, or even myself, too seriously. I’ve also learned to enjoy the moments more.
How did you get into gallery work? Curating. I got my first big break in 2007. There was a gallery named Voz Alta that moved into my neighborhood down the street and I went in there one day and introduced myself and they let me curate my own show. I also participated in other group shows and met many wonderful artists. In 2013 I had the opportunity to rent out a space nearby in the same neighborhood and decided to open up my very own art gallery. The Chicano Art Gallery. I took everything I learned with all the people around me and applied it to my vision. I ran the gallery for nearly six years at that location. Unfortunately in mid-2019 we had no choice but to move out because the new owner of the property wanted more than double the rent.
Do you have any tips for up-and-coming, or rising artists/creatives? Never stop creating. Fully explore your imagination. Be flexible. Believe in yourself