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Visual Arts Group: A Community Connected through Art

Two guests view the Visual Art Group’s 20th annual show at Price Center.
The Visual Art Group’s 20th annual show at Price Center. Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego.

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Since its start in 2003, the UC San Diego Visual Arts Group has been a welcoming space for creative members of the campus community across all levels of artistic experience. Now, the group is celebrating the past 20 years as part of its latest art show, which features a unique array of art from over the years created by students, staff, faculty, alumni, retirees and emeriti.

For two decades, the Visual Arts Group has succeeded in creating a safe environment for experienced and emerging artists to express their creativity. The group delivers opportunities for members of the UC San Diego community to exhibit their artwork, encouraging Tritons to try their hand at making artistic creations–regardless of whether it's their first time or their hundredth. 

Art featured in display cases at Price Center East.
As part of the annual show, a variety of artwork is featured in display cases located at Price Center East. 

“I feel that from the very beginning, we were looking at not just people who were professional artists, but people who were even just thinking about art and encouraging them to put paintbrush to canvas,” recalls founding member Patty Arnett, who has been an active participant in the group since its establishment.

In celebration of 20 years, the show is highlighting the contributions made by Arnett, as well as founding member Rhett S. Miller. A total of 39 artists are being featured in the Visual Art Group’s 20th annual show at Price Center, its first in-person celebration on campus since the pandemic. 

The pieces selected for the annual show span the group’s history—from newly created artwork to beloved creations that members debuted in shows past. The walls of the center’s Red Shoe and Bear rooms are lined with photography, paintings and even a mechanically powered artwork draped in metallic fabric. In the display cases located in the first and second floor of Price Center East, the show highlights a variety of artforms including 3D sculpture, mobile and origami work. In addition, a corresponding virtual show features close to 100 pieces of artwork online, enabling Tritons from around the country to participate. 

Encouraging Creativity in Artists and Art Lovers Alike 

The Visual Arts Group was dreamed up when Nelda Hann, a former assistant in the university’s Department of Chemistry, approached Arnett with a question: Was there a group on campus that allowed artists and art lovers alike to create artwork and provide each other with encouragement in the process?

Art hanging on the walls in Price Center.
The walls of Price Center’s Red Shoe and Bear rooms are lined with photography, paintings and more. 

At the time, Arnett was serving as the chair of the UC San Diego Staff Association. Upon learning that there was not yet a club for artists to find community, Hann and Arnett began to spread the word for those interested to meet in the Chemistry conference room for the inaugural meeting. Over 30 people attended, and within a year, the group grew to over 75 members. 

As shared in a 2003 edition of the campus’s faculty and staff newspaper UCSD Times, Miller explained, “The [Visual Arts Group] came about from the efforts of creative individuals with the desire to facilitate interaction with artists and viewers of art within the UCSD community.” Miller, now retired from UC San Diego Resource Management and Planning, has participated in the group’s art shows since their start in 2003. 

Attendees look at the display cases in Price Center.
Gayle Ta (center) views artwork featured in the show's display cases.

Gayla Ta, a staff member and alumna, who has been part of the group’s committee since 2021, has found value in the sense of community and connection that the Visual Arts Group instills. Her love for painting began when she stumbled across a Chinese brush painting class at the campus’s Craft Center. 

Ta explains that participating in the annual art shows allows her to “take a step back” from work, plus serve as “a great motivator” to dedicate time to painting. For this year’s show, Ta chose to showcase one of her favorite Chinese watercolor paintings of a mother hummingbird with her baby. 

Another artist featured in the gallery is Kim SignoretPaar, an avid photographer and Visual Arts Group committee member. As a retiree, SignoretPaar says that what keeps her coming back to campus to participate are all the friends she has made as a member.

Ta and SignoretPaar agree that one of the group’s strengths is that its members span across all campus groups—from undergraduate and graduate students to faculty and retirees. The diverse set of members are all “able to connect on this common passion–which is art and sharing art,” says Ta.

Kim SignoretPaar
Kim SignoretPaar pictured next to her photography presented at the Coronado Public Library. 

The impact of the Visual Arts Group has even extended from beyond campus to across the Coronado Bridge. In September 2022, the Coronado Public Library hosted the group for an in-person exhibition, which both Arnett and SignoretPaar share as one of their most prized memories from their time in the Visual Arts Group. 

Looking ahead, the group hopes to continue growing its membership as well as branch out to include artistic mediums like music, spoken word, writing and more. Arnett encourages all those who have any interest in creative expression to get involved in the Visual Arts Group, sharing that at least 50% of members have never been formally trained.

“Because the group started from people who felt that they didn't have an avenue for voicing their creativity and displaying it, I think that's what's been so special about the group,” said Arnett. 

The Visual Arts Group 20th Annual Art Show is on display at Price Center through August 27 and is free to visit. To learn more about upcoming meetings, events and to join the mailing list, visit the group’s website.

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