African American Art in San Diego: Culture and Accessibility

Living Better in San Diego Interview with Gaidi Finnie and Murugi Kenyatta

February 25, 2020
African American Art

Image courtesy of San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts.

For Gaidi Finnie art is a microcosm of the world and a way to ground oneself in culture. As the city of San Diego changes and the African American population declines, Finnie is dedicated to keeping the African American art experience accessible through the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts where he is the executive director. 

“We want to make sure those young people who are in school can travel here and not go to L.A. or San Francisco to see fine art. It’s really important that we fill that gap,” says Finnie. 

The SDAAMFA operates as a museum without walls, collaborating with existing brick and mortar institutions like the Mingei Museum, the San Diego Museum of Fine Art, and the San Diego History Center to showcase the art of internationally renowned artists.

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A current collaboration with the Jack and Jill foundation is less of an exhibition and more of a social experiment. Murugi Kenyatta, Founder of Kazana joined Finnie in-studio to talk about the upcoming art exchange between San Diegan and Kenyan students.

“Art communicates. Music, even if you don’t know the language, you feel the rhythm, you can feel something that is speaking to you and you find yourself moving. The same thing happens with the arts,” Kenyatta explains. 

In the art exchange pilot project, kids between the ages of 12 and 15 will decorate pencil boxes and send them to their Kenyan counterparts along with blank pencil boxes and art supplies. The Kenyan students will then decorate their own pencil boxes in response and send them back to the U.S. students. 

For Kenyatta, who works extensively helping to amplify the voices of Kenyan female artists through Kazana Bracelets, and who is Kenyan herself, the program is not a way to fill a gap, but an opportunity to form a bridge of understanding. 

“They are from the same background, they have the same roots, they’re all growing up not knowing where they came from,” Kenyatta says of the African American and Kenyan students, “If you don’t know where you come from, you definitely don’t know where you’re going.”

Hear the full interview with Gaidi Finnie and Murugi Kenyatta above.

Below is a photograph of the Kazana Bracelets mentioned in the interview.

Living Better in San Diego, hosted by Susan DeVincent and Evonne Ermey, is heard Sunday mornings on Entercom San Diego stations and features interviews with local newsmakers, community leaders and citizens. If you have a topic or event that you would like to submit for consideration, drop us a line at livingbetter@entercom.com.

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