The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation Wins a Prestigious $700k Grant from the James Irvine Foundation


Creating lasting, generational progress in a community that has been historically underserved is no easy feat. You need partners who believe in the work you are doing to help achieve those goals, and will allow you to push through various barriers to change lives.

The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation is pleased to announce that the James Irvine Foundation has selected our organization for a $700,000 investment. We couldn’t be more excited and grateful to the Irvine Foundation, who joins the Legler Benbough Foundation and the City of San Diego in partnering with us to develop creative careers training and pathways that will prepare at-risk youth in our community for sustainable employment.


Our Inspire Careers Youth Program, provides job skills training, paid work experience, job placement, as well as support services for low-income, disconnected youth that have faced setbacks like incarceration, unemployment, homelessness, poverty, and growing up in foster care. Through this program we are preparing these Opportunity Youth for careers in creative technologies such as, graphic design, web design, and multi-media through an “earn-to-learn” model. Careers in these creative fields are booming and expected to grow substantially over the next several years. Our aim is to equip youth with in-demand skills that prepare them for not only living wage jobs, but also multiple career pathways.

Our Inspire Youth Careers program will enhance participants’ earning potential and provide them with meaningful community employment experiences. System level work with key partners, including industry partners, will allow us to develop clearer paths to high wage, high demand jobs, while contributing to the Jacobs Center’s ability to fulfill our mission to strengthen education-to-career pathways, stimulate the local economy, and create a vibrant and thriving community.

This investment by The James Irvine Foundation will enable us to expand this work. We look forward to sharing with you what we learn along the way.



Jacobs Center Announces their Grantees of the Creative Placemaking Partners Program



Creative Placemaking is a simple concept that can transform communities. It is a philosophy that revolves around connecting people to public spaces through creative projects, building a deeper, more meaningful relationship between individuals and places, and instilling pride in their community.

At the Jacobs Center, we are strongly committed to promoting and supporting creative placemaking projects so residents of Southeastern San Diego can experience arts and culture in their neighborhood and share the pride they feel for their home with others.

Last year we released a call for applications for our 2017 Creative Placemaking Partnership Grant, for which we accepted proposals from artists and arts organizations who have great ideas for creative placemaking projects that fulfill two or more elements of our 2016-2017 Arts Strategy. Those elements are:

  • Activating Space: Using community spaces to bring people together in an innovative and interactive way.
  • Creative Capital for Emerging Artists and Arts Enterprises: Tapping into talented artists, makers, and creatives from the community.
  • Community Engagement Projects: Building a project and program that amplifies diverse voices and allows for dialogue surrounding issues.

We were excited to receive dozens of exciting, unique, and fascinating applications. After several rounds of evaluations and voting from our executive committee, we have chosen nine projects that represent the values we set forth in our Arts Strategy and we are sure will bring fresh and inventive arts to the Southeastern Community.

Here are the 2017 grantees:

  • Brazilian Carnaval and Family Arts Nights – Presented by Arts 4 Learning: Free events taught by professional artists who use art as a tool for engaging families and encourages literacy. It kicked off with the Brazilian Carnaval on March 26 and will follow with four Family Arts Nights at Malcolm X Library. Dates to be announced. Families will receive a free book at events.
  • The SOULcial – Presented by SOULcial Workers: A three-part reflective youth arts workshop series revolving around creative and performing arts to enhance self awareness and cultural competence. Participants will perform a live talk show that will present creative solutions to social issues.
  • Shock ‘N the Park – Presented by Culture Shock Dance Troupe: A free, family-friendly dance event bringing hip-hop performances on June 4.
  • Art Saves Lives: How Southeast Creates Artists – Presented by London Lane Productions: The project consists of a web series that will document short interviews featuring Southeastern San Diego artists, all shot in iconic locations in the community.
  • Home – Presented by So Say We All: A community storytelling project that will engage residents from or living in Southeastern San Diego in writing and performance workshops, with final pieces performed on air at KPBS and will be added to an anthology book on the project.
  • Art Cart – Presented by The Roots Factory: This mobile art project brings a cart equipped with screenprinting and audio equipment out into the community for pop up events that engage residents in art making.
  • Food Truck Nights – Presented by Diamond Business Association (BID): A series of pop-up food truck nights held at the Chollas Creek park next to Writerz Blok. The events will feature live music and entertainment as well as information booths from local organizations.
  • Poets & Painters Spoken Word and Graffiti Art Festival – Presented by the Jacobs Center: The annual festival highlights spoken word and graffiti artists and includes spoken word and graffiti competitions and performances from other dance and music artists.
  • Prism – Presented by Jacobs Center and Writerz Blok: Quarterly arts events held at Writerz Blok that showcase diverse local artists and themes.

Congratulations to all the recipients of the Creative Placemaking Partners program! We look forward to sharing these events with the community and telling the stories behind each one throughout the year.


Event: La Jolla Playhouse and Ping Chong + Company Present “South of the 8”


The La Jolla Playhouse and Ping Chong + Company presents South of the 8, a powerful theater piece featuring real stories from voices within the Southeastern San Diego community.

The participants, who went through a vigorous workshopping period, crafted their stories about life below the 8 freeway in San Diego, often considered the line that divides economic and wealth opportunity in our city.

From the La Jolla Playhouse website:

South of The 8 is a fascinating, interview-based work that explores issues of culture and identity in a specific local community, breaking down stereotypes by sharing the rich and diverse the stories of the people who live there. Following an intensive interview process, five individuals from neighborhoods south of the I-8 were selected to work with Ping Chong + Company and the Playhouse to create and perform an “opera for the spoken word,” based on their own narratives. This moving, non-traditional theatre piece showcases the real-life stories and experiences of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, shining a light on the unique character of communities South of The 8.

There are two showings this Saturday, April 1, at the City Heights Performance Annex. Tickets available at: lajollaplayhouse.org/south-of-the-8.


VIDEO: Move-In Day at Trolley Park Terrace


In October of 2016, residents began unpacking boxes and nesting in their new apartment at Trolley Park Terrace, the new, 52-unit affordable housing complex located next to the Euclid Avenue trolley station in Southeastern San Diego.

We are incredibly proud of this development for many reasons. It brings new, affordable housing to the underserved Diamond Neighborhoods, is LEED-Gold certified, was completed in 14 months under budget, offers English as a Second Language and financial literacy classes on the premises and many other reasons.

While these are certainly things to be proud of, what is most exciting is seeing Trolley Park Terrace become a home for many. We caught up with two new residents on Move In Day, who share their excitement and joy for their home. And we give you a tour of the property!



Calling All High School Students Interested in Science! Join the STEAM Cafe!


High school students in SE San Diego? Are you interested in science and learning the effects of climate change? Then join the STEAM Cafe on March 4!
The purpose of the cafe is to engage, educate, and inspire urban youth from diverse backgrounds through science based learning, preparing them to be tomorrow’s scientific and environmental leaders. The focus of the Cafe is to inform the students about the importance of climate change and ocean acidification such as how it is affecting them and what studies have been conducted on the subject.
See you there!
(click image to enlarge)

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Join the Jacobs Center’s Creative Industries Program!

We are currently recruiting youth from ages 18-24 for our Creative Industries Program! It is a workforce development program focused on graphic design training. You must live in the city of San Diego and be low-med income level to be eligible to participate. If you or anyone you know is interested please contact lsanchez@jacobscenter.org.

*Our deadline to apply has been extended. We will be starting Monday, Feb 27.

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Image from La Jolla Playhouse play “Miss You Like Hell”. Photo credit: Jim Carmody

Ping Chong + Company (New York City) is partnering with La Jolla Playhouse to create an interview-based theatre production with local participants telling their own stories on stage, exploring the real-life experiences of people who call Southeast San Diego home.

Ping Chong + Company is an internationally recognized theater company known for bringing underrepresented voices to the stage through its community engaged theater projects. Ping Chong + Company artists will conduct interviews with local residents who are connected to Southeast San Diego. The interviews become the basis of the script, performed by the participants themselves, weaving together personal, historical, and political narratives. Community members from all backgrounds, ages, professions, experiences and identities are invited to apply. Stories will reflect a wide range of Southeast experiences – people who grew up there, people who recently moved there, people who work there, or have other connections to communities and neighborhoods in Southeast.

  • No previous performance experience required! No memorization required!
  • Potential participants must be willing to tell their own story on stage, in collaboration with others.
  • Potential participants must be able to attend a 2 hour interview in January 2017.
  • Rehearsals + performances will take place in March 2017 (Location TBD in or near Southeast. Approximately 3 weeks of evening/weekend rehearsals, 15 hours per week)
  • Participants selected to be part of the final project will be compensated for their time.

Deadline to apply: Wednesday, December 28, 2016. Interview slots are limited, not everyone interviewed will be invited to participate in the performance.

For more information on Ping Chong + Company, please visit www.pingchong.org.

For inquiries or to request an interview, please call or email:

Jacole Kitchen by phone: (858) 228-3043 or by email: jkitchen@ljp.org


Audition for Gill Sotu’s Spoken Word Opera Ordinary Magic



Ordinary Magic – A Spoken Word Opera by award-winning poet/playwright Gill Sotu. Directed by Ise Lyfe (HBO Def Poetry, Huffington Post, New York Times)

An ambitious drummer at a famous Vanguard soul lounge is forced to choose between saving her family, helping her community, or following her dreams amongst protests and powerful men with their own agendas.

Types of Actors Needed
Male and female Non-Union, San Diego Local

Monday, October 24, 2016 and Wednesday, October 25, 2016 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. (By appointment)

Jacobs Center For Neighborhood Innovation, 404 Euclid Ave. San Diego, CA, 92114

By appointment only. Please contact Gill Sotu at gsotu@jacobscenter.org. Please prepare a one to two minute contemporary monologue.

Roles to be filled:

  • Ronnie Thomas, mid 20’s, lead singer of Soul Bizarre, the house band at the Vanguard Lounge – (Open Ethnicity; must be able to sing.)
  • Reverend Charles Logan, 40’s, ex-biker turned televangelist, head of the Ciity Council – (Caucasian)
  • Sugar Davis (early/mid 30s) Quincy’s wife, runs the bar and the books at the Vanguard – (Open Ethnicity; must be able to sing)

December 5 to 16, 2016 and January 2, 2017 through February 2, 2017; Monday through Thursday from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons TBA.

Friday, February 3, 2017 at 7:00 PM Saturday, February 4, 2017 at 1:00 PM and 7:00 PM – Joan Kroc Theatre, La Mesa.

$300 total

For more information or to book audition – contact Gill Sotu at gsotu@jacobscenter.org.


Creative Industries Program students share why it pays to go through “Boot Camp”

img_2547Inspired and grateful are two words to describe the students of the inaugural class of the Jacobs Center’s Creative Industries Program. Many have overcome challenges to be in the program and are taking advantage of this second chance to reclaim their future. The Creative Industries Program has launched the Jacobs Center’s Inspire Youth Careers industry partnership aimed at training youth disconnected from jobs and school and employing them in our region’s priority job sectors. San Diego is home to approximately 43,000 “opportunity youth” who are unemployed or underemployed. Forty percent of these youth reside in historically underserved communities including Southeastern San Diego.

The Creative Industries Program takes individuals with an interest in the arts and provides them with the training and skill set they need make their passion their profession. Young adults (ages 18–24) receive soft skills development, paid technical training in graphic design and web development, and paid on-the-job experience with various partner design firms. The program builds on past youth-focused arts education offered by the Jacobs Center’s graffiti art program Writerz Blok, which merges urban art with graphic design to establish pathways to creative careers. It is funded in part with Community Development Block Grant Program funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the City of San Diego.

img_2528The first class of the Creative Industries Program recently completed Phase 1, the unpaid soft skills training or “boot camp” as it’s referred to by students and teachers. This initial two-week introduction to the program determines which students are eligible to move on to the paid design training and job placement phases. During this portion of the program, students receive training in the skills needed to help them land a job and move up in it. These soft skills include effective communication, goal setting, decision-making, conflict resolution, problem solving, and living on your own. Students also created elevator pitches and résumés in workshops taught by program partner San Diego Workforce Partnership and its CONNECT2Careers program.

Devon Gonzalez and Jessie Zelayandia are two students who successfully completed the soft skills boot camp and are on their way to the paid design training.

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devonDevon Gonzalez, 24

“This program is making things clearer for me. I’m so stoked to be here.”

Devon is a local award-winning graffiti artist and muralist who has lived in Southeastern San Diego for the past two and a half years. He was introduced to the Creative Industries Program after spending time painting at Writerz Blok. Before the program, Devon made a living off of freelance art projects, not knowing where his next paycheck was coming from. When he learned about the Creative Industries Program, he jumped at the opportunity to get paid to further his skills and to have a stable career pathway. He considers landing a spot in the program a breakthrough.

“The biggest challenge was trying to find the next job. When I got one job, I knew it was already going to be over, so I had to try to find ways to have a constant flow of income,” said Devon.

The soft skills boot camp challenged Devon to tackle his anxiety around interviewing. The program’s guided activities and role playing exercises helped him relax and boosted his confidence. Workshops in elevator pitches, goal-setting, and business helped Devon to learn how to sell himself and his craft and have a better understanding of what is needed to be successful as a professional.

“There is so much more to contracts,” said Devon. “I didn’t realize there were pages of other stuff, like insurance, and so many little things. It’s so interesting to learn.”

In Phase 2 of the program, Devon looks forward to learning to screen print and how he can transfer his designs to T-shirts and sell them to make a profit.
“Screen printing is something I tried a little in the past. Getting designs ready from graphic design to screen printing is what I really want to learn how to do,” he said.

After the program, Devon hopes to work toward opening an art business that creates beautiful murals and exterior designs for businesses.

“I got to know people in the class, and they have really high goals. People want to open up businesses, be graphic designers, do interior design. To hear all these things from different people who come from different backgrounds, it’s almost like a big collaboration of students. We’re all in it together.”

jessieJessie Zelayandia, 20

“Coming back to this area makes me feel really good. It makes me see how much I have grown from how my life was before to how it is now. Being able to have an opportunity to see if maybe I can work here? It’s amazing. All of the lessons they are giving us give me a really huge boost.”

Jessie’s life has been anything but easy. She grew up homeless, transitioning with her mother between Los Angeles, San Diego, and Mexico. She eventually ended up attending and graduating from San Diego’s Monarch School, a K-12 comprehensive school designed to educate homeless youth. Jessie learned about the Creative Industries Program from information the Monarch School sends to its alumni.

This Creative Industries Program came at a great time for Jessie, as she had taken a semester off from studying studio art at San Diego City College where she plans to return next semester to study graphic design. For Jessie, the opportunity to be paid to hone her skills and receive on-the-job experience was also a draw.

“It’s a really good opportunity — it’s great! I’m going to go back to City College, and it really helps out a lot. It’s hard for me…. I’m not too great with computers, so this is a boost up because I’m going to go into college, and I’m going to already know basic things and things I can use. Apart from that, I’m getting to where I want to be in my career.”

While Jessie had previously received much of the soft skills training provided in boot camp at the Monarch School, this phase helped refresh what she had learned and gave her the opportunity to think more in depth about how to approach certain aspects of a professional job, like how to dress.

“I’m an artist, and at my other job, I do murals, so my dress is usually overalls and sneakers, and there is paint everywhere, so it’s really different. I also have another job doing reports and getting information from different businesses, so I have to dress more professional, so it’s two different environments,” she said.

Jessie is looking forward to learning more digital design in Phase 2 of the program. She has invested in a heat press and screen printer and wants to learn how to create designs digitally, so she can produce them using these tools.

unknown-23In addition to studying in the Creative Industries Program, Jessie serves as a community artist for A Reason to Survive, a nationally recognized, multidisciplinary creative youth development agency. In this role, she has designed benches at Kimble Park as part of an Arts for Veterans project, created sculptures, demonstrated live art at community events, and worked with volunteers. She also supports herself by working at American Systems Group.

After completing the program, Jessie has one simple, yet very important goal: to be happy.

“To be able to be happy for me means getting my education, and not just being in a class and sitting there and getting the degree, but actually learning everything I need to know. I love to learn. I want to take in as much information about art as possible because I’m passionate about it, and I want to make a difference in the community with it,” she said.

By furthering her education in the arts, Jessie is hoping to someday open her own arts-focused organization in San Diego and in Mexico that helps youth who have faced adversity.

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We’ll be back with more student stories from the Jacobs Center’s Creative Industries Program as the students transition from boot camp to the paid design training phase and on-the-job experience with the program’s partners.


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