San Diego Foundation’s Creative Catalyst Fund Winners Are Hard At Work

The first in our series on the visual artists awarded grants through the program

The San Diego Foundation in January announced this year’s batch of Creative Catalyst Fund winners. The program granted 10 local creatives $20,000 to pair up with local nonprofits and execute an original project. The visual artists who made the cut in 2015 are Brian Goeltzenleuchter, Matthew Hebert, Bhavna Mehta, Noe Olivas and Roberto Salas (CityBeat plans to keep tabs on all the artists’ projects on this page).

Salas is already working on his project, “The Silent Buzz,” inside his studio space at Bread & Salt. He’s in the midst of designing a large mold shaped like a honeybee. The sculptures he’ll eventually cast with the mold will be made of birdseed and bound by an organic substance. The idea is to attract birds that will eat away at the art.

Salas says he wanted to attract attention to the plight of honeybees and the mass deaths of some colonies.

“I wanted to create something that people can actually see as a visual metaphor,” he explains. “There was this challenge of what can I do as an artist to make awareness of issues of the non-heroic animals that are in danger.”

Starting Aug. 15, a date designated as “National Honeybee Day,” Salas and his project assistant, Nassem Navab, will begin hosting a series of workshops where the public can help create the large birdseed bee sculptures. At some of the workshops, Camarada, the nonprofit chamber-music ensemble with which Salas paired up for the grant, will perform. Participants will also be introduced to honeybee researchers who’ll share their latest findings.

Once the sculptures are ready, they’ll be placed in public outdoor spaces. Salas and Navab will set up time-lapse photography to show birds eating the art, and those images will be displayed on a soon-to-be-launched blog.

“The birds are diminishing this beautiful shape, and that’s the visual metaphor,” Salas says with a smile.

The artist sat down at his laptop and flipped through dozens of digital photographs of the paintings and sketches of bees he’s made so far. He wants the sculptures, despite their ephemeral nature, to be as elegant as possible.

“These are my studies,” he says, showing his collection of bee imagery. “I think the wing span will be what really makes the sculpture beautiful.”