Balboa Art Conservation Center begins social justice art preservation program

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The Balboa Art Conservation Center Wednesday announced a program to preserve important cultural works that emerge from social justice movements in the San Diego area.

The Preserve Community Art! program seeks to protect the region’s cultural heritage and provide free art conservation services for those works deemed “significant” coming out of various social justice movements.

The BACC outlined three primary goals for the program: to serve as a resource for the art that is created as a direct result of activism; to document and preserve a type of human expression that normally emerges and disappears quickly; and to expand the definition of what holds artistic importance.

“Through this program we hope to change the story about what makes an important piece of artwork,” said BACC board President Karen Coutts. “When a regional conservation center like ours treats community-created protest objects with the same care and respect provided to historic, priceless works of art, we are saying that these moments in history are no doubt socially important, but they are also artistically important.”

According to the center, what the program might look like could vary considerably depending on the art in question.

It could be helping an organization document or assess the condition of artwork created during a socially significant movement. It might be making recommendations about the safe handling, display and storage of artwork. It could also include completing conservation treatments on damaged artwork or activist-related documents or it might be facilitating discussions with artists or organizations about conservation and preservation with regard to ethics, strategies and artists’ rights, according to a BACC statement.

The first Preserve Community Art! project has already started. BACC has partnered with community arts champion A Reason to Survive in National City to preserve documentation and preservation services for artwork — including signs and murals — from the protests that occurred this summer in San Diego following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

ARTS will be working to identify local artists and source work from the community, while the conservation center’s expertise in cultural preservation will help capture and contextualize the artwork within the movement.

The two organizations believe that art created as part of activist movements is an integral part of collective community cultural heritage and local history.

Projects will be considered for Preserve Community Art! on a case-by- case basis. Organizations and individuals interested in recommending work for the program are encouraged to visit the BACC website.

The Balboa Art Conservation Center is the western region’s only nonprofit art conservation center.

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