Crafting a Space to Create
Visual artist chosen to lead new UC San Diego craft center
Visual artist and designer Annika Nelson has been chosen by Housing, Dining and Hospitality to lead the new 11,000-square-foot UC San Diego Craft Center, marking a key milestone in the long-awaited return of a beloved creative community hub.
The Craft Center will be an important part of the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood, which was designed to bring together academic, cultural, residential and retail spaces to inspire exploration, collaboration and connection. Similarly, the center will offer students, faculty, staff and the local community unique opportunities to connect and create.
“I believe in the power of art-making to break down barriers and provide opportunities for dialogue that do not happen in other spaces,” said Nelson. “The Craft Center provides a unique opportunity for people from all corners of San Diego to meet.”
Nelson’s career has been dedicated to forging connection and inspiring creativity. She earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art from UC Santa Cruz and went on to study printmaking at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria.
Nelson served as the studio program curator and art director for the Children’s Museum in San Diego/Museo de los Niños. Most recently, she worked with a team of instructors and program managers to provide courses in photography and fine art at UC San Diego Extension, eventually overseeing a department whose portfolio included arts, humanities, languages and digital arts. She was also an instructor at the original Craft Center.
“Annika’s approach to art and deep ties to the community made her the clear choice,” said Hemlata Jhaveri, UC San Diego Executive Director of Housing, Dining and Hospitality. “We are excited to see how her experience and boundless energy will shape the reimagining of the Craft Center.”
As the manager, Nelson will support the new vision for the center, which was led by students, community members, faculty and staff. One of her first tasks will be to build a network of artist instructors to support hands-on art classes in the five core programs. These include favorites from the past, like ceramics, jewelry-making and woodworking, while introducing new programs such as surfboard shaping and culinary arts.
Flameworking, also known as torchworking, is a type of glasswork that will be offered in the new jewelry studio. The facility includes five new bays for surfboard shaping and an area to glass surfboards. The culinary arts program could host classes on healthy cooking in its demonstration kitchen. The large, flexible entrance would be ideal for art exhibits or open houses where instructors could demonstrate different techniques like silkscreening, mosaics or fiber arts.
Nelson said, “The design has so much potential. You can see how thoughtful input from the community and artists has created this remarkable, inspiring space.”
The Craft Center is scheduled to open in early 2021. The new facility will be located directly above the neighborhood’s main dining hall, readily accessible to students and footsteps away from dining and entertainment. Direct access to parking and the nearby trolley stop will further enhance the visitor experience.
Nelson noted that the center’s large windows provide natural light for work spaces but also serve to blur the lines between the inside and the outside, inviting people in and sparking curiosity, “I hope people will see what is happening inside the building and want to be part of it,” she said. “I am amazed by how excited everyone is about the return of the Craft Center. People who were involved with the original center have come forward, and I have also met new people who are thrilled by the possibilities and stepping up. It will be an incredible resource once we are able to gather.”