Art Around Adams: An Interview w/ Adam & Bart


Free music, and more than 90 impromptu art galleries will fill Adams Avenue on Saturday, June 4 from noon until 8:00 p.m. Art Around Adams is not only free and open to all ages, but is a great opportunity to fight gentrification by visiting an actual neighborhood and partaking of the food, beverages, people, art and music. The event is presented by The InSlider SD. Did I mention free?

It’s the thirteenth annual staging of the event, the brainchild of founder and organizer Adam Rosen. Full disclosure time: While attempting to touch bases, Rosen and the author of this delightful piece could not connect face-to-face, so this interview was conducted via email. So, with no delay, Cinema Spartan has the pleasure of letting you know about a great San Diego-based event. Grab your wife, husband, whomever and get down to more than two miles of art, and not the boring stuff you learned about in college. Hear some great music from too many local bands to list and stop by the shops along the way.

If you need me, I’ll either be at Dark Horse Coffee, or hanging out at Mariposa Ice Cream. Rosen’s interview is below, and we also caught up with local music stalwart Bart Mendoza. Enjoy.



Name: Adam Rosen Age: 35 (soon to be 36 in June) Origins: Originally from Los Angeles, though have lived most of my life in San Diego. Day Job: Manager of Abbey Carpet & Floors at 9446 Miramar Rd. Extracurricular Activites: Drummer in the band Mantis. Likes: Nerdy things. Star Wars, Mid-Century Modern Furniture, Nintendo, Art, Comic Book Movies, traveling, etc. Oh, and of course producing and partaking in the Art Around Adams: 2 Mile Music & Art Walk event every year! Dislikes: Michael Bay movies… passionately in fact.

Barry Benintende: Organizing an art and music festival sounds like an exhausting task. How much time do you spend putting this all together?

Adam Rosen: Thanks for asking me, Barry! In the past we have started organizing the event about seven months in advance. This year, however, we have already started on the 2017 event (happening Saturday, June 3rd 2017, so mark your calendars!) while getting the 2016 edition ready. It is most definitely exhausting (it’s currently 1am), but it’s also a thrilling experience. We started this year’s edition back in September and as the event gets closer (around February), it becomes more like a full time job.


How much help do you get organizing?

For a long time I produced the event mostly alone. Now I have several key people I rely on regularly. Bart Mendoza of Blindspot Records does the lion’s share of musical booking, Johnny Tran of Thumbprint Gallery curates the art along with the help of Jessica Johnson of Aesthetigeist Art Collective, Tom Okerlund assists with the graphic design, and my girlfriend/partner in crime, Maris Doty, keeps me focused and helps bring the event to life in more ways then I can list here. Thanks Maris!


What was the inspiration behind Art Around Adams?

The inspiration behind the current event model is to pair culture, community, and commerce. We bring the best art/music that San Diego (along with some out-of-town talent) has to offer and pair them with the unique, eclectic businesses along Adams Avenue. The goal is to create a synergy between the artists/musicians and the businesses that are hosting them. People discover new eclectic businesses on the avenue through their desire to see and discover new art. Likewise, people discover new art by wanting to see what their community businesses are showcasing.


What’s the most rewarding part of all of this effort?

The most rewarding part of the effort is when everything comes together on the day of the event. It’s in seeing the joy that the event brings the community and how it touches people. You can see it in people’s faces as they explore the event and discover what there is to see and hear.


What is the most daunting?

The whole thing is daunting to be honest, as the event has so many cogs in its machine. There are so many elements and personalities involved in the result that it can be like herding cats… which frankly is not easy. That said, I like to focus on the positive.


How has the event grown since its inception?

The event started out with a few businesses and coffee shops, and originally there was no real music component. Now the event is comprised of all facets of the arts and spans over two miles long.


How have the Adams Avenue shop owners responded to the event?

The business owners have responded very positively to the event. The event bring new potential clients into their doors, and of course they love that.


How has the Adams Avenue community responded?

The Adams Avenue community has always responded well to the event. We have the support of the community and the Adams Avenue Business Association.


There is Art Around Adams, Adams Avenue Unplugged, the Adams Avenue Street Faire. What is it about Adams Avenue that makes it receptive to the arts?

Adams Avenue has always had an eclectic feel to it in my opinion, and I think that is part of the reason the businesses and residents have been so receptive to the different event endeavors that have transpired on their street. All the events on the avenue, past and present, whether they have lasted or not, have really embodied the community, and the community for the most part has rallied behind them. The University Heights, Normal Heights, and Kensington communities are ones that are filled with forward, outside-the-box thinkers… And I think that is why these events developed here and have flourished for so long. Adams Avenue is a place where a lot of San Diego flocks because so many creative events are happening here.


Is there anything or anyone you’re looking forward to seeing/hearing this year?

This year there are a few things that I am really looking forward to. First off I’m looking forward to Aesthetigeist Art Collective’s group show and stage inside the Normal Heights Masonic Lodge (3366 Adams Ave), Super Awesome Showdown outside the Normal Heights Masonic Lodge, Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra at the Adams Avenue Carwash (3302 Adams Ave), as well as the mural unveiling for Veteran Mural Project, which brings together post-911 combat veterans and neighborhood groups for the eventual location and execution of mural art. Honestly, I’m excited about most everything going on this year!


Do you have a favorite memory of the event?

Every year my favorite memory is of the amazing friends and volunteers that come together to help me put this beast of an event on, as I could not do it alone and I appreciate every one of them. In terms of past activities, performers, artists, or installations we’ve had, I’d have to say musically, watching the Burning of Rome play at our Blindspot Stage @ Smitties Service in 2013. They brought quite the energy and it really resulted in an electricity through the crowd. In terms of attractions, I’d have to say Lindsay Lawlor’s Electric Giraffe. If you’re not familiar, the Electric Giraffe is a 17-foot-tall robot giraffe that walks, rolls, talks, and responds to touch. The giraffe is freakin’ amazing. In terms of performance, I’d have to go with Super Awesome Showdown, who are amazing. They are a group of “intergalactic performance art wrestlers” who are an audience pleaser. They are amazing to watch and really give it their all.



Bart Mendoza has been on the local and national as well as international music scene as far back as I can remember. As the lead singer/guitarist of Manual Scan, The Shambles, True Stories, Mendoza has made a mark in the industry. He is the owner and operator of Blindspot Records, and generally an all around busy dude. On top of that, he’s a writer and puts together a majority of the music for Art Around Adams. We had to catch him after midnight over the magic of the internet, too.  



Name: Bart Mendoza Age: 53 Origins: Life long San Diegan Day Job: Music journalist Extracurricular Activites: playing music Likes: Music Dislikes: having to sleep

Barry Benintende: How long have you been working with Art Around Adams?

Bart Mendoza: Since 2012. The event’s founder Adam Rosen was kind enough to ask and I’m happy to contribute in any way I can. I consider Art Around Adams to be a jewel in San Diego’s calendar.


What is the biggest difference you seen in the way the event has changed over the years?

There has been more interest across the board, certainly more people are coming out, but also more bands are interested as the event has become more established. Last year was the first year that an out of town band played; The Cherry Bluestorms which include Glen Laughlin, formerly of the Dickies. They did so well, we asked them back for 2016. This year will also see the San Diego debut of New Mexico band, Great States.


What is it about the Adams Ave area that seems to embrace and support arts more than most other areas in San Diego?

It’s a great walking community. There are a lot of interesting things to see and do in the area – We’re blessed to have so many art galleries, music venues, cool eateries and even a record shop all located on Adams Avenue, as well as folks who are happy to celebrate that fact.  Hopefully an event like this can not only be great fun for the residents but also introduce new folks to the wonders of the area, such as Nickelodeon Records, Kensington Park and Mariposa Ice Cream.


How many bands will be on your stage?

Eight – I also book the Café 21 Stage, The Kensington Park Stage, The El Zarape Stage, the Rosie O’Grady’s Stage, the Demille’s Stage and with Adam, The Car Wash Stage. Blindspot Records/Smitty’s Stage: Hills Like Elephants, Jason Hanna & The Bullfighters, Schizophonics, The Cherry Bluestorms, Bitmaps, Hiroshima Mockingbirds, Elements, Gabriela y La Buena Onda.


Who are you most excited to hear live at this year’s event?

I like all the bands but I’m most excited to see Jason Hanna & The Bullfighters – they have a Herb Alpert &The Tijuana Brass sort of sound that is incredible – one of the best bands I’ve seen in a long time!


At previous events, you have had politicians and local celebrities speak from the stage. Is there anybody we should expect to hear from this year?

Not sure. We’re still waiting to confirm that.


What’s your most enduring memory from the past events?

My fondest memory is actually from just prior to the event itself. There was a sound check going on at Smitty’s Garage, an outdoor stage and we were all busy working on sound levels and monitors and so on, preoccupied. The band played a couple of songs and when I looked across the street, the various shop owners were all outside applauding. A nice start to the day.


How is Blindspot Records holding up in the age of Pandora and other streaming sites?

Just fine when you take into account that we exist at an insignificant level to what might be considered mainstream. Don’t get me wrong we have fun, but the internet stuff doesn’t really affect us at all, we’re under the radar so to speak. Music across the board isn’t selling much, but our listeners tend to want physical product and we gear a lot of what we do to the various performers live shows, so we’re different right off the bat. Look for a new Staring at the Sun soon – Volume X11 and a disc from Pony Death Ride, recent releases include Normandie Wilson’s “Is Tired of Being Nice” and the Shifty Eyed Dogs, new self titled album.


You can get more information on the 13th annual Art Around Adams: 2 Mile Art & Music Walk by visiting the official website at or the official Facebook event page.

Author: Barry Benintende

Barry has spent his entire adult life watching movies, listening to music and finding people gullible enough to pay him to do so. As the former Executive Editor of the La Jolla Light, Editor of the South County Mail, Managing Editor of D-Town, Founder and Editor of sQ Magazine, Managing Editor of Kulture Deluxe, and Music Critic for San Diego Newsline, you would figure his writing would not be so epically dull. He has also written for the San Diego Reader, the Daily Californian, the Marshfield Mail, Cinemanian and too many other papers and magazines that have been consigned to the dustbin of history. A happily-married father of two sons and a daughter, Barry has an unhealthy addiction to his hometown San Diego Padres and the devotion of his feisty Westie, Adie. Buy him a cup of coffee and he can spend an evening regaling you with worthless music or baseball trivia. Buy him two and you’ll never get rid of him.

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