We were lucky to catch up with Linda Pennington recently and have shared our conversation below.
Linda, appreciate you joining us today. It’s always helpful to hear about times when someone’s had to take a risk – how did they think through the decision, why did they take the risk, and what ended up happening. We’d love to hear about a risk you’ve taken.
I moved to San Diego in 1978 with my husband, Mark Pennington. I taught high school art in the Houston area for two years but it was always my life goal to be a professional artist. Mark supported me in this and I worked and struggled to find my way in this pursuit. We moved to my little house on a canyon in the Azalea Park Neighborhood in 1981. Here I was completely sidetracked by several occurrences of scary fires in the canyon so I began organizing neighborhood canyon hazardous brush removal events with free dumpsters from I Love A Clean San Diego. I created an all-volunteer group that I call Project CLEAN (Clean Livable Enjoyable Attractive Neighborhoods). It wasn’t long before I realized that I had become a full-time activist for the entire community of City Heights, taking on litter, illegal dumping, graffiti, code enforcement and police issues. Fortunately, over the years, I have had many opportunities to participate in public art including the Euclid Tower, Azalea Park Carved Wood Street Signs, the Azalea Water Conservation Garden, the Manzanita Gathering Place, the Azalea Park Neighborhood Sign, the Peace on Earth Mural, the Jamie’s Way Mural, the Brown Building Mural as well as many other murals. In addition, the Azalea Park Neighborhood participated in 17 San Diego Pride Parades from 1993 to 2012 and won several top prizes and notoriety for our outrageous artistic floats. I volunteered with Community HousingWorks to paint, landscape, and clean up over 575 City Heights homes for low income homeowners at no cost from 1993 to 2006 when I was hired to be the FaceLift Project Manager. I filled that position until 2012 when I was hired by San Diego Canyonlands to be their City Heights Community Organizer, a job that put me back in the canyons that I love where I had always dreamed of a hiking trail through the four canyons of City Heights. SDCL completed the City Heights Canyons Loop Trail in 2016 – an urban wilderness trail that won an Orchid Award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation in 2018. This year I am now fully retired from working for pay but I am back to volunteering full time and hiking our beautiful trail as often as possible. I am currently working with the San Diego Architectural Foundation to help organize the second Poplar Street Art Walk which is March 19, from noon to 4:00pm. Visitors will also be invited to tour Ocean Discovery Institute’s Living Lab at the entrance to Manzanita Canyon from 10:00am to 2:00pm and then hike through Manzanita Canyon with a San Diego Canyonlands Naturalist to Azalea Community Park where they can visit the sculptures at the Azalea Water Conservation Garden. The park connects to Poplar St. where they will find the Vicki Leon Glass Designs Art Gallery, attend a free Mosaic League workshop, check out displays by various artists including Anneville Studio, enjoy live music provided by Rock and Roll San Diego, purchase tacos from Cali Craft Tacos and stroll down Poplar St. to see murals, mosaics, carved wooden signs and Oldies Car Club cars. Deciding not to work full-time at a 9 to 5 job was a huge risk but I firmly believe I have taken the right path and have been rewarded with wonderful friends and the excitement living in a fully engaged artistic and diverse community.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
Having received a Bachelor of Science in Art Education with a double major in art and education, my classes included drawing, painting, ceramics, and print making. As mentioned in my answer to the previous question, I no longer produce art in any of these disciplines. When family and friends say they are saddened that I have given up art, I tell them (with humor) that I have become a bit like the Environmental Artist Christo and am involved in big collaborative projects that has brought art to the community.
Is there mission driving your creative journey?
Safety drives my creative journey. Canyon fire safety has always been my top priority. Public art has been the icing on the cake.
Do you think there is something that non-creatives might struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can shed some light?
My path has been unusual and clearly it would not have been possible without my husband’s support. I can only suggest that one takes one step at a time toward your goal, whatever it is, and you will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with other people who will join you in your mission.
- Website: sdcanyonlands.org
- Facebook: San Diego Canyonlands and Azalea Park Neighborhood Association
Linda Pennington Dennis Wood