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Artist collective thrives off the grid

Video: Arts group Sol Collective thrives off Sacramento grid

Trends and well-worn paths are not for artists in the Sol Collective, an artist organization seeking to give a space and platform to a diverse background of painters, activists, poets and rappers.
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Trends and well-worn paths are not for artists in the Sol Collective, an artist organization seeking to give a space and platform to a diverse background of painters, activists, poets and rappers.

Walk into Sol Collective and you might see young people on their way to a protest painting signs.

On the walls, there might be art from a well-known Chicano Park muralist or a famed Sikh artist from the United Kingdom. In the back, the next big thing in the city’s hip-hop scene could be recording an album.

This isn’t exactly Second Saturday.

Sol Collective runs outside the grid and the mainstream. For 10 years, this artist organization has sought to give a space and a platform to a diverse background of painters, activists, poets and rappers.

The collective operates out of a small space next to a thrift shop on 21st Street, a few blocks south of midtown. They’re looking for a new place now, and it’s likely they’ll end up even further outside the grid.

“We want the autonomy not to move with what we think is popular, but with what we think is important,” said the group’s founder, Estella Sanchez.

Sanchez sparked Sol Collective 10 years ago. At the time, she was a drug-prevention counselor up in North Sac and was appalled by how little constructive activity young people were filling their free time with. She had also spent time helping to organize a local artist collective that booked shows around the country and in the Caribbean. The tours took the group to event spaces where cities showcased their work.

“I knew Sacramento was diverse in a lot of ways, but there weren’t a lot of places where I could see that,” Sanchez said. “We didn’t have that multicultural, multipurpose space. This is the dream. We have to have that home in Sacramento.”

A fire in March 2008 briefly delayed that dream, destroying the collective’s first headquarters off Del Paso Boulevard. But the members regrouped and ended up on 21st Street about six years ago.

Since then, rap artists like Dre-T and muralists Shaun Burner and others have come out of the collective. They recently launched a radio station – Radio Sol – and lines have stretched around the block for recent art shows.

But at the core of Sol Collective’s mission is activism. Protesters heading to a recent immigration reform rally at the state Capitol gathered at the collective to put together signs for the demonstration.

Last week, the collective hosted a workshop on the effects of using art in activism. “Sometimes artists are the witnesses,” said Luis Campos Garcia, an artist and a presenter at the event, “but sometimes they should be involved.”

Sacramento’s art scene is certainly changing. As rents in the Bay Area escalate, homegrown talent is staying here. The Warehouse Artist Lofts on R Street have created a bohemian hub for the movement, and massive public art projects are filling the grid.

Sol Collective operates a little outside that scene. Its artists used to be the people whose murals were painted over and called graffiti. Now those same artists are being commissioned to paint the sides of hip new businesses.

“We’ve seen a lot of things come and go,” Sanchez said. “It’s interesting how we’ve come full circle.”

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