“I am most passionate about bringing my knowledge [of tasting] to consumers, “said an enthusiastic Orietta Gianjorio, a native Italian from Rome,...
San Diego’s Little Italy is graced by a wonderfully constructed, and well used Amici Park, designed, created and funded by its own community members. Used extensively by the community and residents, the park, located by the corner where Date and State streets meet, is used for the local pastime of Italian Bocce, picnics and casual dining.
Its prominent position in Little Italy is colorful, decorative and features specially built benches and tables. Bronze plaques on Date and India streets and passing through Columbia are decorated with food trivia and facts, and are designed to lead guests to the park and its environs.
Once in the park, visitors will be able to enjoy four free-standing sculptures and plaques (also related to food), based on the concept of early immigrants who cherished these recipes and would have wanted to share them with their new country.
The park contains four art pieces as parts of the “Recipe for Friendship” theme for the park. These tables are thoughtfully engraved with special Italian recipes for Italian delicacies such as Marinara Sauce, stuffed artichokes and other mouth-watering dishes. They are also adorned with mock red and white tablecloths made from Italian glass mosaics.
“Food, to me, is the most joyful way to talk about immigration,” writes Kelly O’Conner in her article describing the art pieces of the park. “Food-making is a gesture of love. Eating with family and friends entices recollections and the good feeling for future generations. It brings a full attention to the moment. The food maker is the unsung hero of immigration,” she adds. Another creative touch is the way visitors can interact with the art by doing a rubbing onto paper of the recipes they want to take home.
A generous grant in the amount of approximately $40,000, paved the way for the artistic talent of Artist Nina Kravasiles and the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Cultures Public Arts Sites Program to give the park newly artistic features. The selection panel incorporated members of the community, the Washington Elementary School, Our Lady of the Rosary, and the Little Italy Association board of directors.
The Public Art Sites program which is funded through transient occupancy tax (TOT), provides funding for those communities that are interested in making neighborhoods more attractive by adding artwork to them. The association applied for a $20,000.00 allotment in March of 1999 to benefit Amici Park. The proposal was granted based on a condition that they matched the given amount.
Tracy Steele, acting as public art project coordinator for the Commission for Arts and Culture, was the liaison between the commission and the Little Italy Association. "As part of their application they were asked to identify a site in their neighborhood, describe why that site would be a good venue for public art, what their goals for the project were and identify the dollar amount that they had available for the project." Steel said. "In this case they stated $20,000.00.
“The association was looking to activate a central and highly visible area in the neighborhood,” said Carol Gardyne, then a board member of the Little Italy Association. “The park is located adjacent to the restaurant district and is also part of the residential region. Amici Park is the biggest open space that we have, and we thought it would be a good first place to start with public art," Gardyne added.
Durability and accessibility were thoughtful concepts that Karavasiles incorporated into the park. The tables are at a height that is accessible to wheelchairs, and precautions were taken so that the park’s materials and shapes of the designs would not be vandalized.