Amici Park - Little Italy, San Diego

Lined with cypress trees in the heart of Little Italy is a small park with tables, benches, amphitheater-style seating and a large sand pit. Molded red-and-white-checkered tablecloths cloak the medium-sized table statues dotted through the mostly concrete park. Each mock table is engraved with homemade recipes for items such as marinara sauce, stuffed artichokes and blackened fish tacos. Located next to Washington Elementary and a block away from the Italian Community Center, Amici Park is a place for friends, young and old.  Amici Park is located at the corner of Date & State Streets.

More about the Art of Amici Park - Click here

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Bocce ball court at Amici Park

by Kelly O'Connor
Downtown News
July 26, 2000

Amici Park, adjacent to the Washington Elementary School on State Street, received a $40,00.00 make-over with the help of artist Nina Karavasiles and the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture's Public Art Sites Program. A bronze food trail beginning on Date and India streets and passing through Columbia- comprising of 6 plaques denoting food trivia and facts- will lead guests to the park and it's new addition.

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 immigrants cherishing recipes and sharing these with their new country.

Karavasiles, intrigued by the idea of adding her creative touches to the park and Little Italy, submitted her application and ideas to the commission. She made the first cut.

"I wasn't really focused on one ethnicity," she said. "I was thinking about what sort of experience is common with all people, and I came up with the idea of food and taste buds"

The selection panel incorporated members for the community, the Washington Elementary School, Our Lady of the Rosary, and the Little Italy Association board of directors. The panel unanimously choose Karavasiles for the project.

"She (Karavasiles) did a lot of research as far as what Little Italy is - it's not just Italian," Said Carol Gardyne, a board member of the Little Italy Association. "She really found out what it is all about, that it is multi-cultural"

The Public Art Sites program funded through transient occupancy tax (TOT), provides financial assistance to communities interested in adding artwork to their neighborhoods. 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, 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. 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 said.

The freestanding sculptures supported by concrete, will represent tables adorned with red and white glass mosaic tiles, depicting a checkerboard table cloth. Atop of the tables will be four different food figures, each cast in bronze. On the side of the table were the napkin would normally be placed, a raised text recipe will sit. With this design, visitors can make a rubbing of each recipe using a piece of paper and pencil.

Karavasiles is still in the process of deciding which food items and recipes her art will depict. She plans to involve the children of Washington Elementary in her research process, as well as Little Italy community members. She also hopes that a local restaurant will participate in the project by sharing a recipe.

"I'm hoping that the kids will add to this idea in some way" she said. "I'm also hoping to talk with older women and men to come up with some recipes of interest - such as a family recipe that has come down over generations".

Durability, accessibility and interactiveness are all concepts that Karavasiles has probed. The tables will be at a height that will be accessible to wheelchairs. The materials and shapes of the designs will be geared to deter vandals.