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On View: Art and Culture Exhibitions

The Library’s exhibition program allows free access to visual art and cultural exhibitions, while promoting San Diego artists and creative community groups.


Public Exhibition Opportunities

For more information about library exhibitions, email us at OnView@sandiego.gov.

Library patrons viewing an exhibition in the Central Library Art Gallery.


Central Library Art Gallery

Call to Serve: Clara E. Breed and the Japanese American Incarceration
September 18, 2021 - January 30, 2022 | San Diego Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common

Black and white photo of Miss Breed lecturing


Clara E. Breed directed the San Diego Public Library for 42 years as a public servant advocating on numerous fronts, including the promotion of youth services, championing a child’s right to read by encouraging international and multicultural collections, undertaking an unprecedented expansion of the City’s Library system, and most significantly, advocating on behalf of the hundreds of Japanese American families that were incarcerated due to Executive Order 9066.

Breed was ahead of her time in her interest to promote cultural understanding and fight prejudice. Her steadfast commitment and activism broadens our insights about the role libraries play in working toward a more equitable, diverse, and inclusionary future.

Call to Serve: Clara E. Breed & The Japanese American Incarceration is co-organized by guest curators Susan Hasegawa, Linda Salem, and the San Diego Public Library. This exhibition was made possible by a collaboration between the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, the Japanese American National Museum, the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego, San Diego State University Library, and Simmons University Archives. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

WW-II Japanese American Incarceration Camp Replica

Photo of barrack installation



In 1942 the War Relocation Authority (WRA) had constructed ten centers in the harshest, most desolate places in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Arkansas in order to house all persons of Japanese ancestry who were incarcerated as enemies of the state after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Although there were no cases of spying or espionage by the Japanese immigrant community or their American-born children, approximately 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from and imprisoned in barbed-wire fenced camps.

Like thousands of young men eager to serve in the military and fight in WW-II, Frank Wada (pictured) volunteered for the army. Born and raised in Southern California, Wada was one of the first volunteers out of Poston, Arizona Incarceration Camp located on the Colorado River Native American Reservation. Wada joined thousands of Japanese Americans to serve in the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Wada, his family and friends built this model barracks to tell the story of their WW- II incarceration.

This replica model, located on the ground floor lobby of the Central Library, was reconstructed as part of the Call to Serve: Clara E. Breed & the Japanese American Incarceration exhibition. This was made possible by the Wada Family. Special thanks to Frank Wada and his son, Greg Wada and Jeanne and Bill Elyea.

Previously On View

Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies
February 15 – May 17, 2020 

Fear No Art work

© City of San Diego Civic Art Collection

Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies, invites the public to consider artworks in the City of San Diego’s Civic Art Collection and the narratives that emerge when in dialogue with local contemporary artists. Together, these artworks represent a wide range of themes and approaches, which act as a provocation for the viewer to consider concepts such as institutional critique, the ability of art to effectively speak to and for the masses, the specificity of the Civic Art Collection, and the notion of a collection, itself.
Fear No Art is curated by Dr. Lara Bullock and features work by Eric Blau, Donald Borthwick, Mildred Bryant Brooks, Celeste Byers, Collective Magpie, Jung Ho Grant, William Hogarth, Robert Kelly, Leslie William Lee, Jacquelyn Hughes Mooney, John Parot, Cat Chiu Phillips, Charles Reiffel, Zoya Sardashti, Jean Swiggett, Terry Turrell, Jerry O. Wilkerson, and Joe Yorty.

Julius Shulman: Modern San Diego
September 28 – January 19, 2020

Black and white house photograph by Julius Shulman

© J. Paul Getty Trust

Recognized for his work in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, it is not widely known that between 1934 and 2007, architectural photographer Julius Shulman (1910 – 2009) shot over 200 projects in San Diego. His clients were architects, publishers, construction companies, and developers, and included notable San Diego architects Lloyd Ruocco, Sim Bruce Richards, Henry Hester, and Frederick Liebhardt. Shulman’s work, spanning several decades, documented the region’s evolving 20th century architectural landscape and he played an instrumental role in sharing California’s unique post-War modernism with a wide audience. Through a large number of publications and exhibitions, focused largely on his work in Palm Springs and Los Angeles for architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Pierre Koenig, Charles Eames, and Richard Neutra, interest in Shulman’s work continues to this day. However, his images of San Diego have not been widely shared or published.

Crafting Opportunity: Mid-Century Work from the Collection of Mingei International Museum
May 11 – July 28, 2019

Crafting Opportunity exhibit poster

Crafting Opportunity: Mid-Century Work from the Collection of Mingei International Museum is an exhibition of ceramics, furniture, fashion, fiber art, jewelry and metalwork that explores the robust artistic output that followed World War II. Mid-century craft and design in America is a study in creative pluralism, a blurring of the lines between fine and applied arts, craft and production, rustic and modern, functional and conceptual.
The exhibit includes notable works from craftspeople Ellamarie Woolley, Jack Lenor Larsen, Arline Fisch, Maria Martinez, Douglas Deeds, Berta Wright, Harrison McIntosh, Kay Whitcomb, Laura Andreson, and Charles and Ray Eames - many on view for the first time.

The Artist Portrait Project: San Diego Artists 2006-2016
Dec. 15, 2018 – March 17, 2019

Artist Portrait Project exhibition poster

Photographer Jennifer G. Spencer spent ten years trying to capture the “creative spirit” of leading San Diego artists through environmental portraiture. The result: An historic record of 50 artists who significantly contributed to our region’s creative culture. The exhibit included additional works from artists Kenneth Capps, Jean Wheat, Helen Redman, Susan Osborn, Joseph Bennett, Jeanne Dunn, James Watts, Anne Mudge, Nilly Gill, Cindy Zimmerman, Robert Treat, and Polly Giacchina.

A Method for Reaching Extreme Altitude
May 26 - Sept. 16, 2018

Methods for Reaching Extreme Altitudes exhibit graphic

Featuring the work of eight San Diego artists exploring space art, ranging from scientific to science fiction and otherworldly curiosities. Artists Adam Belt, Matthew Bradley, Sheena Rae Dowling, Andrew McGranahan, Arzu Ozkal, Cheryl Sorg, Jones von Jonestein, and Melissa Walter traverse the outermost reaches of space through diverse mediums and concepts. Their creativity, paired with their search for knowledge, exemplifies the human desire to understand the world and universe we live in.

OnView - Local Arts

Point Loma Branch Library - San Diego Audubon Society  
King Tides: The Future Is Now
Currently OnView through March 2022

King Tides

King Tides: The Future Is Now is a collaborative photography and video project to promote action to combat climate change in San Diego, California by visualizing the impacts of coming sea level rise. King Tides are the highest tides of the year and they preview what the future holds as rising sea levels along our coastline threaten and flood our infrastructure and natural habitats. Sea level rise and climate change are existential threats for many birds, other wildlife and, ultimately, human civilization itself. These photos and the companion video were made by 21 volunteer photographers along the San Diego coast and in our bays. 

Carmel Valley Branch Library - Hooshang Yashar
Nature Inspired
OnView January 10th – March 1st, 2022

Nature Inspired

The beauty of nature is the theme throughout this exhibit. The Pacific Ocean and California coastline are the main emphasis and source of inspiration for this show. Where the land meets ocean is the magical point. The beautiful coastline, whether it is sandy or rugged land, is portrayed in this exhibit.

Rancho Bernardo Branch Library - Carol Mansfield
Acrylic Abstractions
January 3, 2022 – March 31, 2022

Mansfield Dream Catcher

Mansfield’s artwork evolves from a “discussion” between the artist and the painted image as it is developing. Her intriguing abstract acrylics reflect her masterful use of intuitive color and texture, tempered by her rational compositions.

Behind the Scenes

Inter-disciplinary artist MR Barnadas of Collective Magpie sits down with us to discuss her work Who Designs Your Race? in the Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies exhibition.

Check out our virtual exhibition of Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies curated by Dr. Lara Bullock.

Performance artist Zoya Sardashti speaks about her work "To Be Seen & Unseen" in the gallery's exhibition Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies curated by Dr. Lara Bullock.

Multi-disciplinary artist John Parot sits down with us to discuss his current work "Chromosexual" in the Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies exhibition.

This week in 'Behind the Scenes' illustrator and muralist, Celeste Byers, discusses her work "Survivor Love Letter" with curator Lara Bullock of Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies.

Curator, Lara Bullock of Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies sits down with interdisciplinary artist Joe Yorty to discuss his work "Stage".

Curator, Lara Bullock of Fear No Art: Civic Engagement, Histories, Currencies sits down with contemporary artist Cat Chiu Phillips to discuss her work "Entertain".