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5 San Diego and Tijuana Artists Who Inspired Us in 2023

These visionary locals helped spark our creativity this year—and they’re just getting started
Maxx Moses, muralist
Photo Credit: Mateo Hoke

More than 40 artists, musicians, and authors graced the pages (and digital spaces) of SDM this year. Their stories are further proof of what we already knew: Though major players like LA and NYC may get most of the art world buzz, our region’s creative community is making big moves and expanding its reach well beyond the enclaves of San Diego and Tijuana.

We tapped five of our favorite local artists to recap the past year and give us a sneak peak of what they’ll be doing in 2024. Get ready for a wealth of exhibitions, album releases, and art workshops from these innovative movers and shakers

Maxx Moses

The work of legendary muralist Maxx Moses graced more than our February cover this year—the graffiti artist also created a new library card for New Yorks’ Yonkers Public Library in celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary and painted two murals in southeast San Diego (stop by the Orchard at Hilltop apartments to see ’em), in addition to landing an arts grant from the city of SD. Next year, he’ll take on projects and host workshops in Encanto’s emerging Black Arts & Culture District.

Monica Arreola

Arreola runs Tijuana gallery 206 Arte Contemporanio with her sister Melisa, where they mount compelling exhibitions like 2023’s BRAKE AND TAKE OFF, prototypes for failure by Mexican artist Omar Khâlid. An artist herself, Arreola will show her work at Logan Heights gallery Best Practice in March and April of next year. Visitors to 206 Arte Contemporanio can also expect exhibits centering four young Baja innovators in 2024.

Julianna Zachariou

Musician Julianna Zachariou “laid low this year,” she says, because of her recent nuptials. But her taking-it-easy seems to be other folks’ full-speed-ahead: the multi-instrumentalist opened for Maroon 5 collaborator Rozzi on her west coast tour, backed indie rocker Blondshell on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, nabbed a San Diego Music Award nod (and a spot on our roundup of local artists we were listening to), and embarked on a tour of her own. She’ll record her third album in the summer of 2024.

Enrique Chiu

Enrique Chiu is no stranger to community collaboration—the Tijuana artist has been painting murals on the international border wall with the help of local families for 18 years. He continued partnering with others in 2023, painting 17 schools alongside young students and participating in 24 group exhibitions (plus, he opened six galleries, mounted eight solo shows, and completed more than 50 murals throughout Mexico).

Chiu already has a full schedule for 2024, with plans to adorn 24 more schools and launch four more exhibitions, including one in Madrid, Spain. He’ll also accept a Person of the Year award from the nonpartisan sociopolitical opinion group Madrugadores de Tijuana. 

Topeka Clementine

Kai Simovich shone as one of our 75th anniversary cover models, but the 24-year-old Oceanside resident typically spends more time behind a mic than in front of a camera. In October, Simovich and fellow locals Lana Segi, Lijah Anderson, Dylan Alvarado, James Doll, Justice Guevara, and Marrow Bones released their debut album as Topeka Clementine, a jazz-pop group. They’re at work on their sophomore record, so look out for more tunes (and possibly a tour) in 2024.

By Amelia Rodriguez

Amelia Rodriguez is San Diego Magazine’s Associate Editor. The 2023 winner of the San Diego Press Club's Rising Star Award, she’s covered music, food, arts & culture, fashion, and design for Rolling Stone, Palm Springs Life, and other national and regional publications. After work, you can find her hunting down San Diego’s best pastries and maintaining her three-year Duolingo streak.

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