On a Thursday night in Barrio Logan, a red glow emanates from inside a black warehouse. A lively crowd spills onto the sidewalk, people glancing over shoulders toward the rhythmic, busy clashing of the three piece group called Skate Jazz.The scene feels at once inviting and secretive. Logan Avenue is generally otherwise quiet and casual by sundown, but the studio is alive. It’s a scene. Studio Sessions—a new jazz series at the Future Is Color Studio—is the reason.What was formerly a warehouse storage space is now bringing an eclectic crowd to the heart of Barrio Logan every Thursday night. The idea, said founder Erwin Hines, is to bring San Diego’s creative community together and provide a space for exchange and conversation.“Our jazz nights have the scene kids, have people from north county, have people from the south bay,” Hines said. “It has all of these people from disparate groups in one space and congregating in a neighborhood that maybe they wouldn’t have come to before.”Future Is Color Studio got its start in 2020 after Hines started designing graphic t-shirts as a way to process his emotions following the police killing of George Floyd. The shirts were flying off the shelves—Hines sold more than 6,000 in a few days—and he realized he had struck a chord with community members.Hines named the project Future Is Color, or FIC, borrowing the name from a cultural education program his sister started in Ohio. The brand’s mission is to promote cultural progress through dialogue, empathy, clothing, and now, weekly jazz.The focus on jazz music is intentional, Hines said. “[Jazz] comes from Black culture and it’s a dialogue in and of itself,” Hines said. “The musicians and the instruments having an intimate dialogue in real time and just jamming with one another.”
That musical dialogue is something that spoke to Kamau, a hardware engineer from Chicago who recently moved to Hillcrest and attended his first Studio Sessions. Kamau remembers Skate Jazz played covers of his favorite songs from Cortex, a frequently-sampled French jazz trio. It was the first time he’d seen that music played live.“It’s just really cool to see people interact with the music in a live setting,” Kamau said. “Like an experiment, it’s exciting.”Inside the warehouse where Skate Jazz plays, sometimes accompanied by a singer or saxophonist, there’s hardly a seat or space to stand unoccupied. Gatherers softly bob their heads or sway to their winding sets. A red light-up sign bearing the name of the band glows behind them. On an adjacent wall, a looped video projects tantalizing graphics and phrases like “Move in love” that come from Hines’ own designs.So far, the turnout has been much more than Hines expected. They planned for 30 people at their first show, but they’ve never had a show with less than 150. “I’m shook, I’m deeply shook,” Hines said.Since they’ve started the series, Hines said the surrounding businesses on the block now stay open later. By the end of the show, their block of Logan Avenue is lively with the chatter of the crowd—a burger joint and taco stand on either side feeding the hungry.“This, to me, is what community building really looks like,” Hines said. “When an organization or an institution or a brand is willing to invest into something that is free for people to enter, free for people to engage in, and can be this cultural entry point into the larger community.”While working as a graphic designer in San Diego, Hines noticed how young creatives sometimes overlooked San Diego for other cities like New York and LA. He said the community here lacked free spaces for artists to gather, but not for lack of local talent.“As I began to really think about what the creative community was in San Diego, I realized that it’s not just for traditional creatives,” Hines said. “We have amazing biotech. We have amazing community activists. We have amazing artists, dancers, all these people from all these disparate backgrounds but everybody was operating and functioning in silos.”Studio Sessions and other projects associated with the FIC became a way for Hines to sustain the creative community and connect artists in new spaces for inspiration, collaboration and companionship. The event’s uniqueness is something that spoke to many in attendance. Several attendees commented on how FIC’s jazz nights feel one-of-a-kind, almost sacred. They describe it as “optimistic,” “fresh” and “accessible.”
Cecil Horton, a San Diego native who runs a PR and influencer marketing agency, said jazz nights at FIC are “exactly what we need for our city.”“It is casual as it is electric. It feels like you’re on the streets of Portugal, chain-smoking a cigarette on cobblestone streets.”Horton first went to Studio Sessions in its third week and he’s been a regular since. For him, it’s a place to connect with likeminded creative people. It’s also where he can see friends from all across San Diego commingling in the same space.“I see my friends that I grew up with in Point Loma running into other friends that I’ve met in Southeast San Diego, all of us either cheersing to wine or ice water or Jamaica in the street,” Horton said. “It’s everything we’ve ever hoped for.”In the few short months since its start, Studio Sessions has already expanded its repertoire and its reach. The shows feature additional musicians and even a pop-up in LA.Still, Hines said he doesn’t have any set plans for the project. “I never want to put any weight on it to say it needs to be X, Y and Z in five months, in six months,” Hines said. “Maybe it will be gone, maybe it will have done what it needed to do and then it can go on and move on.”Until then, Studio Sessions happens every Thursday from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the FIC studio at 2060 Logan Ave.