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Meet ICA San Diego’s 2024 NextGen Artists

The institute's annual program provides exhibition opportunities and professional development to seven local grads
Courtesy of ICA San Diego

You can see much of the art world’s past in Balboa Park. The San Diego Museum of Art, the Mingei International Museum, the Timken—all offer a glimpse at masters both well-known and unsung. The future can be harder to find. 

But sometimes it’s just around the corner. Mere steps from the Mingei on El Prado, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)’s headquarters is uplifting seven of the next big players in the local (and global) art scene. The NextGen program, now in its third year, was designed “to provide much-needed exhibition opportunities for artists who are building their careers in San Diego,” says ICA curator Jordan Karney Chaim. “NextGen focuses specifically on artists graduating from any kind of arts education program.” 

The Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego in Balboa hosting the 2024 NextGen artist exhibit
Courtesy of Balboa Park

That includes MFAs, of course, but graduates from community college and undergraduate programs are also eligible to apply. When they do, their recent work and project proposals go before a jury of top art world professionals—this year’s panel included leaders at the Seattle Art Museum, the Orange County Museum of Art, and LACE, Los Angeles’ longest-running contemporary arts incubator.

“Something I try to remind artists often is that any time you apply to an open call, your work is being seen [by art professionals],” Chaim says. “That’s huge, and our applications are free. No one had to pay for that kind of exposure. It’s never a waste of time to apply.” 

For those who are accepted, the benefits go well beyond exposure. Professional development is a core part of the program. The selected artists will experience an artist statement workshop with HereIn Journal founder Elizabeth Rooklidge, a tour of the Balboa Art Conservation Center, and career chats with established local artists, among other opportunities. It all ties into ICA’s mission to be a stepping stone for emerging artists. 

“We are not the destination. It’s not like you work for 50 years so that one day your work will be shown at ICA San Diego,” Chaim says. “We are a laboratory. We’re a resource. We want to help artists build their careers so that they can get to the next level.” 

Meet ICA San Diego’s 2024 NextGen Artists

Deanna Barahona

A first-generation SoCal artist born in Los Angeles, Deanna Barahona is a recent graduate of UC San Diego’s MFA program. The scrapbook-like playfulness and vibrant color of her mixed-media wall sculptures—family portraits and ephemera screen-printed on ceramic tiles—may initially belie the literal and metaphorical weight that she imparts upon these snippets from her personal archive by using architectural materials.

Santiago Diaz

The only graduate from a bachelor’s program in this year’s cohort, University of San Diego alum Santiago Diaz photographs urban infrastructure, contextualizing the otherwise destabilizing images by displaying them on scaffolding, grates, and other building materials. The result are sculptural pieces that feel simultaneously monumental and unstable—much like landscapes of American cities themselves. 

celeste hernández

Tijuana-born celeste hernández, a recent graduate of her hometown’s Centro de la Imagen photography school, created photo project Las casas perdidas in honor of her uncle Jésus, who died at the age of 20. She combines archival family images and her own analogue work to produce sobering, quietly moving montages that trace the contours of absence and grief


JAX received her MFA from UC San Diego. In her work, tendrils of synthetic hair stretch across ICA Central’s walls, woven through with letters and knick-knacks, celebrating the community, customs, and markers of Black domestic life and femininity. Many of the found objects visible in the exhibition have deep personal significance: eyeglasses that belonged to JAX’s grandmother, notes and gifts from friends.

Marinta Skupin

A South Africa–born artist and alumna of San Diego State’s MFA program, Marinta Skupin considers the ravages of climate change. One massive, multi-paneled painting of the shore is literally diminished by damning data—hundreds of numbers, reflecting months of daily ocean temperature records from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, are laser-cut from the work. 

Chanell Stone

Though she hails from Los Angeles, UC San Diego MFA grad Channell Stone’s photographs capture the natural and agricultural spaces of Mississippi and Louisiana. Powerful and contemplative, the black-and-white images—self-portraits, landscape photos, and detail shots of flora and water—juxtapose motion and stillness, humans and nature to explore the histories and memories of the Black diaspora in America.

Nathan Storey

One could spend hours studying Nathan Storey’s sprawling assemblages. The UC San Diego MFA graduate compiles queer ephemera—clippings from zines and nightclub flyers, among other materials—to build huge collages punctuated with his own photographic works. The patchworked pieces stand in contrast to Storey’s black-and-white text prints, declaring statements that feel simultaneously mournful and blissful.

Images courtesy ICA San Diego and the artists.

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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