Phil Beaumont and James Brown

Recorded January 21, 2020 Archived January 22, 2020 38:42 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddf000454


Phil Beaumont (52) speaks with his friend James "Jim" Brown (60) about their careers as artists and educators, childhood memories, San Diego's art scene, and the early beginnings of The Children's Museum of San Diego and the Museum School hosted there.

Subject Log / Time Code

JB recalls the original Children's Museum of San Diego in the 1990s, and PB speaks about teaching video classes at the Museum School, hosted by that iteration of the museum.
PB shares memories of teaching project-based work at the Museum School, and JB speaks about the curation practices geared differently towards children: "we forget how inherently intelligent kids are."
JB speaks about bringing people together through Bread & Salt, his gallery and education space.
PB and JB speak about the way opportunities alone can make a difference for people. They discuss PB being in a band, and how this changes his students' perception of adulthood and dreams.
JB and PB recalls people who gave them opportunities early in their careers, and those who influenced them.
They discuss "cross-fertilization" of culture between San Diego and Tijuana, and the neighbor-ship of the two cities. JB speaks about his work on the border Friendship Park and its history.
PB speaks about the privilege of traveling, and they discuss the importance of "making things."
They speak about "playing" freely as children with unstructured time, and discuss their favorite pieces at the museum.


  • Phil Beaumont
  • James Brown

Recording Location

The New Children's Museum

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:01 My name is Phil Beaumont and I am a whopping 52 years old is January 21st 2020. I'm at the new Children's Museum in San Diego, California, and I'm going to do an interview with my friend Jim Brown today.

00:17 My name is Jim Brown. I'm 60 years of age. Today's date is January 21st, 2024 in the new children's museum. I'm here with my friend Phil Beaumont.

00:33 So Jim, I have a question for you. Just to kick off the NFL. How did you get involved with the Children's Museum?

00:40 I was a young architect. It was the mid-eighties. I'm sorry. It was a mid-90s and our firm was invited to participated in installation here. It wasn't the new children's museum. Then it was the original is a warehouse at the time. It was before that the new that the that the new change and it was a fantastic opportunity for an architect whose practice was based in the Arts. My company is called public architecture. So me and my partner the time Jim gates in our whole crew of publicans as we called ourselves not Republicans have to work on this really exciting project for the children's museum in Atlanta to a lot of other things over the years a lot of other installs a lot of art based architectural interventions that we've been doing until are doing for this day. And I think that carries through is what you do as far as reaching out in the community. Yeah, it's nice. It's nice to have a very practice.

01:39 Both in our architecture and then the other stuff that we do that orbits architecture such as owning a gallery doing various things out in the world working at Friendship Park us Mexican border really important project. Now a brand new project we're doing is working on it school for Mystic us students in Tijuana will be doing that in conjunction with a Harvard Graduate School of Design in San Diego State. So all of these projects that aren't typical architectural projects are all part of that that kind of that orbit. How about you? How did you get involved with this Museum? I was a teacher at just a relatively new teacher three years in and I was teaching at

02:25 A very nice School up in Kearny Mesa. It was kind of a school with their 1200 kids at the time. So 61 teachers and it was great to begin with but I I I was lucky enough to get my job in the year that they did what they called class size reduction. And so I was assigned to that school and it was a nice cool and and with Union rules and everything you had, you know, you were supposed to go through this whole process to get a job at various schools, but I just got a sign there. So unfortunately that kind of led to some other folks in the union going after a couple of positions. So

03:05 It was a great school. I got kind of disenchanted with the larger system of of of a disc of a large district. And so after 3 years, I was kind of I'm not sure if the education is where I want to be and I put in for a leave of absence on a Thursday was the last Thursday of March. I remember and then two days later. I got a random call a guy named Carl Herman's in healing with the old Children's Museum team had started a public charter school called the museum school, and he asked if you'd heard that I was doing video in theater with kids in school until he asked me to come in and see about maybe teaching with him at the school and it

03:56 Completely change my direction, you know, I was probably going to take a year off and probably not come back to teaching fun Venture off into some other world, but it recorded me when we talked about what the school could be. It was literally within the galleries of the museum and the opportunity to potentially work with somebody like yourself on projects and having kids experience. That was a really exciting means of Education to me. So

04:32 He he persuaded me not to go travel around the world in and just try this out for a couple years and now it's been 20 years learning environment before the kids. Also an incredible Byron place for someone like yourself. Yeah for any educator to be able to give them the the freedom to explore ideas in a with the guidance of young we've got to hit these standards and we've got to teach this this and that but there's lots of ample opportunities to come up with different methods of doing that. You know, I remember teaching a video class down in the what we called the dungeon the basement of the museum at the time and there was that there was a half of a car down there. That was a Remnant from an exhibit a car was a Remnant from that exhibit in the mid-90s from that first exhibit that I was associated with what I remember that thing.

05:32 So we put a couple kids in the back of that car and and shook the car as they were traveling down. I know a Dusty Road in Africa and then we'd have like green screen behind them. And so they look out of the window and see in a we put images of giraffes are what not. And that was our way of having the kids do the research on the animals, but then presented in in in a fun and interesting way it was and so to be able to do that and teaching that kind of format for me. Not only kept me in education bit.

06:08 Helps develop the museum School NetSpend sort of the foundation of of how we do things here and do a lot of project-based work with kids, too.

06:19 Hopefully answer that question of why am I learning this without ever asking the question, you know?

06:29 It's amazing thing that the museum does here with their with respect to the kind of the way that they introduce juice kids to learning hear the idea that they're they're selecting practicing well-known artists from both within the community and around the nation to come here and do work that perhaps is to keep the young kids to come here. They can grab the first two or three runs of that works. To understand part of it some of the concepts maybe they just attracted to the color shirt or the activity at first but it goes the thing I love about it so much that the museum is that there's so many other layers on top of that that then this the the kids can make one by one with some education in with more with Hands-On involvement can start to understand over the years with their parents in the facilitators. He'll help and in this case with the with the mute the school being located in the same.

07:29 Really exciting idea. It's but it's in a week. We forget how just inherently intelligent kids are sometimes and so it should be able to just plant the seed with them and and and let them run with some ideas. I let you know of course with guidance has it's the wonderful things.

07:51 What what did you do with the school after after that?

07:55 So, you know the school was initially within the museum and then we had to move up to.

08:05 Bealls

08:19 Do you want to talk about that. What the school did after that? Maybe you don't care? You don't maybe he's not part of this.

08:30 What are you what are you what do you see the school doing in the next 20 in the next decade in 2020 we can go back to what I was going to say. I think that was so that the school was initially within the walls of the museum and then we moved up to a place where we are now been Bankers Hill, which is really close to Balboa Park.

08:52 As you knowing

08:55 Through a long story that there was a separation from the the the school and and the museum itself, which I think was a great learning process for both organizations for us as a school, you know, having grown and in being born within the walls of a of a museum

09:18 It allowed us to learn that what we're doing and what we're doing with kids can happen anywhere.

09:25 And that was really important for us to kind of getting that confidence within our program itself. But then also we were now conveniently located to near Balboa Park where there's more museums and so do we were born as a museum school week we retain that name because I think we became more of a museum school, you know, our kids can walk 20 to 25 minutes to many institutions. Only in Balboa Park, but now we know that we extend that to lots of different institutions in San Diego to our kids go on field trips weekly and I think that's really important things that real good attraction in is good leverage for kids to you know, when they know that okay, we're going to do all the all the boring subjects will do know they're not but they know that there's something after that that they're going to be applying that I think that's

10:20 So we've stayed as a small school, but and I think will continue to do that because I think there's a lot of value in that as well.

10:30 You know one thing I think about for you Jimmy you kind of alluded to it earlier is

10:37 The orbits that you have created or have naturally occurred throughout your work in architecture, but also branching out into other things, I think something and got them really proud of you for you and I thought I'd mention it before and other times has your ability to bring people together.

11:00 Is

11:03 It's a wonderful wonderful gift that you have for this community. I wonder if you ever think about that.

11:11 Intentionally or is that something that you just pair Folks up or find natural accomplices or conspirators or ever thought about it? Exactly like that, but maybe an example I do I run again at my wife and I Isabel do trail running a gallery in Logan Heights called bread and salt it's a collection of galleries event space instructional Studios and they are we bought this building a large building like 60,000 square foot lot with a 45000 square-foot Hawking building on it. That was empty and I had my office up in there and without a real plan of what to do with it. But and what happened was we we just we had a couple people in mind there was a group called The Athenaeum that did instruction Studios. We invited them in that. Hey you want to teach when I teach adults and kids art? Come on Inn.

12:09 And then one by one we created bread and salt just one kind of one outstanding and two tier one outstanding artist person at a time. And so it was planning but in a way it was it was curated slowly just once one step at a time and I think that to a great degree. The reason that we have any success is because we didn't Russia we didn't put out a sign saying for rent and just take every single per day that applied we went out and we asked specific people to come in in the building was only have pulled over in a couple years and one by one by one now after 9 years and I think we're only I think we're only Full Tilt about now, but everybody everybody that's in their contribute. It's in a really meaningful way. And I think we have a good connection with the San Diego art community. We have an excellent connection with the new children's museum. In fact

13:09 Right now as of January 21st, but Paola Villasenor Ponca really well-known your list from Tijuana, San Diego region. She's the artist in Residence here at the Museum and she'll be having your second solo show at bread and salt starting February 8th should be up for three months. So those kind of synchronicities. I'm I didn't I should mention them on the board at the new children's museum as well as on the board a couple years and I've seen first-hand that the way that they kind of comport themselves. They handle the artists always striving to get a little bit better and better each year. It's an amazing organization. I think I think bread and salt is a pretty amazing organization too. And I mean not to just sit here and Pat each other at the tattoo on the back, but The Residency program that you have has developed or provided a space and Stage for so many local.

14:09 Artists that have you grown from that and the rattle, it's ya it must be for you. It is a threat over the years. I've gotten pretty young art artists right out of school, but maybe some artists don't go to school. That's fine. But then you watch him develop and doesn't take long for them to catch fire and have shows at the Contemporary Museum in town. You know, if they if they show if they've got the goods and the exhibit at they work hard and we that's the one thing we have the artist in Residence come here and spend every waking hour that you've got. This is your chance and one chance in life. But the more you take it on the more you get hardcore with it yet. You'll be amazed at the results in it. What you say is true. We had a lot of artists in Residence of gone on so that shows all over the city and out of the city. So it's like three or four of those San Diego Art prize nominees reitnouer.

15:09 We have to order some residency programs now wonder bread and salt and we have a new one at this place called Seaport Village and Griselda roast us who is an incredibly emerging artist out of Tijuana is at the seaport Studios right now. She's preparing for solo shows at the Oceanside Museum of Art is coming up next month. Then she's preparing for solo show at the Contemporary Museum. So usually artist-in-residence were only given like two or three months since she's at Seaport sessions just cranking like everyday getting ready for those are really important shows and what's cool about that is is there

15:49 Folks were then.

15:51 Diving into different ways of doing their work.

15:55 That's what I've seen from the artist-in-residence such a place as you know, it's it's an opportunity to be in a new space a new mental or physical space as well. But then try something new and yes, I think about him. We have a curator at bed and salt and Tom Thomas Demello really gifted artist in his own right who started as the artist-in-residence her mother are these four Dudes are product called ice Gallery in town cuz they're really under the radar at first installation Gallery. They started up this the space but then it became really powerful after a couple years in this one little space in a neighborhood called NorthPark like two blocks from where I live and they are getting kicked out of their place and my wife and I is about we go by there and see their installations and just loving it. You didn't know anything about the guys that did it was just see these this piece up in the window at night and we learned come to learn that they're being evicted and we just hate would you guys there any

16:55 You just come we have this new building. There's parley anyone and it was just like open a studio in there and do your thing and I don't like who are you? Is there something wrong with you? Why you asking is this we don't trust you, but they end up coming and they were our first major show. I spread out all over the building and did stunning stunning work and Ice calories is there to this day and it's been really really successful in North really important artists coming out of there and Tom Tom dibella, which is one of the one of the guys he was a preparator at the Contemporary Museum now is his day job to make money as an artist and we asked if he could come to Bread & salt which is a big cut in status believe me being a prepared her that you do at the Contemporary Museum in coming to bed and salt for we said if you come here you would be prepared her of course, but it also be curator.

17:50 So would you do it and he did it as a great great curator?

17:57 But that I mean again, that's kind of tying into what I was talking about earlier. As far as you give somebody the opportunity to explore and develop things there going to be more invested in that, you know, rather than just preparing someone else's work. This is allowed I think Tom and not only Tom but everybody that's walked into bread and salt get the opportunity to kind of become part of it in a way. I think that I'd said think that something that I feel that way you guys should be really proud of that in that they were part of a big community in your gear part of that Community to your school's had your yearly fundraiser rims on 4Runner known for 3 for 5 years running.

18:45 What up? What are you doing? I'm curious. What are your students a&n? Also your faculty and the students parents. Do they know you're you're in a band.

18:56 A lot of them know I'm in a band. I don't advertise it. I don't know why I try to keep it separate just because it's just a good idea. I'll round I kind of spiritually in but yeah, I know it's I think you know when I first

19:16 Sat down to talk to Karl Hermann to as the initial director the museum school. I told him I was in a band and that if you know by Toro came up, I'd like to do it and his response was I would love for you to do that. Let's make sure that that happens and then that next December I we were able to go tour in Europe for two weeks and

19:41 I left him his response. Not only personally but the idea was wouldn't it be great. If our students saw that you were doing this or that right that you shouldn't be confined to this is your role but people can do.

19:57 More than one thing on and it should be doing more than one thing. And so I've carried that for not only with the way I approach my work but also with our staff and in an instant, so if there's project we want to help, you know Foster that but yeah, it's pretty exciting. I think for some of the kids to find out then I mean the band's not big but for them to hear we went on tour in Japan and that gets kids excited and night 9, but I'm able to take it you can do that too. I got a mention of the band called the color 49 + 40 + thing up there and check it out.

20:49 Spoken word about talk about is there anybody in your life that you remember giving you that sort of opportunity?

21:10 I feel like I've been given that opportunity many many times by mentors. I've had in my life a couple a couple Architects that I work for Peter Eisenman in New York. I am Ted Smith in San Diego and specially test meth in both these guys. Well Peter Eisenman famous around the world Ted Smith is such an Innovative Brilliance Architects thinker urbanest cohousing expert that a lot of people around the nation don't know but should know and he he gave me incredible design jobs. Just a lot of freedom is a young newt New graduates. They sit down at this desk in and take a crack at designing this, you know, peace of this thing. I'm working on and then letting it letting it stand. I was just amazed that like I would could have an idea like you would say. Okay, let's do that to go really wait a minute Nola. I don't really know how to do this, but he was really kind of an open person smell that.

22:10 And I've had many many many people give me chances over the years. I feel like and I I I really take a great deal of joy and giving other people chances and I like doing it try and figure out ways to do it like you can in his kind of fun opening a gallery cuz you can invent all sorts of ways to do that. And right people in the right just takes a little man Nation relay.

22:38 For me, I think.

22:42 Carl Herman who was the first director of the museum school had a real big impact on my life. I think he was just a very calm open guy. He he came into education late had been a conductor for the San Diego Symphony another symphonies.

23:00 So he had a background in The Yards, but he

23:06 Just watching him by example as a very calm.

23:11 Open minded individual that said okay. How do we get this done? You know, how do we do this and posing that question all the time to everybody in the room was I really think informative an instructive for me as well and

23:32 I only worked with him for three years, but

23:36 It's not often I think about who who I don't need a real strong impact on there. But Carl is a really solid wonderful individual at that. I always think of what I was thinking.

23:50 Because the other guy can think of my dad my dad had a really big impact in I think my work ethic mostly by making me do chores at like 8 a.m. On a Sunday because he was always a very quiet man really hard-working guy always did all of his work and and much much more and I think I I think I probably emulate him more than anyone else. He's the person I think of but I take after my dad. He was a great great guy. Yeah, my father I would say he and I were somewhat at odds growing up, you know often think of myself as the nothing the black sheep in the family, but

24:38 I was very often and had to be rained in more and more than certainly in my brother's I believe in but no more more. I I think and thank him for that sort of straight guidance that he was always preaching, you know.

24:56 And it's interesting to kind of be later in life to think about that the impact that.

25:03 Earlier on you hated, you know or you you fought against but just how important that is now and has been but you're always considered kicking against it as a little rebellious Punk. Whatever you thought you knew you were in might be going to it's it's it's something that I value extremely now both him and my mom as well, but

25:35 You're pretty lucky. I wear I think we're very lucky to live in this region also right at the corner right at the edge of Tijuana San Diego and the vibrancy that were able to take part in because of that the cross fertilization and it's it's it's it's an amazing power that you get from from that. Yeah, I think of San Diego, you know, when people ask me what's San Diego like I say, it's nice. I think the word nice is just the perfect word for San Diego. It's not super exciting. It's the weather is nice that people are nice, you know, if you want to do big things that maybe not the place for you, but it's nice and the and you can do what you want to do here and then and

26:23 You know, I thought about moving away from this town many a time and realized how get the things I do want to do you can do here but I do think in the month more recent years, which kept me excited about San Diego is Tijuana and what a wonderful neighbor we have and what a Vibrant Community that is in, you know, I like to be an ambassador for the for the for the town and as you do our take people down there as as often as possible to a note to show them they mean a lot of people have fear of of it and wouldn't have food in the wine and the art that's coming out of that region is amazing second to none in a good spot where I think we're really like it be in this geographic location at this moment this moment in time. It's it's stimulating.

27:19 So you've been involved with Friendship Park? Yeah, I've been before me more about in 2009. I was selected for a good career fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. It called the love fellowship and while awake I thought I was the one year Fellowship. I would study at what I thought could be a stimulating project aboard city a city on both sides of the border and as I got into it and I'm preparing some drawings when I was at the GSD in the meantime border patrol have built a second wall sit down. There were two fences in my sight was at this place called Friendship Park. I didn't know they're there was only one while when I left and it 2009 when I returned they were too and I've done a bunch of preliminary more artistic expressions of what a border City might be at that location really beautiful location. Is that because we're border me as I do Pacific Ocean.

28:16 Yeah it this the work was it displayed at the Contemporary Museum?

28:20 And I was approached by this group that said hey with it this group called The friend's our friendship Park. Where is when the border patrol built this second wall it cut off a really important meeting space where people that didn't have the proper documentation could go up to the fence and have picnics see their grandkids for the first time people come from all over the US and all over Latin America to this one historic spot and border patrol closed it. So they asked me to join them and weak to we've been advocating fighting coercing mostly losing trying to maintain access to this really important meeting place on the border and it's gotten worse over the last couple years since the current Administration is coming to power it's been harder to have these meetings about this is the 50th Anniversary. Now this coming year of Friendship Park then a republican Pat Nixon Richard Nixon's wife.

29:20 Created the name Friendship Park in when she came to Friendship Park 50 years ago. She instructed the Secret Service to cut the barbed wire. There's only barbed wire then and she they cut the wire and she and her Entourage walked into Tijuana shaking hands saying we hope there's not a fence here that much longer now look where we are now, like what should be our closest friends and Mexico are closest allies. What what needs to be our closest that close at the Allies have been estranged from a so, I've been working lately on a by National Park design, which will be releasing this coming year on that on the anniversary of the 50th anniversary of Friendship Park an important project and I believe it'll be built in our lifetimes. It's that it's that obvious. We need it that we do done.

30:16 I think Jim that's just a perfect example of that coming back to it again of.

30:26 Bringing people together

30:29 In

30:34 It's it's it's a it's a true gift.

30:37 Two to be able to do that and I've often feel very privileged in my I have a privileged young man about 52 years old and somewhat maybe quivel with that but

30:50 I've been

30:52 Very privileged throughout my life to be able to travel and live where I am able to live.

30:58 In

31:02 I also feel.

31:05 That is important because of that privilege to do what I can to help the community.

31:12 Do you ever feel a sense of?

31:17 Need to do that or obligation to do that or do you feel it's just a very natural thing for you.

31:25 It feels like a natural extension of a work. Anyway, I mean for many years I when I was just an architect I could say just an architect. That's a full-time job, but for many years for 30 years, I didn't do anything other than and then architecture and I was very fulfilled by it. But then others other things out of the other opportunities come up when you had help you want to help others and yeah, it's kind of strange that now more than half. My time is spent on pro bono social projects that don't involve you do during drawings and in writing invoices for them. So you prefer that though. It's very stimulating life and it's a very varied life instead of just one thing. I do five or six different things reached just recently I started teaching at San Diego State in the interior architecture Department. That's an incredible school that has such potential for the future cuz it's a in the Art and Design department is a craft.

32:25 You can call it a crap school. It has printmaking it has a lottery it has interior architecture as a graphic design. It has woodworking. Is there an app that is there an app for that? But this is firmly believe this is this is something that we need to put like on the front burner. We need to make things again and it's really really stimulating for me to be a part of that plus it's kind of fun to do new things. All the time has to wade into it and jumped into it the great way to practice. I know that's how the Community Builders were making big progress in the city 2

33:07 It in the field of housing affordable housing continues to be a bit concerned but San Diego and California has changed the laws around to make it easier to make a fordable housing that it's going to get better in the future. So I stay a simple thing like the granny flat ordinance allowing people to have little secondary houses behind their primary house in 20 years that's going to make a amazing difference in the homelessness ratio is going to going to help tremendous amount the small things all at up. Yeah. Sorry to hear that it would take 20 years cuz it's an immediate concern. But yeah, but this the world moves slowly like that, doesn't it?

34:03 Did the way that you played?

34:05 When you were a kid, what kind of things did you do when your kid has probably I was a quiet kid. I was more of a solitary. I think I might I mean we did we played like crazy and we are just sent outside and we were just weren't at home. We weren't at home from the minute. We got home from school until we had to come in and eat and you know, we got called in for dinner and then back and then we go back out again and just stayed out late until it's time for bed time. We weren't giving anything. We just played amongst ourselves, but I I think I tend to be more about a loaner person then then a group person that that was my that was my default. You know, I'd rather just like go off and do my own thing. What would you like?

34:55 It was pretty similar, but you know that the rule was come back when the street lights come on and or around dinner time. We all have always seemed to know what that was, but

35:08 You know, I think the opportunity to to run into the woods and and find something to do and create.

35:17 These worlds

35:21 Was a gift, you know.

35:26 And how did it help me where I am today? I don't know exactly but you know, I think that

35:36 I want to hear when you mentioned that you were maybe more of a solitary kid. I wonder what is solitary kid. How is solitary kid would have that would manifest in play nowadays and it seems to be, you know, maybe a bit more confined with her and digital device and I'm worried about that for four young'uns. Yeah.

36:02 Yeah, there's a distinct difference between probably a solitary kid out out in the world in a solitary get in his in his bedroom playing on a handheld device.

36:12 But that's you know, that was my reality. I was your reality and the reality for the kid now is who's to say it's wrong, you know it is it is it my position to say that that's not the way it should be you all have our biases and then to be able to say that it's easy to say, but it might be just fine. I don't know.

36:35 I do worry, though.

36:38 It's nice then to think about museums like this one that

36:43 Allow kids a space to frolic and play and as you said, you know, maybe get on that first or second round of the ladder to be able to climb and jump off of an idea and think of the artist. I've had hair like, you know, some of my favorite pieces here Marcos for men s at a his Trojan Horse was in his head in this Museum and that is a significant piece of art and in the world that was this the guy that gets was about 10 years ago or so that and a roll the Trojan Horse up to the Border by man to have that here in the museum. And then one of my favorites was Ernie Silva's rain house is and I think a lot differently than adults like for me going into Ernie's Silva's rain house. It's just all these memories come flooding back cuz everyone has a everyone has this record

37:43 Person of pouring rain in that sound and then feeling confined and warm and safe inside the rear for the kids is different. But if that's one of those both of those pieces are just too strong for adults as they are for kids and that's the that's the important Gap that's bridge by this Museum the quality of the artist here are second to none ya and if you can imagine people, you know, that might have been exposed to Eddie then and to see what he's doing now and that you know is it's a smaller bridge for a kid or an adult down to kind of

38:18 Bridge in NM connect with his work. It's it's pretty wonderful.

38:25 So Jim, thanks for taking the time to sit with me and in chat today fell. I really enjoyed it. Thank you very much.