By Jess Winans
After three years as the largest artist collective in San Diego, Creative Crossroads is transferring ownership.
Aimee Baca founded Creative Crossroads in 2015 after graduating from the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) with a degree in fine arts and an emphasis in printmaking.
She began her art career by selling dreamcatchers on the street when she was 17 years old to pay her way through college.
“I used to take eucalyptus branches and bend them into a circle and I would weave the web and put feathers underneath it,” Baca said. “I had so many dreamcatchers you couldn’t see my ceiling in my dorm room, so I put them all in a suitcase by downtown Santa Cruz and I sat on the sidewalk.
“From that experience, I learned that you are in control of the wealth that you want,” she continued. “Dreaming is the first step. Having a dream, and then setting that intention turns into action and action turns into results.”
Baca’s dream took her to new heights, and her collective was the longest standing business to occupy the storefront at 502 University Ave. in the past 15 years.
While her business was thriving, Baca’s health, as well as the health of her mother, took a turn for the worse. Working 12-14 hours a day, Baca began suffering from kidney problems. Shortly after, her mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
“Do what you love but don’t let it destroy you. I want entrepreneurs to know that there’s help out there and that they have to be open to receiving it,” Baca said. “The reason why I got sick so fast is because there were so many people out there who wanted to help me, but I wouldn’t receive the help.
“I wanted to take their help and form this vision collectively, but I didn’t know how to do it,” she continued. “[Creative Crossroads] was my baby and I wanted to take part in that vision. Letting go of my baby and letting it evolve to multiple visions is probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do — that letting go.”
Baca plans to stay in the collective as one of the 70 featured artists. Under the new leadership of Dawn Wesalo, it is being rebranded as Calypso Collective.
Baca connected with Wesalo in July 2018 when Wesalo began selling her glass art at Creative Crossroads. A few months after, Baca asked other artists in the collective via email if someone could run the store for her that day so she could take care of some errands, and Wesalo offered to help.
“I have owned two retail business in the past, women’s clothing and accessories, and I sold those,” Wesalo said. “Then I was in radio for 16 years in marketing. One day I came in here and I really loved the store, the customers, the neighborhood and the artists and it [becoming the new owner] just happened — I don’t even know how it happened honestly.”
Wesalo began her career as glass artist five years ago, working first with stained glass and later moving into fuse glass.
“I always wanted to do it. I went to an art show [when] we lived in Virginia, and there was this guy there who had a beautiful glass flamingo almost as tall as me,” she said. “It was just gorgeous. I looked at it and was like, ‘One day I want to do that.’”
Now as the owner and operator of Calypso Collective, Wesalo plans to recruit more artists to the collective and hold DIY-type workshops.
“We’re here for the neighborhood and we wanna be here,” Wesalo said. “I love the customers and I love meeting all the people that are here and we just want to be a good neighbor to everybody here.”
The change in ownership comes during a transitional time for the Hillcrest arts community. In 2018, the Hillcrest Town Council launched an arts committee, and North Park’s The Studio Door moved into a vacant retail spot on Fourth Avenue.
“Hillcrest and the arts are starting to thrive now, and artists should be brave,” Baca said. “They should ask themselves ‘What would you do if you couldn’t fear?’”
For Baca and Wesalo, transferring ownership of Creative Crossroads was doing just that.
—Reach Jess Winans at firstname.lastname@example.org