Lux Art Institute In Encinitas

Lux Art Institute redefines the museum experience.

Concealed in a lush wildlife preserve in Encinitas lies Lux Art Institute, an innovative art museum in San Diego that allows visitors to see art happen.

Lux alters the standard museum experience by letting visitors see artists’ processes firsthand. This engages people and provides a “link between the visitor and the artwork,” just as the institute’s founding director Reesey Shaw says.

Even for people unfamiliar with the world of art, the artists are a “stepping stone between the visitor and the work,” says Shaw, who considers the process of watching an artist “modeling creativity” to be much more engaging than just seeing the completed piece in a museum.

[Shown above: “Home,” brick furniture designed by Ali Acerol]

In 1998, a group of San Diego area art patrons and philanthropists envisioned something more than a museum—a place where visitors would be directly exposed to the artistic process. The vision began to take shape when Ramona Sahm joined the board as president and donated $1 million in seed money. The founders named the new endeavor Lux, Latin for “light,” and began working to build a facility that would bring international artists to Southern California to realize commissioned works on site and in the public eye.

True to its mission, Lux draws different types of artists from all over the world to live on location and use the facilities to create art. According to Madamba, the artists are “so dynamic, always changing—with someone working in a new medium every time.”

From painters to sculptors, Shaw chooses a wide variety of artists for each season. Past artists have included installation artist Ann Agee, painter Emilio Perez and sculptor Lila Yang, among others.

[Shown above: Artist Residency]

“It’s an art project,” she says of her opportunity to keep up with her favorite artists as well as new, developing artists who have “interesting, sometimes unusual, work.”

But it’s not just the studio art that’s worth seeing. The grounds and architecture of Lux alone are a work of art. As you wind up the hill, native trees, flowers and shrubbery cover five acres in every direction.

The museum’s sharp, cube-like shape stands against the backdrop of natural greenery and the soft, rolling mountainside. Inside the studio, the wall-sized farm door provides fresh air and a great view, allowing visitors to view more than just one-of-a-kind art.

Directly below the studio is the Artist Residency, a living area set aside for the current resident artist. This chic living space comes fully equipped with basics, as well as a computer, laundry facilities and art library. Artists come and go as they please. Some explore the city, hit the beaches or keep their daily schedules, but with 24-hour access to the studio upstairs, there is always time for creativity. The scenic sculpture walk down to the soon-to-be Education Pavilion displays the diverse talents of past artist residencies. Exclusive art is surrounded by lavender, California buckwheat and other native foliage that reaches its peak of fragrance in the spring and summer, according to event coordinator Grace Madamba.

[Shown above: Rick Stich with kids in studio]

Outside the main building stands “Home,” a work of art by Turkish artist Ali Acerol that features a welcome grouping of brick furniture. At the top of the hill, future home of an Artist Exhibition, rests Lux’s own panther, sculpted by a former artist-in-residency. The walk continues with some ceramic birdhouses created from everyday objects like salt and pepper shakers, broken china and old figurines.

At the end of the sculpture walk sits the bright green modular building that has become the favorite classroom to hundreds of students since the museum was established nearly 15 years ago. But Lux staff is eagerly anticipating the 2013 move further down the hill to the new Education Pavilion, equipped with more lecture and studio space, offices, storage and labs.

“We have that bursting-at-the-seams kind of feeling,” says Madamba, who looks forward to the opportunities the extra space brings, such as serving more students through field trips and after-school classes.

[Shown above: Lilia Jang studio exhibit]

While the classes take place in the education pavilion, the studio itself is not an official school. Instead, children and adults watch artists work, and, through their time in residency, artists complete one or more pieces. This gives visitors the chance to learn from a professional, developing their own techniques, picking up pointers or just admiring the skill.

When asked if it is possible to teach creativity, Shaw says: “That’s exactly what we’re doing at Lux.”

If you would like to contribute to Lux’s expansion, or are interested in checking out the new artist-in-residency, visit