Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fired Up and Ready to Go: Interview with Ann Berchtold, Managing Director, San Diego Art Fair

Curiosity drew me to inviting Ann Berchtold for an interview. For three years I have attended the San Diego Contemporary Art Fair, held each September, showcasing contemporary art galleries, art dealers, furniture designers, art labs, and solo artists from around the U.S. and other countries. Having attended several other art fairs and art related trade shows over the years, I have been impressed with San Diego Art Fairs’ unique point of view, lively and engaging weekend long series of events and its celebratory approach to presenting visual art. Ann Berchtold is a savvy businesswoman who sees the importance of creating an ‘art experience’ as a way of capturing the publics’ attention. In 2011, the fair had a record 8,000 visitors, and went from 27 gallery booths in 2009, to the 61 expected in September, 2012 at the Activity Center at Balboa Park.

The title of this year’s fair, “New Art City”, comments on Berchtold’s belief in and enthusiasm for the city of San Diego as an important contemporary art destination. The seeds for San Diego’s first art fair were sown in Miami where Ann first experienced a contemporary art fair. Having been a frequent visitor to Miami during her growing up years, she said she was “blown away and turned on” by what Art Miami did for that city, its growth as a travel destination and art town. She commented “It was a game changer for Miami and if Miami can do, so can San Diego.” Ann came home after Miami and enlisted the support and help of her friend Julie Schraeger, and together they began their research into art fairs, learning ways they could move forward with their vision. During 2007 and 2008, they visited many art fairs around the U.S. learning from the directors of those fairs, while simultaneously doing outreach to the San Diego art community leadership, meeting with civic advisory groups and were able to bring partners and sponsors on board to launch the first San Diego Contemporary Art Fair in September, 2009. Today, the fair has United Bank of Switzerland as their largest sponsor and partner – the same bank that supports Art Basel, considered to be the largest and finest contemporary art fair in the world.
Ann Berchtold is not an artist and what brought her to San Diego was college.  She attended San Diego State University, majoring in Business and Marketing. While in school, Ann worked at Rancho Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe for several years and when she graduated, her boss offered her the job as Catering Director. From there, she moved to San Francisco to the Ritz Carlton where she worked as Catering Director and handled many large special events. Through these jobs, Berchtold honed her skills in logistics, project management and the organization of large complex events. When asked how she developed a passion for the arts, Ann attributes it to her family.  Raised in Michigan, Berchtold is one of four children with three brothers, all of whom, including her parents, are in the arts. She minored in fine art in college and along the way unleashed an entrepreneurial spirit as she brings people, art, and music together.

Ann began her art connection in the San Diego community as director of the L Street Gallery, in the Omni Hotel while developing a website featuring local artists and events. In 2007, she teamed up with Patricia Frischer, to launch the San Diego Art Prize exhibition at the gallery. They were able to obtain a grant for this well received exhibition and the San Diego Art Prize continues as one of the featured events of the San Diego Art Fair.

Over the four years of its existence, the fair has developed a list of thousands of art collectors, and has attracted more and better galleries. This year’s New Art City’s venue is in Balboa Park so that there is a collaboration with the museums and attractions of the park and promises to engage an ever growing audience of support and participation. The fair has moved from the Grand Del Mar to the San Diego Hilton and now hopes it has found a home in Balboa Park. Berchtold is looking towards 2015 which is the centennial celebration of the park and wants the San Diego Art Fair  to be a leading contributor to the events.

Ann Berchtold hopes to build a new kind of art fair – changing it up from a predictable grid-like system of exhibitor booths to showcasing all of what San Diego has to offer uniting artists, musicians, art collectors, sponsors, and partners, together with galleries from around the U.S. and the world. Armed with unbridled optimism, enthusiasm and the creative passion of an entrepreneur, it looks like she will continue to succeed.
For more information about the New Art City Art Fair at Balboa Park taking place September 6 – 9th, please visit

Cathy Breslaw is a southern California visual artist, writer and lecturer who has had over 25 solo exhibitions, and 50 group exhibitions across the country at museums, art centers, college and university galleries and commercial galleries. Her work can be found in many private and corporate collections.
Her work and writing can be seen at:

1 comment:

  1. New Art City. That looks like a really cool venue. I will have to get out there to check it out sometime.