5 Must-See Public Art Displays in San Diego

San Diego has always been an art-loving city, but it’s no secret that funding, city approval, and location have been issues for a long time. The public art displays in San Diego are constantly changing – locations, type, mediums – and some exhibits have even been put together by the community to make certain neighborhoods a more aesthetically beautiful place. If you’ve ever seen a painted over square box on the side of the street in Ocean Beach or downtown, you’ve witnessed public art in action; the utility box project is a great example of community art, and proves the San Diego locals’ commitment to beautifying our city. Though funding and initiative has fluctuated, public art displays in just the past few years have blossomed and breathed life into the Bay, Embarcadero, and port areas of our beautiful city.

1. Tweet Street Urban Bird Houses

public art displays in san diego

Tweet Street is an outdoor bird park designed to house birds displaced by downtown development. Upscale bird residences were created under strict regulations by wildlife experts to ensure the health and safety of specific downtown birds. The homes needed to be visually pleasing and crafted with proper ventilation and scale for nesting boxes. The park will feature a plethora of plants to feed and attract local birds and educational graphics and a viewing area for children. The birdhouses are currently installed at Tweet Street Park on Cortez Hill downtown – 9th Avenue & Date Street, San Diego 92101.

2. Pacific Portal

public art displays in san diegoPacific Portal, whose namesake comes from its location near the entrance of the San Diego Bay channel that leads to the Pacific Ocean, is a gathering spot for picnics and other community events. The structure replaced the wooden gazebo that had stood at the same location for the previous 27 years; it now stands 24 feet tall and has a width of 29 feet, providing plenty of space for various events or just sitting down and relaxing underneath its mosaic tile ceiling. It’s built completely from steel reinforced concrete and features beautifully tiled pathways, colorful mosaics, and unique architecture. You can check out the Portal for yourself; just head down to Shelter Island in Point Loma, south of Shelter Island Drive towards Shoreline Park. 

SEE ALSO: The Stuart Collection at UCSD.

3. Surfhenge

public art displays in san diego“Surfhenge” is one of the largest colored acrylic moldings in the world and consists of four 16-20 foot high surfboard shaped arches, weighing up to three-quarters of a ton each. Alluding to giant surfboards stuck in the sand, the huge colored shapes of Surfhenge pay homage to the proud surfing heritage of Imperial Beach. It and the refurbished I.B. Pier Plaza were dedicated in July 18, 1999, as the newest signature landmark on Port of San Diego tidelands. The sculpture is located at 10 Evergreen Avenue (Seacoast Dr.), Imperial Beach 91932. 

4. “Coming Together”

“Coming Together” is a ceramic and mirror mosaic sculpture that depicts a human face divided in half, with one side mirrored and the other side multicolored to represent the duality of the self. The sculpture rises 38 feet above a plaza at the south end of the expanded Convention Center. The artist, Niki de Saint Phalle, is well known for her giant and whimsical mosaic figures. She has a sculpture Magic Circle Garden in Escondido and has works as part of the Stuart Collection at UCSD, as well as collections throughout Balboa Park and the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art. “Coming Together” is located at 8th Avenue & Harbor Drive at the Convention Center in San Diego. 


5. Green Flash Sculpture

One of the more scientific pieces of art out there, this sculpture pays homage to the refractive rays of the sun as it sets in the west and disappears into the ocean. Before it makes that final drop, it is said that a distinct green flash appears. These flashes of light are very real and are seen both at sunrise and sunset when a part of the sun suddenly changes color.

The word ‘flash’ refers to the sudden appearance and brief spurt of green color. The bright colors of the sculpture represent the atmospheric refraction of sunlight, and pay tribute to the beautiful oceans that surround us. To see if you can witness the famed Green Flash, head over to the 3100 block of Ocean Front Walk in Mission Beach. You can’t miss it!

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