Categories: Mimi Sells, THE BUZZ

 THE BUZZ: ‘Art for Trees’ Campaign Promotes Restoring Downtown’s Tree Canopy

February 8, 2022

By Mimi Sells

Fashionistas – Pelayo “Pete” Garcia

While everyone loves woods and forests, our urban trees simply don’t get much respect.  Or love.  San Diego Artist Pete Garcia is out to change that with “Art for Trees,” a creative fundraiser for Grow Urban, a local tree planting movement.

Grow Urban is a collaboration between the Downtown San Diego Partnership Clean and Safe, a business alliance, and URBAN INTERVENTIONS, a creative placemaking organization co-founded by Garcia.  Since 2019, these two organizations have been collaborating to purchase, plant and protect downtown’s urban forest. “Art for Trees” is a catalog of Garcia’s original paintings which he is offering in exchange for donations to Grow Urban.

“It’s hazardous to be a tree in the city. It’s a battle zone,” said Garcia.

“Urban trees have tremendous environmental, social and economic value to our communities,” Garcia continued. “They also beautify our neighborhoods. Yet they are undervalued and uncared for.”

In 2019, the team identified over 200 missing downtown trees. Since then, they have planted over 250 replacement and additional trees.  This year, Grow Urban is expanding its mission to include inventorying each tree in the community and monitoring their health and growth on an ongoing basis. 

“We realized that we needed to learn more about what trees really take root in our city. It’s not enough to plant a tree, we need to continue to tend them to ensure they thrive,” Garcia said.

Origin of “Art for Trees”

Garcia’s involvement in Grow Urban stems from his early career as a real estate developer, including building the IDEA1 mixed use development in East Village. There, he experienced firsthand the immediate, positive impact of planting trees in this once-neglected area.

Later, he co-founded URBAN INTERVENTIONS with his wife Beth Callender. They wanted to create a nimble, non-profit organization to promote community through art, street events and low-cost placemaking improvements. Like trees!

Garcia and his art have achieved an avid following among corporate, institutional and individual collectors. “It was a natural next step to combine my love of art and community into “Art for Trees,” he said.

This year, Garcia is gifting over 20 original paintings to people who donate to the Downtown SD Partnership which manages the Grow Urban program. 

Can We Keep Him? – Pelayo “Pete” Garcia

The Paintings

The paintings this year are inspired by Garcia’s early childhood in Cuba and evoke the sun, sea, emotions, memories and brilliant colors of his Caribbean origins.

“My paintings come from my dreams and visions of my long-ago home,” said Garcia.

The “2022 Art for Trees” catalog shows each painting with a specific donation value ranging from $1000-$3000. Donations should be made out to Downtown San Diego Public Spaces Foundation and note the name of the painting desired.  On receipt of the funds, the paintings will be delivered to their generous new owners. Garcia is gifting these works as his contribution to funding Grow Urban.

“Trees give us so much. We wanted to give something back and hope others will join us in making Downtown San Diego a greener, more beautiful place,” concluded Garcia.

How to Donate

To explore the collection of works available please visit:

All donations are tax deductible.

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