The Love for Art & the Hill Street Country Club

Linksoul is essentially the brainchild of a golfer who loves art, and an artist who loves golf. John Ashworth (the golfer uncle) and Geoff Cunningham (the artist nephew) found a symbiotic relationship beyond blood about 20 years ago, and after several iterations found themselves in Oceanside, CA working in a space we call Linksoul Lab.

“Art, creativity and community are central to Linksoul. I knew that if we were going to enter back into this industry again, we weren’t going to build a brand this time, we were going to reflect our philosophy. Having a space for art was essential to this,” says Cunningham. “Artists love showing work in our space because we ask them to experiment here. Since we don’t need to be a gallery that makes money, we don’t have to play it safe and make ‘work that sells’.”

For the first years, Cunningham did the curating and the set ups and the promoting.  But Linksoul kept growing, and the workload followed, making shows harder to produce.

Enter the Hill Street Country Club. Founded by Dinah Poellnitz and Margaret Hernandez and operating down the street from the Lab in Oceanside, the HSCC and Linksoul had too much in common to not come together.

“Dinah and Marge are two of my heroes,” says Cunningham, “It’s a perfect marriage, and one that has made our efforts twice as strong in the community."

And the results of this effort can be immediately seen in Oceanside recently being designated a Cultural Arts District by the California Arts Council this past month, with the Lab and HSCC being central components.

On that note… let’s meet Dinah and Marge.

What is the Hill Street Country Club?

M: The Hill Street Country Club is a non-profit organization that myself and business partner, Dinah Pollenitz started shortly after moving out here. We met each other volunteering at the Oceanside Museum of Art. I guess you could say it was love at first sight! We became really great friends and had a similar vision for where we wanted to go as female artists. We initially wanted to organize an art show for the two of us but it occurred to us why would we be selfish in the sense of keeping it limited to just the two of us? So thus it became a group show. This is where the partnership with Linksoul began to kindle...

Where does the name come from?

D: I grew up between Vista and Oceanside. In the 80's and most the 90's during a time when Oceanside was known for its diverse activity up and down Hill Street (now known as Coast Highway), so we decided to pay homage and send a message with our name.  Hill Street represents the diverse and working class socio economic class that still exist in Oceanside, regardless of the street name change.  We can't ignore our history if we are trying to build an art district and expand art appreciation.  Art is for everyone.  "Country clubs" are generally members only.  We wanted to cancel out the ideal that art only belongs to a small few.  So, it just made sense.  Honestly our art exhibitions, programs and audience represent the inclusive access to art.

M: Well, back in the day the current 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) was actually named Hill Street. We are essentially paying homage to the classic “old” Oceanside and it’s our goal to stay true to that. The “country club” was added on because we enjoy the idea of being a part of a collective.

How did it come together? How did you guys partner with Linksoul?

D: Well, I was an art kid with no place to visit or experiment with art in North County, so I volunteered at the Oceanside Museum of Arts education program "Art Quest," where all Oside 5th graders are allowed one free visit to the museum. I learned today's north county struggle with the same lack of access of art practice and all around exposure. Pretty much nothing in art has progressed for the youth and especially students from working class backgrounds. But Oceanside is one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. and we are home for most military.

Geoff and I met eyes, and it was art world magic (LOL). Linksoul hosted our first art event fundraiser for OMAs Art Quest 5th graders. We provided oils pastels and drawing pad for every 5th grader to take home after their first museum visit.

M: Geoff Cunningham was the first connection we made with Linksoul. We met him when he had his solo exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art. I think Dinah and I both had some pretty heavy feels when it came to Geoff’s artwork; he was doing some incredible work, it was destined we all met. So that mini connection led to us having a location for our very first art show and since then it’s been magic.

Clearly this is not you're only job... so What makes you so passionate about the HSCC?

D:  I want to see more little Dinah's in the art industry.

M: Being in heavy times of budget cuts in’s genuinely disappointing to know that kids no longer have the opportunity to be submersed in culture. In our minds as individuals and a business, we believe art is for everyone. We are here to do everything we can to keep it accessible and exciting for our community.

What is the Mission of the Hill Street Country Club?

D: To provide curatorial community driven exhibits.

M: It is one our main goals to make art more accessible to our community. Providing everyone with genuinely rad and approachable ways to interact with art. Each art reception we have is free admission and open to the public, plus a free art project for kids, lead by Backfence Society, KART project. We’re also really stoked to be curators in the sense that we encourage HSCC artists to be experimental and push their own art boundaries.

What are your hopes for 2017?

D: To stay busy and provide art professional opportunities for artists and art minded.

M: More shows, more partnerships! Excited to have more events in Oceanside and play a role in more goodness happening in our city and north county overall. We don’t always have to go to San Diego or LA to do cool stuff. We’re coming up slowly but surely as a city, these are pretty exciting times.

How can others get involved?

D: Buy art, come to openings, volunteer, create a new program with us and email Tell us what you wanna do.

M: We can always use volunteers and the more the better! Sign up for our email list on our website to stay in touch and cruise by for our new exhibitions, upcoming events and don’t forget to follow us on stay in touch and cruise by for our new exhibitions, upcoming events. Also, give us a follow on social media. @thehillstreetcountryclub

What kind of effect do you see Linksoul Lab and Hill Street having in the community?

D: The best kind. Linksoul has created opportunities for us to expand our attention to exhibiting artists & their processes and encourage artists to become experimental.  We now have a true reflection of the art community surrounding us.  Our artists are creating awesome body of works due to us not being driven by making mad money and sacrificing the message in the art.

M: Together we share similar views on community and support for one another. Being a part of Linksoul has been rad since day one. I feel like we and Linksoul are here to make golf/art more accessible and get folks to realize they can both be for everyone, neither thing is beyond anyone, it’s a simple matter of fact.

For more, visit the Hill Street Country Club...

Instagram: @thehillstreetcountryclub

Photos: Geoff Cunningham (featured image), City of Oceanside (1930's Hill Street), Chad Spinks (gallery images)

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