Culture Report: A Surprise in the Sky for City Heights
A new arts installation is helping transform a major pedestrian thoroughfare in City Heights, a famed arts mecca in North County is preparing for its annual public unveiling, all the arts funding news from the city’s budget update and more in our weekly digest of the city’s arts and culture news.
The next installment of Meeting of the Minds, an evening of fast-paced presentations, is Tuesday, July 12. The night’s speakers include innovative arts leaders like the San Diego Art Institute’s Ginger Shulick Porcella and the San Diego Opera’s David Bennett. Reserve your seat today to hear about what some of of city’s most fearless arts leaders are doing to integrate art into our daily lives.
Just as dawn was breaking Sunday morning, artist Spenser Little shimmied up a cherry picker and mounted eight of his wire sculptures on light poles and traffic signals in City Heights.
“I have no idea what effect my wire sculptures will have there,” Little said. “But, in the past, they seem to make people happy by looking up and seeing a surprise in the sky that they haven’t seen before.”
Little cleverly bends and twists wire into whimsical portraits of people, animals or other figurative sculptures. His work often includes funny text or irreverent imagery geared toward making people snicker.
For over 15 years, the well-known local artist has made a habit of leaving his wire art out on the streets for everyone to enjoy. The first time I saw his work, it was dangling from a liquor store sign in South Park.
The eight new, large wire installations in City Heights, though, are legit. It’s the first time ever that Little’s been paid and given permission to create public art.
The project is a result of a collaboration between the nonprofit neighborhood groups City Heights Community Development Corporation, LISC and the City Heights Business Association, plus a consortium of community organizations that call themselves the Fairmount Corridor Arts Collaborative. The arts collaborative is working to transform City Heights’ Fairmount Avenue into a more walkable and enjoyable destination through public art and other creative projects, so four of Little’s wire art sculptures are dangling on poles on that busy thoroughfare. The other four are on University Avenue from Swift Avenue to the 805 freeway.
Little says each piece in City Heights is inspired by someone he either knew or met in the neighborhood. He said he spent time at City Heights’ bus stops. He would sit there bending wire until someone came up and asked what he was doing. He’d then snap their photo and use the image to create a piece back in his studio at Glashaus in Barrio Logan.
The eight large copper wire sculptures cost approximately $7,000. Artist and urban planner Jim Bliesner, a member of the Fairmount Corridor Arts Collaborative and a City Heights resident, said Little’s work adds to a large sculpture and murals already on Fairmount.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Bliesner said. “I think it’s a really, really powerful innovation for street art. I think it creates identity and I think it’s focused on pedestrian traffic and the pedestrian experience and, in some ways, I think it’s almost as effective as having a big City Heights welcome-to-the-neighborhood sign, which is something we don’t have.”
Little hopes his work in City Heights will lead to more public art gigs. He said he digs putting his art out for everyone to see much more than he likes selling his work in fine-art galleries.
“I hope my art will make people take a short break from their monotonous day and just take a minute to look up and smile,” he said.
• The Fairmount Corridor Arts Collaborative was behind an effort I wrote about last year to get art on the barren transit plazas in City Heights.
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
James Hubbell Closer than Ever to Finishing That New Public Building
Writing about James Hubbell’s 40-acre property in Santa Ysabel and all the unique buildings he’s put on it is a rite of passage for local arts reporters. VOSD’s former staffer Kelly Bennett did it in 2011 and I did it for CityBeat in 2014.
The property’s not open to the public save for once a year when the famed artist and architect offers a tour on Father’s Day. It’s a rare peak at some of his best work and a chance to rub elbows with the artist.
In the last few years, Hubbell has inched closer to legally turning his private property over to Ilan-Lael Foundation, an arts-education nonprofit he helped found. He and his army of volunteers are also just about done with the first-ever public building on the property, the Ilan-Lael Center, which will houses an art gallery, storage space, an administration building and an outdoor amphitheater.
This Sunday’s Father’s Day tour offers folks a chance to see the new project, which is just as whimsical and dreamy as his older buildings.
More Money for the Arts, A Chance to See ‘Hamilton’ and Other Arts and Culture News
• San Diego City Council members unanimously adopted a $3.4 billion budget on Monday. (U-T)
VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt reports that the budget sets aside about $3 million for projects at Balboa Park, plus another $1.35 million to help fund the restoration of the park’s iconic Botanical Building. Halverstadt says the amount is about double of what past city budgets have put into the park, but the number’s still nowhere close to the estimated $300 million needed to repair the park’s crumbling infrastructure.
• Arts advocates didn’t get the full funding they wanted in this year’s budget, but they did secure a significant boost.
A consortium of arts leaders were trying to convince the mayor and city councilmembers to earmark 9.5 percent of hotel tax dollars to fund the Arts and Culture Commission, a figure that was envisioned by Penny for the Arts. In 2012, City Council adopted the Penny for the Arts plan that laid out a five-year blueprint for increasing arts and culture funding, from about 5 percent of the city’s transient occupancy tax collections at the time to 9.5 percent by 2017.
Some of the last-minute spending additions to the budget on Monday did include a bump in arts funding, from about $13.9 million to $15.1 million, but that figure still falls short of the percentage promised.
“It’s not quite at the Penny for the Arts, which called for just over $17 million by now, but still significant,” said Alan Ziter, executive director of the NTC Foundation and one of the leaders of the arts advocacy group, the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition. “Next year we will be working with three new councilmembers so the arts advocacy never ends.”
• It’s true, folks, “Hamilton,” the hip-hop and R&B-infused Broadway sensation that swept Sunday’s Tony Awards, is indeed making its way to San Diego. (KPBS)
• A Comic-Con museum in Balboa Park? It could happen. (U-T)
• UC San Diego’s upcoming 2016/2017 ArtPower season includes 16 performances that have never been staged in San Diego. (U-T)
• The San Diego gal who put her art on rock formations at National Parks across the country and documented it via Instagram pleaded guilty Monday to seven misdemeanor counts of damaging government property. (KPBS)
• The San Diego Foundation announced last week that it was granting $100,000 to five local artists through its Creative Catalyst Program.
The program was launched in 2011 and has since paired local nonprofits with individual artists who use the money to create something new and engage with the broader community. Last year, 10 artists were awarded Creative Catalyst grants and many of the awardees were visual artists. This year, just five artists were awarded grants and all but one work in theater. Photographer John Mireles attended an informational meeting about the grant and said the vast majority of people who showed up to that meeting were visual artists.
“While I don’t begrudge the winners their due, I do feel that visual artists were unquestionably given the short shrift here,” Mireles said. “I hope that for the next round, the foundation either relabels this grant to reflect its priorities or provides more opportunities for success by its largest constituency.”
• Next Tuesday is Make Music Day and folks across the globe will be participating. In San Diego, the Museum of Making Music is taking part.
• Check out this newly exposed brickwork on El Cajon Boulevard. (Reader)
• San Diego’s third parklet opens in the East Village on Thursday. Last month, I wrote a bit about why the city’s parklet program has yet to produce a big number of the amenity-filled sidewalk extensions.
• The California Arts Council’s budget could be boosted this year for a total of $6.8 million. This week the State of California’s Budget Conference Committee unanimously passed an increase for the council, which, in turn, funds arts and culture organizations throughout the state. Here’s a video the council made of one of the groups it helps fund, San Diego’s Malashock Dance Company, which created a program that teaches students math through movement.
The committee’s vote, though, is just a recommendation. The budget is expected to go on to a full vote in the Senate and Assembly tomorrow, then it heads to the Governor’s desk for signing.
• It’s nomination time for Orchids & Onions, the annual awards show that both celebrates and shuns the best and worst of San Diego’s built environment. So far, two art projects have been tapped. The makeover of the HUB shopping center in Hillcrest is being nominated for an onion award for its “mismatched wall murals, some of them outright hideous” and “a tragic attempt at modern sculpture.” And the “Kelco Historical Community Mural” in Barrio Logan has been nominated to win an orchid because the building’s owner safely and carefully preserved the mural during demolition and construction of a new project.
• Gay San Diego has a profile of Ari Kate Ashton, owner of Art on 30th.
• The online arts website CRAVE featured the Museum of Photographic Arts’ “Beauty and the Beast: The Animal in Photography” exhibition on view at the Balboa Park institution through Oct. 9.
• The La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival is upping its profile this year by adding programming, including a series of art installations. (sdnews.com)
• St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, a nonprofit that serves people with developmental disabilities, has teamed some of its client artists with professional Iraqi artists for an exhibit titled “Common Ground.” (U-T)
• San Diego Repertory Theatre celebrated its 40th year. Here’s a video and photos of the event.
• Six proposals are on the table to replace Seaport Village. A few of them include significant arts and culture components. (U-T)
Food, Beer and Booze News
• Dick Van Ransom, one of the owners of Mariposa Ice Cream in Normal Heights, recently passed away. Local radio host Chris Cantore, who says he’s a family friend, started a fundraising campaign to raise money for Ransom’s family to help pay for funeral costs and store improvements.
• In other ice-cream news, an Encinitas couple opened the region’s first Handel’s Ice Cream. (The Coast News)
• I live so close to Coop’s West Texas BBQ in Lemon Grove that I can sometimes smell the cozy barbecue joint’s smoked meat wafting through the air. I’d like to say Coop’s is one of LG’s best kept secrets, but foodies are already on to it. Eater San Diego recently sat down with owner Brad “Coop” Cooper’s for a Q-and-A.
• Where is San Diego’s next beer mecca? CityBeat pits the north against the south.
• Perhaps Oceanside is making its move to become the next beer mecca. The Reader reports on O-side’s continuing brewery boom.
• These people now deliver craft beer to your door. And these people now deliver all kinds of booze to your door. But before you think you’ll never have to leave home again, note that CityBeat just announced a Bar Week event that has local watering holes offering up cheap drinks from June 15 through June 23.
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