Culture Report: A Ship in the Woods Charts a New Course - Voice of San Diego

Arts/Culture UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Culture Report: A Ship in the Woods Charts a New Course

The experimental, volunteer-run arts space in Escondido is set to open its doors to short-term sound arts residencies — and a stronger, more accessible cultural exchange.

A Ship in the Woods
The A Ship in the Woods main stage during the Music Residency Benefit in May 2019 / Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

A Ship in the Woods, a steadfast but obscure presence in the San Diego arts scene, has made its home in the fringes of the wooded Felicita Park in Escondido for three years now. It’s no stranger to the woods, having dwelled in a rural Del Mar property for years before that. It’s also no stranger to the fringes.

Pushing boundaries, producing events and creating the sort of work that takes an incredible amount of skilled artistry, theory and human power is not the safest business plan, but for the staff at A Ship in the Woods, that’s not always the point.

A Program in Flux

The organization’s Music Residency Benefit, held earlier this month, raised funds to support its new music residency program. The event also introduced the community to Amenta Abioto, a Portland-based musician, singer, songwriter and producer who recently served as the program’s first resident.

A Ship in the Woods has recently undergone a transformation, formally establishing its first executive director, Nikos Zoggas, and also bringing on Marina Grize — a long-time arts administrator in the city — to help with the transition and to form new structure in the organization, including working to develop a music residency and host the benefit.

Zoggas, who was initially hired to assess programming, was officially brought on in December to implement his recommendations.

“Since it had been an all-volunteer agency, a lot of management strategies weren’t in place. In order for them to grow they had to not only define clear programs but also clarify and strengthen how we’re going to manage those even with volunteers,” Zoggas said.

And as for building the music residency: “There aren’t a lot of models for this, especially not at a modest scale, so we invited Amenta as a way to open up the dialogue about what we can do better and what needs to get done before we can open the application to the public,” Grize said. Amenta, a seasoned musician and producer, could provide honest feedback about the project, space and resources.

Amenta Abioto A Ship in the Woods
Amenta Abioto performs during her residency at A Ship in the Woods. / Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

A Ship in the Woods had previously operated on a word-of-mouth model for its visual art residencies. Moving forward, it will choose artist-in-residence participants via an outside committee.

What Is a Music Residency?

Without the tangible, visible practice and result to exhibit or save like with visual art residencies, host organizations looking to bolster community engagement through a nontraditional residency program struggle to find ways to share the resident’s work with their community.

A Ship in the Woods considers the service to the individual musician a priority, which will in turn build a vital music and sound community in San Diego through the exchange of culture. It is also presenting the residency as project-based.

“The musician has to apply with the intention of either starting or completing a project. We are open to however the artists will interpret this,” Grize said. Zoggas said that they plan to interview and film their residency programs, too, and approach the program with storytelling in mind.

The residencies are short-term: Each selected applicant will live and work at the Escondido space with full use of their sound studio space. And the program is open to not just traditional music-making, but all sound-based arts, including podcasting, field recording and more. Zoggas said the organization hopes to serve a mixture of local and visiting artists to build community, diversity and reach.

A Ship in the Woods
An art installation at A Ship in the Woods / Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

Beyond the Residency: Public Studio Space

Additionally, Grize sees a need in the sound community for affordable studio space. Many artists who wish to record or produce their work in studios face rental and producer fees that could reach hundreds of dollars per hour.

“Our hope, if we can get there, is to complete the humble recording studio so that it can serve the community beyond our residency program,” Grize said. While the residency program provides immersive use, they would also open it for public day-use sessions, with a small fee to cover insurance.

“My hopes have been to make the organization more accessible — this is meant in all ways and warrants a separate conversation because the property itself leans toward ableism, and unfortunately not thinking about such things has affected the ethos of the institution as a whole — to listen to the concerns and needs of the community and to find the ways Ship can enter its adulthood,” said Grize of the transition.

Exploring Home, Night Art and More News for the Culture Crowd

  • If you missed Bhavna Mehta’s stunning paper-cut installation at the Timken last summer, lucky you: The artist (one of the U-T’s Spring Arts Preview picks in 2018) opens another show, in partnership with the Monarch School, on Friday at Art Produce. “My Body is a Home” will kick off with an opening reception featuring Monarch student dance performances.
  • San Ysidro art and performance space The Front hosts “Glow Nite” on Friday, a live music, performance and visual art event, featuring San Diego- and Mexico-based artists such as MAKI, Nick Lesley, Kathia Rudametkin and more.
  • On Friday, San Diego Art Institute hosts “Nights Like These: Let Your Fears Go,” which sounds like it will be part dance party, part game, part escape room. Either way, bonkers.
  • It may feel like Adams Avenue in Normal Heights and Kensington closes a lot for street festivals but it’s only three or so times a year. Stop overreacting (I’m talking to myself here) and maybe go? Art Around Adams takes place on Saturday and promises music, art, comedy, makers and more (including kid- and nerd-favorite Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra).
  • Tickets go on sale on Saturday for the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet’s annual Fairy Tales in the Park performances, held in August.
  • SDMA levels up the fancy by pairing its newest exhibition, “Art and Empire,” based on the golden age of Spain, with the La Jolla Renaissance Singers for a performance this Saturday.
  • Media Arts Center has operated the San Diego County Office of Education’s student film festival, iVIE, for the last few years. This year’s selected student films screen on Saturday at Reading Cinemas Grossmont, followed by an awards ceremony.
  • “Spirited Away” takes the midnight/matinee movie spot at The Ken this weekend, and it was just announced that the Miyasaki film will finally (18 years after its release) be screened in China next month. (Hollywood Reporter)

Closing Soon

Trevor Paglan
Trevor Paglan’s “Seventeen Letters from the Deep State” at MCASD / Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

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