Culture Report: A Welcome Sign for Immigrants - Voice of San Diego


Culture Report: A Welcome Sign for Immigrants

A new show could put San Diego on the map for urban dance, which artistic genres get city funding and more in our weekly digest of the region’s arts and culture news.

A four-foot model of the “Welcome the Stranger” sculpture. / Photo courtesy of the San Diego Organizing Project

An activist group is working to build a sculpture on a hilltop close to the border fence in San Ysidro that could serve as a welcome sign for immigrants.

The plan is to light the artwork up at night, and make it 40 feet tall so it’s visible to immigrants and refugees waiting in Tijuana to cross the border into the United States. The sculpture is meant to counter anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The Welcome the Stranger project, planned for the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in San Ysidro, is the brainchild of the San Diego Organizing Project, a nonprofit made up of local faith leaders and residents. The group has raised $1 million for the project and is working to raise $1 million more for both the artwork and a public plaza at its base.

Local artist Jim Bliesner came up with the design, which is an interpretation of the Virgin Mary as the Statue of Liberty. He said the idea was hatched through several design workshops with members of the Mt. Carmel church’s congregation and residents from the surrounding community.

“This project has involved engaging with people all the way from the beginning to the end,” Bliesner said. “The subject is a very emotional one, so I thought it would be a good idea to design a process geared toward allowing people to express their emotions. The design of the artwork comes from that listening process. People are the medium as much as the metal.”

A rendering of the “Welcome the Stranger” art project. / Image courtesy of San Diego Organizing Project

Welcome the Stranger will be officially launched at a public event at the church Friday, when community members will write the names of loved ones who’ve been impacted by immigration policy on dozens of colorful ribbons that they’ll tie to a fence.

Bliesner, an artist who has a history of creating public artwork in areas close to the U.S.-Mexico border, said he thinks of the sculpture as a memorial to the struggle of migrants all over the world. He also said the piece is meant to remind viewers of immigrants’ humanity.

“I want it to make people step back and recognize that these are human beings,” he said. “These are babies, mothers, sister, brothers, aunts. We need to be cognizant that this is human suffering. I hope the sculpture can become a catalyst for helping to change the narrative on the border.” 

You’re reading the Culture ReportVoice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

San Diego’s Urban Dance Scene on the Brink

An old warehouse in Grant Hill has been converted into a performance art venue.

Inside the new venue is a must-see show called “Beyond Babel,” a dance performance I told you about back in July.

A scene from the “Beyond Babel” dance show / Photo by The Arandas

I saw the show Sunday, and left in awe of the incredible effort dancers and choreographers Mari and Keone Madrid put into every detail of the piece – from the hand-crocheted set design to the stage that literally moves back and forth so the audience can zoom in on intimate moments.

The narrative dance performance touches on love, loss and violence. The tale is told in the Madrids’ unique style of dance that transcends traditional categories. The Carlsbad couple is influenced by hip-hop dance, but they incorporate elements from contemporary dance, poppin’ and lockin’ (an old-school funk dance that involves holding a move for a few seconds before moving on) and even some hand gestures found in classical Indian dance. The music they use in the show ranges from hip-hop to modern folk.

“Beyond Babel” could put San Diego on the map when it comes to urban dance – it’s that good.

The show opened last month and several performances have sold out. The Madrids told me in July that if ticket sales go well, they’ll consider keeping the new performance venue they built open, and possibly invite other people to stage shows there, too.

Poems in the Sky, Analyzing Arts Funding and More News for the Culture Crowd

David Antin’s “Sky Poems” project was re-staged in La Jolla over the weekend. / Photo by Stacy Keck

The Kinsee Report: Here’s Where I Want to Be This Week

  • What I’ll actually be doing on Saturday is working at Politifest, Voice of San Diego’s all-day political affairs summit. But on Sunday, I refuse to miss Trolley Dances, San Diego Dance Theater’s annual event featuring a collection of short, site-specific dance pieces at interesting locations along the trolley line.
Trolley Dances / Photo courtesy of San Diego Dance Theater
  • The San Diego Maker Faire is happening this weekend. I love seeing all the robots, drones and other cool things creative people are making these days.
  • A friend of mine says the new weekly Lane Field Park Market is awesome. The new open-air food market happens Sundays at Lane Field Park at 1009 N Harbor Dr. downtown and includes food, drinks, art and crafts by lots of local vendors.

Food, Cannabis, Beer and Booze News

  • The foodie world is buzzing about the Valle Food & Wine Festival, which returns for its second year this weekend. (Forbes)
  • My father-in-law is a big fan of Chef John’s Fish & Chips in Lemon Grove. Now the Reader’s food critic is saying the mom and pop shop’s fried fish “defied expectations.”
  • Food halls are trending. Here’s a roundup of local food halls and ones that will open soon in the region. Tequila-centric bars and eateries are also on the rise. (Union-Tribune)
Image via Shutterstock
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