Culture Report: Art as a Door-Opener
The debate over the vitality of San Diego’s art scene rages on, La Bodega’s landlord speaks out and more in our weekly roundup of arts and culture news.
There are plenty of studies that say teaching kids art – and teaching other subjects using art – can have a measurable and lasting impact that follows kids their entire lives.
Many tech giants, for instance, have found that liberal arts degrees aren’t so worthless after all, and have hired hordes of former theater geeks and other arts majors.
“There’s been quite a bit of research out there that says basically that kids who participate in the arts do better,” said Merryl Goldberg, a music professor at California State University San Marcos. “But what I found is that the research isn’t enough.”
Goldberg said what’s missing is public awareness. She said there’s an ingrained feeling that the arts are fluff. With reports that President Donald Trump may have plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, she said it’s more important than ever to emphasize arts’ power to educate.
Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the Stuart Foundation, Goldberg’s set out to do just that. Alongside a team of other arts, education and business leaders, she’s helped launch ART=OPPORTUNITY, a campaign to help spread the message that the arts matter, big-time.
The new program will include a series of summits throughout the San Diego region, special events, arts residencies and training for parents and teachers. At 4 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 2, for example, ART=OPPORTUNITY will host a discussion for local teachers on the power of music with Black Violin artists Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. A performance by Black Violin will follow.
“It’s just crazy cakes out there,” Goldberg said. “The bottom line is we want to change public opinion, and we’re hoping our campaign will be kind of like the next ‘Got Milk?‘”
Goldberg said the campaign, plus other similar projects funded by the Stuart Foundation, could eventually lead to a far-reaching message that might start by influencing educators and parents, and spreading from there.
“I’m hoping after a while it will become something we don’t even own,” she said. “A national awareness campaign that hopefully will translate into more arts opportunities for kids in schools and communities.”
The San Diego Art Scene Sucks … Or Does it?
Artist John Mireles left San Diego for New York.
In an op-ed for Voice of San Diego, he said it was a move he had to make so he could take the next step as an artist. San Diego just doesn’t have the galleries, collectors and supportive community that artists need to make a living, he wrote.
The piece hit a nerve, and people are still talking about it on a looooooong comment thread on my Facebook page.
The majority of artists and others who commented agreed with Mireles.
“As a city we just can’t figure it out – that the arts really and truly make for a more vibrant place,” wrote Judith Greer Essex, director of the Expressive Arts Institute in Liberty Station. “And art-making is always risky and experimental. Thus art makers need assistance – especially in a city with such inflated rents.”
But a few thought Mireles missed the mark.
“I don’t think this article really captures it and I think it was written from more of a resentful rather than constructive point of view,” wrote artist Mark Jesinoski. “Being a working artist is very difficult no matter where you are.”
Patric Stillman, director of The Studio Door art gallery in North Park, wrote a rebuttal to Mireles’ op-ed, arguing “opportunities for artists have never been more abundant in the region.”
Stillman’s defense of the San Diego art scene riled folks up too. The long comment thread on my Facebook page under Stillman’s post continued long-simmering discussions about what San Diego lacks. Artists complained that there’s no full-time visual arts critic writing for the U-T, bemoaned the lack of grants available to individual artists and griped about the gentrification that has pushed artists to the point of no longer having affordable places to live and show their work.
Both posts, and the strong responses to them, prompted Jim Brown, owner of the Bread & Salt art center in Logan Heights, to organize a community forum where the issues can be discussed further. The talk is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 11, and I’ll be moderating. If you’re interested in being on the panel or getting an email reminder about the event, shoot Brown an email.
• Mireles is the artist of honor at a dinner event this week hosted by Vanguard Culture.
• The Artist Advocacy Group is a new collaborative that says it will work to help uplift the “talent of local artists in the San Diego region through art collecting, artist interviews, and social media promotion.”
La Bodega Landlord Speaks, Balboa Park Time Capsules, ‘Hamilton’ Dates and Other Arts and Culture News
• La Bodega Gallery is raising funds to help pay for upgrades the city and fire department are requiring before it can go back to hosting art exhibitions for big crowds. When folks hear about the situation, many wonder why the landlord doesn’t just step up to pay for the fixes. I wondered, too, which is why I tracked down Nick Inzunza, who owns the building that houses La Bodega, and asked for his side of the story.
• “Hamilton” was a huge hit on Broadway. The musical is making its way to San Diego, and now we know exactly when that’s happening.
• There’s a new arts space opening on East Main Street in El Cajon. (The East County Californian)
• Painted rabbits are coming to the Gaslamp.
• In a recent Morning Report, VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga called San Diego County’s public funding a “giveaways to arts organizations that often serve the well-heeled.” The Globe’s artistic director Barry Edelstein took issue with that, and in a letter said the organization and other local arts nonprofits have invested heavily in arts engagement and have been serving more lower-income San Diegans.
• Parkeology is a public art project that takes shape as a series of events, videos and podcasts examining some of Balboa Park’s obscure history and lesser-known sites. On Friday, the series takes attendees to Graffiti Bridge, where Park Ranger Kim Duclo will open a 1999 time capsule assembled by staff from the San Diego Park and Recreation Administration. A discussion and time-capsule-making workshop follows.
• Tour Chicano Park this week with muralist Mario Torero.
• Last week, I hung out with artists and others making signs for the San Diego Women’s March, and stopped by the “Nasty Women” art exhibition at Helmuth Projects in Bankers Hill (the audio package follows the interview between VOSD’s Sara Libby and two of the march’s organizers).
• The U-T’s James Hebert calls Cygnet Theatre’s “Bad Jews” an eye-pleasing “vicious emotional cage match.”
• We’re heading into film festival season, so KPBS’s arts guru Nina Garin explains which ones are coming up and how to best navigate them.
• This week, the San Diego Art Institute is launching the new “Six Degrees of San Diego” podcast, lecture and performance series.
• Dorkbot is an international event series that features artists, musicians and other inventor-types who make electronic art. There’s a Dorkbot event happening in San Diego this week and it includes presentations by controversial UCSD visual arts professor Ricardo Dominguez and Tijuana sound artist and electronic musician Haydeé Jiménez.
• Another local bookstore bites the dust.
• South Park’s Studio Maureen & The Next Door Gallery is closing. (Reader)
• Last week, ArtWalk gave me an Artie Award and announced the event’s featured artist this year.
• I dig this cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” by local singer/songwriter Veronica May.
• Art of Élan will explore the act of listening in its next chamber music concert.
• There’s a new board chair at the The NTC Foundation. (SDnews)
• One day, we will stop being surprised by girls who can skateboard. (Encinitas Advocate)
• Entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is free Thursday night.
• Yo, creative writers, there’s a new literary prize in town.
• If you’ve yet to check out Quint Gallery’s new digs in Bay Ho, the opening of San Diego artist Thomas Demello’s new show would be a good time to do it.
• The San Diego International Airport’s public art committee will be discussing a lot of big projects in the pipeline this week.
• Photos of the band The Creepy Creeps are on display in Barrio Logan.
• A new series featuring local jazz musicians and visual artists is kicking off Saturday.
• Podcast great Jad Abumrad and renowned cellist Zoë Keating are in town.
Food, Beer and Booze News
• One of CityBeat’s beer columnists asked local brewery owners if they thought the city’s minimum wage increase would hurt business.
• San Diego Magazine’s Troy Johnson has a hot take on the surcharges a few local restaurants are adding to their bills after the city’s minimum wage increase: “The raise in minimum wage is the biggest challenge the restaurant industry has faced in decades. They’re struggling. Paying the increase and staying in business is no small feat. One local restaurateur told me it’s going to increase his operating costs by a couple hundred thousand dollars.”
• I’ve never heard of Cynar, but I suddenly want to drink it. (San Diego Magazine)
• H.G. Fenton’s Brewery Igniter project has birthed another brewery. (Eater San Diego)
• There’s a pay-what-you-can farm stand up north.
• Goodbye OB Warehouse, and hello Breakfast Republic and Coin Haus.
• A Rosarito supper club scored a nice write-up up by a blogger.
• I despise online slideshows (they’re clunky and they take too much time and clicking!), but I’m linking to this roundup of good ramen restaurants anyway. (Pacific Magazine)
• The BLVD Market on El Cajon has a new vendor that serves Brazilian fish stew.
• Barons Market in North Park has a dope spread of locally roasted coffee beans. (Reader)
• Liberty Station’s 32 North Brewing Company is closed. (WestCoaster)
Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at email@example.com. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.