Culture Report: Gill Sotu Is Having a Moment
Tijuana’s renaissance (again), exploring the confounding creatures that are teenagers and San Diego continues its march toward cold brew dominance.
Gill Sotu’s wife isn’t quick with compliments. Sotu’s a poet, performer and musician, and more recently he’s added “playwright” to his resume. But his wife had yet to fully validate his latest role.
Then “The Best Goodbye” happened. It’s a play Sotu wrote, and it’s being produced and performed by the Circle Circle dot dot theater company at Park Arts Black Box through Saturday.
“So, my wife saw it yesterday and she says she cried,” he said. “And for the first time, she called me and was like, ‘Hey, playwright.’ … So, yeah, it was real cool.”
Since “The Best Goodbye” opened in late July, the play, which is set on the night that Tupac Shakur died in 1996 and focuses on the suburban members of an up-and-coming hip-hop group, has been racking up rave reviews.
The surprise hit comes at a time when Sotu is poised to finally make the leap to calling himself a full-time artist. After almost 15 years in the travel agency business, he quit his day job last year when the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation offered him a two-year gig as its artist-in-residence. Tasked with engaging the Jacob Center’s community in southeastern San Diego, he’s been creating cultural events like the free spoken word poetry and graffiti art festival that happened in June and producing new work, like his play “H.E.R.O.E.S.” that premiered last November.
He’s currently working on a one-man show he’ll preview at a national arts conference this summer, plus a spoken word opera, a comic book and other projects.
“I’m hustling very hard to get a good body of work done during my residency,” he said. “And all the work I’m doing pertains to the community and coming together, and I always have that consciousness when I’m representing the Jacobs Center to have it be something related to the community. … But a part of my residency is they want to just show art for art’s sake. It doesn’t always necessarily have to be about the black experience or the Latino experience. It can just be an African American man doing art and celebrating that because we don’t get to be celebrated as much as we would like.”
After “The Best Goodbye” closes, the next public event created by Sotu will happen in September at Writerz Blok, the Jacobs Center’s urban art park and program. Sotu described the event as a hip-hop game show that will include a rap battle, a hip-hop trivia contest and more.
“It’s kind of like ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Family Feud’ meets hip-hop culture,” he said. “It’s a celebration of hip-hop culture.”
Part of the point of the event, Sotu said, is to offer a cash prize and the title “King of the Cypher” to the person who wins the MC battle. He thinks the label will help the artists who earn it in marketing themselves. He said unknown hip-hop artists have a hard time getting into venues and attracting wide audiences in San Diego, so he hopes this helps.
Sotu has about six more months left in his residency. He and his wife just had a baby, so he said the pressure’s on for him to use the momentum he’s been building and somehow turn it into a full-time gig.
“It’s really scary,” he said. “But I was put on this earth to do this – to create and to connect people.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
The Case of San Diego’s Craft Beer Attorney
When I met with Candace Moon last week, I was a little sad to see her crack open a bottle of Starbucks iced coffee rather than a can of some obscure locally brewed craft beer. She did offer me one, though (I responsibly declined).
Moon has dubbed herself the “craft beer attorney,” a lawyer who launched her career serving the oft-bearded and friendly folks who work in the industry.
The sign on Moon’s office door reads “The Craft Beer Attorney,” but it’s a term she hasn’t been able to officially trademark yet. Other attorneys say she shouldn’t be able to own such a generic term, so 11 firms have filed oppositions to her trademark request. That’s an unusually high number of people opposed to a trademark.
As a lawyer who often helps her beer clients with their own trademark issues, Moon calls the situation “very meta,” and says the experience has allowed her to put herself in her clients’ shoes.
“I’ll sit there and tell my client, ‘Don’t stress, don’t’ worry about it, this is normal.’ And I do mean that and yet now I’m like, ‘I totally see why you’re stressing.’”
Tijuana’s Renaissance Retold, Military Art at MCASD and Other Arts and Culture News
• This story about how drug cartel violence dried up the tourism industry in Tijuana, which eventually led to an artistic and cultural renaissance in the border city, has been written again and again, but I never tire of reading it. (Christian Science Monitor)
• Here’s a hilarious guide to playing Pokémon Go. (CityBeat)
• Woodbury University’s master of science in architecture and real estate development program is turning 10, and on Saturday there’s a party at You Are Here, a project that’s partly a product of the program. VOSD’s Andrew Keatts has written about architect-developer movement in San Diego and the new type of urbanism it’s helped inform. There are also some killer quotes in this story I did about the program for CityBeat back in 2007 (warning, though, the formatting is a mess).
• Teenagers are strange and fascinating creatures. There’s an exhibition exploring aspects of adolescence at La Jolla’s Joseph Bellows Gallery, and it features a selection of vintage and contemporary photographs of teens. (Creative Boom)
• The San Diego Museum of Art’s popular Film in the Garden series is back and it’s been moved to a new location to meet the high demand.
• One woman’s eyebrow obsession sheds light on the story of an entire generation of young Latina women who grew up in the ’90s. (CityBeat)
• KAABOO is really pulling out all the stops this year. The music festival happening in Del Mar on Friday, Sept. 16, features an impressive lineup that includes Jimmy Buffet, Aerosmith, Goo Goo Dolls and Cypress Hill. (San Diego Gay & Lesbian News)
• Sensory deprivation tanks are back. The U-T’s Karla Peterson dives in to the renewed interest in the so-called “floating” trend.
• San Diego graphic designer and artist Ron Miriello makes globes out of everything from pencils to old shoes. Some of his globe sculptures are on view at the San Diego International Airport. (San Diego Tourism Authority)
I wrote about Miriello’s globe project for CityBeat back when he started it in 2011.
• A story of two immigrant kids, told through dance, makes its way to San Diego next week. (U-T)
• Here’s a handy roundup of events happening this month. (San Diego Tourism Authority)
• San Diego philanthropist Pauline Foster died. Foster was a longtime supporter of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, or MCASD, and other local cultural and educational institutions.
• See more than 30 works by active-duty military members who are using art to relieve combat-related stress at MCASD through Sept. 4. (U-T)
• The La Jolla Music Society’s Summer Fest event kicks off this week.
• Classical musician Jory Herman has been named Art of Élan’s first-ever director of community engagement. Herman’s role will be to broaden and diversify the reach of the organization, which presents edgy and experimental chamber music, in part by taking the music on the road and into communities that don’t typically show up to classical music shows. (U-T)
If Herman’s role sounds familiar, that might be because lots of other cultural institutions are hiring engagement staffers or undertaking major efforts to reach new people.
• Solana Beach artist Erik Gronborg is finally getting the attention he deserves with a new Mingei exhibition featuring decades’ worth of his sculpture, ceramics and woodwork. (CityBeat)
• Remember the “Surfing Madonna” art that mysteriously appeared in Encinitas? The Surfing Madonna Oceans Project is now an official nonprofit and it’s working on a new piece of public art for Encinitas, this time on the up and up.
• The Fern Street Circus’ residency at the San Diego International Airport scored a mention in USA Today.
Food, Beer and Booze News
• There’s a cold brew cocktail party happening this weekend.
• Speaking of cold brew, Modern Times is planning a cold brew horchata slushie machine. Also, you can now buy the brewery’s cold brew coffee in a can.
• La Mesa continues its trek toward becoming the new North Park. (Eater San Diego)
• Here are the details on the Farm to Bay fundraiser happening at the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista.
• Ballast Point sold last year to Constellation Brands, and the effects of that sale are starting to show. (Reader)