Since last spring, experimental puppet theater and avant garde jazz shows have been quietly happening on a small, hand-built stage in a backyard in Oak Park.
Bridget Rountree and Iain Gunn, the artists behind Animal Cracker Conspiracy Puppet Company , live in a home on the property that sits in a canyon off Euclid Avenue. They call the new arts venue they’ve built a few things, but “Coyote Gulch” is what’s stuck.
The landscape surrounding the small stage creates a sort of natural amphitheater and more than a dozen hay bales work as seating.
Gunn and Rountree know they’re in an arts desert, or a community without access to the arts, so they’ve made it a point to invite neighbors, attend block parties and stop by the new Oak Park farmers market to promote Coyote Gulch to people who live nearby.
“There are a lot of amazing activists in Oak Park,” said Rountree. “So there’s a counterculture here, it’s just under the radar, but it’s here.”
Last weekend, Rountree, Gunn and their collaborators put on a performance of “Paper Cities ,” a hybrid piece of theater that combines puppets, animation, dance, original film, live music and more. They’ve performed the piece several times before in different locations, but their outdoor stage was so different it made them adapt the piece even more than usual and they were inspired to tailor it to the space.
This Friday, they’re putting on a show called “Adult Puppet Cabaret ,” a collection of short-form puppet theater, films, live music and more by local artists. They hope some of the folks who show up will see the makeshift arts space and be inspired, too — perhaps enough to propose a show or performance of their own.
“I think one of the functions of this space is to get people in here who are like, ‘Oh, you’re doing this, how can I get involved?'” Gunn said.
They have a loosely formed artist residency program and they’re launching a summer afternoon concert series geared toward giving young jazz musicians an outlet.
Their programming and goals sound a lot like those of an arts nonprofit, but they’ve yet to take the leap.
“We’re just so used to being renegade,” Rountree said.
“Being more able to get grant money would be nice, but it’s hard to make the leap,” Gunn said.
The two know their time at Coyote Gulch could be fleeting. They don’t own the land and they know the real estate is being eyed by developers.
But in the meantime, they hope the venue will inspire more artistic collaborations and experimentation.
“We want it to become this really great space where creative people can come an do music, performance, theater, whatever,” Rountree said.
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego ’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
Don’t Call it a Film Commission Comeback
How big of an impact did the San Diego Film Commission have on the region before it was unexpectedly shuttered in 2013?
Did it bring in over $100 million annually, as some industry insiders have claimed ?
This week, I wrote about the city and county’s joint effort to revive the film office. The mayor announced his plans to bring it back last year, but the details are just now coming into focus . County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who’s been partnering with the city to create a regional film office, said the new entity would be different.
“What we are doing is building the film industry in San Diego County and we are doing that together – the city and county – and we are doing it smartly and methodically,” he said.
What’s not clear just yet, though, is the exact impact film has had on the region or could have once the new office is up and running.
In concert with the effort to revive the film commission, the county and city funded a study examining the local film industry’s impact on the economy. The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. has completed the study but has not yet released it.
I talked to one local filmmaker who was much more concerned about the subsidies the region is willing to offer production companies than the existence of a film office. What do you think ? How necessary is a regional film office?
Sculpture or Structure?
Sculptor Nasser Pirasteh’s yard in front of his La Jolla home is filled with his own art. Some neighbors dig it. Others don’t.
As the La Jolla Light reports, Pirasteh pushed his luck with his latest yard art . He built a 10-foot piece that looks sort of like a hut or a shed. A neighbor complained that he’d built an illegal structure without permits, and the city agreed. The code enforcement office issued the artist a notice saying that he’d have to remove the structure by May 7 or face fines of up to $2,500 a day until he reaches $250,000.
Pirasteh told La Jolla Light that he doesn’t have plans to take his sculpture down.
“In my opinion, the definition of sculpture and the definition of a structure need to be looked at fairly,” he told the paper. “When it comes to structures, they have all the rights, rules and regulations, but … this is a sculpture.”
A Side of Art at Local Eateries, Writerz Blok Campaign Goes Live and Other Arts and Culture News
• Balboa Park’s in bad shape. Its maintenance and infrastructure needs total more than $300 million and there’s no steady stream of funding to fix the park’s problems. Meanwhile, the park’s largest tenant, the San Diego Zoo, is sitting pretty. It enjoys a steady stream of cash thanks to a property tax that’s pulled in more than $10 million annually in recent years. VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt has the scoop .
• From the big pig mural at Carnitas Snack Shack to the “Eat Your Vegetables” mural at Juniper & Ivy, DiscoverSD.com rounds up some of the most eye-catching art at local eateries .
• I recently told you about how San Diego’s graffiti art park wants to build more classrooms and rebuild some of its walls for murals . Writers Blok, the organization that runs the park, just made its crowdfunding campaign live .
• Mosaic artists from around the world are coming to a conference in San Diego next week . Every year, conference organizers pick a nonprofit in the host city and they build a large-scale mosaic there. This year, St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center in El Cajon will get a new mosaic mural .
• The book that eventually became the Incoming radio series featuring veteran stories that airs on KPBS is now out . (press release)
• Donn K. Harris, chair of the California Arts Council and executive director of an arts school in Oakland, dishes on the state of arts education in a post-No Child Left Behind World . Outlook: good. (California Arts Council blog)
• The county’s multimedia guy finished a video on the new artistic interpretive display at the County Administration Center downtown . I told you about those displays  earlier this month.
• So many LOLs in this piece about seeing a Yanni concert by CityBeat’s Ryan Bradford .
• If you’ve done the whole shadow casting thing at a screening of “The Rocky Horror Show” think seeing the live theater version won’t be much different, think again . (KPBS)
• There are some skilled young jazz musicians  in San Diego. (KPBS)
• A San Diego company is behind this art infusion  of a hospital in Vancouver, Canada.
• There are lots of relatively unknown places to discover in the most recent edition of the Hidden San Diego newsletter .
• In his Seen Local column, CityBeat’s Seth Combs gives us a look at the artist behind a new installation set to go in at the new Liberty Public Market  in Point Loma. Combs also puts a name, Dave “PERSUE” Ross, behind the prevalent “BunnyKitty” character that appears in several neighborhood murals. PERSUE has a new book out about the origins of his cutesy creation .
• Humphrey’s outdoor music venue is turning 35 this year. The anniversary lineup includes Bob Dylan . (U-T)
• The U-T talks to the Old Globe’s artistic director Barry Edelstein about the theater company’s world-premiere musical, “Rain.” 
• A group of architects and designers who oppose convadium being built in the East Village is meeting for another workshop this weekend to work on a plan for what they call the “East Village South” area. Andrew Keatts wrote about the group’s goals  earlier this month.
Food, Beer and Booze News Nibbles
• Handmade soft pretzels and craft beer  in North Park? Yes, please. (Eater San Diego)
• Prohibition and its fancy cocktails are back . (San Diego Magazine)
• Zagat rounded up six San Diego restaurants that grow some of their own food .
• This duck soup  looks and sounds delicious. (Reader)
• Tour de Fat has set a date  for its return to San Diego this year. (email newsletter)
• Coronado Brewing Co. is putting its beer into cans and throwing a party to celebrate . (email newsletter)
Get Cultured: Things to Do in San Diego This Week
A quick note about that long list of events that used to be a here: I’m not doing that anymore.
Let me start by saying that letting events go isn’t easy for me. I started my career over a decade ago as a calendar editor. My roots are in connecting the local community to cool and interesting things happening around town.
When I started here at Voice of San Diego last year, I wrote a few Culture Reports and pretty quickly got a handful of requests to include weekly events. I obliged because, well, event roundups are in my blood.
I stay up until midnight Monday nights putting that weekly list together. It takes a lot of work. I don’t mind doing that because the people putting on the events work hard to do their thing, and it’s a lifelong goal of mine to prove that San Diego isn’t as culturally void as so many people think.
But here’s the thing: I’m in the middle of creating a brand-new podcast for Voice of San Diego  and that’s taking a lot of my time. Plus, VOSD’s approach to news has always been less focused on daily events and more on understanding and uncovering big issues. I want to be a part of that with the arts stories I write, and that takes time and effort. I hope ya’ll understand.