City leaders hope new public art and a redesign will attract a bigger mix of people and help turn things around for the urban park.
On a recent visit to the 2.1-acre park between First Avenue and Front Street at Harbor Drive, about a dozen homeless people had set up encampments there. A few folks were using the Civic Pond fountain to wash their clothes, and others were using the park’s concrete sitting blocks to lay out their clothes to dry.
“It’s a sad scene over there,” said one downtown resident as he walked by the park with his two small dogs.
In 2011, the city paid for a new design of Children’s Park , one that includes amenities like a playground and a cafe that might help attract more nearby residents and passersby to the park. That plan, though, sat on the shelf for years after Gov. Jerry Brown put an end to state redevelopment funds .
Part of the plan is a piece of public art. There’s a budget of about $70,000 for the art, and the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture has selected artist Miki Iwasaki to create a site-specific installation for the park.
Iwasaki has done a few pieces of public art for the San Diego International Airport  and the New Children’s Museum . From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, he’ll be at the New Children’s Museum Park at 255 West Island Ave., where he’s inviting the public to schedule a meeting with him  to talk about what kind of art they want to see in the park.
“The public art component is a small subset of a very difficult, big task of activating the park,” Iwasaki said. “I want the art to be engaging. I don’t’ want to have just an object or a statue that people just look at, I think there’s a more powerful experience when people can respond physically.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego ’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
A New AIDS Memorial, a New Book Event, Lots of Film Festivals and Other Arts and Culture News
• The Union-Tribune and KPBS teamed up for the city’s inaugural Festival of Books . ICYMI, CityBeat columnist Aaryn Belfer bemoaned the overwhelmingly white lineup  of the authors featured in the new event.
• I’m moderating a panel Wednesday night . We’ll be talking how three local arts leaders have gotten people to coalesce around the spaces and projects they’ve built.
• The San Diego AIDS Memorial Task Force is asking San Diegans to show up to a public meeting Monday  to learn more about the memorial project planned for a small new Bankers Hill park.
• Improving the urban environment by quickly and cheaply turning things like empty lots into pedestrian plazas and blank walls into colorful murals is called placemaking. The city wants to make it easier to do placemaking projects here, so a new ordinance is working its way through the approval process . (Union-Tribune)
• So many of San Diego’s best artists leave for Los Angeles , amirite?
• Forget Piano Man, Carol Curtis is a well-known piano woman whose longevity and fame has earned her a two-part feature story  in Gay San Diego.
• The San Diego Repertory Theatre is launching a new festival showcasing works by Latino writers . (NBC San Diego)
• A photographic exhibition featuring large photographs and reprints of front-page stories that ran in the national Mexican newspaper El Universal is opening next week at Liberty Station .
• The San Diego Underground Film Festival  kicks off Thursday and includes indie flicks by local filmmakers Neil Kendricks, Meredith Sward, Lana Caplan and Michael Trigilio. And on Sept. 2, the feminist Les Femmes Underground International Film Festival will be happening at the Digital Gym Cinema.
• An exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art zeroes in on peoples’ scars and the stories they tell . (Union-Tribune)
• A new KPBS documentary being filmed in San Diego explores the history and significance of San Diego’s gay bars . Another KPBS documentary that recently aired interviews San Diego combat pilots who fought in the Vietnam War . (Union-Tribune, KPBS)
• Here’s a good explainer of what a cultural landscape report is and why the one happening in Balboa Park matters.
• Many of the region’s best artists are part of the West Coast Drawing group. A new show featuring works by the crew  opens next Tuesday.
• Tasende Gallery is celebrating the renovation of its space with a big new group show .
• The city of Del Mar is looking for folks  to serve on its seven-member Arts Advisory Committee.
• The annual Arab Film Festival in San Diego is trying to raise money  to keep the event afloat.
• Get to know more about the San Diego Circus Center . (CityBeat)
• The Moonlight Cultural Foundation, which supports the efforts of Moonlight Stage Productions, hired a new executive director and director of development .
• It’s nearly your last chance to see the big Richard Deacon sculpture exhibition  at the San Diego Museum of Art before it comes down Sept. 4.
• The Women’s Museum of California will be celebrating Women’s Equality Day via a parade on Saturday .
Beer, Booze, Weed and Food News
• Brooke Binkowski, who authored her last Border Report for Voice of San Diego this week, slammed San Diego’s new trailer-park-themed restaurant  for shamelessly poking fun at impoverished people. (Los Angeles Times)
• San Diego’s relationship to canned tuna goes way back. San Diego Magazine dives into that history and reports that the local sustainable fishing operation Catalina Offshore is getting back into the old San Diego tradition .
• San Diego’s craft coffee scene keeps growing . (Eater)
• A new downtown bakery is celebrating its grand opening by offering free cake .
• A small new brewery just opened in Kearny Mesa . (Reader)
• California Wild Ales has an interesting new business plan . (WestCoaster)
• If you haven’t yet checked out all the new construction by San Diego State University, the time is now. Trader Joe’s has opened, and so has a big hip new restaurant .
A note to readers: I’m going on a vacation, so no Culture Report next week. Sorry, folks.
Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. Contact her directly at email@example.com .