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Culture Report: Pushing Spectators to Become Participants

Attracting younger audiences is the holy grail of arts groups these days.

Testing out new programming that turns the traditional performer/audience relationship on its head is one way to go after the elusive millennial sect. John Malashock of Malashock Dance, a local dance company, is doing just that with his “Engagement Ring” dance series.

“We wanted to do something that’s not stuffy, not normal,” Malashock said. “The events are very unique. I don’t even call them performances, really, they’re events with the audience in mind rather than an artist just creating art. … We’re aware of a strong shift where a lot of younger audience members are looking for something that’s not just the proper sit down in a theater and watch what’s up on a stage. Most cultural organizations are doing something that’s more social in nature.”

Malashock’s experimental series kicked off last month with a dance event that invited audience members up to the stage to sing karaoke while the dancers did their thing. Folks were also taught some basic choreography and invited to dance alongside the professionals.

“It was wonderful,” Malashock said. “I even sang a song.”

On Dec. 19, the six-part series continues with “Into the Fox Den,” a mysterious-sounding audience-participation piece led by the group Vulpes Vulpes. Malashock said he couldn’t describe the event any further than calling it an “appeal to people’s sense of adventure.”

“For the series, it’s not just us creating these events,” he said. “We’re collaborating with the audience so sometimes we don’t know exactly how things will turn out.”

I’ll be looking deeper into local arts organizations’ efforts to expand and diversify their audience bases in coming weeks. I’d love to hear from you if you’re either a young and avid culture consumer or if you work for an arts organization that’s doing interesting things to reach new audiences.

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news. If you’ve been enjoying the revamped report, please consider making a donation. Read my plea.  

Barrio Logan Is Officially Blowing Up, Arts-Wise

A new gallery will open in Barrio Logan this weekend, adding to the growing art scene there.

Gallery D, 1878 Main St., Unit D, will open to the public during the Barrio Art Crawl happening from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Photo courtesy of  Dia Bassett

Photo courtesy of Dia Bassett

Owner Vijay Hingorani has turned the reins over to independent curator and artist Dia Bassett for the opening show. Bassett, who teaches art, decided to launch the space with an exhibition of other professional artists who also teach: Beliz Iristay, Bhavna Mehta, Lee Puffer and Rizzhel Javier.

She asked each artist to then select a few works by their students. The ages of the students range from kindergarten to college and Bassett said Beliz, who was recently profiled in CityBeat, has chosen some unique pieces by students at the orphanage where she works.

Moving forward, Bassett said the gallery will focus on contemporary work made by up-and-comers in the local art scene.

“Vijay and I are on the same page in the sense that we’re both really interested in showing emerging artists working in San Diego,” she said. “I think when you have that focus, you end up with really interesting, experimental kind of work.”

Because Hingorani and Bassett don’t live in Barrio Logan, the new gallery could be seen as part of the perceived gentrification happening in the neighborhood. As the Union-Tribune put it recently, the influx of outsiders could eventually turn Barrio Logan into the new North Park. Unlike the many art spaces on nearby Logan Avenue, many of the galleries and art studios on Main Street aren’t run by people who live in the neighborhood.

Bassett said she hopes to connect to the cultural current running through Barrio Logan by partnering with other arts groups and artists there.

“We won’t just do shows with the outsiders all the time,” she said. “Hopefuly, we can meet more people in the neighborhood and do some interesting projects together.”

Lemon Grove Historical Mural in Need of New Home

Lemon Grove residents (me included) are reeling over the news of Grove Pastry Shop’s closure.

The bakery is an institution and has been part of the city’s makeup for what feels like forever. The owner of the pastry shop, Teresa Johnson, told me she wanted to stay, but that the owners of the building didn’t renew her lease, instead opting to put the building on the market.

I called up Helen Ofield, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, to ask her about the large-scale historical mural mounted on the south side of the Grove Pastry Shop building.

Photo courtesy of Helen Ofield

Photo courtesy of Helen Ofield

Ofield said since Lemon Grove has yet to adopt a historical preservation ordinance, “nothing is safe” in the city limits. She said if the building sells, it could be torn down so she’s currently looking for a new home for the removable five-panel mural, which depicts pieces of Lemon Grove’s history and founding.

“We’ve been aware of the situation since October and are working on a new location for the mural, which Lemon Grove Historical Society owns and insures,” she said. “We must solve this before the end of the month or as close as possible. … And of course, it’s public art, so we want it to continue to be very public and very visible. It’s a very beautiful, award-winning mural and it was the first public art in Lemon Grove outside of the big lemon.”

Ofield said she’s got several new locations in mind but she’s still in the midst of approaching building owners to see if they’d be interested in housing the mural.

She said she doesn’t want to lose the mural or the historical building that used to house the bakery.

“The building and the mural are absolutely part of the DNA of Lemon Grove now, so nothing must happen to them,” she said.

• In other Lemon Grove arts news, Ofield has transformed one of the rooms in the Parsonage Museum into a contemporary art gallery. She’s showing “The Art and Wit of Don Porcella” at the museum through March 31. Porcella happens to live right across the street from the museum.

The Case for Art-Infused Education

An art-infused curriculum is a good thing, argues John M. Eger.

Eger isthe director of the Creative Economy Initiative at San Diego State University and writes about arts and culture for The Huffington Post. In a recent paper for Create CA, a statewide coalition that advocates for a quality education in and through the arts, Eger makes the case for integrating art and creativity back into schools.

I called Eger to get the CliffsNotes on the report.

“Everybody thinks the arts are touchy-feely stuff,” he said. “But it’s not. Art nurtures a whole different side of the brain and gives people the ability to wonder and wander – to think outside of the box.”

Eger said Create CA has already laid out the blueprint for making schools more creative places.

“But the truth is not many schools know about the blueprint,” he said.

His latest paper is meant to hammer home the importance of teaching kids creativity, which can give them critical thinking skills that ensure they succeed in the current job market. He said he spends a lot of time researching what makes people smart and innovative, and creativity is a big piece of that puzzle.

“People are very busy and they don’t really see the arts as important to success in survival in the new economy, but it is,” he said.

Locally, Eger said not many schools’ curriculum include arts-based approaches.

“Chula Vista High Tech High is doing things correctly by embracing creative education,” he said. “But countywide, right now it’s just experiments. … There are still not a lot of people who are convinced of the importance of arts in education.”

Gypsy Brewer Finds a Home in San Diego and Other Culture News

Famed Danish gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø will settle down in a brick-and-mortar brewery in San Diego set to open early next year. The new partnership with AleSmith Brewing Company will result in a new venture called Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. (press release)

Photo courtesy of AleSmith

Photo courtesy of AleSmith

• El Cajon couldn’t make the East County Performing Arts Center work as just an arts center. Last year, the city entered into a controversial deal with The Rock Church, a religious organization that wanted to take over the 1,145-seat theater that’s struggled to find financial stability since it opened in 1977. The plan was to let the church use the facility a few days a week, and hire a theater management firm that would ensure arts and culture programming continued. Now East County Magazine is reporting that the deal with The Rock Church is at risk of falling apart due to the unexpectedly high costs of renovations.

• Giant sushi rolls are headed to Hillcrest. (San Diego Eater) Perhaps by the time they open, we’ll all be over the news about the sushi fakesters in San Diego. (Fox 5 San Diego)

• City Heights arts nonprofit The AjA Project is working on a mural featuring portraits of local immigrants and refugees set to be mounted in the San Diego International Airport’s Terminal 2. The public art piece will include excerpts from subjects’ personal stories about how and why they got here. KPBS has the full story. Speaking of AjA Project, the nonprofit has partnered with City Heights resident and planning board committee member Krista Berry Ortega to transform her home’s brown fence on the corner of 47th and Wightman into a temporary mural featuring photos by a group of refugee girls.

• National Geographic Traveler named the local anthology “Sunshine/Noir II” as the only book to “read before you go.” That caught the San Diego Union-Tribune’s attention, which ran a Q-and-A with one of the editors behind the book. One of my CityBeat articles was published in the anthology, which features poems, articles, creative writing and other experimental literary works by local scribes.

Artist and writer Mark Murphy digs into the MCASD exhibition of photos of photographers by local Tim Mantoani. KPBS also takes a look at the show, which is on view at the museum’s La Jolla location through Jan. 10.

• You’ve read about several Creative Catalyst grant winners in past Culture Reports. CityBeat’s Seth Combs has also been shining a light on the visual artists who’ve been given $20,000 to come up with something creative. His latest is on Matthew Hebert, an SDSU professor who specializes in marrying furniture and fine art with technology. I profiled Hebert for KCET a few years ago.

• The Valley Center History Museum will reopen Tuesday after being shuttered for the past few months. (U-T)

• A few years ago, I sat in on one of the Museum of Photographic Arts’ classes they teach at local centers for people with Alzheimer’s disease. I was floored by how effective the program was at getting residents interested and engaged. San Diego Free Press shines a spotlight on MOPA’s outreach program.

• The Reader essentially re-reports the San Diego Opera story everyone else reported back in October.

• Art by dozens of Grossmont Union High School District students is showing at Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center’s Art Gallery. (U-T)

• Looks like architecture firm Miller Hull has some Del Mar citizens’ concerns to address in regards to its proposed design of a new civic center there. (The Coast News Group)

• Lots of people are passing around this blog post that includes 13 pointers on how to be an artist written by local painter David Van Gough.

• There are close to two dozen performances of “The Nutcracker” you can see in this region. KPBS’s Nina Garin breaks them down and helps you find the best fit.

• SDSU is helping provide after-school violin instruction to youth in National City. (press release)

Some of the public art pieces the U-T detailed a few weeks ago are being assembled and fabricated at the San Diego International Airport’s new Rental Car Center this week.

• See “Star Wars” comic art at Liberty Station. (KPBS)

• Lamb’s Players Theatre’s latest “Festival of Christmas” includes lots of fun local name-drops and references since the play is set in Little Italy. (U-T)

• San Diego Story reviews Bach Collegium’s performance of “Messiah.”

• Watch this “Pot in the Latkes” holiday-themed music video by San Diego rapper MC Flow. You’re welcome.

Get Cultured: Things to Do in San Diego This Week

• Join me and the rest of the VOSD crew next Wednesday at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park for our Holiday Cheers and Beers happy hour fundraiser where we’ll be drinking some brews to support hard-hitting news (rhyming is the best!).

• Malls aren’t typically the place to find legit contemporary art by locals, but this weekend artists, poets and musicians will fill Horton Plaza in a curated pop-up art fair called Date Night.

See “Star Wars” themed art and support Rady Childrens Hospital by buying some of it.

 The SDSU mural I wrote about recently is finished and the artists are celebrating on Wednesday.

• San Diego Magazine’s Troy Johnson has a sweet roundup of food and drink events happening this month in San Diego.

• Making short films in 48 hours is possible. You can see some made by San Diegans this week.

• Liberty Station kicks of a new walkabout event series.

• The Historic Quilt Guild and Fiber Arts Guilds have created a space for historical activities and demos. They’re raising funds for the new spot on Saturday.

• Rising Arts Leaders are celebrating the holidays.

• Virginie Mazureau’s playful paintings will be featured in a solo show opening in Escondido Saturday night.

Photo courtesy of ArtHatch

Photo courtesy of ArtHatch

• North Park’s cool, but not too cool to hire carolers and get into the holiday spirit for an evening shopping event.

• Robots, drones and other techy things will invade San Diego this week.

• Nonie Cruzado’s the featured artist at Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla this month.

• Sparks Gallery put together a show of small (read: more affordable) works.

• Pacific Coast Chorale and special guest Richard Lederer will put on a holiday show.

• The So You Think You Can Dance tour makes a stop in San Diego.

• City Ballet of San Diego does “The Nutcracker.”

• Get your “holiday-priced artwork” here.

• The Mingei pairs cocktails with crafts this Thursday.

• San Diego Made presents its annual two-day Holiday Market this weekend in Barrio Logan.

• The San Diego Bicycle Coalition hosts its annual “light-your-bike” ride on Thursday.

• San Diego Chorus sings holiday music.

• Hector Villegas has a solo show opening at Galeria Aca in Barrio Logan Saturday.

• See cute and funny art at an ice-cream shop in North Park.

• Local artist Terri Oelrich wrote a children’s book about sugar and sweeteners. She’s signing it Thursday in North Park.

• The East Village will light its community tree this week.

• Joshua Krause’s art show at the Empanadas & Beer pop-up in South Park closes with a party and sale on Thursday.

• The Story Consortium sets up at You Are Here in Golden Hill for its holiday-themed storytelling event.

• Tijuana’s Plaza Fiesta is a fun place to celebrate the season.

• Vinyl record collectors are gonna want to hit this up.

• This Saturday’s Barrio Art Crawl includes a “Star Wars” themed art show at La Bodega Gallery, a music fest at the local VFW, a short film screening at Low Gallery, art by ManRabbit at The Glashaus, a closing reception for the Klines’ show at HB Punto Experimental and more.

• The San Diego Circus Center puts on a winter show.

• This film photo exhibition is the antithesis of what generally goes on in Instagram.

• See L.A. art in La Jolla.

• Local photographer Paul Turounet is one of three artists featured in a show opening at jdc Fine Art in Little Italy on Saturday.

• Adelman Fine Art is opening a holiday show.

• Local crafters will be at Blind Lady Ale House on Sunday to help you cross a few folks off your list this year.

• Wear tweed and ride your bike. Just because.

• Flash mobs are still a thing and this one’s Christmas-themed.

Kids Corner

• Kids love holiday lights on houses. They love holiday lights on boats even more.

 Get competitive with your gingerbread house-making this year while sitting inside a restaurant made to look like a giant gingerbread house.

Courtesy of Queenstown Public House

Photo courtesy of Queenstown Public House

• Santa makes a stop at Bernardo Winery.

 Pacific Beach’s holiday parade is Saturday at 1 p.m.  

• The Bonita mall gets festive.

• Downtown La Mesa’s Christmas celebration is always a good time.

• Red Tricycle has a useful rundown of kid-friendly holiday events happening this weekend.

Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at kinsee@vosd.org. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

An earlier version of this post misspelled The Huffington Post.

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