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Culture Report: UC San Diego's New Downtown Outpost Could Be a Boon for Local Arts

The San Diego Latino Film Festival kicks off its 25th anniversary, smoked beer is a thing and more in this week’s roundup of the region’s arts and culture news.
UC San Diego new downtown building

A rendering of the new downtown project spearheaded by UC San Diego Extension.

A bustling new arts center is planned for the corner of Park Boulevard and Market Street.

UC San Diego Extension, the university’s continuing education arm, is spearheading a four-story development in the East Village. Tentatively set to open by late 2020 or early 2021, the top two floors of the new building will likely house classrooms, community conference rooms and office space. The current plan for the bottom two floors is to build an amphitheater and multi-purpose center for the arts, accessible to UC San Diego students and staff, but also the wider arts and culture community.

Right now, the university is hosting roundtable discussions and meeting with leaders and other stakeholders in the local arts scene. Mary Walshok, UC San Diego’s associate vice chancellor for public programs and dean of UC San Diego Extension, said they’re gathering input, trying to learn how the new downtown outpost can fill gaps and better serve arts and culture organizations.

“It’s been so gratifying so far, because the leaders of the arts organizations in this town want to innovate and want to experiment,” she said. “I think we can be a good partner in some of that experimentation.”

UC San Diego Extension’s $42 million, 66,000-square-foot building is part of Holland Partner Group’s $275 million development project approved by Civic San Diego, the city’s downtown redevelopment agency. UC San Diego Extension is funding their four-story portion of the project.

Walshok said nothing is set in stone, but the hope is that the first and second-floor art spaces will help UC San Diego students and professors present their work in a much more publicly accessible venue. She said they also hope to partner with small and large arts organizations to help program the approximately 20,000 square feet of flexible art space, including a 200-seat amphitheater event space. She said she envisions a place for more edgy, experimental work, like the La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival,

The project is being built atop what was once The Quartyard, a temporary urban pop-up park that included a beer bar and a small stage for music and other performances. Walshock said they paid close attention to the type of events that drew crowds to The Quartyard, and their building will be a venue for similar happenings.

“There’s a market for just plain fun on a Friday night downtown,” she said. “So pop music, beer festivals, parties — that’s OK, too. That helps liven up the street life in San Diego.”

The building will be right next to the trolley’s new blue line, which is being extended up to UC San Diego’s La Jolla campus. The transit connection between the campus and the new building is an important component of the project. Walshok said both the building and the new line will better connect the wider San Diego community to the campus.

“Publicly funded universities need to be more and more embedded in their local communities,” Walshok said. “We need to be in more places and more accessible.”

“It’s out-of-the-box thinking now,” she added, “but eventually, all the public universities will be doing something like this.”

You’re reading the Culture ReportVoice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

Theater Leader is Leaving, Latino Film Fest Turns 25 and More Arts and Culture News

Michael Rosenberg is stepping down as managing director of La Jolla Playhouse to take on the same role at the McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey. (Union-Tribune)

The San Diego Latino Film Festival kicks off its 25th anniversary season Thursday. KPBS talks with the festival’s founder and executive director Ethan Van Thillo.

"Felíz Año Tijuana" film

“Felíz Año Tijuana” is one of the dozens of films showing at this year’s San Diego Latino Film Festival.

• In case you missed the news, next month actor Sean Penn is coming to La Jolla’s D.G. Wills Books to read and discuss his new book, “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.” If you’re wondering how such a small bookstore gets such big guests like Penn, read this old piece I wrote for CityBeat about the bookstore owner’s persuasive writing skills.

• The NTC Foundation, which oversees the development and operation of 26 buildings at Arts District Liberty Station, has selected six artists, most of them from San Diego and Tijuana, to create temporary art projects for its “Installations at the Station” public art program.

• Bibliophiles take note: The Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park just opened an exhibition showcasing books from the lesser-known libraries of UC San Diego, San Diego State University and the University of San Diego.

• Malashock Dance is celebrating its 30th anniversary season with special performances.

• San Diego artist Anna Stump’s large-scale nude paintings are the center of her solo exhibition opening this week.

• The Storytellers of San Diego and the Encinitas Branch of the San Diego County Library present the annual San Diego Storytelling Festival on Saturday.

Cygnet Theatre announced a new, cheaper pricing structure meant to make theater more accessible. (Broadway World)

• A new printmaking studio and workshop space celebrated its grand opening in Lemon Grove last weekend.

• The La Jolla Playhouse’s new-play incubator program is running March 22-25. The Union-Tribune has the details.

• The City’s Commission for Arts and Culture released its lists of local organizations that qualified for funding this year. For the first time ever, Comic-Con is on the list. If granted, the money will be used for development of Comic-Con’s new center in Balboa Park and its education programming. Based on Comic-Con’s big budget size, the nonprofit could be eligible for more than $200,000. I’ve heard from a handful of folks who are concerned that Comic-Con, already popular and successful, is taking away much-needed funding from other local organizations. 

• The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego announced the local artists participating in the upcoming exhibition “Being Here With You/ Estando aquí contigo: 42 Artists from San Diego and Tijuana.”

• Check out this new video featuring some of the murals covering walls in downtown Carlsbad.

The San Diego Opera opens “Florencia en el Amazonas” on Saturday. It’s the first-ever Spanish-language opera commissioned in the U.S. (Union-Tribune)

• The San Diego Music Awards will be handed out Monday night.

• On Wednesday, learn how to make art with Panca, a well-known Tijuana artist.

• A theatrical debut explores the darker side of Disneyland. (Union-Tribune)

• CityBeat introduces its readers to local emerging arts leaders.

• Speaking of which, get to know more about Susanna Peredo Swap, founder of Vanguard Culture, a nonprofit that works to connect and grow the arts in San Diego. (SDVoyager)

• James Luna has died. The famed performance and multimedia artist lived on the La Jolla Indian Reservation in North County. A celebration of his life will be held March 16.

Food, Cannabis, Beer and Booze News

• Smoked beer is a thing, and its reportedly good. (CityBeat)

• The local makers behind Mush, an oatmeal-like meal, landed an investment deal on the “Shark Tank” television show. (San Diego Magazine)

• Mikkeller Brewing is expanding. (Eater)

• Local Barons Market locations are turning loading docks and stock rooms into food and local beer speakeasies for a night.

• Food fest alert: There’s one happening at SeaWorld and another at Fashion Valley Mall this week.

• If ceviche’s your thing, you’re gonna want to check out this event.

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at kinsee@vosd.org with arts and culture news and tips. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link. Subscribe to the San Diego Culturecast podcast

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