Culture Report: City Arts Chief Leaves Filner Team - Voice of San Diego

Arts/Culture UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Culture Report: City Arts Chief Leaves Filner Team

City arts chief leaves, La Jolla Playhouse expands its upcoming theater festival and local college professors make theater in public.

Late Thursday night, a few hours after a group of four powerful women appeared on KPBS to accuse Mayor Bob Filner of unwanted sexual advances over several years, I got a phone call.

Denise Montgomery, newly appointed executive director of the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture, called to say she was resigning her post. She later emailed a statement that tied her resignation to the scandal surrounding the mayor. She’d begun working for the city in June.

“I wrestled with this decision out of commitment to the arts and culture community, however, I cannot in good conscience remain part of the Filner administration,” she wrote.

Montgomery joined the administration in large part because of the mayor’s espoused commitment to arts and culture. The commission distributes money collected from hotel taxes to arts and culture organizations, museums and cultural festivals. Filner was the draw for her to leave her private consulting work and join a government again after doing similar work in Colorado, she said. From our Q&A in June:

It’s this specific mayor. It’s pretty rare in the spectrum of elected leaders to have someone like Mayor Filner. Numerous times, I’ve seen him speak without any notes or talking points about the role of arts and culture in community and society and life, with conviction and with understanding. To me, that’s somebody that I’m really happy to have the opportunity to work for.

Arts and culture watchers reacted:

Not everyone saw it that way. A commenter added a different take at the U-T:

If her commitment to the community – artists, non-artists, audiences – is so flimsy that she cannot sustain it in the face of difficulties, the cxity (sic) is better off without her.

What do you think? Share your two cents in The Plaza.

You’re reading the Culture Report, our weekly compilation of the region’s arts and culture news.

Happening Here

• The La Jolla campus of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego may soon get its long-awaited expansion. Trustees are looking for an architect. (U-T San Diego)

• Find free admission for “El Caballo: The Horse in Mexican Folk Art” on August 10. The folk art exhibition is on display at the Center for Community and Cultural Arts in southeastern San Diego.

• Nominees are out for the 2013 San Diego Music Awards. You can see the full list and vote for your favorites. (I’m going to leave your vote completely up to you, pressure-free, for the acts nominated in Americana categories featuring a fiddler who moonlights as your Culture Report scribe.) The awards are announced in October.

• The expanding festival of site-specific theater at the La Jolla Playhouse includes a piece set at the crooked house above UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, the “Fallen Star” sculpture by Do Ho Suh. (U-T)

• Join us Saturday for Politifest, our family-friendly festival in Liberty Station. We’ll have an Idea Tournament for the top five community-bettering concepts.

Local Roots

• More Surfing Madonna-inspired art may coast into Encinitas, the artist behind the original illegally installed mosaic tells the U-T.

• It takes guts to admit something you’ve built over many years needs some fresh air. Chef Deborah Scott is shaking up her Little Italy staple, Indigo Grill. The concept was innovative when the restaurant opened in 1994, she said. But now, she tells San Diego Magazine’s Troy Johnson:

“Every concept has its shelf life,” says Scott. “Indigo has really big portions, rustic preparations, earthy flavors. We want this to be healthier, smaller, fresher, cleaner presentations.”

• At least a few local culture leaders attended our conversation downtown last week about innovation and what could stymie it here. Check out highlights from the conversation.

• A few local professors are making activist theater pieces and performing them on the street under the moniker “Public Moves.” One of the artists, Michael Mufson, tells CityBeat:

“We agree on many things, disagree on some things,” he continues. “But we agree that theater should address the political, social-justice culture that we’re in. And so now, we’re three mature theater artists, three mature teachers who’ve reached a point in their lives where we have the opportunity to make all of those things concrete in the form of a company that engages in the public.”

• The first few episodes of a new TV show about local art and culture are online. (ArtPulse)

• Former local restaurateur Jay Porter is writing some thoughts from his tenure at his spots The Linkery and El Take It Easy. He reflected on his experiment to automatically add a tip to every bill, rather than accept voluntary gratuities.

• San Luis Obispo artist Jeff Jamieson interviews San Diego-based artist Robert Irwin about the “progression” of his career, including eye-tricking pieces at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and an acrylic column now installed in the lobby of the federal courthouse downtown. (New Times San Luis Obispo)

• Finally, a personal note. I’ll be leaving VOSD full time next week to pursue some projects, traveling and some fresh air of my own. This Culture Report will continue, penned alternatively by me and another contributor I’m excited about, and you can expect a Meeting of the Minds event in September. I’ve been delighted to scratch the surface of the culture of this place, and I hope to keep soaking in more of the creative approaches of my talented neighbors.

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