A couple of months ago I hung out with Dirk Sutro, who wrote about architecture for years for The San Diego Union-Tribune and the local edition of the Los Angeles Times. Sutro had just finished a new guidebook about architecture at UCSD in time for the school’s 50th anniversary.

Now, the book’s release is coinciding with a series of public lectures, beginning this week. The lectures and discussions have an interesting goal: “reflecting on the history and future of ‘campus’ as built environment, landscape, and site for public art.”

Thursday’s lecture about UCSD’s campus, “Sky, Sea, and Science,” is by architectural historian and critic Kurt W. Forster, who teaches at Yale.

These discussions I find especially interesting right now. We’ve been talking a lot about public art, and the inherent tension in choosing a piece of art to be in a prominent public space but trying to appease the taste of a community. UCSD’s Stuart Collection of public art is heralded as a San Diego claim to fame in the art world, but it’s on private space and paid for by the institution.

(KPBS interviewed Sutro and some colleagues about the upcoming discussion series.)

For public art to be boundary-pushing (rather than chosen by democratic consensus as has been sometimes lamented in San Diego), does it have to be commissioned and paid for by an institution like the university or a museum? Can municipal government, with so many various stakeholders, pull something like that off here?

Please contact Kelly Bennett directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531 and follow her on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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