Making art is complicated, especially when it comes to taking an idea and manifesting it in texture or color or music.

The complications were obvious when artist Dean Ramos began to try to make the spheres he’d envisioned for a new sculpture installation in the Art Produce Gallery on University Avenue in North Park. The wire Ramos used proved difficult to twist into the right shape, and even dangerous when ends poked out.

But art is about decision-making and navigating problems and hazards. Ramos told the Union-Tribune’s James Chute this week about his new piece, and how he recruited dozens of his students from MiraCosta College to help. One of the students suggested twisting two wires to strengthen the piece, and Ramos decided to use zip ties to bind the spheres.

Each choice led to another choice. The scraps of the zip ties piled up and crunched as they walked over them, and Ramos and the students decided to leave them, “adding an unexpected sound and added sensory dimension to the work:”

“It’s not until you go there and you really start installing that you know exactly what’s going to happen,” Ramos said.

Such decisions are the kind you must practice making; Ramos learned from a mentor himself, and so now wants to immerse his students in the nuts and bolts of making and displaying art.

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The Arts Ecosystem:

• That kind of mentorship exists across local arts. A local artist, Rae Barney, had been making bronze sculptures, “because that’s what ‘real artists’ created,” instead of the Japanese clay art, Raku, that she’d studied.

Our blogger Dani Dodge visited Barney’s clay studio in Escondido and described Barney’s evolution, a key piece of which was a mentor program through the San Diego Fine Art Society.

Talking with a mentor artist, Barney realized that when she talked about the bronze pieces she was making, she focused on the labor and money involved in making them. “But when I talked about the Raku, I lit up,” she said.

• One of the county’s top theaters, the La Jolla Playhouse, announced this week its fourth annual residency for a smaller San Diego County-based theater company that doesn’t have a home. The residency gives that smaller company rehearsal and performance space. (U-T)

• The forward-thinking also extends to dance. Local choreographer and dance mainstay Jean Isaacs dreamed up a prize for emerging choreographers. The U-T rounded up some details about the lives and inspirations of this year’s competitors, artists between 18 and 40. A 26-year-old choreographer from North Park won the competition on Sunday.

• And even if you’re not a serious choreographer, three local dance companies still want you to try your hand (or feet) at the free workshops offered Dec. 26. (North County Times)

What’s on the Walls:

• For a bunch of neighborhoods in San Diego, murals are part of life. The famous murals in Chicano Park, for instance, are fixtures in Barrio Logan. New murals in Shelltown, one of San Diego’s southernmost neighborhoods, warranted a recent celebration.

But La Jolla, despite being an arts-loving community, hasn’t had many murals. A new effort is changing that. I wrote about the new murals last week and we take you to the sites in our latest episode of Behind the Scene TV.

Local artist Kim MacConnel painted the first mural in the project earlier this summer:

• “I’m ready to keep it moving, to tell the world about this wonderful thing.” The new executive director of the San Diego Museum of Art, Roxana Velásquez, is excited to be at the helm of a museum with a collection of 16,000 pieces of art. She’s spent three months in San Diego after moving here from Mexico City. (U-T)

• The math and art students we featured last week exhibited their work at Sushi Art on Thursday night. Their digital art teacher, Margaret Noble, rounded up some photographs of the exhibit and posted their video pieces.

Working on Art:

• U-T photographer James Gregg captured this video of some beautiful moments backstage while City Ballet dancers prepared to dance the Nutcracker. We featured one of City Ballet’s dancers, Janica Smith, in this look last week at the life of a ballerina in San Diego.

• Delimited ideas: Local architect James Brown has drawn up a new design for Friendship Park at the U.S.-Mexico border. But first the Border Patrol has to give the green light. (CityBeat)

• “San Diego artists have talent that few local galleries have tapped into,” says art gallery owner Alexander Salazar in a feature. “Some gallery owners have called it a risk, I consider it an opportunity.”

Spinning Top:

• Year-end roundups: Here are CityBeat’s “Top San Diego Art Stories of 2010” to get things rolling. Check back in at Behind the Scene soon for a couple of reflections on the stories we’ve learned since launching this blog in September, and the stories we’ll be watching in the coming months.

(The Arts Report is heading to Canada next week and will be back on Jan. 4. Want to recommend this arts newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.)

Please contact Kelly Bennett directly at 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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