Internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s recent arrest prompted a local museum to stand up by sitting down. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego last week had two people at a time sit for hour-long silent stints to protest Weiwei’s imprisonment.

Earlier this month, the museum acquired two of Weiwei’s “Marble Chair” sculptures. The artist, perhaps best known for his direction of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium used in the Beijing Olympics, was detained April 3 in Beijing as he tried to get on a plane to Hong Kong. China last week finally released details about his arrest, saying the artist is being charged with evading taxes, which is unlikely to assuage the international outcry over his sudden, long-unexplained detainment. (LA Times)

Arts blogger Tyler Green interviewed the San Diego museum’s director, Hugh Davies, about the decision to stage the protest and about what a museum’s role can be in drawing attention to such an event:

I keep thinking about what the equivalent would be. I think it would be if our country had put Andy Warhol in jail or if Banksy or Damien Hirst was put in jail. This is the best-known artist in China. So it’s a very troubling move.

Meanwhile, in a Union-Tribune story about the museum’s recently appointed chief curator, Davies says he’ll run the museum for another five to seven years before retiring. He took the director post there in 1983.

You’re reading the Arts Report, our weekly compilation of the region’s arts and culture news. More than 90 people have already said they’re coming to our June 1 event on our Facebook event page. Have you?

Passing the Baton, Moving Along

• The Wall Street Journal’s drama critic, Terry Teachout, reviews The Old Globe’s “Life of Riley,” calling the production of Alan Ayckbourn’s play “noteworthy even by the company’s own high standards.” The critic calls the Globe’s effort a coup:

That it has received its U.S. premiere not on Broadway but at San Diego’s Old Globe is yet another nail in the coffin of New York’s fast-waning reputation as the vital center of theater in America.

• I took a look at the long history of fantastic names of people that held the city’s organist post over the last century or so. And I found civic organist Carol Williams’ Facebook fan page, which features a photograph of Williams posing on her Harley Davidson in front of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

• A self-described “modern” square dance club in El Cajon is trying to give the twirling folk form a contemporary spin. (Union-Tribune)

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• A studio in Mira Mesa is teaching a centuries-old Indian dance form, Bharatnatyam, to young girls. (KPBS)

• The Nederlander Organization, which produces shows under the name Broadway San Diego, pulled out of Riverside’s Fox Performing Arts Center, telling the city the company was losing money in Riverside. (Riverside Press-Enterprise)

• Burl Stiff, long the U-T’s chronicler of high society functions and who-wore-what, died last week at 83.

Happening Here:

• The North County Times’ always-diverse roundup of the week’s events includes Canadian mainstays Barenaked Ladies, the San Diego Symphony’s weekend performances of Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 5, and local theater company Mo’olelo’s reading Tuesday of a play about “how the melting of the polar ice cap has a scientist, an Inuit, a government official and a polar bear scrambling for their share of what’s left.”

• By day, he manages social media and marketing for Karl Strauss. By night, San Diego native Ryan Ross helps run a small theater company, Triad Productions. It’s a busy week for this moonlighter, whose current play closes this weekend.

• What is paradise? To explore the question, the Maritime Museum opens a show this weekend including a wide assortment of artist Paul Gauguin’s paintings, watercolors, prints, sculptures and carvings on two old ships. (U-T)

• Longtime La Jolla gallerist Mark Quint opened a new, much bigger space this weekend: “By far the most visible gallery I’ve ever had.” (La Jolla Light)

• A community nonprofit in San Ysidro is renovating a historic church to use for art and culture, opening Thursday night with an exhibit that was previously on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

I visited the church Wednesday to bring you a video look at the exhibit for our weekly television segment on NBC San Diego. And Kinsee Morlan dove into the exhibit in last week’s CityBeat.

You can hear more from the nonprofit’s David Flores on this topic at our event on June 1.

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Kelly Bennett is the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach her directly at or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with her on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

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

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