What does a city need?

Might not be the first question to pop in your head when you walk into an art museum. But that’s exactly the question the San Diego Museum of Art is hoping to find answers to through its summer salon series that started last week. The museum has corralled artists, musicians, politicians and lecturers to line up a summer’s worth of Thursday night explorations of that question.

Last Thursday’s theme of “shelter” featured a discussion with Councilman Todd Gloria and local artist Omar Lopez set up three interactive art pieces in the museum’s galleries to help participants see “shelter” in a different way.

I visited the museum Wednesday as Lopez set up his installations; watch this clip of Behind the Scene TV:

View more videos at: http://www.nbcsandiego.com.

The museum’s public programs manager, Alexander Jarman, said the series relates to the museum’s coming exhibition of arts and crafts movement pioneer Gustav Stickley.

“Here’s the guy who built the Craftsman homes that are now ubiquitous in Southern California,” he said. “And he was deeply interested in how we build communities, how we build societies.”

But why talk about civic questions in an art museum? Wouldn’t some people be trying to escape that when they come to look at the collection?

Jarman said the two are more inextricable than we often think:

I think there always has been a perceived divide between art and then our everyday experience. So one goal of the series is to further emphasize that art is relative to our everyday existence. And we want to make the museum the physical site of dialogue about important issues. Art plays a role in all of these talks.

More themes for coming Thursdays to answer “What does a city need?” include green space, identity and history, access to resources and creativity.

I am the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with me on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

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

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