Most of the time, grants and funding for arts goes to institutions like orchestras and museums.

Those institutions then turn to local choreographers or painters to make art that fits the institution’s project. But what about the ideas the individual artist might have? Those are typically harder to get funded. And even if the artist makes work, it might not be easy to find a place to show it.

Enter a new program to give out $250,000 to individual artists — and if the institutions want in on it, they have to agree to house or support the selected artists. Felicia Shaw, the San Diego Foundation’s arts and culture director, is trying to turn a few traditional axioms on their head.

The idea that an artist is someone who’s starving and “who doesn’t own anything and drives a car that’s smoking down the freeway” is past, Shaw posits. “I’m not convinced that makes great art.”

But might giving money to artists instead of established institutions mean some of the work is controversial? Shaw demurs.

“I hope people will talk about it, let’s leave it at that,” she said.

Full disclosure: My bandmate is applying for one of these grants.

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

The Cheap Seats

• Lots of us wake up to a pile of emails every day promising deals on massages, meals and movies — and arts groups are using sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, too. Writing a new series for VOSD, Roxana Popescu is looking into the impact these discount sites have on San Diego arts. What do you want to know? Share your questions with us.

• Leaders of the musical theater company Lyric Opera San Diego have blamed some of their financial trouble on trying to survive in such an era of expected discounts. In our Behind the Scene TV story this week, we visit the theater and learn more about the city’s requirement that the theater remain a performing arts venue for 50 years, which adds a layer of complication to Lyric Opera’s attempts to find a buyer for the venue.

• Escondido’s arts center ran a deficit of $232,000 last year and “officials have hired forensic accountants to investigate whether the center might have lost as much as $200,000 more than has been reported during the last two years.” (North County Times)

• The Fern Street Circus, which erects a big tent circus in Balboa Park every year and runs a popular education program, announced it’s closing after 21 years. (CityBeat)

• Where does 35-year-old painter Dion Terry work on his art? In the second bedroom of his Loma Portal apartment. Take a peek at his space, which also houses a stuffed pheasant, in the first installment in a new Union-Tribune series about how artists’ spaces reflect and inform their work.

Popular Opinion

• The lively conversation continues about the San Diego Symphony’s plans to spruce up its Seventh Avenue entrance. Former city architect Mike Stepner tells us city planners at the time wanted the skyscraper’s developers to make the street level more enticing in the 1980s, and Ruth Hayward tells us about going to the movies in the old Fox Theatre in the years before World War II. In our latest roundup of comments on the plan, your sentiments range from “Great design!” to “like putting a hamburger outside a McDonald’s.”

Tell us what you think in the comments or on Facebook.

• The U-T assembles an impressive crew of 14 super-theatergoers in San Diego to weigh in occasionally on local theater topics. In the first installment of “The Front Row,” each one answers, “What is the one thing about San Diego theater that has you most excited right now?”

• Famed architect Frank Gehry was inspired by the reflections and illusions of artist Larry Bell’s work (featured in some of our photographs from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s “Phenomenal” show). (Los Angeles Times)

• The Circle Circle Dot Dot theater troupe finds stories in San Diego to weave into dramatic productions, like their upcoming community-based piece “Ragnarok,” which draws inspiration from the role-playing groups that descend en masse on Morley Field every weekend. (San Diego Reader)

• Dave Hampton, the curator at the Mingei Museum’s current “Craft Revolution” show, gives a field guide to San Diego’s robust community of graphic designers from the middle of last century. (KPBS)

• Three of VOSD’s arts stories were first-place finishers in last week’s San Diego Press Club awards for local journalism. Freelance writer Valerie Scher placed first in different categories for her profiles of an off-the-wall symphony librarian and a sculptor who lives in a trailer in the Elfin Forest. Freelancer Roxana Popescu placed first for the series that documented the unfolding frenzy as an opera comes closer to opening night.

• How far dead are the dead white guys? Local conductor Steven Schick thinks the early 20th century composer Stravinsky, rather than the 19th century’s Beethoven, should be thought of as the midpoint as classical music groups decide which music to play.

• Finally, a game of musical chairs: San Diego Opera announced last week a complicated little turn of events. New York’s Metropolitan Opera wanted the guy who was supposed to sing the part of Ahab in San Diego Opera’s upcoming “Moby-Dick” production for a show it is doing at the same time. So Morris is going, and another tenor, Ben Heppner, will pick up the Ahab post here in San Diego. Heppner’s the guy who sang the part last year in Dallas, the first city the new opera was ever performed in.

And here’s the funny part. Heppner was originally supposed to sing that role in New York for which Morris is going to replace yet another tenor now.

As the U-T’s Jim Chute tweeted, “A tenor replaces a tenor who replaces a tenor who was replacing the tenor now replacing the tenor.”

Yeah, easy as that.

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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

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

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