Arts spring up and make a neighborhood cool. Other people want to live there, to be near the artsy people. So developers come to build. Artists end up priced out. The cycle goes on, here and elsewhere.

In downtown San Diego, redevelopment planners more than a decade ago tried to put a stick in that wheel. They helped an architect rehab an old dairy building in East Village, and in exchange he had to provide low-rent space to Sushi Contemporary Performance and Visual Arts, an organization that had been presenting the edgiest stuff in town since the 1980s.

When that architect sold the building, the planners held the new owners who wanted to build condos on the block to the same deal. The Icon condo developers would have to provide lower-than-market rents to Sushi through 2031. But when Sushi closed its doors earlier this year, the setup faltered. It’s unclear how soon, if at all, the space will again house an arts group.

We published a letter from a former Sushi board member who wrote to say he was troubled by something in the story: The prospect that the next arts group should present less controversial stuff.

“The suggestion that the beneficiary of Sushi’s lease and vacant space have ‘smoother edges’ is problematic and short-sighted,” he wrote.

We also learned about a mural that symbolized gentrification’s push both in what’s now the Gaslamp and East Village. Mario Torero, a muralist of Chicano Park fame, painted his “Eyes of Picasso” on a building that was razed to make room for Horton Plaza, then again several times on the dairy building where Sushi was. Now he’s painted it in Barrio Logan.

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

Making a Point in Public

• Tonight’s the public’s first in-person chance to weigh in on the proposed “Wings of Freedom” sculpture and plan to develop the Navy Pier adjacent to the USS Midway Museum. We compile a Reader’s Guide of what you need to know to help you decide.

The meeting tonight is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Unified Port of San Diego building, 3165 Pacific Highway. (The next meetings are next Tues., Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. and Sat., Dec. 10 at 9 a.m.)


• About a dozen people from the North Park-based dance company Eveoke are in the Dominican Republic this week, performing their popular “Las Mariposas” dance that tells the story of three sisters who were murdered for resisting the dictatorship there in 1960. One surviving sister will watch the troupe perform. Watch part of their rehearsal and hear a few Eveoke members talk about what it’s like to prepare to take such a dance to the place the story happened.

• Four decades after they painted them, some original Chicano Park muralists will touch up 20 of the murals under Interstate 5 and the Coronado Bridge. (California Watch)

• La Jolla Playhouse’s play “Milk Like Sugar” focused on a pregnancy pact that young, black, urban teen girls made, attracting some criticism from a leader in the black community here that the play perpetuated stereotypes. But other members of the black community have defended it, like Philip Liburd of the local NAACP, who said the play was “well-written and relevant.” (San Diego Reader)

Happening Here

• Tonight’s the next performance for Art of Elan, the local chamber music group whose co-director Kate Hatmaker we interviewed a few weeks ago. In an interview this week with the Union-Tribune, her compatriot Demarre McGill confronts some stereotypes commonly ascribed to classical music:

… that it’s for the wealthy, the very well educated, and white crowd. It is a very European tradition. But there’s so much more to classical music than that. And those are the type of classical pieces we enjoy presenting — for instance, the Wynton Marsalis piece we are featuring on the next concert.

Hatmaker will play that Marsalis piece tonight at the San Diego Museum of Art.


• If you point your smart phone at several black-and-white square QR codes around Balboa Park at this weekend’s December Nights festival, you can go on a walking tour guided by the unofficial king of the park, Ranger Kim Duclo. (North County Times)

• A new art installation including motion-sensing lights by local artist and architect Miki Iwasaki was recently installed at the airport. It’s the latest piece under a plan developed in 2006 to integrate art more cohesively in the airport. The plan dictates that 2 percent of the costs of certain construction projects go toward art, so the massive $1 billion expansion underway at Terminal Two brings with it about $6 million in art and art-related projects. (U-T)

Iwasaki told CityBeat he’s been interested lately in making art pieces that aren’t purely visual but also “engage the body.”

• Dance critic Janice Steinberg breaks down your options for nine ballet companies’ performances of “The Nutcracker.” (U-T)

• In its “Arts and Power” issue, Riviera Magazine names local surrealist/pop painter Kelsey Brookes “Artist of the Year.

• An original play onstage now focuses on the live-action role players who dress in fantasy warrior costumes and battle each other with toy weapons in Balboa Park every weekend. Playwright and actor Katherine Harroff, one of the key members of theater company Circle Circle dot dot, interviewed them to come up with the play. It’s rare to find “an original stage work developed by and centering on San Diegans,” wrote the U-T’s Jim Hebert.

• A local filmmaker is making a film about the “intersection of “street art, Buddhism and refugees from Burma,” including an interview with Shepard Fairey when Fairey was here painting a monk mural in South Park. The filmmaker has a few days left in his campaign to raise money on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. (CityBeat)

See what other San Diego-based projects are listed on the site.

• This is quite a compelling lineup: Two performances this weekend will include Tijuana’s Lux Boreal dance troupe, local avant-garde percussion group “red fish blue fish” and the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus. Choreographer Allyson Green has been studying composer Stravinsky’s life and music to prepare new choreography for “Les Noces,” music he wrote to tell the story of a Russian peasant wedding.

“The Stravinsky score, it’s like you get on a train, and it doesn’t stop till it’s over,” Green told the U-T. “There’s hardly a breath in it. The Lux dancers love biting that off.”

(Want to recommend this arts newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.)

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.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.