Recaps of the year’s headlines abound in our pages and elsewhere, but I bet you’ve not heard such a mellifluous version as the one the San Diego Master Chorale crooned for us. They, like this news organization, call themselves the “voice of San Diego,” so we thought we’d team up to harmonize the newsy “voice of” with the melodious “voice of.”

We put the top local news stories from 2011 to the tune of “Ode to Joy,” which the choir had just sung alongside the San Diego Symphony in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The next time you can catch the choir and the symphony in concert together is at the end of March.


These might not be as mysterious as the Geezer Bandit’s whereabouts, but I rounded up some top storylines from the past year in the arts world, from the money trouble at a few veteran arts institutions to government financing of the arts. What do you think is a must-watch story for the next year? Drop me a line:

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

Breaking Local Bounds

• The massive outdoor pipe organ in the middle of Balboa Park turned 97 on New Year’s Eve, and The New York Times was on hand a week earlier to register a bit of East Coast climate jealousy over the teenage audience members who wore tank tops to the Christmas Day concert.

Does the organist Carol Williams, whom we found wisecracking backstage at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion a few months ago, think of her partially city-funded position as a luxury? Undoubtedly yes, she told the Times. But a silly one to cut.

“You feel kind of guilty because you know how much is being cut, but this is a moneymaker for the city,” said Ms. Williams, who each week tries to shed the organ of what she calls its “dowdy” image as she plays to a broad audience, typically in the hundreds.

• Montreal black-and-white-mural-making collective En Masse had a big year, including several days painting in San Diego and Tijuana. Local artist Mike Maxwell (whose home art collection we visited last year) joined them for the Art San Diego fair and put together a great photographic start-to-finish blog post of his time with them at Art Basel in Miami in the fall. (Montreal Gazette)

• San Diego-based playwright Athol Fugard sends his first play in nearly a decade to Broadway in a couple of weeks. (U-T)

• Fifteen local artists will share more than $285,000 in grant money in a new program from the San Diego Foundation to upend the familiar model where arts grants go to big institutions.

• Ruth Hayward’s fascinating life spans years as an engineer in the male-dominated industry before she retired and learned to sculpt. She made the statues of San Diego forebears that stand near the Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park. In our Q&A, she imagines life without their efforts:

Without them, we probably wouldn’t be sitting in this gorgeous park. They’re visionaries. They were not selfish, and they thought about preserving the environment without plastering it over with buildings.

Reviewing the Year

• U-T San Diego theater critic James Hebert and North County Times critic Pam Kragen agreed that the best show of the year on local stages was The Old Globe’s “August: Osage County.” You can see how your theater faves compared to Hebert’s and Kragen’s top 10s.

CityBeat’s critic, David Coddon, chimed in with his highlights since August, when he took the reviewer post there, giving special mention to Ion Theatre’s “Angels in America” and Moxie Theatre’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.” And for the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, reviewer Jean Lowerison liked both of those, as well as a laundry list of other performances.

The best local stagecraft will be honored in an awards ceremony next month.

• Kragen’s top-10 efforts continued with highlights from museums and galleries, including the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s sit-in in support of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, the first major art exhibition at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and the closing of the museum at the embattled California Center for the Arts, Escondido. (North County Times)

• Kinsee Morlan wonders if the Surfing Madonna rogue mosaic got “more attention than it deserved” in her year-end arts roundup. (CityBeat)

• Arts reporters Angela Carone and Beth Accomando recapped big local arts stories from the year, including the proposed “Wings of Freedom” for Navy Pier, Comic-Con and the money trouble at Sushi and Starlight. (KPBS)

• Music writer George Varga highlighted local pianist Joshua White’s kudos from a big name in his roundup of jazz stories. (U-T)

Because It’s Cool

• I just find this installation captivating. A museum in Australia gave thousands of colored dot stickers to its smallest visitors over a couple of weeks, and the stark white room that artist Yayoi Kasuma created exploded with a spectrum of color.

Maybe it can serve as a metaphor for a new year — a blank slate to fill with color, intrigue, art and experimentation. Maybe it’s just cool. Either way, happy New Year!

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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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