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Tens of thousands of tags with names written on them hang from a height of 11 feet, giving “the appearance of ghostly figures that rustle and murmur as you walk by.”

A few years ago, artist Wendy Maruyama started to pay extra attention to the internment of Japanese Americans. Now she’s exhibiting “The Tag Project,” in which she’s recreated the identification tags given to Japanese Americans — including her family — when they were forced to leave their homes and move to camps during World War II.

In our Q&A with Maruyama, we talk about what it’s like to dredge up some of these memories tied to her family and what fans of her other furniture work have said about this new turn.

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

Whale Detail

• You can get discounted tickets to the San Diego Opera productions of “Moby-Dick,” “Don Pasquale” and “The Barber of Seville,” thanks to one of our Meeting of the Minds speakers, Vanessa Dinning.

Catch the local arts happenings that Dinning and our other speakers told you about by checking our handy roundup. And we’ve got more videos from the presentations: Watch and learn about San Diego’s jazz history, the murals in Chicano Park and the poetry and writing community.

• Speaking of “Moby-Dick,” it opens this weekend for the first performance on the West Coast. At the last minute last night, a new conductor came to rehearse the performance. San Diego Opera’s resident conductor is sick.

This production’s been catching a lot of attention:

Surprises: The tenor who’s singing the role of Captain Ahab, Ben Heppner, didn’t realize when he took the role that he’d be hoisted 15 feet in the air to sing an aria. (L.A. Times)

The Price Tag: San Diego Opera went in with four other opera companies to commission this work. San Diego’s piece of those initial creation costs was $475,000. Now, to put it on here for four performances, the San Diego Opera will spend $2,400,794. (U-T San Diego)

No Pressure: Composer Jake Heggie’s task sounds as monumental as the elusive whale: “As a composer, Heggie is a gripping man with the enormous task of marrying words and music in a grand relationship to tell a compelling love story, filled with dramatically emotional highs and lows, while holding on to hope for triumph and redemption.” (Edge San Diego)

Reputation-Building

• That neon-blue room of light featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s “Phenomenal” show now lives here permanently; the museum just acquired the piece by artist Doug Wheeler. (U-T San Diego) Museum director Hugh Davies thinks the show helped San Diego turn a corner:

“In the same way ‘Pacific Standard Time’ helped New York change its view of Los Angeles, I think ‘Pacific Standard Time’ helped Los Angeles change its view of San Diego,” Davies said. “We were really taken seriously.”

• Kids in third grade who had arts teaching integrated into their regular class work showed “remarkable improvement on standardized test scores.” (U-T)

• A lecturer at San Diego State and her students dispel the myth that there’s nothing happening in the South Bay‘s arts scene. (CityBeat)

• Conductor Steven Schick signed on for another five years at the podium with the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus. (U-T)

• We visited the Nations of Dance festival last week and found eye-popping colors and cultures on display.

Burning Art

• The battle’s still brewing over the future of the giant statue of a sailor kissing a nurse after the Unified Port of San Diego’s art committee recommended it get the old heave-ho. An architect and former member of the art board wants it to stay and be bronzed, at a cost of nearly $1 million. (U-T)

• John Baldessari had “hundreds of his paintings cremated in Logan Heights” in the 1950s, KPBS reports:

“There was a crematorium there and they said yeah they would do it, but only at night,” he explained. “So it got even more macabre. And then, even better, the guy that did the cremating had studied art in college and he really got into it.”

Those paintings would be extremely valuable today. A photograph he took in National City in the 1960s recently sold at auction for almost $300,000.

Heard of any other valuable bonfires in San Diego? Drop us a line.

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Kelly Bennett is the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach her directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org 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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