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Ruby Cougler tries to carry a peaceful approach toward the people who hang out and sleep on the sidewalks in East Village, where the artist live/work collective she runs, Space 4 Art, inhabits a warehouse at 15th and J. “It’s not a problem until it’s a problem,” she said.

My conversation with Cougler happened during the middle of my week immersed in San Diego’s uptown and downtown neighborhoods as part of a Voice of San Diego project to cover the City Council races. If you’re interested to read about the folks I met and the issues they raised, here’s a post from the conversation I had with their representative, Todd Gloria.

But I didn’t stay away from art all week. One of the issues I spent time looking at was the juxtaposition of people who are homeless and thousands of condo-dwellers in East Village. At Space 4 Art, Cougler showed me a sketchbook filled with drawings by Eric Duhart, a man who is homeless and hangs out often on the street in front of the warehouse. He comes in to borrow colored pencils frequently, she said.


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

Happening Here:

• NPR spent time in rehearsals for the La Jolla Playhouse’s “Hands on a Hardbody” musical, opening Saturday. The musical centers around a car dealership contest 20 years ago in Texas: The last person standing with one hand touching a brand-new truck got to keep it. Script-writer Doug Wright told NPR’s Neda Ulaby he was glad for the chance to “bring lower-income American voices in front of affluent theater audiences.”

Wright and a collaborator asked permission to use biographic details from every real person who shows up as a character in the play and offered them a percentage if the musical makes any money.

“When you’re writing a piece that deals with certain issues of economic exploitation,” Wright says, “the last thing you want to do is to be accused of it.”

• Speaking of the need for caution, “‘The Scottsboro Boys’ may be the most controversial musical you’ll see in San Diego all year” says KPBS’s Angela Carone in a piece about the show onstage now at The Old Globe. Set as a minstrel show, the musical tells the story of nine African-American boys falsely convicted of rape and given death sentences in the 1930s in Alabama. (KPBS)

• Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty gave “The Scottsboro Boys” a positive review — he wasn’t convinced in its original short-lived run on Broadway but the Globe’s mounting impressed him more. “And though it hardly amounts to a carefree night in the theater, the musical left me feeling elevated as only original works of art can,” he writes.

• “The Scottsboro Boys” director and choreographer Susan Stroman explained the motivation to use the minstrel show, a controversial art form that originally involved white people in blackface performing a variety show of songs and skits that generally lampooned black people. “Newspaper reports at the time of the trial reported that the courtroom atmosphere was like a minstrel show,” Stroman said. “So we asked ourselves, what if we flipped that on its head?” (North County Times)

• A month-long festival celebrating the work of Edgar Allen Poe wrapped up last week. In the last guest commentary in our series about the festival, organizers Veronica Murphy and Walter Ritter summed up all of the ways they tried to encourage San Diegans to read Poe “not for a grade, not for an obligation, but just for fun.”

• An exhibit of paintings and historical information at the Oceanside Museum of Art highlights a forgotten chapter in local art history. In the 1960s, the precursor institution to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego had a “serious, college-level art school” that “brought a bracing mix of artists and art students into the unabashedly conservative community,” writes the U-T’s James Chute.

• CityBeat rounds up your options on where to catch live comedy around the county.

• A collectors group at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego chose three works for the museum to acquire: A photographic work, an abstract painting and an overhead sculpture that attempts to approximate the sunlight effect inside the Pantheon in Rome. (ArtDaily.org)

(You can see photos of the pieces that were up for selection in the U-T San Diego.)

• Local new-music buff Bonnie Wright has an intriguing concert coming up Thursday with a composer/performer and a violinist from New York City who’ll perform music inspired by a four-month trip down the Mississippi River a couple of years ago.

Artists at Work

• Instead of just teaching art students to develop and think about their artwork, Alessandra Moctezuma’s museum studies program at Mesa College requires them to figure out how to string lighting for art shows and market exhibitions. (CityBeat)

• Robert Miles Parker, a historic preservationist who helped start the Save Our Heritage Organisation in San Diego and a fan of sketching architecture in New York City and L.A., died last month. (LAT)

• La Jolla-based surfboard craftsman Tim Bessell is working on an idea: to take discarded shipping containers from ports and build homes out of them. (U-T San Diego)

• Local actor, comedian and playwright Phil Johnson created a one-man show about Sherlock Holmes, involving a family curse, a potentially possessed dog and a murder. (North County Times)

• A film some good friends of mine shot in San Diego and took to Sundance Film Festival in January will screen at the Museum of Photographic Arts on Friday. (I make a brief cameo playing fiddle music at a house party in Golden Hill.) The filmmakers and the film’s composer — my bandmate, Joel P. West — talked with Maureen Cavanaugh on Midday Edition yesterday about their efforts to fundraise online to distribute the film to theaters. (KPBS)

• East Village’s Space 4 Art is also raising money online for its gallery and to pay artists who exhibit work there. (CityBeat)

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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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