Culture and the public ruled the park, except for when they didn’t.

I’ve been digging up some history on big changes and controversies in Balboa Park since it began. What’s now the city’s cultural heart once functioned as a giant military hospital grounds in World War II. Sailors learned to swim and row in the lily pond in World War I. Even the location of the buildings for the 1915 exposition within the park was controversial as city leaders planned the party that cemented the park’s importance.

It’s all interesting context for the latest approved change to the park, to remake its western entrance and to build a new parking garage behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The plan has attracted heated criticism from some historic preservationists — it’s the latest in a long history of passionate discussion over what is one of the city’s best assets.

Among the next things we’ll explore in our series: The city’s conversion of dozens of acres of parkland to a garbage dump, the intrusion of freeways and the footprint of the naval hospital, still there today. What else should we look for?

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

Join Us Tomorrow!

• We’re heading up to the rooftop tomorrow for our third “Meeting of the Minds” arts and culture huddle and you should come. We’re going to have a fun, down-to-earth time learning about six interesting happenings in the local scene and getting to know people from different niches and neighborhoods. There are lots more details here and you can let us know you’re coming here.

Full Circle

• The longest-running play in Lamb’s Players Theatre history, “miXtape,” will run a little longer: The ‘80s revue musical has already been running for almost two years, and the theater announced it will be onstage until Nov. 25. (U-T San Diego)

• The annual “Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair” coming up in September will be in Balboa Park instead of Del Mar or downtown hotels for the first time, now in its fourth year. Organizers also want to highlight more San Diego galleries and artists. At the same time, they’re expecting dozens of delegates and artists to come to the fair from China. (U-T)

• The first Chicano play on Broadway, “Zoot Suit,” is on stage at San Diego Repertory Theatre — including “a cast of 33 actors/singers/dancers and a live orchestra playing Latin jazz form the 1940s.” The play’s lead actor and Rep artistic director appeared on KPBS to discuss the work by famed Chicano playwright Luis Valdez. “Zoot Suit” tells a fictional version of a 1940s-era murder trial in which Chicano youths were charged with a murder they didn’t commit. (KPBS)

• All year, artists have been returning to Chicano Park decades after they originally painted colorful murals there. One of the murals, “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” is one of the latest to be revitalized. Five female artists are working on that one, and they say “activism, family, indigenous and female consciousness contributed to the mural, especially, a new awareness of the female body that was blossoming in the 70’s.” (La Prensa)

• UC San Diego composer Lei Liang garnered another national accolade and will get to work at the “famed artist colony” called Ragdale outside of Chicago. (U-T)

A DIY Aesthetic

• Local teen Inocente Izucar’s lived through a lot. Her dad was deported and she lived on San Diego streets and shelters for a while. But she found a turnaround through participating in programs at ARTS: A Reason to Survive. A documentary about her life, called “Inocente,” will air on MTV on Aug. 17. (U-T)

• Several local writers and illustrators have turned to self-publishing, and Amy Granite profiles the efforts of a few who found do-it-yourself ways to get their books printed and in readers’ hands. One of them is a painter and writer who uses the children’s book medium to tell his adult memoir. (CityBeat)

• In “Vanished,” a new play by a Carlsbad playwright, the audience gets to decide which of two endings they’ll see, right as the play is running. (North County Times)

• Practicing artists can hone their teaching skills in a Young Audiences-sponsored workshop. (Huffington Post)

• Beetles that specialize in feeding on decaying flesh and a flying fox appear in this creepy-crawly behind-the-scenes look at the San Diego Natural History Museum’s specimen preservation department. (KPBS)

• Local sculptor Roman de Salvo is working on an abstract network of eucalyptus branches — an art piece for the waterfront Ruocco Park. Watch a video of de Salvo’s fascinating process. (Port of San Diego)

• Local stages are packed with plays; check out CityBeat’s helpful listing and go see some theater.

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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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