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San Diego faced a dilemma. Wealthy donors had a bunch of Old Masters paintings, worth $2 million, they’d designated for a museum in Balboa Park. Another wealthy family wanted to put up $1 million to build the structure to house them.

But the 1960s-era plan required tearing down a building from the original 1915 Panama-California Exposition. And the building the philanthropists proposed looked modern, with square corners and none of the ornate decoration the Spanish Colonial expo buildings had.

Some residents and architects cheered the plan. But significant public outcry and cold feet at the City Council repelled the donors, who took the offer off the table. Eventually, the city pleaded with them to reconsider, fearing they’d lose the collection of paintings and the gift to the park.

They tore down the old Home Economy building and built what’s now the Timken Museum in its place.

You can read the whole story here, a look at how the city has navigated philanthropy in the park in the past. It’s one of the tales in our series unraveling past controversies and big land use decisions in the park. Other chapters include a time when the military trained sailors to swim in the lily pond and a decision in the 1950s to fill in a canyon with what eventually mounted to 1.9 million tons of garbage. Yes, a landfill in Balboa Park.

Here’s a postcard from architect David Marshall showing the building the Timken replaced.

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


• Guitar phenom Peter Sprague lives in Cardiff, practicing yoga and surfing when he’s not shredding on his iconic double-necked guitar. Writing for KCET Artbound, Gordon Johnson describes Sprague’s daily routines, his search for balance and his aversions to drugs, alcohol and meat.

“When you play music, you’re looking for transcendental moments. You get them by having your craft together, your mind clear and being invisible. Maybe you can get the apparent feeling of looseness, of being in the zone, when on drugs, but you probably don’t have the exactness you need. Plus it’s an ongoing cycle, that needs to be repeated and that leads to trouble,” he says.

• A well-known dance instructor in North Park, “Miss Vernetta” began dancing in Hollywood when she was 3 years old in 1943. Now she has five grandkids. Her dance studio celebrated its 50th anniversary over the weekend. (U-T San Diego)

• The New York Times published a look at the tumultuous life story of Inocente Izucar, the formerly homeless teenager who began making art when she showed up at local nonprofit ARTS: A Reason to Survive. A documentary about Inocente’s story aired on MTV over the weekend.

“I have all my plates, I have all my paints — I know where everything is in my house,” Ms. Izucar said. “It’s an interesting feeling, not having everything in boxes.”

• The La Jolla Playhouse released a video about the thinking behind its adaptation, “An Iliad,” of the Homer epic. U-T theater critic Jim Hebert raved about the production, and said the video gives you a sense of what he saw:

… the kind of physicality [actor Henry] Woronicz injects into the role of the Poet — the ageless, wandering bard fated to keep telling the brutal yet majestic tale of the Trojan War (and, in a sense, all history’s wars).

• The Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition of 35 years worth of John Valadez’s artwork “sheds new and welcome light on the evolution of the Los Angeles artist,” says L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight in a review.

• The U-T profiles the guy who hires the musicians to play in the orchestras for shows at The Old Globe, the La Jolla Playhouse and Broadway/San Diego.

• Caltrans and Chicano Park muralists announced they’ve wrapped up a restoration project for 18 of the murals painted on freeway support beams in Barrio Logan. (Fox 6) We reported and photographed the restoration underway earlier this year.

Pockets and Neighborhoods

• Local music enthusiast Steve Kader opened a new store selling secondhand records a few weeks ago in “a little building that has at different times housed a frozen-yogurt parlor, a florist, a pet shop and … the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus” in Hillcrest. (San Diego Reader)

• The Encinitas Library is launching a new series of Friday night concerts. (North County Times)

• The Encinitas Union School District approved the nonprofit Art Pulse’s bid to convert an abandoned school into a $7.5 million arts center. Next the nonprofit must convince the city to allow the proposed development, which includes a parcel for residential housing. (U-T)

• The Persian Cultural Center in Escondido has an exhibition of Iranian art up through this weekend. (

• The U-T’s Jim Chute has a rundown with photographs of the 22 new artworks worth $1.7 million the County of San Diego just commissioned for its new center in Kearny Mesa.

• A community group in Golden Hill hopes to get a license for a radio station to feature the neighborhood’s many resident artists and bands. (CityBeat)

Coming Up

• The director of exhibitions at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park — and a photographer himself — is launching a festival to bring together Southern California photographers early next month. (CityBeat)

• A festival of “adventurous music by the beach,” featuring quite a lineup of local and out-of-town ensembles and performers like Sara Watkins and the Calder Quartet, happens next month in Carlsbad.

• Art students from UC San Diego are working on a presentation for next month’s Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair that they hope ties the current fair with the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Check it out and more details about navigating the art fair, via San Diego Magazine’s guide.

• The U-T’s Night and Day section is throwing a music festival in October in East Village.

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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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