Balboa Park is big, with lots of good spots. What’s your favorite place? And if you could pick one revitalization project to blast to the top of the list, what would it be? How would you pay for it?

We got that conversation started last week with a few key players. Darlene Gould Davies, who’s been performing in the park since she was a teenager, picked an artsy favorite:

“When I sit in the front row aisle seat in the historic Casa del Prado at a San Diego Junior Theatre production, whether it is The Secret Garden or Willy Wonka, layers of life complication and absurd minutia fall away. Moms and dads, as well as grandparents, are cheering sections for their family cast members and for other performers, too. There is a generosity of spirit that frees young people of rigid constraints that choke exploration. I guess the honesty appeals to me.”

Tell us your favorite, and what project you’d pick next.

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

Happening Here

The fall is full of big plans for visual and performing arts all over the county, and a few local arts critics and reporters shared their top picks this week.

Theater: The U-T San Diego’s Jim Hebert leads off with the La Jolla Playhouse’s upcoming musical collaboration with rockers The Flaming Lips: “a fantastical, anime-influenced show about a robot-combating artist — with music by a band that has its own gloriously bonkers sense of theater.” San Diego CityBeat theatre critic David Coddon has a preview of “The Exit Interview” at San Diego Repertory Theatre. And both add a few other plays they’re eager to see hit local stages.

Music: Highlights for classical music include the UC San Diego series that features many of the symphony’s top players in a smaller setting, and a second installment of chamber group Art of Elan’s “Crossfire” program that marries chamber music, a warehouse vibe and an after-party. And Jim Chute highlights the series that Steve Schick and the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus are hatching. (Our Meeting of the Minds speaker, Anna Daniels, told us last month why those concerts stick with her.)

Those are among Peter Holslin’s top picks for CityBeat, too, along with off-the-grid drumming and an upcoming performance at Space 4 Art of “a dark, unpredictable experimental piece that pairs operatic singing and French poetry with otherworldly electronics.”

Visual Art: Both the U-T and CityBeat highlighted a three-museum team effort coming this fall that highlights art made in the United States. And this is cool: The art comes from the museums’ own permanent collections. It’s the first time the three museums — the San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Timken Museum — have collaborated.

“The United States is such a frontier country,” San Diego Museum of Art curator Amy Galpin told CityBeat. Art here, she said, is “always trying to catch up, be better, be bold, be innovative, and taking influence from other cultures while creating something new — something distinct.”

The U-T’s Jim Chute also highlighted a show coming up at the Mingei Museum that showcases the physical beauty of musical instruments.

There’s so much going on. Here’s a great rundown of fascinating-sounding literary events, from CityBeat. The San Diego Film Festival starts Wednesday. And learn about upcoming dance performances, like choreographers with connections to the circus who’ll be participating in Trolley Dances this coming weekend.

Coming up next month: A celebration called “Fall for the Arts” will involve tons of local performance groups. And an interesting collection of local artists are working on installations in portable storage containers, which will open on Oct. 5.

“San Diego is gaining a reputation as a city that welcomes and supports experimental art and alternative exhibition projects,” organizer Shawnee Barton told U-T art blogger Susan Myrland.

And also next month: A gigantic innovation conference in Tijuana.

Time and Money

• Want to be part of deciding how to allocate the city’s funding for arts organizations? You can nominate yourself or someone else by this Friday.

• Looks like local music festival organizer Lou Curtiss has a couple of ideas on how that money should be spent, as he writes in a letter to the U-T:

“So many other cities don’t treat their folk-life community like a stepchild. … I don’t begrudge the symphony or opera or San Diego Rep and the other theater groups and the museums getting help, but why can’t the people’s music and arts and crafts have a piece of the pie? It’s a question I’ve been asking for over 40 years and I’ve yet to hear an answer.”

• A sculpture derived from cut trees welcomes you to the Unified Port of San Diego’s new Ruocco Park near Seaport Village. Architect Lloyd Ruocco and his wife, art professor Ilse Ruocco, donated the money for the park 35 years ago. (Los Angeles Times) Here’s a video with sculptor Roman de Salvo about the piece.

• Mayoral candidate Bob Filner released a plan for boosting arts and culture last week and called for an increase in how much of the city’s hotel-room tax revenue goes to fund arts and culture.

• The port district has $110,000 to pay an artist or a team of artists to create work to highlight “some aspect of the working port or of the unseen activities in the maritime facilities.”

• The Los Angeles Times sizes up the impact of the unprecedented, Getty-sponsored “Pacific Standard Time” project that focused on Southern California art at dozens of regional museums last year. For one of the San Diego institutions involved, general attendance wasn’t “through the roof,” but that was OK with Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego chief Hugh Davies.

“The number of museum curators, gallerists and collectors who came during that slot was above and beyond any show we’ve done,” he said.

• I had a chance a couple of weeks ago to check out the new collection of public art at the county government’s new office complex in Kearny Mesa. Anyone can go see it, but if you don’t have a chance to go in person for a while, here are some videos to check out: A look at Chris Puzio’s large metal sculptures, the artifacts and treasures Jay Johnson dug up in old county storage to put on display, and nature-inspired work from Anne Mudge. (We visited Mudge’s Elfin Forest studio last year.)

Here’s a list of the pieces in the collection. (U-T)

Trying Out

• Local auditions for New York City’s Metropolitan Opera company happen on Oct. 13.

Voting is open until Sunday for your favorite and least favorite new architectural features in the annual Orchids and Onions awards.

• The Old Globe has narrowed its search for a new artistic director to four candidates and expects to have an announcement within weeks. (U-T)

• Politics and controversy are putting a locally rooted project on indefinite hold. A UC San Diego team’s effort to find a missing da Vinci mural (watch project manager Alexandra Hubenko’s presentation from our Meeting of the Minds in August) will be suspended, and the scaffolding taken down from the 14th century hall where local researchers believe the mural to be. (Discovery News)

A UC San Diego spokesman added in an email to me today that the mayor of Florence, who has supported the project, hopes to resume the project if he wins a seat in the parliament in the next elections.

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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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