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We spotted renowned artist Robert Irwin among the hard hats and hedges at the new federal courthouse downtown last week. Irwin’s new artwork is a zig-zagging ramp flanked with Ligustrum hedges of varying heights. Like much of the 84-year-old artist’s work, it’s meant to alter the viewer’s perception. In this case, courthouse visitors will seem to appear and disappear as they wind their way up the ramp. Check out our photos of Irwin and the installation in progress.

The piece fit into landscape architect Marty Poirier’s presentation on Irwin’s influence at our “Meeting of the Minds” arts and culture exposure event in August.

Irwin’s project is part of a federal program to spend 0.5 percent of new buildings’ construction costs on art. In this case, the art budget is $985,000; all but $200,000 covers implementing Irwin’s plaza project and acquiring an acrylic column sculpture of his for the building’s lobby. Readers discussed the cost in the comments under our post.

“That’s a lot of money to spend for hedges, isn’t it?” wrote one reader.

But another added this perspective: “I have traveled to San Diego 4 times (from Finland) specifically to see the work of Robert Irwin. Each time I have come to your city I have spent 2-3 weeks exploring the other sites in your lovely city. I know I am not alone in people who will travel to your city to see this new work.”

Gallery owner Mark Quint, who represents Irwin, told Riviera magazine he’s excited.

“It has been an uphill battle for many years in San Diego to get good art installed in places where people congregate,” he said.

What do you think? Leave us a comment or a note on Facebook.

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

Art in Public

• Organizers unveiled “Edge 2015” as the brand for the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition, which spurred much of Balboa Park’s iconic architecture and gardens. They floated initial ideas for the year-long celebration, including a giant fireworks display at midnight on Jan. 1, 2015, and a parade of Dr. Seuss characters. (U-T San Diego)

• A long-awaited public artwork honoring Martin Luther King Jr., on the Home Avenue off-ramp from State Route 94 is finally up. Caltrans and the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture chose artist Philip Matzigkeit’s proposal in 2006 for the piece, but there’ve been years of problems — like “funding delays, attrition of partners and a brutally hot summer painting schedule.” (CityBeat)

Fox 5 has video of the how the artists used huge stencils to paint the mural.

• Local advocates are pushing for an increase in the share of hotel-room taxes the city dedicates to arts and culture organizations. The city collects 10.5 cents in hotel-room taxes and currently designates about half a cent of that to arts. The proposal to increase that to a full “penny for the arts” passed through a committee this week, and is expected to go before the full City Council this fall.

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf supports the increase. “When you’re cutting arts and culture programming, you’re killing the golden goose that provides money for our neighborhood services, for our public safety,” she told City News Service.

• This summer’s casting controversy at La Jolla Playhouse over how few Asian actors appeared in its show set in China, “The Nightingale,” has led to a forum for Southern California theater executives on “Asian-American visibility in theater.” (International Business Times)

• A gallery curator in Carlsbad is getting calls from a different audience than usual for her upcoming skateboard art show: teenagers. (North County Times)

Robots and Tryouts

• The architects behind East Village’s Periscope Project — shipping containers converted to studios and a gallery — are featured in an exhibit about activism and urban problems in the Venice Biennale art festival. (San Diego CityBeat)

• The La Jolla Playhouse posted a great peek behind the scenes of the effects team figuring out how to wield giant robots for its upcoming new musical, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” with music from The Flaming Lips. (U-T)

• Fifty-five of the San Diego Symphony’s 80 musicians have joined the symphony since music director Jahja Ling came in 2003. Five new players joined in the last year: two violinists, a violist, a flutist and a trumpet player. (U-T)

We learned about the blind audition process — where musicians perform behind a curtain so judges can’t identify them — a couple of years ago.

• UCSD-TV posted video of La Jolla Music Society’s performance this summer of Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun’s “Water Passion,” which he wrote to commemorate the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s death.

I can’t get enough of this description: The piece is “a theatrical mix of water bowls, drums, strings, Tibetan bells, chants, digital sounds, Chinese opera and Tuvan throat singing, with a dash of jazz and postmodernism.”

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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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