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A quick programming note: We’re changing the name of this newsletter to reflect the wider net we want to cast — culture in San Diego in general, not just strictly arts — to find stories to share with you. Keep sending us links and things you come across!

Mind-Bending Art

Studying organic chemistry and biochemistry opened Kelsey Brookes’ mind. Now, Brookes takes his interest in how and why things work and layers it with artistic expression. He oriented several new paintings around molecular structures for serotonin and the active ingredients in hallucinatory drugs.

He wasn’t tripping when he painted the new work, he told us.

“I decided to depict the molecules based on that hallucination,” he said. “The molecule makes your brain feel a certain way, and I just take that way that it makes your brain feel and focus it back on the molecule.”

We visited the 34-year-old artist’s studio in North Park as he prepares for a show of his new work opening at Quint Contemporary Art in La Jolla early next month. Read our Q-and-A.

Brookes told U-T blogger Susan Myrland he recently got some advice from an older artist to find where he fits in art history and move forward from there. It was a shift.

“My world of art was ‘make this, put it in this gallery, get the money so you can make another one, hopefully bigger,’” Brookes said. “I had never seen myself in the context of the greater art world. Where should I explore? How do I even start exploring?”

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

Happening Here

• The Old Globe reported a new record — its highest-grossing show in its 77-year history is “Allegiance,” a musical centered on the internment during WWII of Japanese Americans. The show closed Sunday after pulling in more than 32,000 people and 2.23 million since early September. (U-T San Diego)

• An online video series — “A Trolley Show” — features local musicians performing on the trolley. The series’ producers started the shows without the blessing of the Metropolitan Transit System, but now they have permission to ride for free while they film. (San Diego CityBeat)

• The conductor of the embattled Orchestra Nova, Jung-Ho Pak, resigned suddenly this month after talks broke down with the union that represents the musicians in the orchestra. One of the sticking points was Pak’s vision for musicians playing with emotion. In an interview with KPBS from his home in Monterey, Pak declined to more clearly define the emotion he was looking for.

“Well, it’s kind of like talking about the nature of music or the nature of emotion,” Pak said. “It’s kind of ephemeral and I sometimes hate to define it and describe it. It really is most powerful when you see it and experience it yourself. It’s kind of like that Supreme Court quote, ‘If it’s pornography, you know it when you see it.’”

• Wounded, traumatized veterans are learning to paint as part of a local recovery program for post-traumatic stress disorder. More than 90 of the vets will attend an exhibit of their artwork opening to the public at Space 4 Art in East Village on Saturday. (U-T)

• How do you “like” a photograph in a museum? The Museum of Photographic Arts experimented by asking its visitors to rate a selection of images from its permanent collection, lots of which have been hidden in storage. Museum staff were surprised to see how many conversations arose as people consulted one another about how to rate an image. You can see the selected images through next fall. (U-T)

• Comic-Con signed on for a year extension; the festival will now be in town through 2016. (U-T)

• An Arab Film Festival will make a stop in San Diego next month, and the opening night film is one I really enjoyed when I saw it at Sundance. Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki made and starred in the film, “Where Do We Go Now?” which unravels the hilarious efforts of a remote town’s women to “keep their blowhard men from starting a religious war.” (Karama Now)

• Writer Mindy Solis worked this year with friends to make a collection of stories, poems, photographs and music connected to East County, called “The Far East: Everything Just As It Is.”

“I spent a lot of time writing poems and stories centered on El Cajon,” she told Sezio. “It was what was familiar: the transients, the unbearable heat, the asphalt, and cement of the city, mingled amongst weeds and bubble gum wads. It was all of these things coexisting, this city failing to bloom into what most people would find beautiful, yet somehow in my eyes, these things became the only things that were worth looking at because they were real.”

Past and Present

• The federal government returned more than 4,000 artifacts to Mexico that had been uncovered in 11 separate looted antiquities investigations. Many of the arrowheads, hatchets and other artifacts were “made by ancient hunter-gatherers in what’s now northern Mexico,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Two hatchets were seized at San Diego International Airport after having been flown in from Sweden,” the Times reported.

• We put a bunch of highlights from our series on how Balboa Park changed since 1868 into a clickable timeline.

• Even though they’re relatively young, buildings designed by architect Louis Kahn — like a center at Yale University — are attracting the attention of preservationists. Another of Kahn’s notable works: the Salk Institute for Biological Studies here in San Diego. (New York Times)

• A painter who delighted in San Diego’s landscapes, Charles Reiffel, was sometimes called “America’s Van Gogh.” An assistant curator for the San Diego Museum of Art explains Reiffel’s decision to leave the East Coast and move out of sight, to San Diego, early last century. (Balboa Park Beat)

• Some of that painter’s canvasses will be restored under a grant to the San Diego History Center. (U-T)

• Music director Steven Schick tries to bridge between past and present at his La Jolla Symphony and Chorus.

“The major topic of orchestras is how do we make a present that somehow is related to — not disenfranchised from but not slavishly indebted to — the past?” he told the U-T. “We don’t want to be a dusty museum where nostalgia is the primary token of exchange,” he said. “We want to live in the present. So we make a constant examination of the present versus the past.”

At our Meeting of the Minds event in August, Anna Daniels talked about Schick’s philosophy and told us why the group’s concerts stretch her musical sensibilities. You can watch her presentation here.

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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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