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To sell hemp necklaces near the Ocean Beach pier is to exercise free speech, argues David Millette, a vendor who makes his own jewelry.

Mayor Bob Filner seems to agree. What’s more: He wrote the artist a personal letter granting him immunity from the police, who might otherwise ticket him for hawking his hemp without a vendor permit.

“Art is First Amendment speech,” Millette said. “Just because you sell your art, that doesn’t diminish your First Amendment rights.”

The exception didn’t sit well with a business group in OB. And Millette got a ticket last week anyway — though it was eventually rescinded.

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

Local Roots

• A federal raid on four Southern California museums, including the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park, hasn’t led to any indictments of museum officials, and “none of the seized objects has been returned to the countries from which they were allegedly stolen,” a Los Angeles Times update reveals. Sources for the Times story suggest the slow-moving, expensive investigation has been a bad thing: “The case has wasted millions of dollars and inadvertently encouraged the very black market it targeted by suggesting the government is weak on enforcement.”

The Mingei declined to comment for the Times story. As of a couple of years ago, the museum’s 67 objects connected to the raid were quarantined in the basement.

• The new chief of the city’s Arts and Culture Commission is Denise Montgomery, a local arts consultant who was formerly the marketing director at the Museum of Contemporary Art when she moved to San Diego in 2006. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called to recommend Montgomery, who’d worked for him in Denver, for the spot in Mayor Bob Filner’s administration. Filner announced he hopes Montgomery will “ratchet things up.” (U-T)

• Carlsbad-based forensic artist PJ Puterbagh volunteers her time to make sculptures and drawings of bodies — 200 to 300 per year — for whom the Medical Examiner doesn’t have identifying information.

A television profile featured Puterbagh photographing and sculpting a head based on remains recently dropped off in a box at a sheriff substation in Lemon Grove. “The skinless head came with a note, saying it had been passed around from garage to garage for decades after being found in a Clairemont landfill.” (CBS 8)

• Sculptor Chris Puzio made a new aluminum public art piece installed near Tom Ham’s Lighthouse on Harbor Island. (CityBeat)

• The Old Globe’s summer season will delay the biggest of Filner’s proposed changes to Balboa Park. The Cabrillo Bridge will close on weekends beginning the day after Labor Day, not this coming weekend as Filner had planned.

• The grandson of the late Tom Nee, the longtime artistic director of the La Jolla Symphony, is starring in the traveling production of the “American Idiot” musical, in town this week and next. (U-T)

• Young musicians from both sides of the border will soon play together in a new binational orchestra. (KPBS)

Happening Here

• A Denver firm wants to create an arts district, marked by special billboards, that it claims will generate money to address homelessness in downtown San Diego. (San Diego Reader)

• You’ve seen his sculptures — including the “Guardian of the Waters” at the County Administration Building, the “Woman of Tehuantepec” in the courtyard outside The Prado restaurant in Balboa Park. Beginning this weekend, you can see eight more Donal Hord sculptures, donated to the History Center by Richard Dyson and Robert Roberson, who “ran a flower shop in La Mesa and were early collectors of Hord’s work.” (U-T)

• My pal Sam Hodgson is already counting down the days: A celebration of the world’s best photojournalism begins next weekend at the Museum of Photographic Arts.

• A one-night-only warehouse art show this past weekend provided wall and floor space to 35 artists. KPBS shot a video preview as the artists were setting up.

Meanwhile, CityBeat aired some anonymous emails from artists citing the similarities between that show, called Warehouse 1425, and a show at another warehouse in February, featuring many of the same artists. Giving artists free reign at a to-be-renovated warehouse is hardly a new concept. But the unnamed artists still ripped the recent show for being a copycat.

Here’s the most compelling part: A couple of commenters called out the anonymous critics, which sparked a really interesting discussion under the story around San Diego’s art scene identity, the perceived need for shows/events like this and more.

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I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

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Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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