Artist Doris Bittar opened Protea Gallery in a dilapidated storefront in North Park last September.  The small space has drawn big crowds over the last year, perhaps inspiring the opening of another gallery and an art-supply store in the same building.

“I started something,” says Bittar, who has since curated eight exhibitions in the 13 months she’s been in the 30th Street location. “And financially, I’m about breaking even, which is pretty good for a first year.”

But Bittar recently got word that her rent would be going up $500 a month, which eats away her profit margin since she gravitates toward underrepresented artists whose work doesn’t come with high price-tags. Bittar is working hard to find partners to help keep the gallery going, but she says there’s about a 50 percent chance she will have to close. She says she feels as though she may have helped price herself out of a great location in one of San Diego’s fastest-growing and hippest urban neighborhoods.

On Saturday, Bittar opens what could be her last show in Protea Gallery, but, she says, despite what happens with the physical location, the gallery will live on. She says she’ll continue to curate shows in other spaces. In fact, she already has a Protea Gallery satellite show focused on migrant labor set to open at Southwestern College next year.

“I don’t see this as a defeat,” Bittar says. “Other opportunities presented themselves so it really isn’t just the rent…. I wonder if being tethered to a place is the best thing after all.”

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

Gentrification, Continued

Sam Hodgson
Photo by Sam Hodgson

• NBC 7 San Diego reports that the owners of West Coast Tavern have purchased the adjoining North Park Theatre. The New York Times once called the theater’s revamp and reopening the “tipping point” in North Park’s rebirth, but the space has since remained mostly empty and inactive after Lyric Opera San Diego’s cash crisis in 2011 caused the theater company to lose its home. The new owners of the venue tell the U-T they have big plans for the space.

“We’re basically activating the theater,” West Coast Tavern owner David Cohen tells the U-T.  “The least I would like us to accomplish is that we have four events a week; at the most, we’d like to do seven a week. We’ll do the kind of concerts they have at the Casbah, Humphreys and House of Blues, as well as have more movies. We’ll have alcohol and food service like (the luxury movie theater chain) Cinépolis; it will be a more affordable, North Park-centric version of that concept.”

• Surf culture washes up inland Friday when a surfboard shaping workshop, Shaper Studios, celebrates the opening of its new North Park headquarters. (SDGLN)

Art and Culture Colliding

• Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair will include 60 local, national and international exhibitors and a schedule of events that is so jam-packed it lives up to the“Creative Collisions” theme, which alludes to the huge swath of disciplines, nationalities, galleries, collectors, artists and art institutions converging under the roof of the Activity Center in Balboa Park from Nov. 7-10. (La Jolla Light)

•  Martha W. Longenecker was a true visionary and lover of art. (U-T) News of the death of the 93-year-old founder and director of the Mingei International Museum washed through the local art community last week after the museum released an official statement. (KPBS)

• If Frida Kahlo were alive today, she might be raising that iconic mono-brow of hers. The exhibition of Kahlo replicas at Liberty Station continues to ruffle feathers. Ccritics say there has been a lack of transparency in disclosing the fact that the show is indeed replicas rather than originals. (U-T)

• This week’s 14th annual San Diego Asian Film Festival (Nov. 7-16) includes a talk by the former UCSD students behind Wong Fu, the famed cutting-edge film production crew that built an audience and career using the social-sharing powers of YouTube. (U-T)

• An Instagram and Twitter-feed art project is documenting East Village’s lost art spaces. (San Diego CityBeat)

• City Ballet of San Diego is bucking trends and performing contemporary rather than classic works this season, a move the dance company says will push audience members to the edge of their seats. (U-T)

• ArtPulse recently launched Snorkl, a new arts events website where they hope to better connect the community to cultural happenings.

• Take a tour of the new San Diego Central Library and you might notice a shutterbug or two hiding behind the lens of his or her expensive camera. ( The contemporary architecture, interesting public art and colorful interior design seem to be inspiring photographers far and wide. (

Beer Is King

• San Diego Beer Week is under way with so many suds-soaked events there’s a roundup and guide almost everywhere you look. LA Weekly has a short-but-sweet list of events, for one. VOSD Radio hops on the Beer Week bandwagon by delving into the economics behind the event now that it’s without Tourism Marketing District funds. Special guest Melani Gordon, chief executive of two beverage-related tech start-ups, also talks about how San Diego could be doing more to support tech development.

• Imperial Beach seems to be undergoing a bit of a renaissance. Not only was it recently named one of the region’s most walkable cities (VOSD), but Coronado Brewing Company recently announced plans to open a location in the beach town on Seacost Drive. (Imperial Beach Patch)

• The U-T visits San Diego’s so-called “Hops Highway,” aka Highway 78, which passes by one out of every three breweries in San Diego County.

• Beer might be king in this city, but San Diego’s “Queen of Cocktails” says she’ll stick to mixing drinks. (U-T) In other cocktail news, San Diego Eater took a public poll and narrowed the results down to the region’s two most popular bartenders.

A Life Made in Music

• Guided by his love of good music, Kenny Weissberg helped shape Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay into the music venue it is today. The longtime concert promoter writes about his passion for the industry in his new autobiography, “Off My Rocker.” (U-T).

• Tristan Shone makes and plays intense-looking robotic music-making machines that will blow you away. But don’t dare suggest he make something even more elaborate and showy than what you see.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of suggestions you get from people, like giant levers and Robocop arms,” Shone tells San Diego CityBeat. “I think people wonder why I don’t take it to a more ridiculous level. I’m glad I went to art school, because there’s something about knowing how to design something so it’s not more than what it should be.”

• San Diego band Switchfoot tells the story of its transition from a group of surfers into musicians in a new documentary film. (The Mesquite)

 In With the New and Old

• Cygnet Theatre, in collaboration with Playwrights Project, is setting out to introduce local audiences to new works and the art of new-play development in this week’s Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival. (

• The Old Globe pleased a lot of parents last year when it announced an autism-friendly version of the family-friendly holiday classic,  “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  The theater company recently announced that it will be bringing that slightly modified version of the play back this year. (U-T)

• “The Last Goodbye,” Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” re-imagined as a musical driven by the angst-filled lyrics of Jeff Buckley’s music, has a reviewer at The New York Times  wondering whether the contemporary take leaves out more than it adds to the classic production.

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Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She also managed VOSD’s podcasts and covered...

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