Dozens of artworks, handmade furniture, jewelry, talks and performances were packed under the roof of the Balboa Park Activity Center during last weekend’s Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair.

From a skull drawn live by Larry and Debby Kline using the world’s first three-dimensional printing pen and a posh lounge designed by NewSchool of Architecture and Design students to Raul Guerrero’s eye-catching portraits of John Baldessari and Bob Matheny and Shinichi Sugimoto’s immersive “City of Gravity” installation, the annual fair rolled in and out of town leaving a trail of fawning media, dozens of art-inspired photo opps and — if organizers and galleries met their financial goals — several big art transactions in its wake.

Art San Diego founder Ann Berchtold told U-T San Diego the local fair isn’t like its bigger, more expensive and intimidating cousins, such as Art Basel.

“Our show is a little different,” Berchtold said. “We present new galleries, but also museums and local artists. It is a fair commanded by the economy, but also by art. And because we are a little smaller than the fairs of Miami or New York, our prices are not so high, in terms of spaces for exhibitors.”

Thanks to those less expensive booth spaces, Berchtold said the San Diego fair is the perfect place for a young collector to make his or her first big buy. Whether enough visitors dipped their toes into the turbulent waters of art-buying or the crowd was mostly filled by art scensters and lookie-loos likely won’t be determined until next year. Will the same galleries return as happy customers of the art-fair experience or simply say no to taking another chance on the  pretty-but-pint-sized art fair in San Diego?

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

 The Arts Are All Right

• A panel of local arts leaders discussed the health of the city’s cultural institutions in a program at the University Club last month. While there was some worry about whether arts institutions are doing a good enough job reaching out to the younger generations, most who took to the stage were pretty pleased with how things are going. (San Diego Daily Transcript)

• Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla will be celebrating the opening of its new second gallery location in Hillcrest, TPG2, this weekend. (ArtHash)

• Denise Montgomery, the former executive director of the city of San Diego’s Arts and Culture Commission who stepped down amid the sexual harassment scandal that took down former mayor Bob Filner, is one of the authors of the just-published “Something to Say: Success Principles for Afterschool Arts Programs From Urban Youth and Other Experts,” a Wallace Foundation research report looking at how to bring high-quality arts experiences to kids in disadvantaged urban areas.

• Artist Gregg Visintainer’s ink drawings look like recognizable scenes from far away. A closer investigation reveals hidden pictures, words and messages embedded in the imagery. (U-T San Diego).

The Fallbrook Art Center is busy sifting through hundreds of submissions for the water-media exhibition happening early next year. (U-T)

• San Diego Magazine takes a good look at the San Diego International Airport’s new public-art installations.

• The owner of a cafe in Oceanside has turned a drab alley-like space into a popular outdoor eatery thanks to his knack for arranging succulents into artful designs. (U-T)

Built’s Best, Edgy Dance and Whiskers

• The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects handed out awards to 16 projects and two architects last Thursday at its annual design awards program. (U-T) Among those awarded was the new federal courthouse, a project VOSD followed as public art by renowned artist Robert Irwin was installed.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

• A dance choreographer sets out to tell a story about physical desire in a very dysfunctional family. The piece is part of “Malashock/RAW4,” an upcoming annual showcase of edgier, more provocative original dance produced by Malashock Dance.

“The whole thing behind RAW for me is confronting issues that people normally think dance won’t do,” independent choreographer Michael Mizerany told San Diego Downtown News. “I think that dance can address things in a really good way.”

• Notice more beards and mustaches this month? The wildly growing whiskers are part of the Movember movement, an annual campaign to raise awareness about men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer. The U-T looks at the past and present culture of the facial-hair-growing urban tribe. J Public Relations emailed me a nice roundup of Movember happenings taking place at a few of their clients’ locales this month.

Health Food, Beer Week Survived, Korean Food and Expanding Empires

• VOSD food blogger Clare Leschin-Hoar takes a look into the trend of improved, healthier food at area hospitals.

“Five to 10 years ago, there wasn’t much going on in this area at all,” Barbara Hamilton, sustainability manager at Palomar Health, tells VOSD. “But the last five years there’s been a pretty large resurgence of getting back to basics and understanding processed food isn’t the best food for our health.”

• As the epic San Diego Beer Week drew to a close, CityBeat’s beer reporter reflected on the deeper meaning of the annual event and shared a bit of what he learned while dutifully filling his belly with craft brews paired with excellent food.

• Cathlyn Choi is known as “The Korean Food Ambassador” whose mission is to “spread Korean culture and cuisine to the masses.” (U-T)

• Having trouble deciding which of the dozens of old and new local breweries are worthy of tickling your taste buds?  A local writer has rated more than 70 breweries in San Diego County in his new book, “San Diego Beer News Complete Guide to San Diego Breweries.”  The roundup might be outdated before year’s end if breweries keep opening and expanding at their current rate.  Stone Brewing Co. recently opened its sixth satellite location downtown ( and Karl Strauss Brewing Company opened its eighth and largest brewery in Temecula. (Temecula Patch)

• Celiac disease sufferers have a friend in Roxie Johnson, the woman behind the useful online resource (U-T)

Casbah’s Lineup, Tijuana Music Fest and China Achieved

• The Casbah has lined up a schedule worthy of celebrating the legendary music venue’s impressive 25-year history. The Rugburns, Three Mile Pilot, The Penetrators, The Paladins and others are slated to play the month-long anniversary celebration in January. (U-T)

• San Diego Reader listened to one track by every band set to play in the upcoming All My Friends Music Fest in Tijuana.

• The San Diego Symphony has officially checked off a China tour and performance at Carnegie Hall from its bucket list. The U-T calls the series of performances an “enormous success.”

• Mainly Mozart will enter its 2014 season $350,000 richer. The U-T reports that the nonprofit organization recently announced the award of a $50,000 bequest and a $300,000 underwriting investment from two anonymous donors.

• Composer Joe Garrison and his Night People ensemble’s performance at The Loft at UCSD last week scored rave reviews from NBC’s SoundDiego music blog.  The author called the performance, “an unforgettable night of gorgeous and intricately arranged modern music for which there is very little precedent.”

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Kinsee Morlan

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

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