Many believe art is more engaging and impactful when people can intermingle with it, so it’s not unusual for artists to build interactive sculptures or installations that pull in the viewer to experience the created piece. Collective Magpie takes it a bit further, drawing from the audience to participate in a piece’s construction.

In last week’s San Diego CityBeat cover story, arts editor (and former Culture Report captain) Kinsee Morlan interviewed MR Barnadas and Tae Hwang of Magpie Collective, who build art installations that require audience members to assist in its making.

Morlan writes, “Barnadas and Tae Hwang consider themselves just two-thirds of Collective Magpie. The last third of the collaborative-art project is the participant.”

The duo, who are the only two people to be accepted into UC San Diego’s MFA program as a collective and not an individual in the university’s history, focus on making site-specific work that is also audience-specific. They research and carefully plan a piece showing in a specific location, composing an experience in art creation for them as well as themselves.

For the La Jolla Playhouse’ Without Walls Festival in October, they had festival-goers construct a wall made up of hundreds of paper birds.

“What was really fascinating about this project was how interested people were in doing everything and participating in every part of the process,” Barnadas told CityBeat.

It seems people really want to be part of the experience.

You can see Collective Magpie’s latest participatory creation, “The Labor of Love,” at A Ship in the Woods through the end of February. The piece was first built at a wedding in Chicago. With the help of wedding attendees, Barnadas and Hwang constructed a dome made of hundreds of index cards on which people shared their thoughts on marriage. The dome now stands as part of ASITW’s HELM series curated by art historian Lara Bullock.

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

Well-Endowed Arts Groups, a New Tijuana Mural and More Art News

• Awesome news for local arts groups! The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded seven groups with a chunk of sweet, sweet grant money to be used for specific projects. Among the recipients are the San Diego Opera, which will use its $45,000 grant to fund a production of Verdi’s “A Masked Ball,” Media Arts Center, which will spend its $10,000 on the Latina Film Festival and AjA Project, which will put its $30,000 grant into a visual arts-based after-school program for underserved youth. Read more about the winners and their exciting plans. (U-T)

• A mural featuring Steve Jobs and WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange went up in Playas de Tijuana. Artists Lucia Rivera and Simi “El Buho” Villamil are using the mural as a jumping off point for painting more large-scale pieces depicting current events and icons. Related side story: I know where there’s a giant mural of Katie Holmes in Tijuana. (Reader)

• North Park’s Protea Gallery will close up shop for good at the end of the month. It’s another bummer for alternative spaces in San Diego. (CityBeat)

The San Diego Museum of Art has appointed Michael Brown, a former curatorial fellow at the Denver Art Museum, as the new associate curator of European art. Brown will start making his mark at the museum come January.

Art Pulse TV returns with another episode. This time around, hosts Barbarella and Terry hang with experimental musician Scott Nielsen, mixed media artist Acamonchi and local playwrights Ruff Yeager and Phil Johnson.

• San Diego represented hard at Art Basel Miami Beach. I’d say “Whoop! Whoop!” but that ventures a little too close to Insane Clown Posse territory. (CityBeat)

• Local artists will once again tap into their inner spirit animal for Power Animals IV, happening Friday, Dec. 20, at TPG2. Check out grrrr-eat (sorry, I had to) pieces by dozens of artists, including Sonia Lopez-Chavez, Paul Naylor, Ricardo Islas and Jack Stricker. My power animal is Beyonce.

Two perspectives on graffiti. Which side do you fall on? (Reader)

• Not all St. Nicks are jolly. Some of them are more Satan than Santa. See the baddies get their moment in the holiday sun at Bad Santa Art Show, happening Tuesday, Dec. 17, at Basic as part of the bar’s regular art night partnership with Thumbprint Gallery. Attending is sure to get you on the naughty list.

Cirello Metalsmith, formerly known as Cirello Gallery, will celebrate five years of bringing art and unique handmade jewelry to their North Park location with a celebration on Wednesday, Dec. 18. According to Google, the fifth anniversary is the year of wood. The more you know.

Nutcrackers, Children Take on Scientology and Shameless Self-Promotion

• Without fail, the holiday season brings two things: the incessant playing of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” and various local productions of “The Nutcracker.” While the former is a major annoyance two days into the holidays, the latter is always a welcome tradition. If there’s one performance you must catch, it’s the Moscow Ballet’s concert at Copley Symphony Hall.

• You had me at “hot men in tights,” Culture Buzz.

• Chula Vista’s OnStage Playhouse recruited children to perform a musical satire on Scientology called “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant.” Man, some kids are just badass. (U-T)

Speaking of wacky holiday plays, the Lyceum Theater’s production of “Pastorela” sounds hilarious, completely insane and like tons of fun. (U-T)

• Neil LaBute’s “Reasons to be Pretty” confronts standards beauty and misogyny in brutal, often painful-to-watch ways. Check it out at the BLKBOX Theater through Dec. 28. (CityBeat)

• One the *world’s most beloved columnists (*citation needed) released a new piece on trusting her wine-pickled guts with the help of an astrologer. Yes, I am referring to myself and my column “There She Goz,” which runs monthly in CityBeat.  A little shameless self-promotion never killed anyone, right? It has? I’ll see myself out.

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Alex Zaragoza is a freelance writer covering arts and culture in San Diego and Tijuana. She also writes the column "There...

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