San Diego suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Are we a border city? Are we a beachy tourist trap? Are we a whale’s vagina? It’s hard to reconcile what San Diego is when we are so many things.

The U-T’s art critic Jim Chute believes MCASD and Balboa Park’s many art institutions have taken steps to assert San Diego’s identity through the work they’ve shared in 2013, and their plans for the future. Along with being the city with the most craft brewery shirt-wearing dudes per capita in the world, San Diego has the chops to become a world-class art destination.

“Especially in the past year, those institutions, whose leaders are working together through the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, have created a collective identity that is becoming increasingly powerful. And they’ve taken a proactive approach toward the 2015 Centennial Celebration (of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park),” Chute writes.

He gives a shout-out to the Art of Science Learning collaborative, the newly available Balboa Park Explorer Pass, many of the park’s museums and institutions’ ambitious plans for the upcoming Balboa Park Centennial and MCASD La Jolla’s plans to renovate and expand their space as proof of San Diego’s rise as a cultural city.

While I agree that MCASD and Balboa Park are the big guys in town that will help cement San Diego’s identity as a cultural city in 2014 and beyond, I feel that our smaller galleries and arts organizations have been absolutely killing it.  The work exhibited throughout the year at spaces like Thumbprint Gallery, Art San Diego, Voz Alta, Space 4 Art, Parachute Factory, Low Gallery, Visual, Canvas, Zepf Alt, Bread & Salt, Distinction and many others, as well as the hard work done by art’s organizations like Hill Street Country Club, Art Pulse and more, are pushing this city so much further. Add the amazing work being produced in Tijuana, and I think we’ve got a recipe for an amazing 2014 in visual arts.

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

Nature talks, Heartwarming Partnerships and Best-of Lists

Last week, I told you about the landscape art collaboration between Oceanside Museum of Art and San Diego History Center, “Nature Improved: San Diego Artists Interpret our Landscape.” On Tuesday, Jan. 7, curators, artists and museum directors will come together for a panel discussion to talk about the exciting exhibition and how it all came to be. It starts at 6 p.m. at the History Center in Balboa Park.

• Speaking of wonderful partnerships, St. Madeline’s Sophie’s Center is teaming up with the Autism Research Institute to continue to bring opportunities to artists with disabilities. This is one hell of a feel-good way to end 2013. (CityBeat)

• Photographer Eric William Carroll downloaded every photo on Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, etc. that is tagged “San Diego,” punctured them in the center so there’s a hole in each photo and stacked them as part of his piece “Punctum” on view at MoPA’s “Staking Claim: A California Invitational.” It’s worth checking out, if anything just to see whether your photo of a seagull eating your sandwich in Ocean Beach made the cut. (U-T)

• The Hill Street Country Club’s kicks off their Supper Club Artist Project, a three-part series providing community education and involvement in the arts, with a pop-up art workshop at the Oceanside Farmer’s Market.

• The Cabrillo Bridge at Balboa Park will be closed for a few months. The park is re-branding that mild annoyance as a chance to explore its West End. All right, fine. I won’t complain.

• Space 4 Art believes there is beauty in repetition, and will show proof of that assertion with Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern, opening Jan. 4. Yeah, tell that to my married friends. View works by Kim Beck, Alex Paik, Corey Escoto and many others.

• The San Diego REPertory Theater’s upcoming premiere performance of Julia Alvarez’s beautiful novel “In the Time of Butterflies, adapted by Caridad Svich, comes with an art exhibition of pieces inspired by the book and play. Don’t miss either one.

• The U-T wrote up a round-up of the best in San Diego performing arts of 2013. Yes, it’s another best-of list, but this one gives shout-out to some truly awesome dance that happened in our fair city. No, your drunken breakdancing at your friend’s bachelorette party doesn’t count.

• Oh, you like year-end best of lists? OK then, here’s one for the best of San Diego theater in 2013. You’re welcome.

And with that we end another glorious year of Culture Report. We resolve to keep bringing you the best in arts and culture news, and as long as I’m at the helm, a few silly pop culture references as well. To 2014! The year we finally make fetch happen!

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Alex Zaragoza

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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