After our seventh “Meeting of the Minds” culture discovery event wrapped up last night, I got an email from one of our speakers. Mary Beebe, who has directed a renowned sculpture collection at UC San Diego since 1981, told us what goes into making monumental sculpture happen — or not happen, as the case sometimes has been here.

Beebe believes passionately that San Diego can be a great cultural city. And she thinks you’re the ones to make that happen.

“The people who were there tonight are probably the ones who will make the real differences for San Diego’s future,” she wrote. “Make it not America’s Finest City — such a corny embarrassing claim — but one of America’s great cities.”

It was a night of discovering some of this city and county’s niches and neighborhoods.

We found lots of reasons to be proud of the ingenuity of our San Diego neighbors.

Here are a few highlights and videos from Beebe and our other six dynamic presenters.

Andy Powers kicked off the night with a look at some of the techniques he uses to build top-end guitars by hand, and the technology he uses as a master builder at Taylor Guitars in El Cajon and Tecate to reproduce those fine cuts and shapes for hundreds of guitars in the production line.

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Iris Engstrand has been a professor of history at University of San Diego since 1968. She’s learned the history of WD-40, the ubiquitous workbench product that began in a garage in Mission Hills and still has its global headquarters on Morena Boulevard. She illuminated some unusual uses for the product, including lubricating prosthetic limbs.

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La Jolla plastic surgeon Steven Cohen’s presentation included dramatic before-and-after photographs of young patients whose faces and skulls he has reconstructed using tools he and his colleagues have honed and tweaked over years of tinkering in garages.

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Garages were a recurring theme. Neva Parker, head of laboratory operations for the Whitelabs brewing yeast company, showed the company’s beginnings in a garage. Now the company helps home brewers and commercial brewers alike analyze their beer creations for quality control.

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Margaret Noble switched up the visual format with a few examples of her art using sound. What if we kept recordings of sounds that were meaningful to us, not just the highly visual photographs? she posited. Sound art allows the audience to participate in imagining the visual element, she said.

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Beebe, whose Stuart Collection includes 18 works by internationally renowned artists, has been around decades of conversations about which sculpture and public art to place in some of San Diego’s public areas, like Harbor Drive. She described the monumental engineering and transportation logistics that go into making a sculpture like Tim Hawkinson’s giant bear made of boulders possible.

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Finally, Daniel Krysak took us to space. Krysak’s the missions operations specialist for Malin Space Science Systems in Sorrento Valley, and he’s one of the first people on Earth who sees the images and data that come from the Mars Curiosity rover. Clearly, there are particular elements that have to be managed to send a camera to space. He even revealed how the rover takes selfies.

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Thanks to all of you who joined us last night. If you’d like to see what others were saying about the event as it happened last night, check out the hashtag #mindsmeet on Twitter.

Photos and video by Sam Hodgson.

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

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