Christine Jones is the Commission for Arts and Culture’s new public art program manager. I met her at the recently opened Fault Line Park last week, where she introduced me to the city’s newest public art installation: the two big mirrored balls in the middle of the park that actually serve as more than just a cool backdrop for a selfie. Jones answered most of my questions with questions of her own.

“Some of the questions I’m asking myself right now when I think about the future is how do we reach a broader, wider public in San Diego?” she asked. “What kind of role can we play in San Diego neighborhoods…? How do we expand the notion of what public art is?”

Jones, who’s been at her post since April, has an impressive resume that includes working as a consultant on big city projects like the public art installation at the new Central Library. Six months in, she said she wasn’t ready to roll out any big plans or new programs, but she did say she was open to ideas.

Arts experts I talked to said that’s good, because now seems like the time to move the city’s public art collection beyond vanilla and closer to the edgy and exciting realm of something more like honey jalapeño pickle.

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

Giving Cultural Districts Due Cred

If AB 189 becomes law, cultural districts could apply to get recognition similar to that of historical districts. The bill tasks the California Arts Council with administering the program, which invites artsy hotbeds as organized and manufactured as NTC at Liberty Station or grassroots and organic as Barrio Logan to apply for the official state designation.

“Basically, when you see a state cultural district, you’re going to know there are galleries, museums, cultural community events and more,” said Meredith McNamee, a legislative assistant to one of the bill’s authors, Assemblymember Richard Bloom. “It’s a way for communities to recognize where their cultural districts are. The state will give them this designation that gives them a sense of legitimacy and then the community itself can build on that. The designation could be used to recognize more polished areas, but the goal of the program is to recognize the unpolished areas — the places that don’t already have this worked out.”

McNamee told me Louisiana and Maryland have implemented similar programs that’ve resulted in notable positive economic impacts. She also said state tourism groups are champing at the bit over the bill since it would provide an easy way to better market California’s more under-the-radar cultural assets. 

The bill goes to the floor Tuesday, where it’s expected to pass. If signed into law by the governor, the Arts Council will begin implementing the program sometime in 2016.

City Heights Performance Annex Revival and Art on Chollas Creek

The City Heights Performance Annex isn’t the first venue that comes to mind when one thinks of cutting-edge art, but that could change in coming months. Last month, Nigel Brookes transferred from the Commission for Arts and Culture to become the annex’s new manager. The last manager was there for decades and retired months ago, which is why not much as been happening at the space as of late. Brookes, an artist and friend to hordes of other local artists, told me he’s already thinking about ways to reinvigorate the space: “I’m imagining a future of community-informed and intelligent program development,” he said. “I hope, ultimately, to connect brilliant people with one another and help them be brilliant together.”

The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation is looking for artists help spruce up a 2.6-acre linear urban park along a newly restored section of Chollas Creek. The official request for qualifications for the Chollas Creek Gateways Public Art Project hit the streets last week. Victoria Hamilton, who heads up arts-related programs at the center, told me this is just the start of more public art projects along Chollas Creek to come down the pipeline.

Thousands of Threads, Ideas Across Borders, Creation Museum Snub and More Artsy Bits

• Michael James Armstrong has been running the experimental, installation-based Ice Gallery for years, mostly showing other artists’ works. When he announced he’d finally be doing an installation of his own, the gallery’s fans and followers got excited. A few days before the scheduled opening, though, he canceled it and said he needed more time to do things right. From his blog post:

“It turns out that an installation involving 3500 threads evenly spaced a 16th of an inch apart is a really ambitious undertaking,” he said.

Armstrong said to “stay tuned” for updates on the opening.

The Union-Tribune talked to famed painter Jonathan Green. His work, and work from Richard Weedman and Green’s art collection, is on view at the SDSU Downtown Gallery through Oct. 18. The exhibition is presented by the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts, which is still operating as a “museum without walls.” (CityBeat)

Photo by Charlie Smith
Photo by Charlie Smith

• KPBS reports that the San Diego Museum Council snubbed The Creation and Earth History Museum, denying it official membership once again. The museum’s president told KPBS’s Angela Carone that he suspects “prejudice against creation as an explanation for origins.”

• KPBS also checked in with the California Center for Arts Escondido, which is in the midst of rebounding from some serious economic woes.

• This year’s batch of the San Diego Foundation’s Creative Catalyst grant winners are continuing to roll out their projects. The Union-Tribune shined some light on paper artist Bhavna Mehta’s project, which has pushed her to experiment with three-dimensional work.

• The Maritime Museum of San Diego sailed its replica of the San Salvador during the Festival of Sail event over Labor Day weekend. The ship’s launch had been delayed a handful of times and the big wooden ship is still undergoing some finishing touches, but people told the Union-Tribune they were stoked to see her sail.

• The “lost prophet of the civil rights movement” is the subject of a world premiere showing at the La Jolla Playhouse through Oct. 4. (KPBS)

• San Diego Repertory Theatre’s 40th season opener is a hit. (CityBeat)

• Union-Tribune border reporter Sandra Dibble wrote about the ambitious TEDxMonumento258 talks, calling the event “a boundary-breaking occurrence: the first TEDx to be staged simultaneously in two countries.”

• Chula Vista artist Michael Leaf built a memorial to the South Bay Power Plant using remnants of the old plant itself. (Union-Tribune) The monument will be unveiled in a public ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at Chula Vista Bayfront Park, 980 Marina Way.

• I wrote about a local photographer who’s keeping the daunting wet-plate process alive; in part, by cruising around in a mobile darkroom housed in a retooled school bus. (CityBeat)

Get Cultured: Where to Be This Week

• The big to-do this week is “Response,” an exhibition featuring 16 artists focusing on “how art can be displayed in novel ways, viewed from different perspectives and used to activate unexpected areas,” opening at Space 4 Art in the East Village from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12. Space 4 Art’s Ruby Cougler further described the show like this:

“We have Aren Skalman, Armando de la Torre, Vabbianna Santos, Christine Ree, Leslie Seiters, among many others,” she said. “For example, Ree is assembling and deconstructing a drop ceiling in our main gallery that will work with resonant sounds from Aren Skalman’s pieces. The show includes installations, immersive sonic environments, interactive pieces, dance and musical performances – both inside and outside, on-stage and in the ground (Armando is digging a hole).”

Photo courtesy of Space 4 Art
Photo courtesy of Space 4 Art

• Both the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival and La Costa Film Festival are happening this weekend.

• The San Diego Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacob Common announced the schedule for its Fall 2015 Concert Series. The Villa Musica Summer Orchestra will kick off the series, which is celebrating 60 years of offering free chamber music to the public, with a performance at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11.

• Lux Art Institute opens its latest season from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, with a reception for artist Max Greis, who rode a train from New York to California so he could capture video images he’ll be bringing to life during his residency at Lux. The Encinitas art center will also host a free family-friendly Fall Fest from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13, art critic Robert Pincus and I will be announcing the San Diego Art Institute’s Inaugural Artist vs Curator Softball Tournament. I have no idea what to expect, but wouldya just look at that impressive lineup?

Artists: Bob Matheney, Richard Allen Morris, Tom Driscoll, Jason Sherry, Joshua Krause, Wick Alexander, Kate Clark, Brian Goeltzenleuchter, Brian Benfer, Bridget Rountree, Iann Gunn, Don Porcella, Paul Turounet, Dave Ghilarducci, Nathan Betschart and Sam Alexander

Curators: Hugh Davies, John Wilson, Ginger Porcella, Larry Kline, Debby Kline, Megan Dickerson, Perry Vasquez, Chantel Paul, Kara West, Dan Allen, Lizzy Bendrick, Betsy Lane, Andy Horwitz, Sam Lopez and Vallo Riberto

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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