J Raymond Mireles’ bread and butter is commercial and editorial photography. But like many professional photographers, he’s got passion projects — the more conceptual-based work that belongs in art galleries instead of ad campaigns.

For his personal projects, Mireles has crossed the country in search of interesting people who aren’t often the subject of fine-art photos. He’s turned his lens toward the Bakken formation oil-field workers, subversive housewives, desert dwellers and other under-the-radar subcultures.

He didn’t have to travel too far for his most recent art project. Mireles simply walked out his door and started snapping photos of his Logan Heights neighbors. He printed them and mounted the big, striking portraits on a fence that wraps around his home on Imperial Avenue. The photos beautifully capture the diversity of his neighborhood by featuring a patchwork of black and brown faces.

He told me that the fence, which has transformed the sidewalk into a makeshift outdoor art gallery, and the upcoming Oct. 10 public reception are meant to start a conversation about race relations in San Diego.

“It’s using art as a form of integration,” he said. “And I want to do it in a way that isn’t too preachy or forced.”

Mireles hopes this is the first of many more photo-filled walls and fences to come that will offer a window into the rich cultural diversity of Logan Heights and its inhabitants.

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

Balboa Park’s ‘Pathetic’ Centennial Celebration

The Maker Faire happening Oct. 3-4 in Balboa Park is part of an ongoing series of events meant to mark the park’s centennial celebration. The big blowout celebration the city originally envisioned fell apart thanks to mismanagement, expensive vendors who failed to perform and other problems.

The Union-Tribune and KPBS used the upcoming Maker Faire as an opportunity to discuss how the scaled-back celebration — a smattering of smaller community-organized affairs like Make Music Day San Diego and other one-off events to which the city offered no financial support, plus other big improvement and marketing projects — should be judged.

Bruce Coons of the local preservation group Save Our Heritage Organisation told the U-T he’s been less than impressed.

“We’re all pretty disappointed in the celebration of the centennial of the exposition,” Coons said. “It’s pathetic, really.”

I asked folks on Facebook what they thought of the centennial celebration. Some pointed to stellar special programming at Balboa Park institutions and other cultural organizations outside of the park, and to infrastructure upgrades like the reopening of the California Tower as signs of the centennial’s lasting accomplishments. Others thanked Michael Ruiz for helping make things happen (he’s the city staffer who was tapped to help facilitate the community events). But the majority were still bitter about the lack of follow-through on the original plan.

“The botched planning for this anniversary is an embarrassment to our city, ” wrote Barbarella Fokos, who writes for The Reader. “My excitement fizzled along with all that wasted money. And $15k a month to individuals who didn’t get the job done is simply grotesque. It’s great that some events were salvaged, but sad that the original idea (as I understood it, to bring all the park orgs together for a major and fantastic year-long collaboration) never came to be because the bulk of city money was thrown at so-called event experts from other towns. Ugh.”

“There was a celebration?” wrote Monica Delgadillo.

The centennial should have been organized from the inside out, rather than the outside in,” wrote Lizbeth Persons Price, president of the San Diego Junior Theatre board of trustees and public relations manager for the Spreckels Organ Society. “We should have asked San Diego organizations ‘What have you got? What exciting things can you plan/do/present/create to celebrate?’ A grand celebration could have been organized from the creative genus right here in our city. I think the centennial was saved in the 11th hour by the resourcefulness of our arts and culture community (many of whom are volunteers) who turned lemons into lemonade.”

“A total missed opportunity to celebrate the civic vision and ambition of San Diegians 100 years ago, ironically when the city’s population was less than 50,000 residents,” wrote local architect Kevin DeFreitas. “You would think 2.3 million residents could have figuratively mustered a spectacular fireworks show, and not something tantamount to a child running around with sparklers to acknowledge all that our city, and its heart Balboa Park, have experienced over the past century. It’s not like we didn’t know this date was coming for like 100 years.”

Read the rest of the comments or join the conversation here.

Going Big in SDMA’s ‘The Art of Music’ Exhibition

The San Diego Museum of Art opens one of his largest-ever exhibitions Saturday. “The Art of Music” includes more than 200 music-themed works that will fill the entire east wing of the museum. See greatest hits from the likes of John Baldessari, Chuck Close, Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns, Tristan Perich and others.

Anita Feldman, the museum’s deputy director of curatorial affairs, told me the most interesting aspect of the show is how it spans so many genres and time periods.

“The show is about exploring the links between visual art and sound and sight through things as diverse as Japanese prints or contemporary rock posters,” she said. “Things like contemporary sound installations and African textiles, they’re all in there and they’re all side by side, so some of the juxtapositions are quite surprising.”

Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Feldman said another cool feature of the show is the accompanying audio guide. Those who pick up headphones at the front of the museum can stand in front of each piece of art in the exhibition and listen to music hand-picked by members of the San Diego Symphony and other curators who were asked to select pieces of music to pair with the art. The person who selected the music gives a quick intro and explains why it was picked, then everything from hip-hop to jazz and classical is included in the audio tour.

Jordan Peimer’s Ready to Launch

Jordan Peimer’s coming up on his one-year anniversary in San Diego, but not much is known locally about the new executive director of UC San Diego’s ArtPower! just yet. As head of the university’s main provider of performing arts and film entertainment, the 2015-2016 season will be San Diego’s first introduction to Peimer’s tastes and aesthetics. The season, which launches with a talk and performance by English violinist Irvine Arditti on Friday, includes some encouraging signs.

Peimer’s put together a Global Music Series focusing on women and has a penchant for pulling back the curtain on the process of art-making by including short discussions in front of various performances. He told the U-T that educating people about the art they’re about to see is important.

“Personally, I love all the back stories,” Peimer said. “Some people wouldn’t dream of staying for a Q&A, but I want us to emphasize the arts are a real and vital part of what a university does. They are a learning experience as well as a form of cultural engagement.”

Photo by Keita Funaka / courtesy of ArtPower!
Photo by Keita Funaka / courtesy of ArtPower!

I reached out to Peimer to get a better sense of what San Diegans can expect from this year’s ArtPower! lineup and future seasons to come. He said he’s very interested in site-specific works, so the upcoming performance by Bang on a Can All-Stars playing Brian Eno’s classic “Music for Airports” performed live at the San Diego International Airport is an example of something we can expect to see more of in the future. He’s especially captivated by the international border, so live performances either somewhere near the border fence or in collaboration with Tijuana arts organizations is something he’s exploring. He’s also bringing, and will continue to book, lots of international acts that have never stepped foot in San Diego before.

“I wanted to introduce some things that I felt hadn’t been part of the local arts conversation yet,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of work happening on the national and international scene that I don’t believe has been here … Also, bringing artists who are doing these newer modalities of art-making is something that can really engage audiences and help us as an intuition allows our students and San Diego audiences to see what really fascinating artists are doing around the world.”

Peimer’s dance performance lineup this season is a good example of his zest for bringing in international acts that San Diegans have likely never seen. I wrote about the upcoming performance by famed Taiwanese choreographer Huang Yi’s performance with a robot named KUKA in CityBeat’s recent Fall Arts issue.

KAABOO Del Mar Will Be Back, a Goodbye to Arthur Wagner and More Artsy Bits

Street Scene couldn’t cut it, but hopefully KAABOO can. Despite a lower-than-expected attendance, San Diego’s newest music festival confirmed its return next September. (U-T)

• Arthur Wagner, founding chairman of UCSD’s Department of Theatre and Dance and longtime La Jolla Playhouse board member, died of cancer early Monday morning at the age of 92. The U-T talked to people in the community who said his decades of devotion to theater will be greatly missed.

Robert L. Pincus hung out in artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter’s lab, where the Creative Catalyst grant winner is busy mixing scents for his ongoing “Olfactory Memoirs” project. Goeltzenleuchter told Pincus he’s trying to answer the question, “What is smell’s relationship to narrative?”(KCET)

• Follow these creatives on Instagram. You won’t regret it. (CityBeat)

• Did you miss last Saturday’s opening of “Rainmaker”? Perhaps this profile of artist Michael Field will whet (pun intended) your appetite for the water-themed show, which is on view in the Central Library Art Gallery through Nov. 29. (CityBeat)

If you haven’t noticed yet, I have an interest in public art, both the official and more guerrilla-style forms of it. I bug the public-art players constantly about new and upcoming projects and I recently got an email confirming that Ball-Nogues Design Studio has been selected for the San Diego International Airport’s Parking Plaza Public Art Project. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this project moving forward. Are there any other public-art projects under way you want to know more about? Email me.

Get Cultured: Where to Be This Week

• You might’ve seen Tom Deméré on the news recently. Yup, he’s the guy whose team recently found Ice Age fossils in Carlsbad. The curator of paleontology at the San Diego Natural History Museum is just one of the five speakers giving fast-paced presentations that detail their adventures in discovery in our Meeting of the Minds event next Thursday. Get your tickets today and be sure to follow Balboa Park on Instagram in preparation of my upcoming social-media takeover. I’ll be manning Balboa Park’s Instagram account the day of our big event at Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and filling your feed with all sorts of exciting #mindsmeet material. Don’t. Miss. This.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Natural History Museum
Photo courtesy of San Diego Natural History Museum

• The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus’ highly anticipated free Balboa Park performance of John Luther Adams’ “Sila: The Breath of the World” is happening at the Japanese Friendship Garden this Sunday.

• Two cool arts groups, PangeaSeed and Cohort Collective, want folks to think about the ocean while enjoying an urban pop-up gallery featuring 22 artists plus live music and live mural-making. Saturday’s “Reclaim the Future” exhibition features artists like Neko, Exist1981 and Tocayo, whom VOSD’s former arts writer Kelly Bennett profiled in 2012.

• Mo`olelo’s launches their latest season with the world premiere of “Cell” by Cassandra Medley.

• A mattress store in North Park is doing some strange, interesting and artful things. Sonia Weksler is a second generation owner of Sleep Bedder, which plays hosts to art installations, community workshops and more. Weksler describes her shop as a “collaborative art project, greater than the sum its parts and a place for the community to gather around art and food and alchemy of elements that speak to all the senses.” She’s hosting a DIY bone-broth workshop on Wednesday. 

• I had coffee and bagels with New Yorker Andy Horwitz when he and his wife first moved to town. The culture writer and curator was on a whirlwind listening tour, doing his best to meet with dozens of movers and shakers in the local arts and culture scene. Next thing I knew, Horwitz was organizing Make Music Day San Diego and stepping in as the curator-in-residence at the San Diego Art Institute. I made it to the opening of the show he organized at SDAI and was impressed by his curatorial debut there. Called “Ephemeral Objects,” the exhibition is a good one and includes all kinds of noisy, technological and otherwise playful and edgy art. Learn more about it at an artist talk on Thursday.

• Adams Avenue will be filled with 110 musical acts on eight stages, plus plenty of overpriced lemonade and fry bread during the annual Adams Avenue Street Fair this weekend.

• Ask an artist what’s wrong with the local visual-art scene. He or she will likely bring up the lack of serious art collectors at some point. A new show opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is about to add to that conversation by introducing us to 20 of the city’s collectors. “San Diego Collects” opens Saturday and the show’s curator, Kathryn Kanjo, will talk about it next Monday.  I wrote about the show in CityBeat’s Fall Arts issue.

• The Trolley Dances are heading to Balboa Park for the first time ever this year in a nod to the ongoing centennial celebration. Happening this weekend and next, the annual family-friendly (read: Yes! An arts event kids will dig!) dance event features site-specific works by Jean Isaacs, Stephan Koplowitz, Mark Haim, Liv Isaacs-Nollet, Anne Gehman and Suzanne Forbes-Vierling.

• Chamber music ensemble Camarada is hopping around town putting on several shows over the next few weeks.

• Matt D’Arrigo, founder of A Reason To Survive (ARTS), will be giving a talk this Friday in the ongoing Creative Mornings series.

Artist Daphne Hill’s unveils new paintings and collage works built around the theme of the HPV Vaccine and sexual memory at Art Produce gallery on Saturday.

• The Fresh Sound series presents Florent Ghys at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights next Monday.

• Mainly Mozart’s “Mozart & the Mind” series opens this weekend.

•  Tour de Fat rolls into town on Saturday.

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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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