When Daniel Foster stepped down as director of the Oceanside Museum of Art in 2014 then, two weeks later, withdrew his resignation, people wondered what was going on. At the time, he said he was conflicted about juggling his responsibilities as a father to a young son and running a major regional art center.
That’s part of the story, but the full story didn’t emerge until later, when Foster resigned — again — last May. In a letter to his supporters, he laid out his reasons for leaving the job and included a sentence that revealed a side most people never knew about: “After 32 years of total isolation as a non-exhibiting and unpublished artist and poet, I intend to emerge professionally before my 60th birthday [on] Dec. 8, 2016,” he wrote.
Foster is making good on that promise. This week, a solo show featuring an installation of dozens of his works from the last 30 years will open at Susan Street Fine Art Gallery in Solana Beach. The exhibition, which includes Foster’s paintings, photography, collage, poetry and images of some of his past temporary, site‐specific public art projects, opens from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.
It’s the first time Foster’s ever shown his work. He said his public life as an arts administrator began overshadowing his private life as an artist years ago. He said it took him a long time to realize that he needed to make a change.
“My professional career wasn’t feeding my soul in the way that art was,” he said. “So this show is my big coming out. This inner world that I have not shown to even some of my family, my friends and my closest relations – they really weren’t privy to this activity – I’m ready to show it now.”
Foster’s artwork has been hidden away for three decades, piling up in four one-car garages in Golden Hill and North Park. Going through his past work to pull out the pieces he wanted to include in his show took some effort.
“The last six months have been going into these time capsules and unpacking what I did at different stages of my development,” he said.
The launch of his art career doesn’t mean he’s completely withdrawing from public life. Foster said he’ll continue his work with The North County Arts Network, an effort to bring together arts groups in Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, Carlsbad, San Marcos and other nearby communities so they can work together in joint marketing efforts and otherwise grow the arts scene in northern San Diego County.
“But this show is the most important thing of my life in a career sense or professional sense,” he said. “Without a doubt.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news
There’s a Building Crumbling in the Heart of Balboa Park
Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt took a good look at the past, present and future of Starlight Bowl, the closed amphitheater in Balboa Park that’s overgrown with weeds and otherwise suffering from abandonment.
Here’s a collection of some of my favorite comments on the story so far:
“The financial viability of theaters is tenuous, at best,” wrote an anonymous commenter on the VOSD website. “We should remember the renovation and programming of the historic North Park Theatre, which went bankrupt, and its use altered, within a short time thereafter. The city has more vital infrastructure needs that need addressing before it spends $16 million on the renovation of a theatre. I attended several shows at the Starlight in the early 1990s. The initial fun of seeing actors stop in mid sentence, or musicians abruptly stop playing, as planes boomed overhead, rapidly gave way to annoyance and then exasperation. Even if the funds could be raised for a renovation the property is not in a proper location for a theatre. Instead of spending $16 million on a renovation, how about demolishing it and returning the property to open space or, perhaps, a low-profile parking garage since we still have not solved Balboa Park’s parking problem?”
“Watching the actors stop and then start again was part of the magic of that theater,” Devon Foster commented on Facebook. “I’d love to see it restored and more shows performed there.”
“Boo San Diego,” Suzy Swissler Gilleon wrote on Facebook. “Let the stadium crumble, not our magnificent cultural structures, especially Balboa Park.”
“Worked there right after high school,” Letitia Rogers commented on Facebook. “So fun! Someone on the crew made a t-shirt that said ‘Stop-n-Go Theater.’”
“I bet a lot of punk and or metal bands are dying to play at a venue like that,” Chris Hernandez said via Facebook.
“I hear Walmart has expressed interest in putting a big box store there,” Dan Chusid wrote on Facebook.
“With all the complaints mentioned about the flight path problems, I would like to bring up the fact that the Old Globe has an open-air theater and is located in Balboa Park,” wrote another anonymous commenter on VOSD. “Presumably the flight path would affect both venues. I have attended quite a few performances in the Old Globe’s open-air theater, and while there might be a momentary halt it doesn’t seem to have been that big a deal. Yes, the Starlight does not have surrounding walls. Could we hear from someone with experience with acoustics who could explain?”
I asked Halverstadt about that last comment. She said an acoustics expert was part of the consultants’ review that concluded the facility needs about $16 million in repairs.
San Diego’s Quiet Craft Coffee Explosion
The National Coffee Association is hosting its annual convention in Coronado next month. Folks from the coffee industry happen to be converging on San Diego just as our city is really starting to grow its craft coffee scene.
I wrote about San Diego’s craft coffee explosion, which, according to some of the people behind it, has happened more quietly and with less backing from government officials than the craft beer boom.
Timken’s New (Old) Direction
Derrick R. Cartwright is now heading up the Timken Museum of Art’s curatorial program.
Cartwright will keep his full-time gig as director of University Galleries at the University of San Diego. He told me running programming at the Balboa Park institution won’t take up too much of his time.
“The Timken doesn’t need a ton of curatorial redirection,” he said. “It’s a jewel box collection. It’s got some of the most extraordinary objects hanging on its walls at all time.”
His energy, he said, will first be spent realizing a few projects set in motion by the Timken’s former director, John Wilson, who abruptly resigned in 2014.
The museum has since learned to operate without a full-time director, since the board never replaced Wilson, instead opting to hire a visiting part-time director, art conservator David Bull. Bull’s time with the museum expired at the end of 2015.
Wilson was the guy who brought the edgy video portraits of Robert Wilson to the Timken back in 2011. Cartwright said the shows the former director conceived – the ones Cartwright’s now fulfilling – will be along the same lines as the video show, meaning they’ll be contemporary exhibitions people wouldn’t necessarily expect to find at the Balboa Park institution that’s best known for its centuries-old European and American master paintings.
“It’s a departure of what the Timken shows,” Cartwright said. “But it’s also a continuation in the spirit of what John Wilson was doing before he left.”
Local Theater Scene’s Big Winners, New Outdoor Art at SDMA and Other Arts and Culture News
• The San Diego Museum of Art is launching its “Art of the Open Air” outdoor exhibition in Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama this week. The museum has pulled out of storage and revamped some of its most significant sculptures for the show. I wrote about the effort a few months back when they first started raising funds for it.
• The La Jolla Playhouse’s musical “Come From Away” was the big winner at Monday night’s Craig Noel Awards, which honor local theater productions. KPBS has the full list of winners.
• If you haven’t been to San Diego State University’s Downtown Gallery in a while, now might be a good time. Chantel Paul’s the new program coordinator and the gallery’s latest show is a good example of how she’s re-energized the space. (U-T)
• The Lyceum Theatre is in the midst of a $3 million upgrade. (Broadwayworld.com)
• There’s a public art installation by San Diego artist David Adey on the county’s new parking garage at Cedar and Kettner. But some folks still think the garage is “the ugliest thing” they’ve ever seen. Justin Manor, a computational artist, thinks the garage could benefit from what he describes to The Reader as a “LED-painting.”
• The co-owner of the Tenth Avenue Arts Center recently stepped up and helped stop the city of Oceanside from tossing several large paintings. (U-T)
• Using the Cardiff Kook statue in your marketing materials might get you sued. The Cardiff 101 Main Street might own the rights to the sculpture, but it’s the locals who continue to dress it up who really deserve the credit for making it something worth fighting over. (Encinitas Advocate)
• A few local chefs and restaurateurs name places they like to eat. (Urbanist)
• Goodbye Little Italy’s Nelson Photo, hello new steak place. (Eater San Diego)
• Barrio Logan gentrification is the topic of CityBeat Seth Comb’s recent opinion piece. Read the comments and let me know what you think. I’ll be focusing in on Barrio Logan and its development in coming months.
• Reading Cinemas Gaslamp shuttered. (U-T)
• NBC 7 San Diego detailed one of the plans for a new development project in Sherman Heights geared toward artists. I touched on the project a few months back after the new southeastern San Diego community plan update cleared the way for the development.
• San Diego Magazine launched a new series of Q-and-As with local bartenders.
• San Diego Story remembers Geoffrey C. Shlaes, the managing director of Spreckels Theatre who recently passed away.
• Local photographer Jeff Morris got a great aerial shot of the 80-year-old shipwreck that surfaced in Coronado.
• These San Diego schools are taking the lead in incorporating creativity in learning. (Huffington Post)
Get Cultured: Things to Do in San Diego This Week
• The San Diego Jewish Film Festival continues through Feb. 14.
• Choral ensemble, SACRA/PROFANA, takes on the theme of love and romance in its concerts this weekend.
• Artist Aren Skalman is hosting a series of experimental workshops in the San Diego Art Institute’s project space at the Horton Plaza mall.
• See cats and dogs in fine-art form.
• See small-scale art in Escondido.
• There’s a love-themed art show at a brewery in North Park.
• The Story Consortium is hosting Flow ‘N’ Tell, an open-mic night at the You Are Here building in Golden Hill.
• Spray-paint artist Chor Boogie will show six large-scale paintings at Mesa College Art Gallery.
• North Park After Dark is still a thing.
• Artist, writer and performer Karla Diaz will talk about activism at UCSD on Thursday.
• Photographer Quetzal Maucci and multimedia artist Jay Lizo have work inspired by teen children of immigrants on view at the New Americans Museum. The reception for the two exhibitions is this week.
• Tijuana artist Mely Barragan is the next speaker in a series of discussions hosted by the AjA Project.
• Art inspired by wildlife is on view at Liberty Station this week.
• The San Diego Improv Festival includes workshops, shows and shindigs all centered on thinking on your feet.
• Tijuana artist César Vázquez has a solo show opening at a gallery in TJ.
• Each Saturday in February, Helmuth Projects will open a new art exhibition by female artists.
• See love-themed paintings by artist Qais Al-Sindy.
• Kuumbafest, happening Feb. 12 through Feb. 15, celebrates black culture and art.
• The Write Out Loud literary group presents its annual “Orpheus Speaks” performance featuring dramatic readings of love stories.
• This Tijuana music and art festival sounds perfect for you adventurous types.
• A group art show featuring small works is opening at Thumbprint Gallery this week.
• Muralists are being unleashed inside a new Barrio Logan art gallery.
• Artist Darling River is raising money for impoverished children.
• It’s time once again for the monthly vintage pop-up market.
• The Central Library’s gift shop, the Library Shop, is hosting a Valentine’s Day pop-up event.
• Your dog is invited to the 10th annual Bark in Balboa Park concert at 2 p.m. Valentine’s Day at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.
• “Peanuts” comic strip artist Tom Everhart is in San Diego this week.
• It’s Museum Month in San Diego.
• Alpacas of San Diego is opening its ranch in Descanso this weekend and inviting families to visit for free.
• The Living Coast Discovery Center is putting on a family program featuring animals that do cool things in the name of love.
• Monday is President’s Day, so if you need something for your kids to do, the New Children’s Museum’s got you covered.
• It’s family movie night at Waypoint Public in North Park Tuesday.
• “The Princess Bride” is showing at The Balboa Theatre at 7 p.m. Saturday.