Encanto is an arts desert. Sure, there are a few painted electrical boxes and murals scattered here and there, but Barry Pollard, who’s lived in Encanto for decades, thinks it’s time to get serious about putting more public art in his under-served neighborhood in southeast San Diego.

“There’s plenty of research that shows how art positively impacts a community,” Pollard said. “And I just want to leave this place a little bit better than I found it.”

Pollard is the founder and executive director of the neighborhood group Urban Collaborative. That’s the group that butted heads with the city last year when its members built four wooden planter boxes and two benches on a small island at the corner of Euclid and Imperial in an attempt to make the notorious intersection look a little better. The group didn’t get the official permits they needed, so the city forced them to rip out their work.

This time around, Pollard said, he’s inviting city officials to the table early in hopes of fending off any problems. He’s organized a community event on Feb. 25 focused on public art and how to make it happen.

“Art is one of the components that we’ve decided to focus on because people have started coming up to us and saying, ‘Hey, we have zero art in this community,’” he said. “And you can drive down the streets here and that’s validated.”

The longtime community leader and activist is hoping neighborhood artists, woodworkers and other creative people show up to the meeting so his group can figure out what people want and what they’re willing to contribute. Pollard said he wants to involve as many residents as possible.

“For this to be successful, the most important ingredient is the civic engagement piece,” he said.

Because the city’s official public art program is tied to new development projects, there’s very little public art in Encanto. That will likely change now that the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation is ready to start developing the property it owns in the area. Plus, the recently updated Encanto community plan has an entire section devoted to the importance of arts and culture and the plan’s zoning updates will likely open things up for future development that could also include arts projects.

“But I’ve lived here for over 50 years and, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been an inclusive effort to get public art over here yet,” Pollard said. “So we’re giving it a shot.”

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

About Those 200 Events at Horton Plaza Park …

In the next few months, Horton Plaza Park will finally open. One talking point about the new public plaza that’s been repeated over and over is that the park will host over 200 events a year.

I was curious about that and wondered why and how the city planned on doing it. Here’s what I found.

Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Someone at the San Diego Opera told me he looked into renting the space for a series of free community concerts but the prices he was quoted were prohibitively expensive.

Horton Plaza Park is a public-private partnership between the city and Westfield, the owners of the mall adjacent to the park. Both the city and Westfield said the prices were competitive with comparable venues.

Dove Cochrane, a San Diego resident, thinks Westfield should rethink its current rental rates.

“It looks like the people who manage the new park and its special events are loosing a great opportunity by letting the opera slip through their fingers,” Cochrane wrote on Facebook. “I think they need to reconsider how to handle a nonprofit who offers a free performance to the community.”

Others echoed the city and Westfield’s point that the quote was on par with the price of renting out similar outdoor public plazas.

What do you think?

Seven Sculptures Surround the Plaza de Panama, a Debate Over Whether San Diego’s a Great Art City and Other Arts and Culture News

Seven sculptures are now on public view on the sidewalks surrounding the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park. The San Diego Museum of Art dug into its vault then dusted off and spruced up pieces like Auguste Rodin’s “The Prodigal Son” and Tony Rosenthal’s “Odyssey III” for the “Art of the Open Air” exhibition. KPBS and lots of other media folks were at the opening last week.

What was once a parking lot is now an art gallery,” said Councilman Todd Gloria, whose district includes Balboa Park.

Photo by Kinsee Morlan

I wrote about SDMA’s campaign to art up the plaza and some of the politics behind the public space last October. I also stopped by the unveiling last week and took this funny photo of the city’s deputy chief operating officer, David Graham, looking at my favorite piece, “The Watchers” by Lynn Chadwick.

• The Food Network’s Alton Brown is coming to town and Eater San Diego wants you to help him find the best places to eat.

Zócalo Public Square, a nonprofit that blends live events and humanities journalism, is heading to San Diego this Saturday and the premise of the talk — Will San Diego Ever Become a Great Art City? — is already inspiring some heated debates. I’ll be moderating the discussion. The Coast News has the details.

• The San Diego Union-Tribune shines some light on an arts program for inmates at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa.

I wrote about the program for San Diego CityBeat in 2014 when it first launched.

• Local artist Helen Redman and her granddaughter were recently featured in The Washington Post’s “New Wave Feminism Project.” If you missed it like I did, the story’s worth adding to your reading list. The article includes an interactive feature (look for a blue button on the right) that’s worth exploring, too.

• Claire de Lune is no more. San Diego Magazine’s Troy Johnson gives the iconic cafe its due. Johnson also explains the rise in ridiculously loud restaurants. Spoiler alert: The cool, contemporary look of newer eateries is what’s behind the reverberating sound.

 The founder and executive director of Pacific Arts Movement, the nonprofit that puts on the annual San Diego Asian Film Festival and other cultural programming, is stepping down to spend more time with her kids. Lee Ann Kim made the announcement in an email newsletter last week. Pacific Arts Movement is also looking to unload its Drive-By Cinema truck in case you or anyone you know is in need of a mobile movie theater.

• A few artists from Writerz Blok, the public graffiti art park and educational program, just finished a new mural at the Museum of Man. (Facebook)

• Machete Beer House recently turned 1. The Reader lists 31 reasons to visit the National City craft beer bar.

The East Village’s Común Kitchen & Tavern closed last year. Local artists Gloria Muriel and Alex H. Banach created two large art pieces for the restaurant and they’re hoping to find a new, more public home for the work. Email Muriel if you have any ideas.

• UC San Diego professor Shahrokh Yadegari modern dance and theater piece, “The Scarlet Stone,” will broadcast on BBC Persian. (KPBS)

• The city of San Diego is looking for artists to design a public art piece for the Chollas Water Operations Facility.

• San Diego Musical Theatre’s “Ragtime” hits on some timely social justice issues. (San Diego Story)

San Diego Theatre Week kicks off Monday. (Vanguard Culture)

• New KPBS arts calendar editor Nina Garin is a dance mom, so she knows a thing or two about the art form. She says San Diego Civic Dance Arts Company’s “Collage 2016: Change” show is surprisingly superb.

• There’s a push in Encinitas to relax city rules in the name of saving the city’s cool, vintage signs. (Encinitas Advocate)

• A local married couple plays a married couple on stage and the result is something you might want to see, says KPBS’s Beth Accomando.

• The San Diego International Airport opens several installations in a new, year-long exhibition called “Point of Entry” this week. The exhibition includes border-inspired work by 14 artists and organizations like Ron Miriello, Michael Ruiz, Bhavna Mehta and The AjA Project.

• La Jolla Playhouse’s “Come From Away,” a Sept. 11-related musical that launched last year, is headed to Broadway. (U-T)

• Thanks to $1 million from Dorothea (Dottie) LaubDance Place San Diego will now be called the Dorothea Laub Dance Place.

Get Cultured: Things to Do in San Diego This Week

The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation presents a concert with Black Violin, a musical duo that blends hip-hop and classical violin.

• An artist who goes by the name Yozamp is having a big solo show at the Lafayette Hotel in North Park this week.

• Don’t let the bar setting fool you, Dorkbot SD is absolutely an arts and culture event and, this time, it features Interspecifics, a binational collaborative that blends art and science.

• The Hausmann Quartet and the Maritime Museum of San Diego have partnered up for “Haydn Voyages: Music at the Maritime,” a quarterly concert series aboard the Berkeley, an 1898 steam ferryboat. The first concert is Sunday.

 The work of iconic American pop artist Sister Corita Kent will be on view in the Hoehn Family Galleries at the University of San Diego. The show opens Wednesday.

• The San Diego Museum of art celebrates its new outdoor sculpture exhibition with a special Culture & Cocktails event.

• Artists Saúl Hernández-Vargas, Dominic P. Miller and Sindhu Thirumalaisamy explore themes of locality.

• Friends of San Diego Architecture present columnist Christine Brun. She’ll talk about small spaces and why they’re here to stay.

• The Harlem Quartet performs works by minority composers and otherwise tends to attract a younger audience to classical music. ArtPower is bringing the group to UCSD this week.

• The Museum of Photographic Arts celebrates the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service this year with an exhibition of related works from its collection.

• La Jolla Playhouse incubates new plays through its annual DNA New Work Series initiative, a run of readings of new works from Feb. 18 through Feb. 29. 

• Lux Art Institute hosts local artists in its new gallery in the Education Pavilion building. This week, see new large-scale paintings by Jenessa Goodman.

• Camarada’s concert in Logan Heights is shaping up to be quite the multimedia affair. Meet artist Oscar Romo, known as The Trash Man, and hear about his current installation at Bread & Salt, hear tales by local storyteller Linda Whiteside, drink beer, eat from a food truck and more at the chamber group’s Irish Legend & Lore show.

• Patio Playhouse opens “The Fabulous Lipitones” this week.

• The San Diego Art Institute’s “Gearheads” series invites local musicians, videographers and programmers to demonstrate their customized equipment. Jason Begin will bust out his synthesizers in the Horton Plaza Project Space this week.

• Yoga Arts in Point Loma is opening its first-ever art show Sunday. It’ll feature work by Chris Reilly, Michelle Haglund and Ben Darby.

The San Diego City College Photo Department’s third annual “Women in Light” photography exhibition is on view. There’ll be a panel discussion about the show Thursday.

• JoAnne Cornwell will give a talk related to the California Art Center, Escondido’s “The History and the Hair Story: 400 Years Without a Comb” exhibition.

• Free noontime opera starts this week.

• The San Diego Museum of Art is opening a show of black-and-white photographs by Brazilian-born artist Sebastião Salgado.

• Folks are encouraged to bring their dogs to the San Diego Art Institute’s animal-themed exhibition currently on view. The museum is also hosting a dog adoption event.

• Planet Rooth Design Haus gallery hosts an ongoing wine series. The Bankers Hill gallery also hosts an ongoing “Barrel Smoker” dinner series. Oh, and it hosts exhibitions featuring local artists.

• Is La Mesa the next North Park?

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s new after-hours monthly shindig is happening this week.

• Hear live stories about platonic love.

• Artist Eva Struble will show new oil paintings at MiraCosta Community College’s gallery.

• There’ll be a cheese pop-up event at Fashion Valley mall this weekend.

• Explore Tijuana’s art scene.

The Jazz @ the Jacobs series continues with vocalist Dianne Reeves and her ensemble. Gilbert Castellanos Latin jazz quintet opens the show.

Oh, hey, another beer festival in San Diego.

• Circle Circle dot dot continues its annual tradition of producing a site-specific, traveling romantic comedy. This year, the play will traverse Ocean Beach.

• See a solo show featuring experimental wood and resin works by Mac Hillenbrand at a new City Heights gallery.

Celebrate the release of a short documentary featuring iconic Chicano muralist Mario Torero.

• Gallery 4204 opens a show of photographs by Robert Treat and Jodie Hulden.

• Teem Osborn is a self-taught artist who finally decided to take his work seriously.

• There’s a pin-up inspired art show in Barrio Logan.

• Border X Brewing turns 1.

• Helmuth Projects continues its series of shows featuring emerging female artists.

• So Say We All’s Long Story Short series focuses on the theme of “balls” this month.

• Opera Neo hosts a love-themed concert this week.

• Listen to irreverent readings by Allison Gill, S.G. Redling, Johnny Shaw, Lauren Becker, Arielle Burgdorf and host Jim Ruland.

• See art at a Greek restaurant.

• San Diego Master Chorale, San Diego State University Chamber Choir and CSU San Bernardino Chamber Singers perform.

• Donuts and beer. Yum.

• Check out this annual drag-show competition.

• A local married couple puts on an annual music showcase at The Casbah, where they held their wedding years ago. This year, the showcase includes an art show.

• Hear cabaret music at the Encinitas Library.

• The San Diego Green Building Council is hosting a free panel discussion at the Quartyard focused on smart growth and more.

Kids Corner

• It’s kinda pricey, but the “Peppa Pig Live!” show is headed to San Diego this week.

Circus Vargas is in town this week.

• The San Diego Symphony presents a family-oriented concert.

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at kinsee@vosd.org. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

Kinsee Morlan

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

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