“Will San Diego ever become a great art city?”

That question, posed by Zócalo Public Square, a nonprofit that mixes live events with print journalism, podcasts and videos, pissed a few people off – including those who think San Diego’s already a great art city and others who are tired of having the same old debate over and over again.

But the question was intriquing enough to draw a standing-room-only crowd to Lux Art Institute in Encinitas last Saturday.

I moderated the talk with four panelists including Christine Jones, ‎senior public art manger at City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, and Lianne Thompson Mueller, curator at the Escondido-based arts nonprofit A Ship in the Woods.

Things kicked off on a positive note, with the panelists describing what they thought San Diego had going for it. Jones said she saw lots of creativity and chances for arts and culture institutions to collaborate with the city’s booming biotech sector. Mueller said in cities like San Francisco or New York that are already considered hotbeds for the arts, it can be harder to get into shows or find a place to fit in.

“I think that San Diego is a great frontier for artists,” Mueller said. “In other words, this is a place where there’s only an abundance of opportunity. In a lot of other cities, this had been done or that has been done.”

It didn’t take long before the discussion took a more critical turn. Zócalo editor and columnist Joe Mathews wrote a recap of the entire talk, which you can listen to in its entirety here.

“The area lacks media coverage of arts, communication between people and arts institutions in San Diego and sufficient financial support for the arts from local governments, art patrons and collectors,” he wrote. “San Diego is the only sizable county in California without an arts council.”

Mathews also rounded up some discussion points from local arts leaders like Jason Whooper, a litigation attorney and a commissioner for the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, and James Chute, the longtime classical music and art critic at The San Diego Union-Tribune before he retired at the end of last year. Chute said it’s an important time for the arts in San Diego.

“It’s a critical moment for San Diego cultural institutions, many of which are in a state of transition,” Chute wrote. He brought up the San Diego Symphony’s search for a new music director and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s planned expansion, among other examples. “There’s no question that San Diego’s arts institutions are moving in a promising direction with renewed vigor. What they need most of all is more ‘world-class’ volunteers and board members with the commitment, energy and vision (all which lead to the ability to raise cash) to help them fulfill their ‘world-class’ potential.”

Whooper wrote that more San Diegans need to increase the demand for arts and culture so the supply can increase as well. He said cultural institutions deserve bigger financial investments from the city and county and said more residents of San Diego should be supporting organizations financially.

“San Diego will close the gap artistically with other higher regarded world-class arts cities if it closes the financial investment gap,” he wrote.

What do you think San Diego needs to do to up its arts and culture game? Email me your thoughts.

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

Balboa Park Is Crumbling, but Now You Can Tour it Via an Electric Wicker Cart

Balboa Park is falling apart and the city can’t keep up with many badly needed repairs. Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt details the five most pressing problems facing San Diego’s crown jewel.

I was strolling through the park Monday and, after reading Halverstadt’s story, I started noticing some of the issues she brought up. While walking down El Prado pathway that cuts through the center of the park, though, I also stumbled into this guy:

Photo by Kim Keeline
Photo by Kim Keeline

The dapper gentleman is riding an Electriquette, a replica of the same motorized wicker carts widely used during San Diego’s 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The fleet of electric carts was supposed to be introduced to the park for the 2015 Balboa Park centennial celebration, but it, and many other ideas and proposals, fell through when the big civic party infamously imploded.

“The city did take a while to get the agreement going,” said Kim Keeline, who’s doing the marketing for the Electriquettes. “But we’re thrilled that we’re able to get them to the park now.”

Keeline said the carts, the brainchild of San Diego developer Sandy Shapery, will be available for the public to rent out possibly as soon as March. She said folks will only be allowed to cruise up and down El Prado pedestrian walkway and on the sidewalks in front of the Botanical Building. For now, a ride on one of the carts will cost you $10 for 15 minutes or $25 for an hour.

Part of the delayed roll-out of the carts was because the city had to put out a public request for proposals for “battery-powered wicker cart concessions.” It released the request last March and – big surprise – Shapery was the only one to respond.

Keeline said the carts, designed by architect and historian David Marshall to be historically accurate, were quite popular during the Panama-California Exposition.

“So, we hope they’ll be as popular today,” she said.

Culture-Tripping and Adventures in Instagram

Voice of San Diego members joined our events manager, Christina Shih, and me Sunday afternoon for a culture walk through downtown and the East Village. We stopped by the huge new mural by Christolpher Konecki at the 707 Broadway Garage, Sparks Gallery, the Central Library Art Gallery and “Fault Whisper,” the city’s newest public art installation at Fault Line Park.

Here are about 50 photos from the tour for you to peruse.

Photo by Christina Shih
Photo by Christina Shih

We also launched “San Diego: The Issues and The Awesome,” an Instagram-based storytelling series. Folks from San Diego will be taking over VOSD’s official Instagram account and focusing on the good and not-so-good aspects of San Diego. Photographer Mike Sumoto has the keys to our account this week and is focusing on downtown architecture and street art. Follow the project here.

San Diegan on California Arts Council for the First Time in Half a Decade and Other Arts and Culture News

The Carlsbad City Council unanimously voted to approve the Public Art Master Plan, but the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Council is proceeding with caution, in part, because of past problems with public art in the city.

On Monday, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins appointed Larry Baza to the California Arts Council. Baza is currently a commissioner at the City of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture and curates pop-up art exhibitions in San Diego.

Photo by Robin Brailsford
Photo by Robin Brailsford

It’s been five years since a San Diegan served on the 11-member council that works to create and approve arts and culture policies, and approves arts program allocations. Atkins also appointed Port of San Diego Commissioner Bob Nelson to the California Film Commission. (press release)

Basic Urban Kitchen + Bar has been hosting weekly art shows for a decade. The curators behind the shows are celebrating. (DiscoverSD.com)

There are a handful of cool hiking trails in Balboa Park. Who knew? The author of “Hidden San Diego,” that’s who. (CityBeat)

Eater San Diego introduces us to some of the foodie folks who’ll fill Liberty Public Market, scheduled to open in March.

• The Urbanist explores San Diego’s growing distillery and spirits scene.

• So Say We All announced it’s launching a new literary reading series in April.

Muralist Mario Torero and Shelltown resident Eva Vargas are organizing a painting event Saturday at noon to fix the recent vandalism of a neighborhood mural. (press release)

I can’t stop talking about craft coffee. KPBS let me go on “Midday Edition” to talk more about this piece I wrote about San Diego’s growing craft coffee scene.

• Local architect Jennifer Luce was named a fellow by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. (press release)

• There’s a dog- and cat-themed art show at the San Diego Art Institute and San Diego CityBeat’s Seth Combs thinks you should rally your friends and go see it.

• San Diego Rep’s just-announced 2016-17 season includes four world-premiere works. (U-T)

• Let’s all hope the rumors that Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles is eyeing San Diego are true. Because southern food is yummy. (Eater San Diego)

 Pay what you want at the Museum of Photographic Arts. The Balboa Park institution announced it’s extending the pay-what-you-wish program through May 29, plus expanding it to six days a week. (press release)

Whoa. That’s a lot of new restaurants in San Diego. (Pacific Magazine)

Late San Diego artist William Newport Goodell was underrated and overlooked. Both San Diego CityBeat and the U-T gave folks a look at Goodell’s show on view at Wisteria Cottage, the La Jolla Historical Society’s gallery and the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library through May 22.

• San Diego CityBeat has the scoop on the new “Parkeology” public-art series at Balboa Park.

USD’s Trans-Border Institute’s “Border Film Week” event includes a film that tells the story of a transient hotel in Mexicali’s red-light district. (U-T)

For the first time ever, two local art collectors are seeing the one-third of a triptych they own on view with the other two pieces it belongs with. (U-T)

• I somehow missed San Diego Reader’s annual arts guide. Here it is.

• The San Diego Opera wants to raise $1 million. (KPBS)

• Big, blown-up photos of flowers are purty. (U-T)

• San Diego quilt artist Jill Le Croissette donated $1 million to The Visions Art Museum in Liberty Station. An endowment in her name will help the museum continue to exhibit quilts and textiles. (press release)

• San Diego 10News takes a look at the San Diego Museum of Art’s new app designed by local start-up Guru.

Get beer delivered to your front door. (San Diego Reader)

• Local artist Remington Weinger has opened a pop-up gallery at La Plaza La Jolla. (press release)

Get Cultured: Things to Do in San Diego This Week

The San Diego Art Institute is hosting a feline-inspired fashion show. And a talk about famous water-loving cats. Fur real.

• Cinema Under the Stars is hosting an Oscar-viewing party.

• 1805 Gallery is a contemporary art space that’s officially now on my radar. The space is opening a solo show Saturday night featuring the works of Lauren Siry.

Courtesy of the artist
Image courtesy of the artist

Hear the New York-based brass quartet The Westerlies fill a warehouse in Logan Heights with sound.

• Blythe Barton Dance will perform two new dance performances Friday through Sunday at White Box Live Arts in Point Loma.

• Opera NEO puts on a musical theater medley performance called “Love, Handel.”

• What happens to your brain when you party? Find out.

Making mixtapes is still a thing. In fact, there’s a group in San Diego that meets up to exchange their mixes.

• An artist who goes by the name Gennaro is going to be creating and cooking tacos at Galaxy Taco in La Jolla next Tuesday night.

See vintage color photographs of Ohio and other parts of the American “rust belt” by the late American photographer Jack D. Teemer Jr.

• The PGK Dance Project is putting on a dance performance in a Gaslamp art gallery this week.

• Four local makers will be at The Lafayette Hotel in North Park Thursday night.

• Rising Arts Leaders are rubbing elbows at Tiger!Tiger! Tuesday night.

• The debut San Diego Theatre Week event is in full swing.

• Dana Robinson will be talking about law, technology and creative entrepreneurship at the monthly Creative Mornings talk at Moniker Warehouse.

• Filmmaker Ephraim Walker kicks off UCSD’s Black Arts Collective’s artist lecture series.

“The Book of Mormon” musical is back in San Diego and it’s still pretty funny.

• Author T. Greenwood is at Warwick’s in La Jolla this week. Local author Kimball Taylor will also be at the La Jolla bookstore talking about his book “The Coyote’s Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7,000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire.”

• Join a community meeting about pumping up Encanto with public art.

There’s an annual fashion benefit show happening at Stone Brewery Bistro & Gardens in Liberty Station Thursday night.

• Electric bikes will abound at this expo in Liberty Station.

• Bike San Diego is hosting a group ride.

Check out this six-course collaboration dinner with folks from the Panama 66 and Tiger!Tiger! crew with the Tijuana restaurant Verde Y Crema.

•  San Diego-based Chicano comedy troupe Teatro Izcalli celebrates its 20th anniversary with a show at the Jacobs Center.

• Over a dozen artists will be showing work at this show at the Brokers Building downtown.

• Remington Tattoo and Gallery has a new home and its crew is celebrating with an art exhibition.

• The nonprofit, online Barrio Logan radio collective Radio Pulso Del Barrio is holding a fundraiser at Iron Fist Brewing.

• Circle Circle dot dot continues its love-themed, site-specific plays in Ocean Beach this weekend.

• Thumbprint is holding another reception for its current group show.

• An artist who goes by LuChuk will show new works at Chicana Art Gallery in Barrio Logan.

• The last show in a series featuring emerging female artists is happening Saturday at Helmuth Projects.

Artist Walter Redondo will show work at The Park in Bankers Hill.

 J*Company Youth Theatre presents “Annie Warbucks.”

• The crow-themed art show at The Studio Door in North Park will close with a public reception.

An under-the-radar renaissance is happening in the South Bay and Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 wants to talk about it.

• San Diego singer and songwriter Alex Woodard performs a benefit show based on actual correspondence between a soldier and his daughter.

“WaistWatchers The Musical” opens this week.

• The “seven-year itch” is the theme of So Say We All’s live storytelling event this week.

• Pair Girl Scout cookies with craft beer.

Kids Corner

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego hosts tours geared toward families. This week, the focus is on “Ed Ruscha Then & Now: Paintings from the 1960s and 2000s.”

• Pregnant gals may want to stop by this giant sale.

This is a rad series of free cultural performances for children.

Circus Vargas is still in town.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the host of the Border Film Festival. It is taking place at USD, not UCSD.

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 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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