I had a pager as a teen. If I was gone for long periods of time, my poor parents would send me their phone number, which meant I was supposed to call home ASAP. Sometimes, I’d make the effort to call them back, but most of the time I’d ignore the message. When I did finally go home, I’d just deny ever getting the page or I’d come up with some other, more creative excuse.

These days, the technology used to keep tabs on teens has evolved. Tech-savvy parents are surveillance-obsessed, following their kids’ every moves via social media feeds or smart-phone tracking apps like Find My Friends.

For the kids being watched, it’s no fun, said Ryan Hurst, a senior at High Tech High Media Arts in Point Loma.

“We’re always connected through social media and our lives are always kind of on blast,” he said. “Both purposely and not.”

Hurst is one of 50 seniors at high Tech High who’ve created multimedia art projects that explore what it’s like to be a modern teenager. The students’ projects will be presented to the public at an event at the school on Tuesday, May 10 at 5:30 p.m.

Hurst pulled up a computer game he coded and illustrated with the help of his partner. It’s set at a party, and the user has to click on Snapchat alerts before they get sent out by the crowd of teens at the party and incriminating evidence makes its way to parents. Players are meant to feel the nagging digital dilemma that today’s teens experience. Hurst said he often feels like he can’t make any mistakes without a digital footprint of them eventually ending up in front of his parents.

“It’s like, you’re trusted, but you’re not,” he said. “You’re given a car but, it’s like, now we have to track where you’re going.”

Hurst said parents should ease up a bit and let their kids mess up because the constant surveillance causes a ton of stress.

Stress and its relationship to technology ended up being a recurring theme in a lot of the students’ projects.

“The world is so different because of technology,” said digital media teacher and sound artist Margaret Noble. “And you’ll see that resonating in their work.”

Noble partnered with English teacher Rachel Nichols for what they’ve dubbed “The Making of a Modern Teen” project. While some of the teens explore concepts like bullying and beauty, the vast majority of the projects relate to the impact of technology on their personal lives.

“I think the big difference is the immediacy of everything,” Nichols said. “When I was younger, I had time to make a decision. Today’s teen, they have about five seconds.”

For many, the project ended up being therapeutic. A few of the teens I talked to said they realized how important it is to turn technology off and take a break every now and then.

Kayla Murphy and Chloe Remley’s project is focused on stress — both its biological effects on the body and its environmental causes. One of the games they created shows a scene of a home. The screen quickly fills up with a barrage of text messages, college applications, calendar task reminders and more.

They both know they should work in more downtime to cut down on stress, but they said it’s difficult to disconnect.

“Finding time just to relax and rest is super hard,” Remley said.

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

Horton Plaza Park and Its Public Art

After several delays, the revamped Horton Plaza Park is opening this week with a series of public events. (Union-Tribune)

Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Public art is a big part of the newly designed plaza in front of downtown’s Westfield mall. The centerpiece is the restored historic fountain, designed by Irving Gill, which was the first known piece in the city’s civic art collection. Christine Jones, the city’s senior public art program manager at the Commission for Arts and Culture, told me the goal of the approximately $450,000 restoration project was to get the fountain looking as historically accurate as possible. It’s pretty much been in continuous use since it was built in 1910, Jones said, and the long years of contact with water has resulted in serious deterioration.

“It’s such an important icon for the city and finally having it restored like this, it’s just really important for future generations to have this,” Jones said.

The fountain, which is sometimes called the Broadway Fountain or the Electric Fountain, includes dramatic lighting and original bronze sculptures by artist Felix Peano. Peano’s eagle that used to be perched on top of the fountain is now in the city’s art collection. Jones said the city removed the eagle to protect it, but they’ve created a replica, which has been installed back on top of the fountain.

The park will also feature large murals by artist Kelsey Montague. Montague is known for encouraging interactivity through her artwork. She leaves a blank place in her murals for people to stand in front of so they can take photos. The murals in Horton Plaza Park, for example, will give people the chance to snap selfies in front of an upside-down cityscape or a swarm of dragonflies.

“So somebody can walk up and make it look like a flock of dragonflies is flying from their hand,” Montague said.

I covered some initial concerns that Westfield, the private company that manages the public park, was planning on charging local nonprofit groups steep fees to host events in the plaza. Westfield has since announced a program that invites nonprofits to use the park for free on Tuesdays and at half price on other days.

Historic Horse-Racing Mural Saved (for Now) and Other Arts and Culture News

The Agua Caliente mural painted on the outside of the California Theatre building downtown is safe, at least for now. Journalist and activist Enrique Limón, who’s been behind the petition to save the mural, is stoked.

• The city of San Diego is taking some heat for its placement of jagged rocks under a freeway underpass. Critics call the new landscaping a cruel and insensitive method of preventing homeless people from using the underpass for shelter. Community members have argued that something needed to be done about the mess and the encampments under the bridge. (CBS8)

Pita Verdin, a Sherman Heights resident and activist, emailed me her own artful idea for how to address the homelessness issue while also beautifying the freeway underpass – a mural and light installation, sorta like the one done in my hometown in Lemon Grove. Verdin is part of Compassionate Solutions, a neighborhood group that’s working to come up with creative solutions to homelessness in Sherman Heights, Logan Heights and Golden Hill.

• See San Diego life through PJ Ortiz Luis’ lens this week via VOSD’s Instagram feed. He’s the next guest curator in our “San Diego: The Issues and the Awesome” Instagram community storytelling project (if you’re an Instagram shutterbug and you want the keys to our Instagram account for a week, let me know).

• VOSD’s Sara Libby thinks one of the best things about San Diego is its proximity to Tijuana. (CityLab)

• Tasha’s Music City store, San Diego’s oldest record shop, is closing. There’ll be an art exhibition at neighboring Helmuth Projects featuring memorabilia from the shop. Helmuth Projects is also closing for a bit, and its future is hazy. (CityBeat)

• San Diego Symphony’s COO Robert Wilkins is retiring. (Times of San Diego)

• I’ve had the chance to experience virtual reality games and environments, and I’m officially obsessed. As a mom of two young sons, I see its advantages (virtual reality education!) and disadvantages (my kids will never want to go outside again!). ArtPower’s Filmatic Festival on May 7 is your chance to experience the latest and greatest in VR. Happening at UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute, the event “boasts the top virtual reality artists and virtual reality scientists on the planet.”

A group is looking to spruce up theiconic La Paloma Theatre in downtown Encinitas. (Encinitas Advocate)

It’s been cool to see the modern glass structure going up at Liberty Station, where mostly beige barracks abound. Its tenant The Lot, a high-end movie theater and restaurant, will open to the public this week.

Artist Rafael López and his wife, college professor Candice López, are two of the folks behind the colorfully painted electrical boxes and other artful elements scattered throughout the East Village. The couple launched what they called the Urban Art Trail Project in the late ’90s. That project and using art as a tool for urban renewal is the inspiration for a new children’s book illustrated by Rafael, “Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood.” (Publishers Weekly)

To help celebrate the release of the new book, the couple organized students and volunteers and painted a large new mural on an exterior wall of San Diego Cooperative Charter School 2 in Mountain View.

• The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority is looking for an artist or team of artists to create a new public artwork for its Parking Plaza project.

• The Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance is moving forward on transforming the former Pacific View Elementary School site into an arts-related facility. The nonprofit is holding a fundraising event on Friday.

San Diego will feel a little like New Orleans this weekend, but without all that heavy humidity. (CBS8)

The New Children’s Museum is getting closer to opening its epic-sounding installation, “The Wonder Sound,” a “labyrinth of rooms, tunnels and continuous exploration.” The artist designing the thing, Wes Sam-Bruce, posted a photo of a crane loading lumber onto the museum’s top floor.

• UC San Diego’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and The Bartlett School of Architecture are launching a new lecture series on designing for the future.

•  The Carlsbad City Council approved the design for two new bronze sculptures that’ll be installed inside the amphitheater at Aviara Community Park. (U-T)

• The San Diego chapter of the American Institute of Architects has announced “barkitecture,” a contest asking folks to design a dream house – for Fido.

This New York travel diary by Bonnie Wright, founder and curator of the Fresh Sound music series, cements my idea that she’s pretty much as cool as one can ever expect to get. (U-T)

• Amanda Cachia has made a name for herself by focusing on the arts world and how it deals with the issue of disability. (CityBeat)

• The re-imagining of Seaport Village is under way. (U-T)

• During the summer months, Balboa Park leaders hope events and other efforts will keep things bustling after 5 p.m., which is when many of the park’s institutions normally close.

Food, Beer and Booze News

• Many small breweries fund their growth by taking on debt from banks. Once they reach a certain size, it’s much harder to keep growing just by taking out new loans. Often they turn to big companies like Anheuser-Busch to keep growing. Stone Brewing founder Greg Koch is trying to give craft brewers another option. He’s launched a new investment fund that would infuse the breweries with cash to keep growing, let them keep control of their company and not have to take on ever more debt. (West Coaster)

• San Diego Magazine has launched an online guide to local breweries.

• Shades Oceanfront Bistro is closing. (NBC San Diego)

Here’s a roundup of food- and booze-filled events happening in May. (Zagat)

• Hooters is giving mom a free meal (note to my husband: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT), and loads of other spots have special Mother’s Day offerings on Sunday. (10News)

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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