A grassroots campaign to save the crumbling Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park has sprouted.

The new nonprofit Save Starlight wants to help restore the historic outdoor amphitheater. The group’s getting things going Aug. 13 with a community weed-pulling and cleanup party.

“It’s an all-volunteer group,” said Save Starlight organizer Diana Cantu. “It’s just people who love Starlight trying to figure out the best next step to reverse what’s going on and get it taken care of.”

The iconic theater has been shuttered since 2011, when financial problems forced the organization running it, the San Diego Civic Light Opera Association, to declare bankruptcy. VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt detailed the plight of the former civic gem in February, including the city’s plans to seek out a new steward for the theater.

Steve Stopper is one of the leaders of the Save Starlight effort who’s floated ideas for the 4,000-seat stadium in the past. Stopper was an audio technician at Starlight for years before he sued the city and the Civic Light Opera Association last year, claiming a waste of taxpayer resources and breach of a city lease. Shortly after the lawsuit, the Opera Association, which attempted a comeback and launched a fundraising campaign in 2014, walked away from its lease.

Cantu said Save Starlight is positioning itself for consideration from the city when the time comes to request proposals on how to operate Starlight Bowl. But she said the group’s priority is to stop the deterioration of a structure it considers an important part of the city’s history.

“It’s a treasure for the city and a resource for the community,” she said. “We want to see it taken care of and stopped from decaying anymore and come back to life and be a part of the cultural landscape.”

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

$100K Closer to New Coronado Bridge Lights

Last month, I told you about the Port of San Diego’s modified public art policy that allows tenants to direct their required 1 percent of any new development projects toward funding the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge lighting project, a plan to outfit the bridge with colored lights designed by a team led by artist Peter Fink.

Before the change, tenants’ 1 percent fees had to fund art on premises of their projects.

Photo courtesy of the Port of San Diego
Photo courtesy of the Port of San Diego

Though the bridge project has languished for years without any major funding, the port didn’t have to wait long for a payoff after announcing the plan.

Last week, Port Board Chairman Marshall Merrifield announced that the developer of the “BRIC” project at the former Lane Field ballpark site was putting $100,000 toward the bridge lighting.

“And in this case – and I’m sure many of them will want to do it in the future – they still want to put public art on their own property, too, which is great,” Merrifield said.

Merrifield said the mixed-use, hotel-packed project’s design had been completed and the required art was already included. But when the development team behind the project, a partnership between Portman Holdings, Lankford & Associates, Hensel Phelps and Reef Real Estate Services, heard about the chance to pitch in to light the bridge, it carved out $100,000.

Merrifield said as other major projects happen along the bay, he will continue to pitch the bridge project.

“The early conversations are going quite well,” he said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm because they too see that this would be a wonderful addition to an already beautiful waterfront.”

UCSD’s Art Gallery Is Safe for Now, Attendance Is Up and Other Arts and Culture News

• UC San Diego’s University Art Gallery is safe, for now at least. KPBS followed up on a story I wrote a few weeks ago about UCSD converting its longtime art gallery into a classroom to serve its ballooning student population.

Photo courtesy of Collective Magpie
Photo courtesy of Collective Magpie

KPBS posted the university’s latest statement, which says administrators “removed the UAG from consideration for redevelopment at this time.” The statement is vague and leaves the option of closing the gallery open, but KPBS reports that the artists who staged a protest in the space were celebrating the news as a victory.

• The U-T’s Michael James Rocha scoured the Commission for Arts and Culture’s latest economic and social impact report, and reports that the “number of people who attended both free and paid arts events grew dramatically in one year’s time.”

• Because of the way pubic art is funded, it sometimes ends up in weird, not-so-public places like water treatment plants and pump stations. Here’s my latest story on he city’s public artwork that requires an appointment to see. I’ve been getting lots of good feedback, tips and suggestions related to the map VOSD made of San Diego’s civic art collection. Keep it comin‘.

• Art Produce gallery in North Park was transformed into a polling place for Election Day Tuesday. The gallery’s owner Lynn Susholtz told me she doesn’t like voting in churches and using her gallery as a place to cast votes dovetails nicely with her view that artists should play a more active and engaged role in the community.

Intrepid Theatre is a relatively young, scrappy theater company that’s attracting big audiences and impressing critics. The U-T checks in with the nomadic group just as it’s settling in for a residency at Horton Grand Theatre and putting plans to build a theater space in Encinitas on hold.

The inaugural Steve Kowit Poetry Prize was announced this week. Kowit, who passed away last year, was a famed local poet, essayist and teacher.

• Speaking of poetry, the next Poetry & Art event is happening at the San Diego Art Institute this Saturday and includes performances by some of the city’s most well-known poets, like Rich Ferguson.

If there’s something new you really love or hate about San Diego’s built environment, it’s time again to say so. (U-T)

• One of the coolest things about Borrego Springs is the large metal sculptures spread across the desert. They’re by self-taught artist Ricardo Breceda, who’s become well-known for his work that includes huge sculptures of dinosaurs, animals and mythical creatures like dragons. Seven of Breceda’s sculptures are housed on the 14-acre campus of the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens in Vista and on June 12, the artist will be there to talk about his work. (The Coast News Group)

There’s a really old and important book on display at the Central Library right now. (NBC 7 San Diego)

• Chuck Perrin has run the all-ages, jazz-centric concert venue Dizzy’s in San Diego for the last 16 years. The U-T profiles Perrin in advance of his 70th birthday concert on June 18.

CityBeat launches a new series that will unearth the stories behind some of San Diego’s most colorful murals. It kicks off with the new mural coloring the side of a commercial building in Normal Heights.

• Local nonprofit A Reason To Survive, or ARTS, and transcenDANCE Youth Arts Project are joining forces to offer more services to youth in National City and surrounding communities.

The former Pacific View Elementary School building in Encinitas is on its way to becoming a new cultural center. The Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance, the group that’s been tapped by City Council to run the space, was recently awarded its first significant grant to help turn the deteriorating former elementary school into an arts and sustainability education center.

• “Grit and Hope: A Year With Five Latino Students and the Program That Helped Them Aim for College” is a new book by San Diegan Barbara Davenport that tells the story of the work being done by the nonprofit Reality Changers. There’ll be a book launch party Saturday afternoon.

• A few art galleries are opening soon. (CityBeat)

• Learn more about The Tiny Homes Project, a collaboration between Space 4 Art and High Tech High Chula Vista, at a party this weekend.

There’s lots of arts and culture to consume at Liberty Station this summer. (Times of San Diego)

• Edgy art alert: Sound artists will be live scoring experimental videos at Moxie Theatre Saturday night. Experimental sounds will also be coming to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion Friday night.

• Michael “Mick”Hager looks back on his 25 years at the helm of the San Diego Natural History Museum. (U-T)

• The San Diego Festival of the Arts is happening at Waterfront Park this weekend. (San Diego Magazine)

• An exhibition of political cartoons made during presidential years is opening at SDSU’s Downtown Gallery. (San Diego Downtown News)

• Summer is just about here, which means concerts, mostly featuring cover bands, will be happening in city and county parks. A park in Mission Hills, for example, is hosting a David Bowie tribute band on Friday.

• Christian Hertzog reviewed the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus’s season-closer performance of a neglected masterpiece. (Union-Tribune)

Food, Beer and Booze News

• The San Diego County Fair is under way, which means people who hate your health are again deep-frying food and even drinks that have no business being dipped in grease. This year, deep-fried nachos, deep-fried cookie butter, deep-fried lemonade and deep-fried pizza slices are among the things that will bring you closer to death. (San Diego Eater)

Small spirit producers have a lot to overcome in terms of government rules and regulations. The Reader’s Ian Anderson has the story.

A food delivery service that recently launched in San Diego doesn’t serve dishes from local restaurants; instead, the meals are made by the company’s chefs. (Eater San Diego)

• A farm and cultural center in Encinitas announced its first-ever culinary residency. Two Brooklyn-based authors and cooks will be teaching folks the joys of Jewish food throughout June.

The beer store Bottlecraft is celebrating five years.

This new series of Sunday brunches on an organic farm in Tecate, Mexico, sounds fancy.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect a change of date for the Save Starlight community weed-pulling and cleanup party.

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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