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Historical societies often have a reputation of being a tad crusty and boring.
Heath Fox has been working to shatter that stereotype. As executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society since 2012, he’s introduced programming that’s decidedly different than what people might expect from a quaint historic house museum.
In other words, he’s engaging living contemporary artists and creating new exhibitions filled with new work, reaching new audiences every time he does it.
In 2014, for example, his organization commissioned three local photographers to respond to Irving Gill’s philosophy about architecture (the modernist architect designed several buildings in La Jolla and across San Diego County). And last year, the La Jolla Historical Society teamed up with the Save Our Heritage Organisation in a provocative exhibition that asked visual artists, writers and architects to pick from a list of two dozen local buildings that’ve been demolished and come up with a new piece of work that imagined a reality in which the buildings still existed.
Fox’s latest undertaking is paying visual artists to work with climate change researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The artists will create art that interprets the scientists’ work. The show, “Weather on Steroids: The Art of Climate Change Science,” will open next year in La Jolla and then travel to the downtown Central Library gallery. Fox said the goal is to reach a broader audience and tackle a controversial topic in a new way. The Institute of Oceanography has a long history in the La Jolla community and, for Fox, that’s enough of a historical tie-in. He said not everything a historical society does has to sit so squarely in the past.
“One of the trends that’s happening in the field … is a more proactive approach to interaction and programming to make local history more relevant to the local community and to inform their decision-making today that’s going to shape the future of that community,” Fox said. “Climate change is something that’s very relevant to today and will be in the future to La Jollans, San Diegans – everyone.”
That doesn’t mean he’s abandoned straightforward historical exhibitions – there’s a show at the La Jolla Historical Society’s Wisteria Cottage museum that looks at old landmark homes in the neighborhood. But offering more than those standard shows is important to Fox. And so is playing an advocacy and awareness-building role in the community.
On Thursday night, Fox and others will give quick talks about various topics during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Pecha Kucha night. Fox said he hopes the takeaway of his talk is that historic preservation should be less reactive in construction process and policy, and more of a proactive player that helps guide development in the region.
He said historic preservation as a policy is now 50 years old – the National Historic Preservation Act passed in 1966. And in San Diego, buildings that are 45 or more years old have to go through the historic review process, which means in recent years there’s been an onslaught of buildings that meet the preservation requirements. Also, the city’s center and its suburbs are mostly built out, which means most of the new construction and redevelopment projects will be either renovating or tearing down existing buildings. Fox said now is a good time to make sure conversations about historic preservation are happening at planning group meetings and among city leaders long before a project triggers a historical review.
Fox said the upcoming climate change show and his work to make historic preservation less of an afterthought are part and parcel of his position.
“I think part of my responsibility is to address and not shy away from issues that might be otherwise controversial,” he said. “Historic preservation is inherently like that – it often becomes controversial.”
• Here’s more proof that historical societies can be super cool: I live in Lemon Grove and when I first moved to the neighborhood in 2012, I tried to make connections with some of the local movers and shakers. The first person I was directed to was Helen Ofield, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society. Ofield and her board of directors do much more than operate the Parsonage Museum and H. Lee House Cultural Center. Almost anything cultural that happens in LG is either because of, or partly facilitated by Ofield and her crew. Recently, Ofield cleared out a room in the Parsonage Museum and invited Lemon Grove artists Don Porcella and Ed Roxburg to show their work. She’s also working with the Old Globe and bringing a free performance of “Measure For Measure” to Lemon Grove in November.
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
MCASD’s Growing Pains
On Monday, I broke the news that the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is eliminating eight full-time positions and 20 part-time positions, and temporarily closing its La Jolla campus beginning in January.
The layoffs come in anticipation of the museum’s big expansion, which will quadruple the exhibition space of the La Jolla location from about 10,000 to 40,000 square feet.
The cuts are big – representing about 18 percent of the museum’s full-time staff and about 44 percent of its part-time employees. Several staffers have already left in search of new jobs and the rest will be out of a job come January.
Hiring more people to help once the La Jolla campus is back up and running is likely, of course, but the museum isn’t ready to announce a timeline or details about the planned expansion just yet. A museum spokesperson said details will be divulged in October.
Duck Waddle’s Calls it Quits
Ducky Waddle’s Emporium is closing. The Leucadia bookstore and cultural center announced last week that it would be closing in the next few months, and holding a big-time sale in the meantime.
The U-T’s Pam Kragen ran this tribute to the shop and its owner, Jerry Waddle:
In the late 1990s, Ducky Waddle’s was a popular hangout for Leucadia’s liberal, funky arts community. Street artist Shepard Fairey, creator of the famous Obama “Hope” poster, once credited Waddle with hosting some of his first solo shows, and Waddle has also helped foster the now-international careers of local artists Mary Fleener, Scott Saw and Tim McCormick.
On Facebook, Saw said he had his first-ever gallery show at Ducky Waddle’s.
“It was a successful show,” the San Diego artist wrote. “I sold a bunch of art and the room was full of family, friends and patrons who came out to support. I’ll never forget how happy and encouraged I felt on that opening night. Sad to hear the shop will be closing. It’s been a staple in the neighborhood and to many people, myself included, the coolest shop in town.”
A Series of Events at the Border, Lots of Music in Carlsbad and Other Arts and Culture News
• “AMBOS Project” is a series of events – like talks, sound installations and a hyper-local pirate radio demonstration – in a vacant storefront on the Tijuana side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Artists Tanya Aguiniga, the Cog*nate Collective, Relaciones Inesperadas and Ingrid Hernandez are behind the event. Here’s the press release explaining the series and the full schedule of events, which run through Aug. 28. Aguiñiga told me the project “seeks to create a greater sense of interconnectedness in the border region while simultaneously documenting the border artisan market whose future is currently uncertain.”
Cog*nate Collective has done a similar project at the same collection of shops at the border in the past. (CityBeat)
• The San Diego Art Institute’s current “Not Quite Nothing” exhibition is “is accessible and fun.” (Art Guide San Diego)
• San Diego artist Lucas Makana Riley was killed over the weekend by an alleged drunk driver. (Honolulu Star Advertiser)
Riley was a former student of artist and educator David Adey. He helped Adey complete the county’s new public art installation on a parking garage in Little Italy.
“[Riley ‘s] creativity, flexibility, and seemingly endless energy and enthusiasm often surpassed my own,” Adey wrote in a Facebook post. “I walked by the piece today to see his tile. This one has his initials but it’s only one of hundreds that he made and glazed. I’m grateful for the time we spent together. He was engaged to be married and had his whole life ahead of him. Grief and sadness for this senseless loss. He was one of our best.”
• Check out these hip San Diego workplaces. (U-T)
• Anna Zappoli is often thought of as a painter, but she writes poetry, too, and it’s good. (CityBeat)
• There’s a place in Barrio Logan called thChrch that’s operating as a sort of co-working space for creatives. The Voice & Viewpoint has more on the creative venture that includes an in-house music studio.
• The Tony-winning musical “Cabaret” lands at the San Diego Civic Theatre this week. (U-T)
• The Oceanside Museum of Art opened “Space, Structure, Light: The Art of Russell Forester.” The exhibit focuses exclusively on Forester’s work as an artist, but he’s better known as a modernist architect based in La Jolla. (U-T)
• InnerMission Production stages William Shakespeare’s misogynistic “The Taming of the Shrew” as a “Mad Men”-esque story about a budding feminist up against man jerks. (KPBS)
• The newest permanent exhibition at San Diego’s Museum of Natural History is officially open. (Times of San Diego)
I told you more about the “Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science” exhibition and the transformed research library it’s housed in back in July.
• On Sunday, a portion of Windansea Beach will serve as an outdoor art gallery.
• The Carlsbad Music Festival is happening this weekend and the annual “adventurous music” fest includes both free and ticketed performances. Organizers are still trying to raise money to help cover the cost of those free performances.
• For the first time ever, the dome at Palomar Observatory played host to a live classical concert.
• Get to know more about Kim MacConnel and Jean Lowe’s collaborative installation currently on view at the new Quint Project space.
• This literary event at North Park’s Verbatim Books sounds horrifying.
Food, Beer and Booze News
• Chad Deal really likes Tribute Pizza, and not just because the dude behind the new North Park restaurant once let the Reader scribe crash on his couch.
• Hey, Imperial Beach, I’ve always known you were cool, but now the rest of the world will, too, thanks to this rad-sounding, soon-to-open restaurant. (Easter San Diego)
• My husband bought a deep fryer and it took him just a few weeks before he tried to deep fry a Twinkie. He failed and I promptly threw away the deep fryer to save my hubby from himself. (U-T)
• Here’s the food CityBeaters would eat if there was no tomorrow.
• A new tiki bar is about to open in Little Italy. (Eater San Diego)
• Tacos are cheap this week, folks.