Over a dozen new murals went up on walls across the San Diego region in the last week.

Here’s a map of all the new art.

The murals (a few still in progress) are by local and international artists rounded up by the PangeaSeed Foundation, a nonprofit that uses art to promote environmental awareness. The org’s ongoing Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans project travels across the world, leaving dozens of new sea-themed murals in its wake. For the San Diego Sea Walls event, PangeaSeed partnered with local arts group the Cohort Collective, environmental nonprofit Surfrider Foundation and the Kaaboo Del Mar music festival happening this weekend.

I stopped by a mural going up in North Park and talked to the self-described “gypsy street artist” who goes by the pseudonym Lauren YS.

“The concept for this wall, it’s about ocean acidification and how the rise of CO2 levels in the atmosphere is destroying the ocean,” she said. “It’s really hard to try to figure out the most straightforward but also creative way to communicate some of these issues using visual art.”

Lauren YS was finishing up details of her mural on Cardamom Café near the corner of Upas and 30th streets. Her piece depicts two mermaids, both halfway deteriorated and turning into skeletons.

Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

“The coolest thing about this kind of project is that it’s literally in the streets,” she said. “People can ignore environmental issue all they want, but people walking by going to the coffee shop, it’s right there in front of them.”

Netherlands-based street artist I Am Eelco said his mural on the backside of Adrenaline Lacrosse at 24 21st St. in Sherman Heights is more about evoking the feeling of what it’s like to snorkel and look in on the ocean life below. He said he wanted to put sea animals on a pedestal and remind people of their importance rather than hitting folks over the head with a statement about environmentalism.

“I work a lot on intuition, so I’m constantly adding stuff and working a lot with metaphors,” he said. “I didn’t really want to make it too much of a protest wall.”

Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

PangeaSeed Foundation doesn’t pay the artists for their murals; instead it covers the cost of painting supplies and offers a stipend to help with traveling and accommodations. That approach makes some art-world insiders uncomfortable and brings up arguments that artists should never be asked to work for free.

But the partnership with Kaaboo, which includes art exhibitions amid all the music, meant that a lot of the same muralists from out of town were going to be in San Diego for the music festival anyway, and San Diego Christopher Konecki, the regional director of the Sea Walls project, calls the effort “a labor of love for our team, artists and community partners.”

The project also doesn’t account for the upkeep and maintenance of the murals. That means business owners who’ve agreed to host the work on their walls are responsible for the work. But the speedy nimbleness of the Sea Walls project makes city and county-sanctioned murals look almost pathetically costly and slow. Remember the Martin Luther King Junior mural on a wall on the side of State Route 94 that took the city of San Diego years to complete and cost around $300,000?

When the Sea Walls festival came to San Diego back in 2014, organizers fell far short of their goal of adding 15 new murals to the urban landscape — it ended with just five new works of art, mostly centered in East Village. Konecki told DiscoverSD that he wanted to make up for that snafu.

“We wanted to do San Diego right this time, drum up awareness and have a full activation,” he said.

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

North Park Commerce as Art

You’d think more people would email me to say things like, “Dude, you have to go see this art show, it’s amazing.”

They don’t. And when they do, I pay attention.

Last week, Gail Goldman, a public art planning and policy consultant who’s worked with both the city and county, emailed me about “Work Won’t Kill You,” an exhibition by San Antonio-based artist Patty Ortiz on view at Art Produce (the show was recently extended through Sept. 18). She raved about the work.

Photo courtesy of Art Produce
Photo courtesy of Art Produce

“This is an art project unlike any other I’ve seen in San Diego, which is why I think it’s worthy of your attention,” she wrote. “It’s interactive, site-specific, community-based and loaded with universal content and meaning. Non-artists were engaged in the process of creating and exhibiting the work, which is part of what contributes to its value from my point of view.”

Here’s the gist of the show: Ortiz hired local workers to help her create the exhibition over the last few weeks. The workers sold shopping bags to gallery visitors with the understanding that the proceeds would go toward buying objects from nearby businesses on University Avenue. The objects, which are supposed to represent the businesses in some way, are then cataloged, labeled and put on display. Everything from T-shirts to wigs, mufflers and condoms now fill the gallery at Art Produce.

The end result, Goldman said, is an “amazing, inventive and unique project” that turns everyday objects into North Park iconography and engages the community in the art-making process.

Fall Arts Preview Time, the Merits of Denim and Other Arts and Culture News

If there’s one good link that will get you to all of the U-T’s fall arts preview stories, I don’t know about it. So click here and look for the fall arts features scattered throughout the page.

• East Village, once a haven for artists and galleries, is losing its last major arts venue. Cranes are popping up everywhere in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood and I’d like to keep my eye on all the changes happening there. Got any arts or culture-related story tips? Send me an email.

Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Oh no you didn’t, Wells Fargo. The bank launched an ad campaign featuring a young lady with the headline, “A ballerina yesterday. An engineer today,” and a young man with the headline, “An actor yesterday. A botanist today.” San Diego Musical Theatre and other arts group took offense at the dig at arts careers and used social media to let Wells Fargo know it. (BroadwayWorld)

• The Old Globe’s staging of “October Sky” — a new musical based on the true life story of Homer H. Hickam Jr., a coal miner’s son who became a NASA engineer — has pulled the theater into an ongoing legal battle involving the show. (U-T)

If you’re a fan of music of almost any kind, you’ll probably find something to like about Kaaboo, the three-day festival in Del Mar. (OC Register)

• The La Jolla artist who said a sculpture in his front yard should be considered art has officially lost his battle with the city. (U-T)

The Chula Vista City Council was originally scheduled to vote on the new public art program I told you about at the end of July. It ended up pushing that vote back to tonight at 5 p.m. The plan lays out a framework for making arts and culture more of a city priority.

The venerable Athenaeum Jazz at TSRI concert series has been bringing good music to San Diego for 20 years. (U-T)

• Here’s a video of San Diego artist Bob Matheny purportedly burying a real a Willem de Kooning painting last Saturday night at Bread & Salt.

The free La Jolla Concerts by the Sea concerts have been going on for over three decades. The series will end unless someone steps up to pay for them. (SDnews)

This San Diego high school poet was invited to read a poem at the White House. (U-T)

The GI Film Festival is happening this week. (Mission Valley News)

• Hold on to your wallets, this week I came across a local documentary project, a web TV series featuring a San Diego environmentalist and a local mural project all in need of some cash.

Here’s the story behind a new Normal Heights mural.

• The California Legislature recently designated denim as the state’s official fabric and at least one San Diegan is stoked about that. (KPBS)

This video of a live performance of San Diego artist Randall Christopher’s new animated film at a bookstore in North Park is worth watching.

Read more about the issue I mentioned last week between local artist Susie Ghahremani and national chain store Francesca’s. (CityBeat)

Netflix’s wildy popular “Stranger Things” has inspired artists to make art based on the show.

Food, Beer and Booze News

There’s a debate raging about whether kids should be allowed into breweries. (CityBeat)

Modern Times Beer opened its new coffee counter. (Reader)

Some big names in the local food scene are involved in this new North County restaurant. (San Diego Eater)

Here’s a map of Asian dessert spots in San Diego. (San Diego Eater)

 East Village’s craft beer scene is growing. (Reader)

Kinsee Morlan is the 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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