It was hard to miss Omar Lopex. The artist and filmmaker was camped out in the parking lot behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park last Thursday, standing outside an old Chevy bread truck covered in pink balloons that spelled out the word “come.”

Photo by Omar Lopex
Photo by Omar Lopex

He was inviting passersby to sit inside the truck, which had been turned into a makeshift film studio, and record a mock personal ad or dating video.

“You come in, you sit down and you can tell a lie or you can tell the truth,” he said. “And if you tell the truth, then no one will know.”

While I was there, a man dressed up as Santa (as a stunt, he said, for raising awareness about homelessness) obliged and climbed into the truck to make his pretend personal ad.

Santa made a few jokes about how Mrs. Claus had left him, but then started rambling and ultimately revealed how he just wants to find someone who loves the man beneath the red velvety suit.

Inspired by old dating videos made by lonely men in the 1980s, Lopex said he wanted to make similar videos that were somewhat corny but also raw and emotional. It’s easy to just laugh as awkward men pitch themselves and describe their ideal women, but Lopex said he saw a few moments of honesty and vulnerability in the old videos, and he wanted to recreate those moments by inviting strangers, both single and married, to participate.

The dating video project is a collaboration with artist Noé Olivas, who owns the truck and uses it as an alternative art gallery and rolling sculpture called “Untitled Space.”

Lopex is wrapping up his time as the artist-in-residence at the San Diego Art Institute. He’s used his three-month paid residency to collaborate with Olivas and six other artists in producing seven short films.

All of the work he’s made with other artists over the last few months is showing inside the San Diego Art Institute’s project space on the first floor of the Westfield Horton Plaza shopping mall, in a currently vacant storefront next to Victoria’s Secret. Lopex, who’s hosting a closing reception complete with free street tacos inside the space on Friday, has transformed the storefront into a living-room like place for watching the experimental short films.

“When you walk in, there’s an old big-screen TV, couches and a La-Z-Boy recliner, carpets and a collection of VHS tapes,” he said. “The idea was to have a little respite, a sort of weird spot in Horton Plaza where people who are shopping can take a break.”

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

Union-Tribune Pivots on Film Writing

When I called to talk to the Union-Tribune’s freelance film critic Anders Wright, he was in the middle of writing his last known assignment for the paper, a review of the film “Deepwater Horizon.” Wright, who’s written a couple movie reviews a week for the U-T since 2013, was recently told that the paper wouldn’t be needing his film critiques anymore.

“I kind of wish I was staying on through the rest of the year, there’s some really interesting movies coming out,” he said.

The U-T was purchased by tronc, the media company formerly known as Tribune Publishing, which also owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other papers. The change is something Wright and others expected to happen eventually after the tronc acquisition, and in some ways he said he’s surprised it took so long, since the Los Angeles Times is known for its film criticism.

Editor Christine Ross, who oversees film for the U-T, said the shift doesn’t mean the end of local freelance stories about movies. She said the paper is shifting its focus and resources toward freelance stories about local film festivals and local filmmakers, and will be pulling its weekly film reviews and features from the Times and other wire services.

“The difference is that we’ll use our freelance funds for more San Diego-centric stories,” Ross wrote in an email.

Wright was invited to write about the local film scene for the U-T, but he’s not sure yet if he wants to.

“What I hope this does is to bring up questions about the consolidation of the media business,” Wright said. “I don’t really want this to be about me at all, quite honestly. It’s really a question about whether or not readers want someone local doing this sort of work – if they value having a voice they know – or if it’s really not that big of a deal for them.”

The U-T laid off longtime film critic David Elliott, along with 26 other staffers, back in 2008. Since then, the paper’s been running both wire reviews and reviews written by local film critics.

Bill Walton Bronze Still Looking for Home, Makers Head to Balboa Park and Other Arts and Culture News

• The U-T asked people where they think the Bill Walton bronze statue should go since the San Diego International Airport said thanks, but no thanks to a group that wanted to donate it. I asked my Facebook friends and followers the same thing and found that a lot of them think it belongs at the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.

• East Village once housed a bustling arts scene. CityBeat has a story on one of East Village’s former arts spaces called 740, and the influence of one of its resident artists, Luis Stand, who recently passed away.

• People who make and invent things will gather at Balboa Park this weekend for Maker Faire San Diego.

The Trolley Dances bring site-specific dances to locations on and nearby the trolley line. The annual event happened last weekend and it’s happening again this weekend. San Diego Story says Bill Shannon’s trolley dance is something you gotta see.

• The San Diego International Film Festival starts tomorrow. (CBS 8 San Diego)

The San Diego Opera is getting ready to roll out programming geared toward San Diego’s military community.

• I spotted San Diego artist Gloria Muriel finishing up this big mural in City Heights last week.

Reps from the California Arts Council are coming to our neck of the woods early next week to talk about a new law that lets them designate areas as state cultural districts.

Local folks are joining others across the country in attempting to write, direct and perform six plays in 24 hours.

• Julian Klincewicz is a name you might want to remember. He’s young, but already doing big things. Klincewicz had an art/fashion show at the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park last Friday, and racked up an in-depth preview and a review of the show. (Highsnobiety and Ala Champ Magazine)

If you’re a fan of the British scifi show “Doctor Who” then you probably already know that San Diego Who Con is a thing that’s happening.

Wow, singer Kathleen Hansen knows how to stay busy. (U-T)

The La Jolla Playhouse got a shout-out for its staging of Mike Daisey’s comedic monologue “The Trump Card” in this New York Times piece about theaters acknowledging the election.

Now’s a good time to check out the new Quint Projects space in Bay Ho if you’ve yet to venture out to the longtime contemporary art gallery’s new, more experimental space. New shows by Los Angeles-based artist Mara De Luca and San Diego sculptor Christopher Puzio are opening and an exhibition of work by Jean Lowe and Kim MacConnel has been extended. 

KPBS put together a fall arts preview highlighting some must-see cultural happenings.

• Archtoberfest, a month of architecture and design events, is kicking off Thursday with a PechaKucha event filled with fast-paced talks by designers and architects.

• The San Diego Zoo turned 100 years old this year and its throwing a birthday party on Sunday to celebrate.

Artist Skye Walker is the guy behind a lot of the murals inside local Whole Foods. (U-T)

U-T theater critic James Hebert invited playwright Mike Lew on a surf trip to talk about his “Tiger Style!” play showing at the La Jolla Playhouse through Oct. 2. You’ll have to read the story to figure out why an interview in the surf makes sense.

An exhibition of art made of Legos is opening at the Fleet Science Center this week.

The La Jolla artist who’s being forced by the city’s code compliance department to take down a large sculpture in his front yard is not going down without talking to lots of media folks first. (sdnews)

Former UCSD artist Angela Washko is returning to her alma mater to talk about her years of performance art in the online “World of Warcraft” game.

Teams of San Diego artists and curators will be playing beach volleyball this weekend.

Food, Beer and Booze News

• San Diego Restaurant Week is under way and the U-T has some tips on how to navigate it.

Oktoberfest celebrations are happening all over the place. (San Diego Tourism Authority)

• Philz Coffee fans are stoked that the San Francisco-based company is headed to the San Diego region. (Eater San Diego)

Pumpkin patch season has officially begun. Woot! I’m a fan of pumpkins and I wish pumpkin spice was in just about everything all year round.

Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at 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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