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San Diego’s District 9, which includes neighborhoods like Mt. Hope, Kensington, City Heights, Talmadge and Rolando, is the most diverse region in the city.
Both City Council candidates vying to represent the area say arts and culture are inherently important and can boost the quality of life for residents. They also agree that art and culture can stimulate the local economy and attract tourists, but they differ on a few key points.
Ricardo Flores, who’s a staffer for current Councilwoman Marti Emerald, said he thinks of himself as an artist. He went to film school at UCLA and produced a short film that’s won a few awards. He said he wants to raise San Diego’s profile when it comes to art and culture, and is particularly interested in helping bring back the Film Commission.
Georgette Gomez, a community advocate, said the arts are a big part of her life. She said she loves local music and neighborhood galleries and is committed to supporting San Diego’s diverse art scene.
Saying you support the arts, though, is easy. I asked them both whether they’d vote to fully fund the city’s Penny for the Arts plan, which was passed in 2012 and envisioned putting 9.5 percent of the city’s hotel tax collections toward the Commission for Arts and Culture. The current City Council boosted the arts commission’s funding, but it still doesn’t receive the full 9.5 percent.
Flores didn’t make any promises.
“I would be very interested in doing that but you have to look at what else is presented to you every year,” he said. “Budgets are a very tricky thing.”
Gomez said she would vote vote for the full 9.5 percent since the commission grants a large chunk of that money to local arts and culture nonprofits. But she had a caveat. She said the commission needs to work harder to get the word out about the arts funding opportunities so that the same established, well-connected organizations don’t end up getting the money year after year.
“In some communities in my district, they’re not even aware that the funding is available,” she said. “So I want to make sure folks are aware of that.”
Voice of San Diego recently mapped the city’s entire collection of public art. We found that because of the way public art is funded, the distribution isn’t very equitable. District 9 is a virtual arts desert. Much of the art found throughout D9, however, doesn’t appear on the map because it’s not city-funded. It’s been created by artists who live there or funded by private entities.
I asked the candidates what they would do to push for more city-funded public art in the neighborhoods they represent. Flores said he’d work with city arts commissioner Larry Baza and others.
“I’m open to whatever we can do to create a more flourishing art scene in San Diego,” he said. “But also you have to work with the folks you appoint to these boards because they have the expertise.”
Gomez said she’s advocated for more city resources for historically neglected neighborhoods, a few of which are located in District 9.
“I really want to ensure that we’re focusing resources outside of downtown and more into the neighborhoods that have not gotten enough,” she said. “City Council is broken and it’s not really working for our neighborhoods, I want to change that.”
Flores and Gomez will share more of their thoughts on arts and culture from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the East African Community and Cultural Center at 4061 Fairmount Ave. in City Heights. The San Diego Regional Arts & Culture Coalition, a local arts advocacy group, is hosting the free forum.
• Since Ray Ellis suspended his campaign, Barbara Bry will very likely be the next District 1 city councilwoman, representing La Jolla and Carmel Valley. But since she’s still campaigning, I sent her the some of the same questions I asked the D9 candidates. One response that caught my attention was her call for the city to share more information about public art.
“Unfortunately, there is little publicly available information on the many projects associated with the public and private portions of San Diego’s percent for art program,” she wrote. “It would be useful to publish a comprehensive data set on the city’s Open Data portal so that we can analyze the success of public art programs in the city. Producing a report based on this data could highlight San Diego’s strengths in accomplishing public arts funding, and also target potential shortcomings of the program so that it can be improved.”
Read Bry’s Q-and-A in full here.
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
Why the Bronze Bill Walton Statue Doesn’t Belong at the Airport
Many people were baffled by the San Diego International Airport’s decision not to accept the donation of a $200,000 bronze statue of beloved basketball player and philanthropist Bill Walton, so I set out to explain the airport’s reasoning.
I’ve covered the airport’s ambitious public art program over the years, so the decision made sense to me. There’s an entire room at the airport, for example, that was created by artist Norie Sato as a relaxing place to escape the chaos and madness that often punctuates air travel. That whole-room installation is what I think of when I think of the airport’s art, and a bronze of Walton just doesn’t fit.
That said, I also understand why people are asking the airport to do a better job of explaining what they’re up to when it comes to art. There are still lots of people who scoff at the fact that a local circus group is performing at the airport. I think that’s really cool and innovative, but the airport is often overly careful with what it will say to the press, which can be a problem.
The airport, by the way, is currently looking for another resident performing arts group to create, rehearse and perform original work at the airport. And yeah, even clowns can apply.
A Leadership Shakeup at San Diego Junior Theatre
Two longtime employees at San Diego Junior Theatre were abruptly fired last week. The nonprofit sent out an email saying it was a “personnel matter” but has not elaborated.
Rayme Sciaroni was the company’s artistic director and Tony Cucuzzella was the production manger. Both had worked with the company for years. News of their firings spread through the San Diego Junior Theatre community, and an online petition and a Facebook group were quickly launched, asking the board of trustees to reconsider the decision.
Leadership isn’t talking. Sciaroni isn’t saying much either, but he did say that he’s touched by the community’s show of support. He said he and Cucuzzella were fired and then escorted out without any explanations.
The information black hole has led folks to say some pretty nasty things about the theater, but until there’s more details, those accusations should be read with caution.
Quint Leaves La Jolla
Somehow I missed the big news about Quint Gallery closing its flagship space on Girard Avenue in La Jolla and moving all exhibitions to its new project space in Bay Ho.
The gallery’s owner Mark Quint told the La Jolla Light that he’s moving to the project space, formerly used for storage, because it’s bigger and allows him to stage the kind of immersive, experimental installation work he likes. Plus, he said the cost of rent in La Jolla is high and his gallery manager recently left for a new job in New York, a move that forced Quint to reconsider his business model.
Quint is the latest big-name art gallery in the region to pivot away from a traditional brick-and-mortar art gallery. When I was at CityBeat, I wrote about Scott White closing his La Jolla gallery in favor of a Little Italy office space, and Noel-Baza Fine Art’s shift from a brick-and-mortar gallery to an art project that pops up in other spaces.
When White made his move, he told me that most big art sales are happening online or in offices with longtime collectors, so a storefront gallery has quickly become unnecessary.
“I think the gallery model is changing,” White said. “If you think about it, art galleries are really more of a service to the city and the public.”
White’s point is an interesting one that leads to questions about how the city and county fund arts organizations. Right now, only nonprofit organizations are able to apply for city and county grants, but in other cities funding is also offered to arts entrepreneurs, businesses and other institutions that provide similar cultural services for residents. Subsidizing art galleries is certainly controversial, but there are good arguments on both sides of the issue.
Dance and Theater Teachers Love a New Law, Protest Photography and Other Arts and Culture News
• Until last month, California was one of just two states in the country that didn’t offer teaching credentials in dance and theater. Dance instructors, for example, had to get a PE credential to teach in California schools and universities. Arts advocates have long pushed for that to change so dance and theater credentials were available, but governors vetoed two previous attempts at legislation. Last week, though, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Theatre and Dance Act, establishing single-subject teaching credentials for both theater and dance. Arts advocates are stoked.
• In San Diego, October has become a month for celebrating architecture and design. There are all kinds of “Archtoberfest” events going on. The U-T has has details on 14 organizations participating in the big, collaborative “Irving J. Gill: New Architecture for a Great Country” project that’s timed to coincide with Archtoberfest.
• The U-T’s Diane Bell points out that the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s “The Uses of Photography” exhibition is politically radical and timely given the unrest over the recent police shooting in El Cajon.
• The San Diego Art Institute is offering a month-long series of Halloween-themed programming.
• If one-man shows are your thing, you’re in luck. The U-T’s theater critic looks at two solo acts showing at La Jolla Playhouse.
• KPBS says the LEGO exhibit at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park makes art more accessible, but when I saw that folks have to pay an additional fee on top of admission, I kinda thought the exact opposite.
• Local women who ride motorcycles are the inspiration for this upcoming art show in Barrio Logan. (CityBeat)
• Kids get in free to all kinds of arts and culture venues across the San Diego region during the month of October. (U-T)
• Say it ain’t so: Access Hip Hop in Pacific Beach is closing after 15 years. (CityBeat)
• Two exhibitions, one featuring encaustic, or melted wax art, and the other showcasing pop surrealism, are on view at the Museum at California Center for the Arts, Escondido. (The Coast News Group)
• Open Studios San Diego returns for its second year offering people a chance to step inside local artists’ creative spaces. The event includes an exhibition that opens Saturday at The Studio Door in North Park. (LGBT Weekly)
• Paint and wine parties are a thing, so the U-T’s Karla Peterson tried one.
• Get to know more about the current artist in residence at the Lux Art Institute in Encinitas.
• Here’s a story about a series of public art pieces in Hillcrest you’ve likely never noticed. (San Diego Gay & Lesbian News)
• Abdullah Taysan, a Syrian refugee who arrived in the United States over the summer, is one of the immigrants who’s been offered an artist residency at the Leichtag Foundation farm and cultural center in Encinitas.
• It’ll cost you almost $20, but the San Diego Museum of Art has an app that includes some cool-sounding offerings.
• You can see some pretty impressive chalk art at Little Italy’s annual FESTA celebration Sunday.
• Well-known San Diego photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann recommends sculptor Jeff Irwin’s show at R.B. Stevenson Gallery in La Jolla through Saturday.
• Local music journalist and musician Bar Mendoza recently asked people on Facebook how to make San Diego’s music scene better. He got almost 200 responses, including this one I couldn’t agree with more: “Earlier shows for people who can’t/don’t want to start their evening at 10 p.m. Bands who are honest about start times.”
• CityBeat’s Seth Combs thinks you should see Saratoga Sake’s graffiti installation at Ice Gallery in Barrio Logan.
• The U-T’s James Hebert says Intrepid’s “Art” is sharply acted with a witty script.
• There are lots of top-notch art exhibitions at University of San Diego right now.
• Here’s a Q-and-A with the Museum of Photographic Art’s curator-at-large. (Photolab)
• The San Diego Symphony recently announced some new promotions and hires.
Food, Beer and Booze News
• San Diego Magazine’s Troy Johnson likes the state’s minimum wage hike, but not for tipped employees like restaurant workers. He thinks including tipped workers is “most asinine and destructive thing to the California economy and its people” and says it’ll “kill restaurants and kill jobs.”
• The lovable Keil’s grocery store in Clairemont is closing, which bums a lot of people out. (U-T)
• Get your fill of Polish food at this Pacific Beach fest. (San Diego Community Newspaper Group)
• The U-T rounded up the best pumpkin patches in the region.
• For many reasons, I cannot imagine an actual cowboy drinking these Western-themed cocktails at Grant Grill. (Pacific Magazine)
• Fermented tea and the helpful gut bugs that live in it are getting more and more popular. Bootstrap Kombucha is here to meet the increased demand. (Reader)
• The U-T highlights the booming trend of culinary tourism.
• Saffron owner Su-Mei Yu sold her famed restaurant on India Street, but she’s moving on to bigger things. (U-T)
• Ceviche restaurants are opening up all across San Diego. Here’s the latest one to cross my radar, which is definitely honed in on restaurants serving raw fish.
• An L.A. Times writer took a trip down the Hops Highway and rounded up 11 breweries to try.
• These San Diego bars sure are purty. (Thrillest)