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When the old Valencia Park Library at the intersection of 50th Street and Imperial Avenue was demolished, it left behind a big vacant lot that’s become an eyesore.

Barry Pollard, who heads the Urban Collaborative Project, a grassroots neighborhood improvement group, saw the rundown, empty space as a blank canvas, ripe for fixing up. He’s enlisted the help of artists and nearby residents and wants to turn the site into a gathering space for community events.

The city-owned lot is under the purview of Civic San Diego, the agency that regulates development downtown and in parts of southeastern San Diego. Civic will eventually put out a call to developers to submit proposals for buying and redeveloping the land, but the agency says it doesn’t have a timeline yet, which means the lot will likely remain vacant for a year or more.

In the meantime, Pollard plans to spruce it up and show Civic the types of uses for the land that he and the community would like to see.

Two weekends ago, a group of volunteers started work on the first phase of the project – a giant mural on the wall of an auto repair shop that butts the lot.

“It was a constant flow of families who showed up to help paint because they want to activate and change the space,” Pollard said. “It’s a big endeavor, but it’s gathering momentum and people are excited about it.”

Artists Michael Rosenblatt, Francisco Contreras, JoeNathan Segura and Nadia Contreras took the lead on the design of the mural, which pictures a saxophone player, a cityscape and the words “Lincoln Park.”

Once the mural is done, Pollard envisions a large outdoor movie screen, a stage, movable seating, vendor spaces in reused shipping containers and a community garden. His collaborators at Rooted in Place Landscape Architecture drew up a rendering of what the reimagined space might look like.

Pollard will need to work closely with Civic to get the necessary approval and city permits moving forward. And even though his group has run into permitting issues before, he’s hopeful he’ll have more success with Civic, which helped clear the way for downtown’s Quartyard, a similar temporary outdoor urban park that’s housed on a formerly vacant city-owned lot downtown. Pollard says he’s also working closely with Circulate San Diego and others who’ve been pushing the city to make it easier to permit community-led improvement projects.

“Hopefully, Civic and the city will see how successful the temporary gathering space we’re building will be, and perhaps will allow us to submit a proposal when the time comes for an art gallery and community space that will be permanent,” he said. “We don’t have that in Lincoln and it’s a major thoroughfare and this is one of the pieces of property that’s in an area that really needs attention.”

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news. Sign up here to get the weekly report delivered to your inbox. 

Immigrant Museum Defaced With Anti-Immigrant Messages

Two signs advertising a local museum that showcases the lives and plights of immigrants were defaced with anti-immigrant messages over the weekend.

On Saturday, the New Americans Museum in Liberty Station found black marker scrawled across the bottom of two outdoor signs that read “Too much immigration! Go back to your country. This one is ours!” and “Over population & crowding by immigration.”

Photo courtesy of New Americans Museum
Photo courtesy of New Americans Museum

“I want to say I was really, really surprised, but I wasn’t so surprised,” said Linda Caballero Sotelo, the museum’s executive director. “I was more just disappointed that it would happen in broad daylight.”

The messages were easily removed by a janitor, who Sotelo said is an immigrant himself, but rather than quietly sweeping the event under the rug, Sotelo said she’s using it as a conversation starter. She posted a video on Facebook and talked about what the messages meant to the museum, which celebrates the contributions of immigrants to the U.S. The video was shared widely and various local news outlets picked up the story.

Sotelo also took pictures of the vandalism and plans to hang them in the gallery so visitors can discuss the anti-immigrant sentiment that’s swelled since the election of Donald Trump. She said she also has plans to train her staff on how to handle comments and questions that conflict with the museum’s message of supporting and understanding newcomers to the United States.

“In the past, art institutions haven’t felt the political shift as much,” Sotelo said. “But there’s definitely been a shift in tone and we feel it this time. … This is the stuff that’s happening, and it’s probably going to get louder so we can’t afford to not speak up.”

Layoffs for UCSD Theater Staffers, City Arts Funding Changes and Other Arts and Culture News

UC San Diego recently told 21 members of the Department of Theater and Dance that their jobs would end in January. UCSD and the La Jolla Playhouse share production employees, but the two entities are restructuring and will no longer split staff, hence the layoffs. Many of the laid off employees will be invited to reapply for positions once they have been posted, but one longtime employee told KPBS that many of the positions have been combined and will offer less pay. As KPBS notes, the layoffs “come on the heels of the university attempting to close the University Art Gallery and the layoff of Rebecca Webb, who was the film curator for UCSD’s ArtPower.”

I’ve been hearing from various folks about the waning support for the arts at UCSD. If you’ve got something to say about it, shoot me an email.

• The city’s Commission for Arts and Culture is proposing changes to the way it funds local arts and culture nonprofits. According to a staff report, the proposed changes didn’t go through the normal process because two recent committee meetings were canceled due to lack of quorum.

• San Diego artist Joyce Cutler-Shaw is the subject of a new short documentary. (La Jolla Light)

The San Diego Museum of Art just added a 17th century painting by a Spanish Baroque master to its collection. (U-T)

• InnerMission Productions and Circle Circle dot dot are hosting a community workshop and dialog this weekend for San Diegans who are “currently full of turmoil over the results of the 2016 election.”

Longtime La Jolla gallery owner Mark Quint collects more than just fine art. Some of the strange and wondrous things he’s gathered over the years are on public view at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, and CityBeat’s Seth Combs thinks it’s a cool show.

Combs, by the way, was recently boosted from arts editor to editor-in-chief at CityBeat. All you arts writers out there should be angling to get in so you can help keep the cultural stories coming.

• A local jazz musician started a choir with people who are homeless to help raise awareness of homelessness in San Diego. (KPBS)

The San Diego International Airport’s agenda from its most recent art advisory committee meeting includes lots of info about upcoming public art installations and opportunities, including renderings of the public art piece by Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues of Ball-Nogues Studio that will be part of the airport’s new Parking Plaza.

Remember the two artless fire stations in the city’s pipeline I told you about? Well, the new fire station in Point Loma will include art. Here are the details. You can also check out the proposed public art for the new Mission Hills/Hillcrest library.

• The annual San Diego Music Awards event is back. (SoundDiego)

• You can pick up locally made arts and crafts here and here this week.

• California Ballet has added autism- and toddler-friendly showings of “The Nutcracker” this year. (U-T)

• The Globe’s “The Grinch” is good, says San Diego Story.

A local choral group has something to say, or sing, about gun violence.

• One of the co-founders of UCSD’s Department of Music has died. (U-T)

Ion Theatre is teaming up with San Diego HIV/AIDS service agencies in its current production of “The Normal Heart,” a play about the AIDS crisis in the ’80s.

This collection of stories published by local literary group So Say We All sounds gross. (CityBeat)

There’s a new book about local philanthropists Ray and Joan Kroc. (U-T)

• Architecture fans will want to know about this new event series in town.

• Yup, December Nights is happening.

Learn more about the work Veterans Art Project is doing. (U-T)

Los Angeles Times arts writer Carolina A. Miranda thinks the he Salk Institute in La Jolla is “entering its grande dame period with panache.”

• OMG, this silly thing was made in San Diego.

Food, Beer and Booze News

• Former Culture Report writer Alex Zaragoza penned a great piece for NPR on a Tijuana restaurant that’s now serving Haitian food to cater to the city’s recent influx of Hatian immigrants.

• Dunkin’ Donuts is coming. (Eater San Diego)

Barrio Logan’s Cafe Virtuoso got an upgrade.

• LOL. Read the Reader’s piece on six beer tasting rooms with interior designs that “go beyond reclaimed wood.”

•  The Brewery Igniter space in North Park is finally open. (CityBeat)

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified JoeNathan Segura.

Kinsee Morlan

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

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