A 25-foot-tall metal man will soon park himself at a busy downtown intersection.

Called “Pacific Soul,” the large sculpture of a squatting man by international artist Jaume Plensa will be made up of letters from eight different alphabets including Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. It’s scheduled to be installed next year.

The new art is being funded by Bosa Development, a Canadian development firm that’s built several high-rise condo towers downtown. Bosa’s latest project is Pacific Gate, a luxury condo tower at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway. As part of the developer’s deal with Civic San Diego, a city-owned agency that regulates development downtown, 1 percent of the project’s budget must pay for art. The sculpture will sit in a new public plaza in front of Pacific Gate.

There’s a construction boom happening downtown and in East Village right now, but San Diegans won’t see public art included with every new project. In fact, because of how the city’s public art policy is written, most of the projects will not trigger the art requirement since they include more residential than commercial units.

According to Civic San Diego, there are currently 68 private development projects being built downtown and in East Village. Only six of those will be required to pay for public art.

But some developers might include art anyway.

Bosa’s vice president of development and operations in California, Andrea Jones, said their project would have included art regardless of the requirement. Bosa is the same developer behind last year’s exhibition and speaker series downtown that asked San Diegans to talk about the urbanism movement. Not everyone understood the intent of the “Rethink Downtown” exhibition, since part of it seemed more like a soft sales pitch for Pacific Gate. But Jones said part of its intent was to get people talking about the role iconic architecture, design and public art should play in the future of downtown San Diego.

“Public art is an integral component of urban centers,” Jones wrote in an email. “We need public art because it improves our quality of life, it transforms a city, spurs conversation and builds civic pride. It adds to a city’s identity and creates a sense of community, whether for residents or visitors from around the country and world.”

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. 

Growing Pains in Barrio Logan

Three Barrio Logan art venues will likely have to halt large public events until they can get their buildings fire-safe.

The crackdown on Glashaus, La Bodega and Bread & Salt comes in the wake of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland that killed 36.  Now fire departments around the country have begun to investigate grassroots arts venues housed in warehouses that aren’t properly equipped to handle large crowds.

When I shared my story about the crackdown on Facebook, a few folks acknowledged the need for safer arts venues, but most expressed disappointment.

“This is really annoying, and seriously threatens some of the wonderful, artistic and creative movements that have been centered in all three of these venues,” wrote Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of the Hillcrest Business Association. “The comparison to the Oakland Ghost Ship is so far off the mark it isn’t even funny. Arts take a hit. Again.”

Nicolas Reveles, director of education and outreach at the San Diego Opera, had a similar reaction.

It’s frustrating that such a font of creativity can’t be nurtured,” he wrote. “The city should see these spaces as the creative business incubators that they are and find ways to make them safer.”

San Diego Fire Marshal Doug Perry said he is working with the venues to help them address safety issues and work their way through the proper city permitting process.

He said there’s also a way for the venues to continue holding public events, but that it will require permits and fire official staffing, which both cost money. Glashaus and La Bodega have also had their capacities capped for even properly permitted events at just a few dozen people. The owner of Bread & Salt is still waiting to talk to Perry to figure out what needs to be done in order to continue hosting art exhibitions and music performances in his space.

The final episode of Culturecast Season 1 is out. For the last entry in the series of podcasts focused on the tension between the artistic renaissance and development happening in Barrio Logan, I talked to artists, architects and developers who have nuanced thoughts about gentrification. Some question whether it’s a bad thing; others talk about what people should be doing to help soften gentrification’s blow. Give it a listen and, if you have time, leave a review for the podcast on iTunes.

A large new mural is going up on the outside of Bread & Salt.

City Buys New Sculpture, Demolishing the Don Diego Clock Tower and Other Arts and Culture News

KPBS reports on some interesting and obscure local art history: A handful of San Diego artists did graphic design work for General Dynamics in the 1950s. Some of the work is currently on display at the Central Library Art Gallery and includes “flight test guidelines, financial reports, logos and a cover sheet for secret documents.”

• The iconic Don Diego clock tower at the Del Mar Fairgrounds will be demolished before the beginning of the next county fair. The decorative tiles on the tower that picture Don Diego, a longtime fair employee, and the clock face will be reused at other sites at the fairground. Not everyone is happy with the decision to destroy one of the most recognizable examples of Googie architecture in town. (The Coast News Group)

• Intrepid Theatre is shaking things up by replacing an upcoming production because of its political implications. The theater company also announced a new partnership with San Diego Unified School District that will pair refugee students with local artists to make new work. (U-T)

• In case you haven’t been to the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park lately, there’s an exhibition featuring works from the half-century-long career of Solana Beach artist Erik Gronborg, and the La Jolla Light thinks y’all should see it.

A new coffee shop and art gallery is opening in Chula Vista. It’s called The Nest on Third.

• I’ve reported before on local efforts to use quick, easy and affordable art and design to spruce up neglected or abandoned city lots. The city of San Diego just announced a new program to fund some of those “placemaking” efforts.

• The city of San Diego just approved the purchase of a sculpture by San Diego artist Christopher Puzio. His piece is already on view in the Valeiras Sculpture Garden on the ninth floor of the Central Library. The $21,600 required to buy the large sculpture will come from the city’s public art fund and revenue from the sale of artworks from the city’s civic art collection.

• The Los Angeles Times’ roundup of the best theater of 2016 includes some entries by San Diego theater companies.

This new all-women band of well-known local musicians wants to make music with a political purpose. (SoundDiego)

• I’m just now discovering this show about San Diego arts and culture called “Inside Art” that airs on Jazz 88.3.

• The San Diego County Office of Education’s head librarian shared his picks of the top kid books of the year. (KPBS)

• The new San Ysidro Branch Library will include public art by Einar and Jamex de la Torre. The artists are asking people to share their knowledge about the history and character of San Ysidro via an online survey that will be up through Dec. 23.

• Here’s another nice roundup of local productions of the holiday classic “The Nutcracker.” (U-T)

• Prolific author James Patterson gave three San Diego booksellers small grants. (U-T)

• The U-T’s James Hebert calls the La Jolla Playhouse’s “The Wholehearted” a “potent if enigmatic solo show performed with grit.”

Food, Beer and Booze News

• Eater San Diego has details on the Port of San Diego’s plan to aquafarm oysters in the San Diego Bay.

• This CityBeat columnist is not expecting 2017 to be a banner year for beer in San Diego.

• Thrillest San Diego says these are the best chefs of 2016.

• And here’s Zagat’s list of the most important restaurant openings of the past year.

• More local breweries are putting their beer in cans instead of just bottles. (Reader)

There’s a new craft distillery in Santee. (Reader)

• Thorn Street Brewery is turning 4.

Kinsee Morlan

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

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