Before text messages and social media updates, some women found community through sewing circles.

Artist Michelle Montjoy wanted to bring that type of old-school, intimate community conversation back. She also wanted to elevate an art form that’s too often written off.

Her new public art project is called “River,” and it kicked off months ago with a series of workshops at 32 schools, homeless shelters, senior centers, after-school programs and other community centers. Over 1,000 people showed up to the various workshops and used giant looms handmade by artist William Feeney to help Montjoy weave together ripped-up old T-shirts into sculptural works of art.

“We would sit together and knit together and chat,” Montjoy said. “It’s a very simple process, so it’s almost a meditative one.”

The cloth sculptures participants helped make will be hung in an exhibition opening at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Oceanside Museum of Art.

Montjoy was the only visual artist to be awarded in the latest round of the San Diego Foundation’s Creative Catalyst grant, a program that pairs artists with local nonprofits and requires artists to come up with projects that engage wider and more diverse swaths of the community than arts organizations typically reach.

All of the folks who helped Montjoy have been invited to the museum exhibition, and the artist said many of the participants told her they had never been to an art show before. She said she hopes having their work in a museum exhibition will help “demystify the aura of art” and let them share the sense of accomplishment.

“I tried not to overwhelm them with contemporary art speak,” she said. “But I really emphasized that their investment was important and that what they were making was art.”

Montjoy is also the current artist in residence at Art Produce Gallery & Garden in North Park. She’s doing a similar public art project there thanks to a grant from the California Arts Council. The project’s called “Domestic Action” and Montjoy will be working with nearby senior citizen groups, refugee groups and other residents, using the giants looms to create a safe space for creation and storytelling.

“We’re calling the gallery a place of refuge and quietness and meditation,” she said. “The act of making is something we’re not really in touch with as much anymore, so I think it’s important to bring that back.”

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. 

Shoehorning Art Into Old Military Space

Dynamic dance performances, cutting-edge art exhibitions and fun art-making classes for my kids – I’ve seen and done all of these things at Arts District Liberty Station.

Photo by Jackie Wonders / Courtesy of NTC Foundation
Photo by Jackie Wonders

The cultural community the NTC Foundation has carved out in the 26 city-owned military buildings at the Naval Training Center in Point Loma is considered a success by many.

But it’s got its challenges, too – affordability being the biggest. I looked into the high rent and some of the other issues that the growing arts district has come across as it celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year.

Arts District Liberty Station is celebrating its 10th birthday with a host of programs and activities in coming months. (San Diego Community News Group)

New Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park

Pow! Just like that, San Diego Comic-Con International closed a deal with the city and announced it will open a new museum in Balboa Park. (U-T)

The pop-culture purveyor will will take the place of the San Diego Hall of Champions, which is closing and sending its Breitbard Hall of Fame collection to Petco Park. Like many buildings in Balboa Park, the city charges no rent for use of the space Comic-Con is moving into.

The U-T reports that some artifacts will be returned donors, others will be auctioned off and some things will be gifted to the San Diego History Center, which announced it will build a new permanent exhibit dedicated to the accomplishments of San Diego athletes.

Porcella’s Change-Making Reign Is Over

Ginger Shulick Porcella took the local art scene by storm. As executive director of Balboa Park’s San Diego Art Institute for the last few years, she’s shaken things up and changed just about everything about the decades-old organization.

In 2015, we named Porcella one of the Voices of the Year for her transformative work. Her changes, though, didn’t always rub people the right way (her large collection of hate mail from critics of her new programming hangs on a wall in her office).

Last week, Porcella shook the local visual art scene again when she announced she was leaving SDAI to be executive director and chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson. (U-T)

When I posted the news on Facebook, lots of people had lots to say about Porcella.

“Ginger Shulick Porcella has pushed the boundaries of SDAI and San Diego alike in such an inspiring, community-driven and positive way,” wrote Chantel Paul, who runs San Diego State University’s Downtown Gallery. “As a community still residing in San Diego, we collectively need to remain inspired to keep this forward momentum moving.”

A lot of folks said they were worried that the progress Procella pushed will stall when she eaves her post.

“Will the SDAI reinvention that Porcella masterminded stick,” wrote Mark-Elliott Lugo, a painter, and former art critic who launched the library system’s visual art programs. “Will it revert to its old model, or will something else happen?”

An Arts Education Pusher and Other Arts and Culture News

The U-T talks to Merryl Goldberg about her career promoting the importance of arts education and integrating the arts into other coursework.

• The San Diego Architectural Foundation is offering tours of nearly 50 architectural hotspots across the city. The U-T picked out a handful of the sites you should see and talked to the folks behind the event.

• Over 20 of San Diego’s choral groups are performing a free concert in Balboa Park on March 25. (LGBT Weekly)

• CityBeat’s annual demo review is a great way to get to know more about the local music scene.

• Famed British sculptor Richard Deacon’s first major museum exhibition in the United States is opening at the San Diego Museum of Art this week. (U-T)

• Those creepy swarms of giant mosquito-looking things flying around San Diego right now – the San Diego Natural History Museum says they’re called crane flies, they don’t actually eat mosquitos like people think. There are a lot of them right now because of the wet winter.

• Balboa Park museums offer free admission to San Diego residents on Tuesdays. The Mingei International Museum recently announced that it’s expanding that offer to everyone, not just local residents.

• The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.

Here’s how local arts leaders are reacting to President Donald Trump’s proposed NEA funding cuts. (U-T)

• On Friday morning, San Diego artist Claudia Cano will talk about her work, which often focuses on awkward interactions between Mexican and American cultures.

• San Diego City College’s Social Justice Conference is this week, and it includes a session called Identity and the Role of Art under a Fascist Regime.

The U-T’s Karla Peterson explored the San Diego Museum of Man’s new “Living with Animals” exhibit. 

• This San Diegoapp developer does not like the border wall, which is why he wants to create a game that makes fun of it.

• National Comedy Theatre just produced its 5,000th improv show. (U-T)

• The county’s first 4D cinema is now open, serving senses other than just sight and sound. (U-T)

• An Assembly bill seeks to make it easier for art galleries to serve beer and wine.

• The Balboa Theatre is turning 93.

• KPBS just launched a new arts newsletter.

These cardboard chairs design students at San Diego State make every year in artist David Fobes’ class are super cool.

• Balboa Park is launching a new website on Wednesday.

• The annual Women’s Film Festival is happening March 24-26. (San Diego Community News)

Food, Beer and Booze News

• Stone Brewing made beer with recycled water. (10News)

• Here are some details on the soon-to-open Bar Logan, a restaurant and bar I visited during my podcast series on gentrification in Barrio Logan. (Eater San Diego)

People are boycotting San Diego-based Ballast Point beer. (CityPages)

• URBN’s got a new cocktail menu and San Diego Magazine digs it.

• Free tacos! (I already know this will be the most clicked link in this week’s Culture Report, and yeah, I’m judging y’all.)

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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