An overlooked nook at the north end of Bayside Park in Chula Vista has been temporarily transformed into a place geared toward inspiring creativity and community.

Last November, artists Jose Parral and Tasia Paulson installed 30 wood and steel sculptures that serve as benches at a secluded place near where G Street meets the water. So far, the benches have been used to set the stage for a symphony concert, they’ve served as an outdoor yoga and exercise venue and as a casual meeting place for neighbors.

On Saturday, May 6, San Diego Dance Theater will be using the benches to perform a piece of choreography created specifically for the waterfront site. Fern Street Circus will also perform at the spot on May 20.

Called “Bench Party,” the public art is a temporary installation funded through the Port of San Diego’s Tidelands program, which commissions artists to make site-specific works meant to activate events and interactions in unexpected places along the San Diego Bay.

“We encouraged artists to select areas of the waterfront that the public wasn’t actively going to,” said Yvonne Wise, who heads the port’s art programs. “So using the art as a catalyst to encourage people to not only experience the waterfront, but experience those locations that maybe they didn’t know about already.”

The Tidelands program is one facet of the port’s curatorial strategy adopted in 2012. The progressive ideas and programs detailed in the plan, however, were put on hold when the port slashed its public art budget in 2013.

Arts funding was fully restored by January 2016, and last year’s interactive public art installation by artist Margaret Noble was the first Tidelands project to be realized. It was a lauded piece that helped mark a strong return for the port’s public art, which has been moving away from static sculptures and other kitschy, more conventional art.

On tap next, Wise said, are temporary waterfront installations by fiber artist Randy Walker and San Diego artist Adam Belt. In 2013, the Union-Tribune called Belt’s original concept for his “Tidelands” project the “the greatest public art piece you’ll never see.”

Wise said feedback they’ve gotten on the two temporary art installations the port has commissioned has been positive.

“What we’re hearing is the community is incredibly appreciative that we’re out in the community doing these kind of things,” she said. “We’ve heard that they like them, and they want more of them.”

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Three County Cultural Districts on Track for State Recognition

A bill signed into law last year charged the California Arts Council with designating areas across the state as official California Cultural Districts.

Over 40 areas across California applied for the designation, which includes a modest stipend and marketing opportunities, and serves to better recognize  Golden State places that are packed with cultural resources and activities.

Of the dozens of regions that applied, a California Arts Council panel whittled the list down to 22 semifinalists, three of which are in San Diego County. Barrio Logan, the Oceanside cultural district and Balboa Park made the list, while other local spots like Arts District Liberty Station didn’t make the cut.

Caitlin Fitzwater, the interim program coordinator for the Cultural Districts program, said the panel will be making site visits next week. By July, the group will announce the estimated 15 regions that will be the state’s first-ever California Cultural Districts.

“Hopefully, we will be one of the lucky winners,” said Marissa Cassani, district manager of the Barrio Logan Maintenance Assessment District, which applied for the designation alongside the Glashaus art gallery and studios, the Barrio Logan Association and the city of San Diego’s economic development department. “The heritage, the culture and the pride that people take in this community is what I feel Barrio Logan apart.”

Protesting the Mayor’s Proposed Arts Cuts

The San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition will hold a press conference and rally protesting Mayor Kevin’s Faulconer’s proposed $4.7 million cut to arts funding at Civic Plaza at 7:30 a.m. Monday in advance of the next budget hearing.

The coalition has been leading a campaign to push back against the cuts.

This week, arts and culture nonprofits like the Timken Museum of Art, La Jolla Playhouse, The New Children’s Museum, Fern Street Circus, San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus and San Diego Repertory Theatre joined the chorus of arts groups calling on the mayor to reconsider.

In an email to fans, San Diego Rep said it stands to lose about $85,000 in annual funding if the mayor’s budget is approved.

Robotic Giraffe on the Mend, Buskers Protest and Other Arts and Culture News

• San Diego artist and inventor Lindsay Lawlor’s 17-foot talking, walking electronic giraffe, Russell, can be spotted at community events across the San Diego region. Russell even traveled to Washington, D.C and wowed then-President Barack Obama. Last week, though, Russell had an accident and was seriously damaged. Luckily, the giraffe has a lot of fans and a crowdfunding campaign quickly raised the needed $2,500 to get it fixed up.

• Local street performers, or buskers, are planning to protest the city’s permitting system in Balboa Park this Saturday. I did a podcast episode that explains why some artists and musicians think the system regulating performances in the park is unfair.

• La Bodega Gallery in Barrio Logan is working to address city and fire safety code issues so it can hold events for more than just a few people at a time. The gallery’s landlord, Nick Inzunza, told me he plans to do everything he can to help La Bodega’s owners pay for upgrades, but in a public Facebook post, gallery owner Chris Zertuche said Inzunza is being unresponsive. Inzunza commented on the post and said he was working with Zertuche and called the message “unwarranted.”

A new study by the National Endowment for the Arts presents an economic argument for keeping arts funding alive. (Los Angeles Times)

Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s paintings are showing at the Centro Cultural Tijuana, and the Union-Tribune’s Sandra Dibble says the exhibit shows how Tijuana’s art scene has thrived since CECUT opened its fancy El Cubo gallery nine years ago.

• A German orchestra will play a concert on both sides of the border fence in June. The show is meant to protest the proposed border wall.

• The big annual museum membership exchange is happening (read: free admission to several museums if you have a membership at a participating organization).

How cool is this female-centric San Diego bike crew? (CityBeat)

• There’s drama (beyond the normal programming) happening at Balboa Park’s Junior Theatre. (Reader)

• An unknown person reportedly wielding a hammer did some damage to David Adey’s public art installation on a county building in Little Italy.

• The Lincoln Park Community Art Festival is happening Saturday.

• Chula Vista is holding its first-ever CiclaVista event, which closes down a city street to cars, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to take it over from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

• The Cinco de Mayo celebration in Old Town is legit.

• Opera NEO is stepping up its game now that the organization has turned 5.

• Diversionary Theatre announced its new season.

Food, Beer and Booze News

• San Diego Brewers Guild’s president Jill Davidson was a guest on last week’s VOSD Podcast. She said the craft beer bubble in San Diego isn’t bursting any time soon.

• Speaking of craft beer, I wrote about its stinky byproduct, spent grain, and the growing problem of what to do with it.

• Rubio’s is serious about making its food healthier.

• Eater has more details on the new nonprofit Tacos Libertad restaurant that will donate proceeds to other area nonprofits.

• The Reader touches on the topic of Latino craft beer drinkers who’ve long been overlooked by the booming craft beer industry. VOSD did a story on the subject in March.

• A new farmer’s market is opening at Liberty Station this weekend.

A fancy food event wants to raise money to help save the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, a fresh fish market that may be in danger of closing as the Port of San Diego updates zoning rules.

This Cinco de Mayo party in North Park pits Mexican food against French food. 

• A gourmet hot dog cart has found a brick-and-mortar home on El Cajon Boulevard. (Eater)

Kinsee Morlan is 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

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

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