Weeks ago, at the outdoor cafe in the courtyard of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, scientist Carol Marchetto sat down with artist Thomas DeMello to go over some of her research.

Her lab is studying cell reprogramming, a technology that takes adult cells and genetically modifies them to become pluripotent cells, which act like embryonic stem cells and can make copies of themselves indefinitely and grow into other cells in the body, blood or brain.

“You can close the part of the book that says, ‘I am a skin cell,’ and open the part of the book that says, “I am going to be a pluripotent cell,’” Marchetto said.

The new cells, she said, have all kinds of uses, including potentially helping people with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative and psychiatric disorders.

DeMello took what he learned from his conversation with Marchetto and created an art piece for “Extra-Ordinary Collusion,” an exhibition opening Saturday at the San Diego Art Institute.

DeMello ended up making UV-printed images of the neurons that he’ll install on a skylight in SDAI’s gallery.

Photo by Michael James Armstrong
Photo by Michael James Armstrong

“Looking up in the shaft of the skylight, it reminded me of going in Carol’s lab and looking into the microscope, so when you look up at the images of neurons, I’m hoping it will kind of have that effect,” he said.

Twenty-five San Diego and Tijuana artists were paired with scientists from the Salk Institute for the show, which was curated by Chi Essary, a board member of the nonprofit arts group Vanguard Culture.

Essary said while there has been some commingling between artists and scientists in San Diego, she thinks there should be much more.

“There’s a lot of art happening here and a lot of science happening here, and not a lot of crossover that happens,” she said.

Essary’s never organized an art exhibition before, but she said she got so tired of hearing people complain about how lame San Diego’s art scene is that she decided to do something about it.

“I’ve heard it over and over again, that we’re such a cultural desert and there’s nothing going on,” she said. “We think of ourselves as a sleepy beach town, and yet we have so much to offer. We just need to cultivate it, and we can do that by getting people excited about the art and the science.”

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. 

Andrea Chung’s Love of Labor

Working out of a makeshift darkroom in her Mount Hope home, artist Andrea Chung taught herself how to make large cyanotype prints. Chung is constantly teaching herself new artistic processes since her work is more about the message it conveys rather than the medium used to convey it.

The prints are of lionfish, a species that has invaded Caribbean waters and are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem there. Chung’s work often focuses on Caribbean nations, and she saw an uncanny parallel between the lionfish invasion and the colonization of the islands.

Chung will cover an entire small gallery inside the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego with her lionfish prints as part of her solo show opening there Friday. The prints will hang alongside other works by Chung that examine the treatment and portrayal of laborers in the Caribbean.

Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

In her “May Day” series, for example, Chung used an X-Acto knife to carefully cut out images of black workers pictured in historical photos of Caribbean sugar cane farms.

“I was trying to figure out a way to sort of honor these laborers and I couldn’t erase their experiences so I decided to just give them the day off,” she said.

The missing figures actually bring their demeaning depictions into sharper focus and have a powerful impact.

The exhibition at MCASD is Chung’s first solo museum show, but the artist is quickly gaining traction in the international art world. She’s currently got an installation in the “Jamaica Biennial,” and is booked in other notable shows in coming months.

Mayor Softens Blow to Arts, New Comic-Con Museum Leader Needed and Other Arts and Culture News

In his initial budget proposal, Mayor Kevin Faulconer recommended cutting arts funding by 30 percent. On Tuesday, the mayor announced he’ll seek an additional $2.4 million for the arts. Councilman David Alvarez, who’s been critical of the arts cuts, said in a statement that the bump isn’t enough: “The revised budget released today partially restores arts funding due to the outpouring of public support citywide for the arts,” he wrote. “However, it still includes cuts to critical arts education programs.”

Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Comic-Con International is opening a new museum in Balboa Park, and now they’re looking for someone to lead it.

• The Martha Pace Swift Gallery in Liberty Station is housed in a publicly accessible hallway at The Expressive Arts Institute in Arts District Liberty Station. The folks who run the gallery say three paintings have been stolen over the last two months.

• Mission Valley is home to a cool new hidden oasis, but don’t get too excited because it’s an event space you’ll have to rent out to enjoy. (Mission Valley News)

• I had a nice family picnic at Lake Hodges for Mother’s Day and caught a glimpse of an artist with a chainsaw sculpting some kind of monster out of an old Eucalyptus tree. The Coast News Group has the scoop on the new public art piece, which pictures “Hodgee,” a creature who may or may not lurk beneath the lake’s murky waters.

• The New Children’s Museum’s “The Wonder Sound” installation by artist Wes Bruce won national recognition.

Former San Diego City Councilman Tom Hom has a side he’s only revealed to his family. He’s an artist, and his work is going on view at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum.

La Jolla Playhouse has extended its run of the new Jimmy Buffett musical yet again due to high demand. The Playhouse also announced a new lottery system for folks who want to see the show but don’t want to spend a lot of money.

• Yup, you can be a mother and an artist: These women profiled in CityBeat talk about how they did it. CityBeat also wrote about a new female artist collective.

• Artist Doris Bittar launched a volunteer program to teach English to Syrian refugee families. She’s holding a fundraiser for the program at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights on Sunday.

• The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus announced its 2017-18 season.

• This new website meant to connect San Diegans to the outdoors is pretty handy.

• Speaking of connecting to the outdoors, the family-friendly Explore Mission Trails event is Sunday.

• Space 4 Art is leaving East Village and gearing up to offer folks a sneak peak of its new home in Sherman Heights.

• This award-winning student photo is stunning. (Union-Tribune)

• The KAABOO Del Mar music and arts festival announced its list of visual artists who’ll be featured this year.

• Chollas Lake has an amphitheater, and on every third Saturday of the month through December it’ll be activated with entertainment and art.

• North Park will be filled with art and vendors on Saturday.

Food, Beer and Booze News

 The new 10 Barrel Brewing Company is set to open in East Village on May 27. Lots of folks in the craft beer scene aren’t happy since the place is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the biggest brewer in the world. One person successfully raised over $1,000 to pay for an aerial banner reading “10 Barrel Is Not Craft Beer” that will be flown around during the grand opening. Nearby breweries Monkey Paw and Half Door are releasing a beer called 11 Barrel IPA to educate consumers about the importance of opposing “big beer and their obfuscation.”

• Local salad delivery services are indeed a thing. Gay San Diego reviewed one called Farmer’s Fix and there’s another one called Car’s Jars.

• A group of high school students made short documentaries focused on various aspects of the San Diego food system.

• New San Diego podcast alert: Shawn Walchef of Cali Comfort BBQ and Derek Marso of Valley Farm Market launched a new show that sets out to tell “BBQ war stories” you won’t hear anywhere else.

• Last year, the city shut down Small Bar’s small sidewalk patio, saying it wasn’t properly permitted. The bar’s owner announced she finally got the green light to reopen it.

Coronado Brewing’s head brewer Ryan Brooks launched a new Mexican-themed brewery that will be housed inside Coronado Brewing’s Bay Park facility until it finds a permanent location. (Union-Tribune)

• Eat fancy food inspired by books at this annual fundraising event. (Union-Tribune)

• Tacos El Gordo says it’s getting closer to finally opening its new location in the Gaslamp.

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at kinsee@vosd.org. 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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