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San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture held a tense meeting in January. / Photo by Kinsee Morlan
San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture held a tense meeting in January. / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

San Diego arts commissioners aren’t going to let the mayor cut the arts budget without a fight.

Late last year, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office asked department heads to propose 2 percent in cuts. Pay raises for workers, high pension debt and other rising costs mean the city is projected to face significant deficits.


But at a meeting in December, the city’s arts commissioners said they didn’t like any of the budget cut options presented to them. They unanimously voted to reject them all.

Still, Dana Springs, the Commission for Arts and Culture’s executive director, submitted possible budget cuts to the mayor’s office anyway. Tension hung over the January meeting, as the commissioners stuck to their original position. Springs resigned.

“We cannot, as members of the Commission or as individual citizens, support any option that would inherently undercut our mission and the well-being of San Diego’s arts and culture ecosystem or the citizens our cultural assets serve so faithfully,” commissioners Janet Poutré and Tyler Hewes wrote in a Feb. 2 memo to the mayor. The memo references a study released last year showing that the arts are a $1.1 billion industry in San Diego.

The Commission for Arts and Culture uses most of its budget to fund local arts nonprofits. It also directs the city’s public art program and advises the mayor and the City Council.

Poutré said the 2 percent cut may seem small, but it’s supposed to come from the smaller, base budget that the mayor proposed last year. That means the 2 percent cut is more like a 31 percent, she said. “It doesn’t make sense — trying to balance the budget on the backs of arts and culture all the time.”

In response to the memo, Christina Chadwick, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said, while no budget decisions have been made at this point, “the budget will prioritize putting neighborhoods first and delivering core services San Diegans rely on.”

The 2019 budget will be released in April.

The commission could have strong support from the City Council, though. Six of the nine City Council members have indicated that increased arts funding is a priority this year.

Poutré said she and others plan to push the mayor and the City Council to fully fund the city’s “Penny for the Arts” plan this year by committing 9.5 percent of the hotel tax as an ongoing funding source for the commission. Last year, the commission received 6.3 percent of the hotel tax.

“We don’t want any cuts,” she said. “We want the Penny for the Arts that was promised.”

You’re reading the Culture ReportVoice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

The Symphony’s New Leader, Arts Community Loses an Advocate and More Culture News

• Internationally acclaimed conductor Rafael Payare is the San Diego Symphony’s new music director. (Union-Tribune)

Rafael Payare San Diego Symphony
Rafael Payare is the new music director for the San Diego Symphony. / Photo courtesy of the San Diego Symphony

• Some of the same pro-immigration light graffiti that was projected onto the border wall prototypes by artists and activists last year was recently projected onto the federal courthouse and a nearby building where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices are located.

• The San Diego Natural History Museum’s artist-in-residence program continues with Larry and Debby Kline, a local arts duo also currently serving as the artists in residence at UC San Diego’s School of Medicine.

• Speaking of the Nat, science-types from around the world will convene there for the State of Biodiversity Symposium on Feb. 20.

• Melissa Inez Walker and her husband Sam Pulvers are the creative force behind Distinction Gallery and ArtHatch, a gallery and arts nonprofit based in Escondido. Walker announced that Pulvers recently passed away from an aggressive and rare form of cancer. She’s planning a celebration of his life on March 18.

• The AjA Project, an arts nonprofit that works with underserved youth and communities, has a new executive director

• The winners of the Craig Noel Awards have been announced, honoring the best of the best in local theater production.

• Artist Christoph Büchel is plowing forward with his proposal to have the border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa designated as national monument. Some people think it’s a dumb idea and others think the proposal is outright offensive. (Los Angeles Times, Hyperallergic)

• I really dig KPBS arts calendar editor Nina Garin’s mini theater reviews in the weekly arts newsletter.

• The San Diego Museum of Art acquired two new paintings, one by a German Renaissance artist and one by 19th Century American artist John Singer Sargent. (Times of San Diego)

Architect Tony Garcia, of San Diego’s Asquared Studios, is one of this year’s winners of the American Institute of Architect’s “Young Architects Awards.” (Bustler)

• Don’t miss the opening this week of “By(e) Default,” an exhibition curated by artist Andrea Chung that features the work of five contemporary artists and three poets and explores issues of white privilege, racial coding, police brutality and more. Chung was recently named one of CityBeat’s “Best People.”

• San Diego State University’s downtown gallery has a big show opening this week.

• The city celebrated the opening of a new fire station in City Heights. While most fire stations in the city include public art because of a policy requiring it, this new city building has none. That’s because back in 2011, former Mayor Jerry Sanders temporarily suspended the public art policy, and San Diegans are only just now seeing the effects of that decision.

Jazz trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos has teamed up with San Diego Ballet artistic director Javier Velasco for a jazzy new performance. (Union-Tribune)

• The annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival is in full swing. (Union-Tribune)

• Revisit some of the city’s good and bad design decisions and policies in a talk with urban planner Vicki Estrada.

Ten local arts nonprofits were among those recently awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA, by the way, is not yet safe from President Donald Trump, who’s called for drastically reducing its budget. (Union-Tribune, Washington Post)

• If you’ve never made it out to Palomar College’s Boehm Gallery, now is the time. The 2018 “Ceramics Biennial” is currently on view alongside a solo exhibition for Alison Petty Ragguett. Pictures of the work are stunning.

• City Height’s Little Saigon District is home to a new piece of public art. (ThereSanDiego)

• This local group turns lucha libre-style Mexican wrestling into performance art.

An art show in Barrio Logan on Friday will feature art by young immigrants brought to the United States as children. (Union-Tribune)

• The Port of San Diego is still activating the waterfront with arts and culture performances. Check out a free circus event happening Saturday.

Food, Cannabis, Beer and Booze News

• By now you’ve likely seen the video of Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch explaining a lawsuit his craft beer company filed against a giant brewing conglomerate. VOSD contributor David Lizerbram explains why he thinks Stone has a good trademark infringement case against the company that owns Keystone.

Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch / Photo by Sam Hodgson
Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch / Photo by Sam Hodgson

• The San Diego City Council makes it easier for more small businesses to compost their food waste and help haul compost. I wrote about the issue last year.

“Dockside Dinner” is a quarterly event at Ironside that introduces folks to local fisherman. (Reader)

• This foodie event features a lineup of talented local chefs.

• The Book Catapult, a new bookstore in South Park, wants to serve you coffee with a side of literary conversation.

• Get yourself a $2 taco at one of these restaurants participating in CityBeat’s TacoMania event.

Maybe Sam Zien, aka “Sam the Cooking Guy,” can stop hosting all the events and galas in town now that he’s opening his own restaurant. (Note to event organizers: Instead of asking San Diego Magazine’s Troy Johnson to take Sam’s place, how about getting some women or people of color to host your big event next time?)

• This food event series serves up a side of live music.

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at with arts and culture news and tips. 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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