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to do illegal art installation
An interactive installation by an arts collective called Illegal Art. / Photo courtesy of Wonderspaces

When Wonderspaces popped up in a large white tent in Mission Valley last year, over 60,000 people went to see the installations and virtual reality films inside.

At the time, the plan was to pack up the show after its San Diego run and tour it from city to city, hopefully with those same massive crowds at every stop.

Despite the successful turnout in San Diego, though, the event’s founders have pivoted. Now the Wonderspaces team is working to sign leases on permanent locations in a few select cities across the country. The shows they create will then tour between those locales. They’re hoping San Diego becomes one of their long-term homes.

Wonderspaces cofounder Jason Shin said a few factors played into the change of plans. He said permanency will build deeper relationships with audiences and also help them hire and maintain a well-trained staff. Plus, they’ll no longer have to navigate permitting in various cities, or worry about putting climate-sensitive art inside stuffy tents.

“Our intention is to build permanent teams and to get really good at handling how to present, how to install and how to transport art,” he said. “What we saw, what we believe, is that we can do better.”

The move suggests the experimental pop-up project is morphing into a more traditional museum or gallery. But Shin said Wonderspaces will still be geared toward presenting eye-catching interactive or immersive art in a more casual, inviting way than traditional art institutions.

Shin said the inaccessibility of art is something that bugs him. He wants to continue to explore how to bridge the gap between what he calls “extraordinary art” and a much bigger audience than museums, galleries and art fairs are reaching. He thinks art experiences should be more fun, family-friendly and appealing to a much wider swath of people.

“Art is for everyone. And that is something I never understood about the art world – the way the lines seem to be drawn now, it’s not,” he said.

Shin and Wonderspaces cofounder Patrick Charles are two former Marines who admit to being art-world outsiders. Last year’s show in San Diego did draw some criticism from the art crowd. People complained that the show was circus-y and the artwork was simply taking advantage of Instagram culture – being used merely as a backdrop for cool photos.

Shin said he listened to that criticism. While they work on paving their path to permanency, Wonderspaces is opening another pop-up show called “With Creative License” from June 8 through August at the B Street Pier in San Diego. There will be times when the event will camera-free and staff will actively discourage visitors from taking photos so everyone can better enjoy the art.

“With Creative License” includes work by artists Toby Dye, Martin Messier, Carolin Wanitzek and others. The Port of San Diego public art team reached out to Wonderspaces and asked them to liven up the waterfront with a pop-up show, which is why Shin said yes to the one-off exhibition even though it doesn’t jibe with their new long-term strategy of mostly staging shows in their own spaces.

One thing the Wonderspaces team needs to continue to grapple with as it works toward opening art experiences to more people is how to simultaneously pay artists and rent at their new permanent spaces without charging ridiculously high admission fees. The pop-up show at the pier already costs $24 – that’s more than folks would pay for access to most museums.

“We’re still figuring things out,” Shin said. “We don’t want to wall off the art from anyone.”

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

The Annual James Hubbell Update, an Epic SDMA Exhibition and More Arts and Culture News

• Last week, Adams Avenue Book Store announced it would soon be closing for good. The Union-Tribune dug into the history of the store, which was once one of several bookstores located along the former “bookish boulevard” in Normal Heights, and explained why the store is being shuttered.

adams avenue book store
The staff of Adams Avenue Book Store / Photo by Brittani Santos-Hills

James T. Hubbell is as busy as ever. Every June, the public is invited to sign up for tours of the artist’s home and studios, which always triggers great updates and stories about the legendary local artist’s undertakings.

The mayor has proclaimed July 7 a day to be named in honor of San Diego artist and North Park gallery owner Patric Stillman.

• The NTC Foundation recently announced plans to invest nearly $60,000 to build out seven new micro studios for artists. The foundation said the move is meant to help counteract the loss of affordable art spaces in Barrio Logan, East Village and other gentrifying neighborhoods.

• The Escondido arts nonprofit A Ship in the Woods is gearing up for a big arts and music festival at Felicita Park on June 16 and 17. CityBeat profiled Chris Warren, a sound artist who’s created something unique for the event.

• The North County Arts Network is gearing up for a North County-wide effort to promote arts and culture in the region this fall.

• The San Diego Museum of Art is opening “Epic Tales From Ancient India,” an exhibition featuring more than 90 works from the museum’s renowned collection of Indian paintings. There is a lot of programming around the new show, including a symposium, an outdoor art party and more.

 The Fleet Science Center partnered with local artists who have produced art pieces that showcase the science taking place in six Barrio Logan businesses. The results will be unveiled at an event Thursday night.

Artist and designer James Hubbell opens the door to one of the buildings on his 40-acre property in Santa Ysabel. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

• Here’s a glimpse of “The Museum Of__,” a strange new project gallery owner Mark Quint is working on.

This local artist uses beach sand as her canvas.

• The date for the grand reopening of the Writerz Blok art park has been set. It’s happening from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 23.

• Lux Art Institute’s executive director and founder Reesey Shaw recently announced she is stepping down. CityBeat talked to a former Lux employee and a past resident artist there who said Shaw’s tenure wasn’t perfect.

On Friday, members of the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture will discuss priorities for the next funding cycle. The public can weigh in on how the city should fund arts and culture efforts.

The Kinsee Report: Here’s Where I Want to Be This Week

• Space 4 Art is one of the last vestiges of art in the East Village, but even it’s on its way out. The nonprofit bought land in Sherman Heights and is working on building its permanent home there by 2022. From 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, folks are invited to Space 4 Art’s Sherman Heights property to catch “Terra Infirma,” a multimedia production featuring live music, visual art and original choreography focused on the “overwhelming existential threats that human action and inaction pose to the environment and future life on planet Earth.”

Space 4 Art's East Village location / Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

• San Diego Festival of the Arts is this weekend at Waterfront Park. What’s not to like about the art, food and wine combo?

• Punch Bowl Social is a massive 23,500-square-foot restaurant, bar and entertainment venue opening in the East Village Saturday. Tickets to the opening are $20.

Food, Cannabis, Beer and Booze News

• The Reader lifts the curtain on the secondhand market for breweries that go out of business.

• Morgan Tenwick is the quality assurance manager at Modern Times Beer. Here’s what she does in that role. (West Coaster)

Modern Times Beer’s Lomaland Fermentorium tasting room in Point Loma. / Photo by Sam Hodgson
Modern Times Beer’s Lomaland Fermentorium tasting room in Point Loma. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

• As usual, here’s your weekly beer fest alert.

Kombucha die-hards take note: You can get a boozy version of the fermented tea in North Park now. (Eater)

• A festival celebrating all things avocado with live music, art, food and drinks is happening Saturday at Quartyard in East Village.

Kinsee Morlan

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

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