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A rendering of the Design Thinking Education Center of San Diego / Image courtesy of Urban Discovery Academy

A new hub for innovation and design is planned for East Village.

The community center, dubbed the Design Thinking Incubation Lab, will be built at the corner of Park and Russ Boulevard.

The project fits into the vision for the downtown neighborhood known as the IDEA District – a home for innovation, design, education and the arts. It’s planned as part of a new campus for Urban Discovery Academy, a charter school with locations in East Village and Little Italy. The school secured a 99-year lease on the property with the San Diego Community College District, and has plans to build a new K-8 and high school there, too.

Shawn T. Loescher, the CEO of Urban Discovery, said the expanded campus will help meet the growing demand for the school – there’s a long waitlist at every grade level – and the new community center will allow students to work alongside architects, college professors, designers, urbanists, makers and other people interested in a method of strategic problem-solving called “design thinking.”

Shawn T. Loescher is CEO of Urban Discovery Academy / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Loescher said the goal is to have students interacting with professionals to come up with actual prototypes and solutions for real-world problems. Everything is on the table, he said, from something as localized as figuring out better food waste management practices at the school to coming up with ways to make a dent in the city’s affordable housing crisis. It’s an ambitious plan, but one he hopes can be realized by partnering with the UC San Diego Design Lab and other leaders in the design-thinking realm.

“We believe this method of problem-solving has broader applications within urban settings,” Loescher said. “What has been lacking is a place where we can go and work on these things together with an education component to support it.”

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

Liberty Station Gives Piñata Pop-Up a Whack

Diana Benavidez grew up traversing the border between Chula Vista and Tijuana.

Colorful piñatas dangling from storefronts have always been part of the artist’s landscape. From an early age, she became fascinated with them, and quickly fell in love with making them herself.

“The process is very repetitive,” she said. “Cutting the tissue and pasting it onto the cardboard – I love doing it because I suffer from anxiety and the piñata-making process gives me a lot of peace.”

Artist Diana Benavidez medium of choice: piñatas. / Photo courtesy of Diana Benavidez

Benavidez now uses piñatas as her main medium for making art. She turns them into sculptures and installations that often comment on feminist and sociopolitical issues, and express her identity as a Mexican-American woman who grew up along the border.

One of her piñata installations will be on view from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, at POP:UP Liberty, a new weekly event at an open plaza located between the Barracks 17 and Barracks 19 buildings at Arts District Liberty Station. Organized by a group of artists with galleries and studios at the arts district, the new event will happen every Thursday evening and showcase the artists of Liberty Station alongside art, music and performances by creatives from across San Diego and Tijuana.

The event is an attempt to better reach the growing dinner crowd visiting the restaurants at Liberty Staion, and also lure more diverse crowds and artists to the arts district.

“This is my first time showing my work at Liberty Station,” Benavidez said. “I’m really excited about that.”

How An Oceanside Comedian Got Her Talent, Looking for Public Input for Art in Old Town and More News for the Culture Crowd

• Some of the world’s most prestigious architects have come out against the expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s La Jolla location. They don’t like the planned removal of some existing elements designed by the architecture firm Venturi Scott Brown. (Union-Tribune)

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s La Jolla campus / Photo by Kinsee Morlan
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s La Jolla campus / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

• The city of San Diego has hired artist Adam Frank to create a site-specific public artwork for Presidio Park. San Diegans are invited to share their knowledge about Presidio Park with the artist via an online survey.

• Oceanside comedian Vicki Barbolak is still in the running on this season of “American’s Got Talent.” The Union-Tribune talked to the single mom about some of the life experiences that have given her a sense of humor.

• Art of Élan, the chamber music nonprofit, announced the lineup of its new season. (Times of San Diego)

• A San Diego judge’s ruling has cleared the way for the proposed Plaza de Panama project in Balboa Park. (KPBS)

• I’m digging KPBS’s “Where I Come From” series that features people telling stories about their neighborhoods. The latest one features folks from the South Bay.

Artist Bhavna Mehta is looking for a new home for her “Leela” installation I wrote about in a past Culture Report. She’s hoping it can go in a public library or school.

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

• Longtime readers of the Culture Report know how big of a fan I am of Old Town. I know I’m not supposed to like it because of its tourist-trap rep, but I can’t help myself. This weekend, Old Town will host TwainFest, a free, family-friendly festival celebrating Mark Twain and the literature and culture of 19th century America. Speaking of festivals, I always enjoy the food, entertainment and bay views at Harborfest in Chula Vista, which is happening Aug. 18.

• Lucha Libre wrestling matches are fun to watch. There’s one happening in Chula Vista this week. I talked to one of the wrestlers who helps put on the matches in the South Bay in a podcast.

Food, Cannabis, Beer and Booze News

• CityBeat’s annual food issue is out and it includes adventures into raw veganism, the paleo diet and other healthy food choices.

• The New York Times says a new bakery in La Jolla signals “a new dawn for San Diego baking.”

• NBC 7 rounded up nine beers inspired by the local music scene.

It sounds like Third Avenue in Chula Vista is worth a visit if you’re into good food and beer. (Reader)

• San Diego Magazine checks in with Sam “the Cooking Guy” Zien. The chef is focusing on YouTube, not TV, and has opened a restaurant called Not Not Tacos.

• A restaurant in Point Loma is serving “farm-to-table cocktails.” (Fox 5)

• There can never be too many roundups of places to get good burritos. (Eater)

• A local surfer is out with a new cookbook.

• If you, like me, have dreamed of going to the Baja’s Valle Food & Wine Fest but have yet to make the drive, attending one of these weekly events in Bankers Hill featuring winemakers from Valle de Guadalupe might be what finally gets us into gear. (Union-Tribune)

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at with arts and culture news and tips, or submit your question about San Diego arts and culture here. Want to recommend the Culture Report to someone? Share this sign-up link. Subscribe to Voice of San Diego podcasts

Kinsee Morlan

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

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