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An activist group is working to build a sculpture on a hilltop close to the border fence in San Ysidro that could serve as a welcome sign for immigrants.
The plan is to light the artwork up at night, and make it 40 feet tall so it’s visible to immigrants and refugees waiting in Tijuana to cross the border into the United States. The sculpture is meant to counter anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The Welcome the Stranger project, planned for the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in San Ysidro, is the brainchild of the San Diego Organizing Project, a nonprofit made up of local faith leaders and residents. The group has raised $1 million for the project and is working to raise $1 million more for both the artwork and a public plaza at its base.
Local artist Jim Bliesner came up with the design, which is an interpretation of the Virgin Mary as the Statue of Liberty. He said the idea was hatched through several design workshops with members of the Mt. Carmel church’s congregation and residents from the surrounding community.
“This project has involved engaging with people all the way from the beginning to the end,” Bliesner said. “The subject is a very emotional one, so I thought it would be a good idea to design a process geared toward allowing people to express their emotions. The design of the artwork comes from that listening process. People are the medium as much as the metal.”
Welcome the Stranger will be officially launched at a public event at the church Friday, when community members will write the names of loved ones who’ve been impacted by immigration policy on dozens of colorful ribbons that they’ll tie to a fence.
Bliesner, an artist who has a history of creating public artwork in areas close to the U.S.-Mexico border, said he thinks of the sculpture as a memorial to the struggle of migrants all over the world. He also said the piece is meant to remind viewers of immigrants’ humanity.
“I want it to make people step back and recognize that these are human beings,” he said. “These are babies, mothers, sister, brothers, aunts. We need to be cognizant that this is human suffering. I hope the sculpture can become a catalyst for helping to change the narrative on the border.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
San Diego’s Urban Dance Scene on the Brink
An old warehouse in Grant Hill has been converted into a performance art venue.
Inside the new venue is a must-see show called “Beyond Babel,” a dance performance I told you about back in July.
I saw the show Sunday, and left in awe of the incredible effort dancers and choreographers Mari and Keone Madrid put into every detail of the piece – from the hand-crocheted set design to the stage that literally moves back and forth so the audience can zoom in on intimate moments.
The narrative dance performance touches on love, loss and violence. The tale is told in the Madrids’ unique style of dance that transcends traditional categories. The Carlsbad couple is influenced by hip-hop dance, but they incorporate elements from contemporary dance, poppin’ and lockin’ (an old-school funk dance that involves holding a move for a few seconds before moving on) and even some hand gestures found in classical Indian dance. The music they use in the show ranges from hip-hop to modern folk.
“Beyond Babel” could put San Diego on the map when it comes to urban dance – it’s that good.
The show opened last month and several performances have sold out. The Madrids told me in July that if ticket sales go well, they’ll consider keeping the new performance venue they built open, and possibly invite other people to stage shows there, too.
Poems in the Sky, Analyzing Arts Funding and More News for the Culture Crowd
- The Spreckels Organ is temporarily out of order. The Spreckels Organ Society said on Facebook that “key component has broken.” Instead of the weekly free concerts, there will be “show and tell” presentations, and concerts are expected to start again on Oct. 14.
- Did you see airplanes writing words in the sky over the weekend? That was a re-staging of artist David Antin’s “Sky Poems” project. The event was a collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum.
- Speaking of Antin, the UC San Diego department of visual arts named artist Heejung Shin the winner of the school’s inaugural David Antin Prize.
- The city funds arts organizations through a few different programs. As part of a story I’m working on, I looked at the city’s biggest funding program and categorized what genres of art are getting the most financial support. You can see the results here. Email me with questions or comments about how the city funds cultural nonprofits.
- Lia Halloran is the artist in residence at Lux Art Institute. The Union-Tribune explains how her new series explores the contributions of women in astronomy.
- There is a growing number of murals on walls of buildings in City Heights. (Cool San Diego Sights)
- Here’s the story behind a dinosaur sculpture that mysteriously popped up in La Mesa. (La Mesa Courier)
- This weekend in Logan Heights, border artists Einar and Jamex de la Torre will host a glass-art demonstration as part of a series of workshops organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
- The annual Orchids & Onions award show is happening this week. The event awards and shames the best and worst of San Diego’s built environment. Here is a list of the projects up for awards. Hillcrest’s new fire station is up for both an orchid and an onion.
- Ocean Discovery Institute is celebrating the grand opening of its Living Lab in City Heights this weekend.
- The first piece of public art in the city of Encinitas’ new sculpture program has been installed.
- San Diego Symphony’s month-long festival in January is packed with “an unusually eclectic lineup of performers,” says the Union-Tribune.
- Kim Duclo, a park ranger in Balboa Park, is out with a new children’s book. Kelly Bennett profiled “Ranger Kim” back in 2012.
- Halloween is in the air, which means gory art exhibitions abound this month. The first one to come across my radar: an annual show at a tattoo shop in South Park in which artists paint meat cleavers.
- Film festivals also abound in fall. (KPBS)
- Don’t be alarmed next time you go to Balboa Park and see that the Mingei International Museum is closed. It’s undergoing a big renovation, and hosting events elsewhere until it reopens. This Friday, the Mingei cafe and shop will open its temporary location inside the Dick Laub NTC Command Center at Arts District Liberty Station.
- The Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park just opened a big exhibition featuring the work of world-famous photographer Irving Penn.
The Kinsee Report: Here’s Where I Want to Be This Week
- What I’ll actually be doing on Saturday is working at Politifest, Voice of San Diego’s all-day political affairs summit. But on Sunday, I refuse to miss Trolley Dances, San Diego Dance Theater’s annual event featuring a collection of short, site-specific dance pieces at interesting locations along the trolley line.
- The San Diego Maker Faire is happening this weekend. I love seeing all the robots, drones and other cool things creative people are making these days.
- A friend of mine says the new weekly Lane Field Park Market is awesome. The new open-air food market happens Sundays at Lane Field Park at 1009 N Harbor Dr. downtown and includes food, drinks, art and crafts by lots of local vendors.
Food, Cannabis, Beer and Booze News
- The foodie world is buzzing about the Valle Food & Wine Festival, which returns for its second year this weekend. (Forbes)
- My father-in-law is a big fan of Chef John’s Fish & Chips in Lemon Grove. Now the Reader’s food critic is saying the mom and pop shop’s fried fish “defied expectations.”
- Food halls are trending. Here’s a roundup of local food halls and ones that will open soon in the region. Tequila-centric bars and eateries are also on the rise. (Union-Tribune)