If you haven’t experienced ArtPower yet, February would be a fine time to start. What is ArtPower? It’s a program at UCSD designed to pump up cultural life on campus and in the community by presenting exciting performances from around the world. Innovative dance companies and hip combos of classical, jazz, and roots musicians are the norm here, and there are many opportunities to interact with the artists at intermissions.
“We bring artists and audiences together to create, participate, energize and celebrate,” said Martin Wollesen, artistic director of ArtPower.
February’s lineup is something worth celebrating. Along with a return visit from AP regulars, the renowned Emerson String Quartet (Feb. 10 at Prebys Concert Hall), there are a half-dozen special events that sound very intriguing.
• First up (Feb. 7 at The Loft), and most unusual, is The Animal Cracker Conspiracy, which calls itself a “contemporary hybrid puppet company.” They are presenting “The Collector,” a mysterious tale set in an altered reality, which combines film, tabletop puppets, a toy theater, and live quadraphonic sound by composer Margaret Noble. The Conspiracy is actually a pair of local puppeteer/artists, Bridget Rountree and Iain Gunn, who have been working on “The Collector” for more than three years, and saw it win three awards at the San Francisco Fringe Festival, including Best of Fringe. “We’ve created a compelling new way of storytelling,” Gunn said. “You’ve probably never seen anything like it before.”
• Simon Shaheen (Feb. 8 at Price Center East Ballroom) is an internationally acclaimed performer/composer of Arab-fusion music, a virtuoso on both oud and violin. Born in Palestine and based in New York City, he mixes Middle Eastern, Latin American, and other global influences with a touch of post-modern jazz, and will be appearing here — in conversation and performance — with his quintet.
• Ethiopian-born Meklit Hadero (Feb. 20 and 21 at The Loft) makes her home in San Francisco, and her soulful voice blends East and West Coast jazz, folk, and art rock with a sure connection to her African roots.
• Sybarite5 (Feb. 22, The Loft) are a quintet of classical string players who like to combine Stravinsky and Dvorak with Radiohead and Led Zeppelin.
• Then there’s a Foovie: a Mexican movie, “Canela” (Cinnamon), preceded by a dinner featuring related cuisine. (Feb. 27 at The Loft). It’s a film about a young girl, her grandmother, and their shared love of cooking, and the dinner includes tamales, chicken in molé negro, and Mexican chocolate cake topped with cinnamon whipped cream.
• Closing out the month is Ballet X (Feb. 28 at Mandeville Auditorium), an adventurous Philadelphia dance company presenting a trio of pieces by three daring young choreographers.
Try Goldstar online for discount tickets to some of these ArtPowerful performances.
If you go
Feb. 7: Animal Cracker Conspiracy, 8 p.m. The Loft. $15-$18.
Feb. 8: Simon Shaheen, 8 p.m. Price Center East Ballroom, $29-$34. Pre-performance conversation 6:45 p.m. and after-party at The Loft.