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ArtPower season at UC San Diego to feature virtual events in the fall, then go live again in 2021

The Rosanna Gamson World Wide dance troupe will make its ArtPower debut at UC San Diego in January.
The Rosanna Gamson World Wide dance troupe will make its ArtPower debut at UC San Diego in January with two performances.
(Courtesy)

Coronavirus pandemic has required some major adaptations for the eclectic, forward-looking series.

As a certified scuba diver, UC San Diego ArtPower Executive Director Jordan Peimer is used to navigating through shifting currents. But because of the unpredictable waves caused by the coronavirus pandemic, he will be exploring uncharted waters when the 2020-21 ArtPower season gets under way in October.

The 17-year-old series’ diverse array of arresting music, dance and special events will feature no fewer than 14 debut performances among its 27 offerings. The lineup ranges from noted jazz singer Gretchen Parlato and Israeli-born hip-hop dance innovator Ephrat Asherie to top French vocal and percussion sextet San Salvador and author/satirist David Sedaris, who will be making his 11th ArtPower appearance.

But nearly everything else will be different about the upcoming season.

For the first time in ArtPower’s history, the opening portion of the series — 10 events in all — will be entirely virtual, before live performances are scheduled to resume in January. This move reflects ongoing health concerns and the fact that it is still unclear if the UCSD campus will be open to some or all students, or the public, in the fall.

“I’ve always only programmed live performances, so this is something completely new for us,” Peimer said.

“Nobody wants to enjoy a live event more than I do. But I think it is basically irresponsible, at this point, to bring together an audience within a confined space. The university has set the rule that there are no gatherings allowed (on campus) of more than 50 people, and I completely understand the logic of that. We want to the seek the best way to keep the the students, artists and audiences safe. It makes no sense to put people in harm’s way (with in-person events this fall).”

When ArtPower’s live performances resume in January, assuming state health regulations next year permit them to, all tickets will be general admission and no reserved seating will be available. This change is being implemented specifically to allow for the social distancing regulations Peimer cites, which could change several times between now and then.

And, for the first time, tickets will become available for purchase in three increments, with October through December performances going on sale Aug. 1, January through March performances on Nov. 1, and April and May performances on Feb. 2. Refunds and exchanges will be available for any and all performances that are canceled or postponed because of the pandemic.

“This will allow us to have more flexibility and more time to react to any new government health policies that might come,” said Joanna Christian, ArtPower associate director of marketing and communications. “And it will help us if we have to change the seating or the number of attendees at concerts held in [the 220-capacity] The Loft.”

Jazz veteran Sean Jones will perform a musical homage to bebop trumpet giant Dizzy Gillespie.
Jazz veteran Sean Jones will perform a musical homage to bebop trumpet giant Dizzy Gillespie as part of the 2020-21 ArtPower season.
(Courtesy)

Virtual and literal twists

In another new twist, the 10 virtual events that will open the ArtPower season — including a newly commissioned dance work-in-progress by Asherie — will be free for UCSD students, faculty and staff, and cost just $10 each for the general public.

The live programming will begin with a pair of January dance performances by Rosanna Gamson World Wide. These will be followed by such varied artists as Spain’s Castalian String Quartet, Japanese harpsichordist (and UCSD alum) Takae Ohnishi, Cuban jazz piano virtuoso Harold López-Nussa and Missouri blues, gospel and soul champions Rev. Sekou and The Freedom Fighters.

The season will include a number of tributes. These include: Sean Jones’ April 15 “Dizzy Spellz,” which will salute bebop trumpet giant Dizzy Gillespie and features tap dancer, flutist and singer Brinae Ali; the Feb. 17 “True Blues” concert, a centuries-spanning celebration by guitarist/singer Corey Harris and violinist/singer/accordionist Cedric Watson; and the April 19 and 30 “Beethoven Cycle” concerts by the Ariel Quartet, which was formed in Jerusalem in 2000.

The new season’s budget is $1 million, Peimer said, down from $1.2 million for the 2019-20 season. The move to virtual performances for the start of the upcoming season will enable ArtPower to save money on airfares, hotel accommodations and related expenses.

That should prove helpful, since the UCSD campus shut down because in early March because of the pandemic, which led to the cancellation of ArtPower’s March through May concerts.

“We refunded nearly $70,000 in tickets, and we paid out about $35,000 in artist fees, so we ended our 2019-20 season with an unplanned deficit,” Peimer said. “So I’ve been very conservative in how I budgeted for the coming year and am very hopeful we’ll be able to erase the debt from our 2019-20 season.

“Certainly, the financial considerations are very real. But I’m most concerned about the health considerations. If we’re in a situation where we have to have socially distanced audiences, it will mean we’ll have to do an increased level of fundraising. And some (of our donors) have said: ‘Well, there are about 100 of us who would be willing to pay double or triple the usual ticket price, if you raise them.’

“But ArtPower’s philosophy has always been that our primary audience is our students at UCSD, not the wealthy people who attend and so generously help support our programming.”

The new season was about 90 percent booked by March. The swift spread of the coronavirus prompted some major adjustments by Peimer and ArtPower Artistic Director Molly Clark, who is now on maternity leave.

They had to shift a good number of the new season’s upcoming fall events to the spring and some to the 2021-22 season, while rebooking the fall season based on which performers would — and would not — be best suited for virtual presentations.

Peimer chuckled when asked if all of the scheduling and rescheduling inspired him to utter any profanities along the way.

“I’d say it inspired a f--- load!” he replied, then grew more serious.

“I wasn’t angry so much as really sad,” Peimer said. “Because I felt we had a great season ahead of us. And we are still going to have a great season. It just will be a different season than we had planned originally.”

2020-21 ArtPower season

When: Oct. 15 to May 21

Where: Unless otherwise indicated, all events take place at venues on the UC San Diego campus, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, with a start time of 8 p.m.

Tickets: On-sale dates: Aug. 3 for virtual events in October, November and December; Nov. 2 for live events in January, February and March; and Feb.1 for live events in April and May. The 10 virtual events are free for UCSD students, faculty and staff.

Phone: (858) 534-8497

Online: artpower.ucsd.edu

Virtual events

Oct. 15 (time TBA): Kristina Wong for Public Office. $10.

Date and time TBA: Emily Steel: “19 Weeks.” $10.

Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.: Rev. Sekou: “The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters,” $10.

Oct. 27 at 7 pm: Ephrat Asherie online film screening No. 1, with special guest. $10.

Nov. 5 at 7 pm: Ephrat Asherie online film screening No. 2, with special guest. $10.

Nov. 10 at 7 p.m.: Dance Camera West: Selected winners from the 2020 Dance Film Festival. $10.

Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.: ArtTalk with Ephrat Asherie. Virtual Event. $10.

Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.: Dahlak Brathwaite: “Adapting History.” $10.

Nov. 19 at 7 pm: Ephrat Asherie: “UnderScored” (work in progress). $10.

Dec. 4 at 7 p.m.: Ariel Quartet: Celebrating Beethoven’s 250th Birthday. Virtual Event. Free, with registration.

Live events

Jan. 21 and Jan 22: Rosanna Gamson/World Wide, “Sugar Houses,” Mandeville Auditorium Stage, UC San Diego. General admission: $35

Jan. 29: Viano String Quartet, Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, UC San Diego. General admission: $60.

Feb. 3: Dom Flemons, “The American Songster,” The Loft @ UC San Diego. General admission: $39.

Feb. 17: Corey Harris & Cedric Watson, “True Blues,” The Loft @ UC San Diego. General admission: $39.

Feb. 23: Harold López-Nussa, The Loft @ UC San Diego. General admission: $39.

March 3: Gretchen Parlato, The Loft @ UC San Diego. General admission: $39.

Mar. 5: Castalian String Quartet, Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, UC San Diego. General admission: $60.

April 1: Joel Ross “Good Vibes,”’ The Loft @ UC San Diego. General admission: $39.

April 15: Sean Jones’ “Dizzy Spellz,” The Loft @ UC San Diego. General admission: $39.

April 16: San Salvador, Price Center East Ballroom, UC San Diego. General admission: $28.

April 22: A.I.M., “An Untitled Love,” Balboa Theatre, downtown. General admission: $51.

April 29: Ariel Quartet, “Beethoven Cycle, Part 3,” Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, UC San Diego. General admission: $60.

April 30: Ariel Quartet, “Beethoven Cycle, Part 4,” Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, UC San Diego. General admission: $60.

May 4: Rev. Sekou and The Freedom Fighters, Price Center East Ballroom, UC San Diego. General admission: $39.

May 12: An Evening With David Sedaris, Balboa Theatre, downtown. General admission (within different seating sections): $46–$62.

May 14: Aynur, Price Center East Ballroom, UC San Diego. General admission: $28.

May 21: Takae Ohnishi & Friends, Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, UC San Diego. General admission: $28. ◆