Artful Beginnings


La Jolla cultural organizations gear up for 2012

By Pat Sherman

From world-class orchestral performances to edgy, experimental theater and a smorgasbord of music, art and literature, La Jolla’s cultural organizations have great things in store for patrons and visitors. Read on and discover what La Jolla’s cultural crème de la crème have planned for 2012.

La Jolla Playhouse

La Jolla Playhouse kicks off its 2012-2013 season in the driver’s seat with “The Car Plays: San Diego,” a series of 10-minute plays performed inside automobiles, Feb. 23-

March 4. Held in the playhouse parking lot, two-person audiences will move from vehicle to vehicle, watching as dramas and comedies unfold around them.

Also new for 2012 is a series of intimate cabaret performances in the Potiker Theatre, featuring three-night runs by outrageous comedienne and songstress Sandra Bernhard (March 14-17) and Chicago’s legendary Second City improvisational comedy troupe (March 21-24).

“We’re going to convert the Potiker into like a speakeasy,” said Playhouse managing director Michael Rosenberg. “We’ll have booths and tables and chairs and you’ll be able to order food and have some adult beverages.

“In true Playhouse fashion there’s some new stuff, some edgy stuff, and some political stuff this season.”

The Playhouse’s regular stage season kicks off Jan. 27 with “American Night: The Ballad of Juan José,” Los Angeles-based Culture Clash’s politically-charged play about a man who falls asleep while studying for the history portion of his U.S. citizenship test.

“The play is really his dream, which becomes this mash-up of American history, Mexican history, what it means to be an American and what it means to be a man,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a lot of fun, but it will be controversial.”

Also on deck for 2012 will be a musical adaptation of the 1997 documentary, “Hands on a Hard Body,” with music by Trey Anastasio of the band Phish, and from June 19 to July 15 the Playhouse will feature a creative adaptation of the Greek epic, “The Iliad.”

The Playhouse maintains an annual budget of around $14 million through ticket sales, subscriptions, and individual and corporate donations, Rosenberg said.

In 2012, the organization will receive its third installment of a four-year, $900,000 grant. The Playhouse also receives $350,000 a year through the city’s transient occupancy tax on hotel rooms, and money from its annual gala fundraiser (to be held March 9 this year).

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MCASD, La Jolla

Following up on the most successful show in its history, “Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface” (which ends Jan. 22), the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla will feature a retrospective of prints by SDSU alumnus and National City native, John Baldessari.

The world-renowned conceptual artist was featured in a one-person retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City last year. His “brain cloud” mural graces a wall above the La Jolla Cove off Prospect Street.

“It’s great to have this famous son come back and show a good-size exhibition,” said the museum’s director and chief executive officer, Hugh Davies.

MCASD La Jolla will follow with an exhibition by Latino artist John Valadez, which highlights the realist painter and muralist’s flair for capturing gritty, urban scenes with traditional mediums.

“He works beautifully with pastel on paper, almost like an Old Master or an 18th century French artist,” Davies said.

Rounding out MCASD La Jolla’s 2012 season will be “Behold America! Art of the United States.” The collaborative exhibition with the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum will showcase 300 years of American art from the collections of all three museums.

The museum’s 492-seat Sherwood Auditorium will continue its concert and recital collaborations with the La Jolla Music Society.

“We also do lectures and film screenings and work with a lot of other organizations to make the museum more of a cultural center, rather than just a museum,” Davies said. “It’s a big part of our programming.”

The La Jolla branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego shares a roughly $7.4 million annual operating budget with its downtown sister space, splitting a pool of about $800,000 for exhibitions.

MCASD’s endowment generates about $2 million annually. The rest of the budget is funded by memberships, donations from MCASD La Jolla board of trustees and $350,000 in transient occupancy taxes from the city.

September’s annual fundraising gala netted $440,000 for the organization.

The museum’s biennial art auction and fundraiser will be May 30, with assistance from Christie’s auction house.

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Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

La Jolla’s oldest cultural institution, the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, will continue its lecture series, Write Out Loud, in which a theater troupe brings literature to life through dramatic readings.

This year, the Athenaeum will feature 17 jazz concerts in its 160-seat music room on Wall Street and at the Neurosciences Institute, as well as six chamber concerts and 30 free mini-concerts in the Athenaeum’s music room and at Lyceum Theatre in downtown San Diego.

Its jazz series kicks off Jan. 13 with the return of the Pilc/Moutin/Hoenig trio, featuring Jean-Michel Pilc on piano, Francois Moutin on bass and Ari Hoenig on drums. A performance by jazz vocalist Gretchen Parlato follows on Jan 20.

As part of the Athenaeum’s four-part summer concert series, celebrated San Diego pianist Gustavo Romero returns in July to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy.

The Athenaeum’s ongoing exhibitions, which showcase the works of local artists, will continue at three local galleries, including the Athenaeum’s University Heights-based School of the Arts, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

“We have something going on almost every day,” said the Athenaeum’s executive director, Erika Torri.

With an operating budget of about $1.5 million, The Athenaeum is one of only 16 remaining membership libraries in the country, housing roughly 17,000 artists books.

“We’re quite a historic dinosaur that probably shouldn’t exist anymore, but we are very proud of our heritage,” Torri said.

During the past few months, the Athenaeum received two large donations to its 20-year-old endowment, including $536,000 from the estate of author and longtime Athenaeum member Alice Goldfarb Marquis.

Other funds are received through membership dues, concerts, exhibitions, book sales and grants from the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. The Athenaeum’s annual gala is held in early September.

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La Jolla Art Association

The La Jolla Art Association will continue with its roster of classes, offering budding artists instruction on everything from calligraphy and portraiture to oil painting.

Classes are offered at low or no cost to members.

Association President Melinda Newman is eagerly awaiting the association’s two-week exhibit honoring longtime La Jolla resident and San Diego art instructor Perrietta Hester, at the end of January.

The association will feature three juried shows this year: black and white photography and plein air and watercolor painting.

Newman said the association plans to remain in its current La Jolla Shores space in 2012, though members are ultimately seeking a larger locale that would offer better foot traffic and enable them to schedule more classes.

“We’re 94 years old, so we ought to be planning something big for our 100th anniversary,” Newman said of the all-volunteer organization, which has an annual budget of between 30,000 and 50,000. “If I had a dream we would like some people to help us that have more business planning experience. We haven’t been good at looking at corporate gifts, but I think that would really help us grow.”

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La Jolla Riford Branch Library

Catherine Greene, branch manager of the The La Jolla Riford Library, is excited for 2012’s lineup of author appearances, including a visit by New York Times bestselling novelist Jodi Lynn Picoult (“House Rules” and “Lone Wolf”) on March 6; memoirist Patrick McMahon (“Becoming Patrick”) on March 14; and best-selling crime writer Caitlin Rother (“Poison Love” and “Naked Addition”) on Feb. 1.

The library will continue its monthly music theory classes and film screenings, to include “The Help,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Mao’s Last Dancer.”

Upcoming classes include creative writing, chair yoga, and ikebana, the Japanese art of floral arranging, as well as an array of programs for children.

Ninety percent of the free programs at the library are funded through the Friends of the La Jolla Library.

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La Jolla Music Society

The La Jolla Music Society is wrapping up its 2011-2012 season, including its Celebrity American Orchestra Series, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Feb. 19), the Cleveland Orchestra (April 20) and the New York Philharmonic (May 15) at Copley Symphony Hall.

The society’s annual WinterFest gala on March 30 will feature German chanteuse Ute Lempee and the Vogler Quartet, performing works by Édith Piaf, Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and Astor Piazzolla.

Details regarding the organization’s annual SummerFest series will be unveiled in the near future, according to the organization.

The society has an annual budget of more than $3 million, which is comprised of money from grants, government funding, corporate sponsorships and individual donations.

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