UCSD’s Loft brings ArtPower to the people

The hottest spot for music and mingling these days is The Loft, UCSD’s sleek 150-seat performance lounge that lives up to its promo as a social crossroads where emerging art and pop culture collide.

They say “it’s all happening at The Loft,” and it is. The past few weeks featured a New York indie-pop group, a trio of Israeli girl singers, an L.A. noise-rock band, a mountain folk duo from North Carolina, and the Portland Cello Project, classically trained musicians who play everything from Manuel De Falla to the Super Mario Brothers theme song.

Besides music, there are readings, movies, improv comedy, and with the recent opening of the in-house Zanzibar, a tasty menu of pre-and post-show drinks and eats.

The man behind the venue is Marty Wollesen, director of the University Events Office, who powered up UCSD’s cultural programming six years ago by doing some “refreshing and rebranding” and creating ArtPower.

At the time, the main performance venue was 780-seat Mandeville Auditorium, but Wollesen was already thinking of a more intimate space where artists and audiences could interact.

“I was interested in expanding, developing and nurturing young audiences who tend to shy away from conventional performance venues and conventional performers,” he said.

Since its opening in late 2008, The Loft has presented what Wollesen called “exceptional musicians who know no real boundaries, and performances that grab you and won’t let go.”

The space was an instant success, with audiences as eclectic as the performers.

“People tend to think ‘Oh, it’s at the university, it’s not for me,’ ” said Wollesen. “But The Loft really is for all the community. And parking is easy, the Gilman parking structure is just a block away.”

Progressive jazz fans can catch Mauger at The Loft tonight. The trio combines local bass virtuoso/UCSD music prof Mark Dresser with East Coast drummer Gerry Hemmingway and Indian-American saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, recently named Rising Star artist of 2009 in the Downbeat Critics Poll.

If you can’t make Mauger, how about Scottish indie-rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks (Feb. 24) or Malaysian singer/songwriter sensation Zee Avi (Feb. 28)? You gotta love those names and possibilities!

And coming March 11 is a Foovie — that’s food + a movie, with live music too. “Estomago: A Gastronomic Story” is a Brazilian award-winner about a prisoner who works his way up the food chain with his talent for cooking. Writer/director Marcos Jorge studied cinema in Italy, so pre-film dinner will be Brazilian/Italian, while the music from Scott Paulson, best known for his Teeny Tiny Orchestra, will be tangos played on such diverse instruments as harp, guitarron, theremin, and “ritual percussion novelties.”

For more about upcoming shows, check the ArtPower Web site. And check the walls inside The Loft for the super-cool DNA Art installation, starting Feb. 19.

If you like what you see and hear, remember that these days, art is fleeting, and funding is fast going dry. Consider becoming an ArtPower donor and helping to keep this exciting programming alive.

See you at the Loft!


  • Information and tickets:; (858) 534-TIX
  • Donations: (858) 534-7657