Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Now Accepting Submissions

At tonight's Tri Club meeting, I sat by ex-Prez Brian. Before things got started, Brian let me in on a idea that he thought we should take on.

Taking a cue from Tiger Woods, we'll edit a book called Men and Their Messes. It will be a compilation of stories that ordinary people submit about themselves or someone they know, as long as the person's of the male persuasion, and as long as they've gotten themselves into a sh*tload of trouble.

And because Brian's more than just an idea man, he's got a plan, too. We'll create a website with a form that people can use to submit their story directly to us. We'll compile the best ones, do a little editing and--badda-bing, badda boom (thank you, Urban Dictionary, for the spell-check)--we'll have a book. Simple, right? Until the website, www.myegoruinedmylife.com, is up and running, you can send your tales of self-inflicted woe directly to me.

(Meb gets interviewed by Bob Babbitt.)

After cementing our plan and creating an action-item list, Meb Keflezighi was welcomed as the meeting's guest speaker. Before Keflezighi became the first American to win the New York City Marathon last month since Alberto Salazar in 1982, he was an Eritrean immigrant who took ESL classes at Jefferson Elementary in North Park. After that, he became a cross-country runner by trying out for his junior high team with a mile time of 5:20. And then he became an all-American runner at UCLA. And then at the 2004 Olympics, he became the first American to medal since Frank Shorter in 1972. Keflezighi is a man who has most certainly not made a mess.

(Meb's brother, Merhawi, videoing.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

More than Auto Manuals

I first met Mark-Elliot Lugo, Curator of the San Diego Public Library’s Visual Arts Program, in August while on my whirlwind thirty-six-in-thirty-six tour. It was day twelve, and I had barely entered the gallery when Lugo emerged from his office and welcomed me. He didn’t know who I was or why I was there—or that I’d post a review of the Pacific Beach/Taylor branch later that day on this blog—but generously gave me an overview of the gallery’s then-current exhibition. I have to assume he’s this welcoming and helpful to everyone who enters the gallery.

Last week, Lugo was kind enough to meet and talk with me again at the PB branch.

The job of curator seems a perfect fit for Lugo, but it wasn’t a job vacancy that he applied for. As a San Diego librarian, Lugo had watched the PB library being built in 1997 and thought it looked more like an art museum than a place simply for books. Lugo got the go-ahead to curate an art exhibition to mark the branch’s opening, and the program grew from there into something permanent, and unprecedented in our nation’s library systems. Initially, Lugo’s biggest fear was that the art wouldn’t be worthy of its exhibition space. “Really bad art could ruin this building,” he says.

The inaugural exhibition featured work by Italo Scanga, a prolific artist who taught at my alma mater and who also, incidentally, attended my husband’s high school. Scanga died in 2001.

After 150 shows, Lugo’s fear of subpar art has gone unrealized. The program focuses on mid-career San Diego artists; Lugo has little desire in finding a young artist and giving them a platform that they perhaps have not yet earned. Instead, Lugo has exhibited artists like Joyce Cutler Shaw, UCSD Medical School’s Artist-in-Residence; and Harold Cohen, an artist who creates work with a self-designed computer program that seeks to capture a person’s creative instinct.

Lugo has also shown artists who’ve worked most of their life with little or no attention, and who haven’t sold a painting in years. When Lugo tells such an artist that they’re going to have a solo show, and that they should begin working on a body of work for the exhibition, he sees, “In despair, a renewed sense of vitality.” Some artists, he says, will sell more work through their one library solo show than in the rest of their life.

San Diego taxpayers will be happy to know the Visual Arts Program is self-sustaining. Art from each exhibition is available for purchase, and the library takes a percentage of each sale.

The exhibitions have garnered attention from the art world outside of San Diego. A few weeks ago, Janet Koplos, Guest Editor of American Craft magazine, visited the gallery unannounced while in town for a museum talk. After viewing the Jeff Irwin exhibition, she asked Leah Ollman, a nationally known art critic, to write an article on the show. It will be the Visual Arts Program’s first national review.

Not only does the Visual Arts Program give artists a platform to show their work, but it exposes San Diegans to really innovative art—people who, in Lugo’s words, may “just be coming in for an auto manual.”

The gallery’s current exhibition of Beth King’s work runs through February 15, 2010.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Afternoon Reading

"Putting the Heart Before the Course"

From this month's Smithsonian, a Q&A with artist William T. Wiley:

Q: Some critics don't take your work seriously because of its playfulness. What do you say to them?

A: They're too serious. To be stuck on this planet without humor wouldn't be much fun. Those critics should take a cue from Arthur Schopenhauer, who believed that humor is our only divine trait.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lean Times

Everyone's a critic, especially when it comes to politicians. And while I, too, enjoy taking jabs at elected officials, I must commend our Mayor on his revised budget. The city's $179M shortfall is unprecedented, and cuts have to be made. As everyone knows I'm a library groupie, and am always interested in how the city's finances will impact the thirty-six locales. Last week, Mayor Sanders proposed pairing up some libraries and having them open on alternate days. Which I thought was pretty creative. Today, a revised budget was unveiled, and instead of closing some branches for full days, hours will be reduced at all branches to thirty-six per week. Of course this doesn't make me happy, but it seems like an equitable way to save money and minimally impact the system. Last year's proposal to close some branches was extremely unpopular.

The budget crisis will also affect the library system by changing the overdue fine collection process from three US mail letters to one before sending the library user's account to collection. I wonder how many overdue books it would take to reap $179M in fines?