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James Chute Is Bullish On San Diego Arts Scene

Photo credit: San Diego Union-Tribune

James Chute

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James Chute says he will miss it — the night-after-night of concert-going, the arts openings, the dance watching, the comparing, evaluating, praising and, occasionally, ho-humming.

And it is fairly certain that San Diego's arts institutions will miss him and his irreplaceable years of experience, too.

After 25 years of writing about music and art in San Diego, James Chute has left The San Diego Union-Tribune.

In that time, Chute saw both the San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Opera teeter on the brink of failure. He watched and wrote while the promising Orchestra Nova actually did fall over the cliff.

But as he sees it, San Diego's arts are at a different kind of brink today. The symphony is stable, he said, with an "excellent" management team and board of directors. The opera's new director seems to be doing the right things to gain new audiences and new momentum, he said. And the La Jolla Music Society is in the midst of building a permanent home.

Chute is just as optimistic about the visual arts, including the new director of the San Diego Museum of Art, the expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art and the stability of both the Mingei and Museum of Photographic Arts.

Another thing has changed during Chute's 25-year career: the job itself.

"Literally the day I started they were pulling the linotype machines out of the basement. The industry was changing," Chute said on KPBS Midday Edition Thursday. "In the early days, you did see yourself on a pedestal (as a critic). But now its more a collaboration. We are still journalists, and if there's a mess we have to report on it. But I was reliant on retweets from the symphony, from UCSD to show my editors that people were reading.

"But it still means you have to write what you think, and I always think if I write a bad review I've miscalculated," Chute continued. "I'm not looking for bad art. I'm looking for transforming experiences."

Chute said he plans to "go a little bit deeper" now that he doesn't have daily deadlines. He said he'll read more, write scholarly articles and research the arts.


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