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KPBS Midday Edition

2012: Top Arts Stories

The "Kissing Statue" with the head removed.
Angela Carone
The "Kissing Statue" with the head removed.
2012: Top Arts Stories
KPBS takes a look at the year's top arts and culture stories in San Diego. GUESTS:Angela Carone, KPBS Culture Lust Reporter Beth Accomando, KPBS Cinema Junkie Reporter

ALLISON ST JOHN: You are listening to Midday Edition. I am Allison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh. There were a number of newsworthy events in San Diego's cultural community this year stories and performing arts visual arts and of course and pop culture here with me today to remind us of the arts world and its ups and downs is your KPBS arts reporters Angela Carone, Angela thanks for being here ANGELA CARONE: Hi Allison ALLISON ST JOHN: And KPBS Cinema Junkie, Beth Accomando, Beth hello, BETH ACCOMANDO: Hi. ALLISON ST JOHN: Let's start with you, Angela, Orchestra Nova the was a sad state of the fair this year a lot of drama for a high-profile destroying to close its doors after 28 years. What happened. ANGELA CARONE: Orchestra Nova local musicians union renegotiated labor contracts and the tops basically came apart. They installed and basically earlier in the faulty they reached an impasse and after that after that the orchestra canceled the season obtain concerts per shortly after that there were a series of things that happens that set off a domino effect and artistic director and conductor Jung Ho-Pak then resigned suddenly. Your organization and canceled the entire season and just couple weeks ago they shut their doors and filed for bankruptcy. ALLISON ST JOHN: And the players had wanted to keep it going better with labor talks that failed why did it all go so badly? ANGELA CARONE: That's a great question. Orchestra nova continues to say was the impasse that cause them great financial problems and they could get past it. Jung Ho-Pak didn't say it way for it to resolution, the union said there was room for negotiation they were in fact willing to play some of the contrast concerts without a contract in place if they saw some good faith. There are obviously two sides to this story. I think what is really sad is that when Pak left, I think that the organization was hobbled and didn't see a way forward without his leadership and guidance because the two were so tied together and they did not see a way to keep going. ALLISON ST JOHN: Pak had another job to go to but the musicians how easy is it for them to find another career in music in San Diego or everywhere in the country? ANGELA CARONE: He was also the artistic director, this is artistic director and conductor at the Cape Cod Symphony so he did have another job for musicians it's very tough to find consistent work and that's one of the points of contention the labor talks that the musicians wanted a traditional contract that offered them a secure five concert series of employment. And that was as I said a bone of contention because Orchestra Nova wanted a different kind of contract. So as I spoke with musicians reporting on the story a lot of them talked about how difficult it wasn't having the secure base of at least five concerts gave them some security. They can play right actually the holiday season is a good time for them because they get to play a lot of the Nutcracker and a lot of holiday concerts so they could get some work now but it's going to be tough going forward. ALLISON ST JOHN: A bit of the blow for the classics in San Diego. The venerable La Jolla Playhouse also found itself in a controversy this year. Tell us about that. ANGELA CARONE: The La Jolla Playhouse staged a play called the Nightingale based on Hans Christian Anderson story and the story is set in China and involved in ancient Chinese emperor. Of the Playhouse cast the play with only two Asian-American actors. In a cast of 12. And this set off a firestorm actually the Asian-American community and the theater community and beyond even were frustrated with this and they sort of took to the blogs and social media and word of the casting spread. It is a sensitive issue because there was a study done recently. Looked at casting on Broadway over the last five years and Asian-Americans were only given 2% of those roles. So it is a sensitive issue. So would cause this kind of national controversy actually ALLISON ST JOHN: What did the creative team say about why they made those decisions about casting? ANGELA CARONE: Well the creative team had an idea about the play it was a musical that they would create a kind of missiles musicological fantastical landscape for this story. And so one of the things that they did to signal that was to cast it with a multiethnic cast. So for example the Emperor, the Chinese emperor retained the Chinese name was actually cast with a white man, and his mother was cast with an African-American woman. So in their mind they were hoping to signal this kind of mythicological landscape to the casting as well. Obviously didn't quite work. I mean, part of it was the set design, the names, all the kind of things that signaled Asian or Chinese were still very much in place and in some people's mind it didn't create this kind of mythicological fantastical setting ALLISON ST JOHN:So how did get resolved in the end? ANGELA CARONE: There was a forum held at the Playhouse that was very well attended people came from LA and other areas to talk about it and it was a long form that people were very honest about their feelings about this from both sides in the Playhouse ended up apologizing. One of the things they said this was part of the workshop that was page to stage that was the play was going to change over time they apologize for the decisions made here and my guess is they are now either going to cast it differently or change the setting and some of the other signals so much that a multiethnic cast will be more fitting for the story. ALLISON ST JOHN: So let's talk about something which we actually talked about last year as well the Kiss statue what made it even more controversial this year? ANGELA CARONE: Well the kids statuette a lot of fans and a lot of critics so it was always going to be controversial. But a group of the fans actually got together and decided they wanted a permanent version. The kiss statue that had been on the waterfront for the last six years was actually temporary sculpture on loan from the artists were Johnson's foundation. He was extended over and over again and after six years it was time for it to go. The group of fans and most of the Midway and other stakeholders to raise close to $1 million to put a permanent bronze version of the statuette the same site. And they succeeded. They raise the money. Of course the critics of the statue could always take solace in the fact that it would one day leave and now they do not have that any longer periods going to be here for a long time. ALLISON ST JOHN: The Port of San Diego decides what goes into the spot and they have a public community out of the committee feel about the permanent version of the statue? ANGELA CARONE: The Port had been criticized over the years for making poor public art choices so the board of commissioners really made a concerted effort along with support staff to staff the Public Art committee with more artists and curators and so forth in order to guide them well the new committee voted not to approve the permanent kiss statue but the board of commissioners did not heed the advisement and voted to allow it anyway so couple of the new committee members resigned in protest saying why would you go to the effort to staff a hugh quality art committee and not listen to us. ALLISON ST JOHN: A lot of kerfuffle about the statue when is the permanent version going to be installed? ANGELA CARONE: Starting January 1 they're going to start work on the site itself and install permanent lighting. The last statue wasn't actually lit. They're going to install some cherry blossom trees and benches and so forth and all of the work will take about six weeks and then they will be able to call New Jersey and say okay you can bring the statue over. They cannot do it before the site is ready because there is no place to store the statue. It is so big and it will be brought back from New Jersey on two flatbed trucks and of course they have to get the base just right because it's going to be a bronze statue and it will be there for a long time. ALLISON ST JOHN:And it will have to be permanent. Let's move on to pop culture in case that wasn't pop-culture. Beth, Comicon is the story that seems to go on dominating Comicon for the last few years so what stop news on whether San Diego can keep the largest pop convention. BETH ACCOMANDO: People are excited to extend the contract for one more year the big problem is they've outgrown the San Diego convention Center. They've had to cap attendance at around 125,000 which means a lot of people are not getting tickets they are selling out very quickly which is creating problems in terms of fans not being able to get in and they've been used to being always used to get in, so space has become the biggest issue and the spokesman David Glanzer talk a little bit about where they are at right now? NEW SPEAKER: Mayor Sanders and the city have been really instrumental in allowing us to expand outside of the convention center. As you know we've been limited in space last couple years and being able to using park space and etc. while is not optimal it's allowed us to stay in San Diego. The Mayor's commitment to us others to be able to stay until 2016. Well, our contracts are typically done in three-year increments or so so we will probably be looking at a new contract sometime in the last, next couple of years. ALLISON ST JOHN: Comcon also puts on Wonder Con which is usually in San Francisco but this year because of remodeling in San Francisco it was held in Anaheim. Is there any significance to that? BETH ACCOMANDO: Because Comicon has been debating whether they can stay here there are other places doing it and Anaheim is one of the places that's been putting a big push to come up there. They have better convention space they do not have to limit the attendance it's easier for people to get to the fact that they went there although, Comi-con hasn't said it's any kind of conscientious effort to test it out or anything they've had the opportunity to work there earlier this year, see what the center is like. People who attended had a great time. There was plenty of space, you were not waiting a lot of long lines for panels, the convention floor where the dealers are was was much easier to get to, so there is that and the other thing is because and Anaheim is much closer than San Francisco people who can't go to Comicon have this other option of attending Wonder-Con, which is basically a sister convention to Comicon. Very similar but on a smaller scale. ANGELA CARONE: Is there any pull for Anaheim being so much closer to Hollywood as well with so many movies now being a part of Comicon? BETH ACCOMANDO: You get mixed responses from someone and Hollywood studios prefer going somewhere else because it's almost like a vacation for them they are not necessarily in their own back yard. It's easier in some ways because you might be able to get some celebrities to come on shorter notice or not have to be put up in hotels but they really get whatever they want whether separate Cisco or in I'm or San Diego so that is not a real issue. ALLISON ST JOHN:Let's move onto another trend which is the luxury film theaters that seem to be catching on in some parts of San Diego. San Diego a particularly good location for the venues? BETH ACCOMANDO: I don't know if (inaudible) particular, Cinepolis is a Mexican company that's opened up theaters in San Diego the open the first one in Del Mar and what they've done which is very smart is they've targeted communities that have people with some disposable income so they've targeted Del Mar, La Costa and they are doing very well. They are finding that people, I go there quite a bit and I see families, which kind of surprised me because at $20 a pop for the tickets and $15-$20 for the food you order, you are spending a lot if you are bringing a father, mother, a couple of kids. But it's doing well. ALLISON ST JOHN: What is happening to other competing theater chains? Are they changing their ways as a result? BETH ACCOMANDO: Yes the theaters are trying to upscale the food, improve the seating. The one thing that they really are not targeting is the screening experience of a sound system projection and screen. The one company that has come and has challenged Cinepolis Arc light which is a California-based company that has theaters in LA and they just open and La Jolla with a gorgeous new theater ALLISON ST JOHN: And full disclosure Arclight is underwriter of KPBS go from one extreme to the other you are very impressed with the local theater company that launched its second season last month circle circle dot dot. It's a community-based theater what does that mean and why are you impressed with them? BETH ACCOMANDO: Circle theater according to the artistic director is a company that goes and command defines people or groups of people that are of interest are doing something different may be on the fringe, they focused on contract liens or lurkers, live-action role players, going into the community interviewed the people and created an original play to put on about the community. So they are creating original plays like every 3 to 4 months which is amazing with very little money and a lot of hard they are putting on simply impressive productions and this is Katherine Harris was the artistic director and she talks a little bit about what inspired her to create the company. NEW SPEAKER: As a theater artist it was really hard for me to be able to find a place where I belong great to be able to figure out where a place where I can make art and I would what act and write some and I would direct now and then but I never had a place where I was able to do everything. And so circle was created because I was hungry to be able to do all the things that I felt passionate about and I couldn't live day to day wondering when I was going to happen. ALLISON ST JOHN: So what is next for the company and the minute that we have left you have a sense of what is next for you are be? BETH ACCOMNANDO: They will be doing a site specific play about romances so you will actually follow them around. So that is a little ambitious and for my beat, I don't know, just trying to figure what is fun and exciting out there. ALLISON ST JOHN:The beauty of the culture beat I guess is you can never quite tell how about you Angela and you have anything you are keeping an eye on for next year? ANGELA CARONE: Obviously that kiss statue will be put into place there's a lot of public art stuff coming up actually and lots of fun theater is Beth knows on the horizons we have a new artistic director at the old Globe it will be interesting to see what he does over the next year so lots of good stuff. ALLISON ST JOHN: All right we will keep listening Beth Accomando and Angela Carone thank you so much for coming in. BETH ACCOMANDO: Thank you ANGELA CARONE: Thanks

There were several newsworthy events in San Diego's cultural community this year -- stories in the performing arts, visual arts and, of course, in pop culture.

Jung-Ho Pak resigned as Orchestra Nova’s conductor and artistic director, leading the company to cancel all remaining concerts. It then declared bankruptcy.

The venerable La Jolla Playhouse also found itself in the midst of a controversy this year over its casting for the musical "The Nightingale." Although set in ancient China, there were few Asians in the cast. La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley apologized at a panel discussion held after one of the performances.


Another piece of art, the infamous "Kiss Statue," made waves in San Diego's art community this year. Formally known as "Unconditional Surrender," the giant sculpture of a sailor kissing a nurse was taken down this summer.

The USS Midway Museum then raised money for a permanent, bronze version of the statue. That plan for permanence led two members of the Port’s public art committee to resign in frustration.

As it does every year, Comic-Con came to town, and KPBS brought you an inside look.

The year also brought luxury movie theaters to town, which our Cinema Junkie reporter made good use of while viewing "The Hobbit."

And community theater Circle Circle dot dot provided a look at artists on the fringe with its "Street Art Prophets."