Making music one Sunday in Balboa Park.

As I walked about Balboa Park this Sunday afternoon, it seemed a lot of people were outdoors making music. Not just the usual street performers.

I heard a flute playing beyond some trees. I heard mysterious bagpipes somewhere in the distance.

When I arrived at the courtyard of the Casa del Prado, some socially distanced musicians were spread about engaged in what appeared to be a jam session. I don’t know. All I can say is their fine music lifted the spirits of those passing by.

Walking through the park today was a sort of living impromptu concert, performed by many musicians.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

San Diego Symphony’s beautiful Christmas tree!

The San Diego Symphony has put up their beautiful (and very unique) Christmas tree!

I saw it this evening as I walked home through downtown. It stands in a corner of the front lobby inside Symphony Towers.

Not only are the branches decked with traditional Christmas ornaments, but one can find bright musical notes and instruments!

If you’d like to help the San Diego Symphony out financially during the pandemic, you can make a donation to their Stabilization Fund. If you do, an anonymous donor will match it! Learn more by clicking here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Augmented reality outside the Museum of Art!

The San Diego Museum of Art recently installed a unique new outdoor exhibit in Balboa Park’s central Plaza de Panama. The surprising exhibit is titled Augmented Reality al Fresco. Using your cell phone, you can bring seven works of fine art to life with augmented reality!

Download the SDMA app, select the AR feature, point your phone’s camera at any of the displayed artwork reproductions and suddenly they begin to move!

A painting of the Molo in Venice, Italy by Bernardo Bellotto suddenly comes to life! Gondolas drift dreamily across the water, and flocks of birds rise among moving clouds!

Kilauea Calder, Sandwich Islands, by artist Jules Tavernier, begins to bubble and fume! Lava erupts! My San Diego Museum of Art docent friend showed me how the painting comes to life a couple years ago inside the museum. This innovative use of augmented reality is very cool!

Most of Balboa Park’s museums have closed again due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little culture–with an unexpected and delightful twist! Walk toward the Museum of Art’s front entrance and turn left. Then pull out your phone for a unique experience!

Now that most of Balboa Park’s museums have been forced to close their indoor galleries again, you can help them survive this difficult COVID-19 situation with a generous donation.

Earlier this year, I posted links to the donation pages of Balboa Park’s museums here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park unveils new plan!

A performance in the Ford Bowl (now the Starlight Bowl) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. No known copyright restrictions image from Flickr.
A performance in the Ford Bowl (now the Starlight Bowl) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park.

I just learned that the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park has announced big plans for their future!

The long-hoped-for renovation of Starlight is now moving ahead! You can see the phased plan, including several renderings, by visiting their website page concerning the project here.

The visionary plan includes multiple stages, enhanced seating, a concession stand with healthier food offerings, and a digital media center that will be used by students across the county. As they explain: “Our goal is to empower students with an interest in the creative arts. Through seminars and a hands-on experience with state-of-the-art technology, students gain the tools they need to pursue a future utilizing multimedia arts, and have the opportunity to connect with Balboa Park.”

I personally have very fond memories of the Starlight Bowl, which I’ve mentioned in the past. I remember that as a young man my family and I watched performances under the San Diego stars of several plays, including Kiss Me, Kate and The Pirates of Penzance. But that was decades ago, long before the San Diego Civic Light Opera went belly up in 2011.

For many years this large historic amphitheater in the Palisades area of Balboa Park has gone unused. Occasionally groups of volunteers have assembled to pull weeds between rows of seats.

Not only is the entire South Palisades area presently receiving a major upgrade (a new pedestrian plaza, the coming Comic-Con Museum and a beautified Automotive Museum with fantastic murals), but it appears that the Starlight Bowl is now set to enjoy a very bright and vibrant future!

Check out their amazing plans and perhaps become involved here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The colorful Catrinas of Old Town San Diego!

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is coming up on Sunday. This popular Mexican holiday is a special time to remember and pray for loved ones who’ve passed on from this world.

Día de los Muertos has many rich traditions that have evolved over time, and one is the Catrina. Elegantly dressed skeletons with sugar skulls symbolize death. In Mexico, Day of the Dead is a time for the celebration of past lives, not mourning.

This year, celebrations of Día de los Muertos will be limited because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In Old Town San Diego State Historic Park the annual procession and festival have been cancelled.

But I did notice during a walk through Old Town late this afternoon that many very colorful Catrinas are on display in the large outdoor courtyard of Fiesta de Reyes!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A visit to the California Surf Museum!

On Saturday I enjoyed my first ever visit to the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.

This one-of-a-kind museum might be small, but WOW! Every inch of it is packed with cool exhibits that celebrate the history, art and technology of surfing!

I found myself deeply fascinated by everything I saw. Even though I’m not a surfer!

Most notable was the museum’s incredible array of historic surfboards, many of which are true works of art.

I could easily see why so many people love surf culture. I could see the poetry and the physical joy of surfing and its spiritual quality. I asked the friendly docent what he liked most about surfing, and he said it was being in the moment. Forgetting unimportant things, riding a wave, feeling alive.

If you are the least bit fascinated by this sport or the Southern California beach scene, definitely visit the California Surf Museum. To give you an idea of what you might see, check out my photographs, and read the captions!

Numerous exhibits fill the small but very cool California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
Numerous exhibits fill the small but very cool California Surf Museum in Oceanside.
One exhibit details the Anatomy of a Wave.
One exhibit details the Anatomy of a Wave.
A gun surfboard made of layered agave wood, created by local surfing and shaping legend Gary Linden.
A gun surfboard made of layered agave wood, created by local surfing and shaping legend Gary Linden.
Asymmetrical redwood surfboard made from the wood of a large wine barrel, created by Carl Ekstrom.
Asymmetrical redwood surfboard made from the wood of a large wine barrel, created by Carl Ekstrom.
Display case holds 1946 California Surfriders book by Doc Ball, his wood waterbox camera for surf photography, and the 1928 Tom Blake Perpetual Trophy.
Display case holds 1946 California Surfriders book by Doc Ball, his wood waterbox camera for surf photography, and the 1928 Tom Blake Perpetual Trophy.
Another exhibit celebrates the boogie board, invented by Tom Morey in 1971, and explores its history.
Another exhibit celebrates the boogie board, invented by Tom Morey in 1971, and explores its history.
Plastic Fantastic rounded pin surfboard, with cool artwork by Randall Kraemer.
Plastic Fantastic rounded pin surfboard, with cool artwork by Randall Kraemer.
A special, inspirational exhibit celebrates Bethany Hamilton, champion surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack.
A special, inspirational exhibit celebrates Bethany Hamilton, champion surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. You can see her surfboard with a chunk missing.
Bethany Hamilton's inspiring story was told in the movie Soul Surfer. She has won multiple competitions after losing her left arm in a 2003 shark attack.
Bethany Hamilton’s inspiring story was told in the movie Soul Surfer. She has won multiple competitions after losing her left arm in a 2003 shark attack.
A very unique hydrofoil for kneeboard surfing, designed by oceanographer Dr. Tareah "Terry" Hendricks. A plaque in his honor can be found at Swami's in Encinitas.
A very unique hydrofoil for kneeboard surfing, designed by oceanographer Dr. Tareah “Terry” Hendricks. A plaque in his honor can be found at Swami’s in Encinitas.
Circa 1910 early California alaia made of Sugar Pine, built by Ralph Noisat. One of the oldest documented boards in the mainland United States.
Circa 1910 early California alaia made of Sugar Pine, built by Ralph Noisat. One of the oldest documented boards in the mainland United States.
Surfing toys, games and pop culture imagery in a display case at the California Surf Museum.
Toys, games, comic books and pop culture artifacts celebrate surfing in a display case at the California Surf Museum.
A museum display memorializes local surfers who've passed on.
A museum display memorializes local surfers who’ve passed on.
Various bodysurfing handplanes.
Various bodysurfing handplanes.
A cool art exhibit titled Abstractions in Symmetry by Russell Spencer features photographs created using light and rotating surfboard fins.
A cool surf art exhibit titled Abstractions in Symmetry by Russell Spencer features photographs created using light and rotating surfboard fins.
A redwood surfboard by Francis Todd II and Mary Krahn pays tribute to popular Southern California surfing destination Encinitas.
A redwood surfboard by Francis Todd II and Mary Krahn pays tribute to popular Southern California surfing destination Encinitas.
A small slice of heaven for surfing enthusiasts!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Colorful banners celebrate Italian Americans.

Jim Croce.
Jim Croce.

Occasionally, over the years, I’ve shared photographs of colorful banners hung from street lamps in Little Italy. Many can be found along India Street. Most celebrate famous Italian Americans.

The face you see might be of a popular musician, or an Oscar winner, or an inventor, or a Major League Baseball player, or a religious leader, or a powerful politician or businessman . . . you get the idea.

During walks through Little Italy in the past few weeks I noticed many banners that I hadn’t photographed yet.

In no particular order, here they are:

Mother Cabrini.
Mother Cabrini.

Bruce Springsteen.
Bruce Springsteen.

Jerry Lewis and Frank Busalacchi (San Diego restauranteur).
Jerry Lewis and Frank Busalacchi (San Diego restauranteur).

Vito Marcantonio.
Vito Marcantonio.

Fiorello La Guardia.
Fiorello La Guardia.

Louis Prima.
Louis Prima.

Dana Reeve.
Dana Reeve.

Al Pacino.
Al Pacino.

Francis Ford Coppola.
Francis Ford Coppola.

Jimmy Durante.
Jimmy Durante.

Giada De Laurentiis.
Giada De Laurentiis.

Joe Pass.
Joe Pass.

Russ Columbo.
Russ Columbo.

Robert Mondavi.
Robert Mondavi.

Jennifer Capriati.
Jennifer Capriati.

Roger Enrico.
Roger Enrico.

Ernest and Julio Gallo.
Ernest and Julio Gallo.

Frank Capra.
Frank Capra.

Carlo Vinci.
Carlo Vinci.

Dean Martin.
Dean Martin.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Artists celebrate Frida Kahlo in new exhibition.

Welcoming Frida to My Imagination, by artist Lin Wei, 2018. Oil painting.
Welcoming Frida to My Imagination, by artist Lin Wei, 2018. Oil painting.

A fantastic exhibition has opened in Escondido that celebrates the life and work of legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Today I stepped into the Museum at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido to experience The World of Frida. The juried exhibition recently arrived from the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, California.

Over one hundred highly creative pieces by artists who’ve been inspired by Frida Kahlo cover the walls of the Museum. Imaginative portraits of Frida Kahlo are plentiful, as are reimaginings of her works. Many different artistic styles delight the eye!

Like Frida’s paintings, most of these pieces employ lavish color and symbolism. Themes often reflect Frida’s own complex and sometimes mysterious personality.

In the artwork you will find pain and poise, vitality and frustration, sensitivity and anger, feminism and vulnerability, remoteness and love. It seemed to me that Frida’s emotional and intellectual complexity–the seeming ambiguity–provided many of these artists with a blank canvas upon which they could paint their own related ideas, feelings and experiences.

My photos are a small glimpse of this remarkable exhibition!

As you can see, another gallery at the Museum contains even more artwork, including a very cool car with a traditional Mexican altar in its trunk and a large Frido Kahlo Day of the Dead Altar. A third gallery features Frida-related artwork by local school students!

Head up to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido before November 15, 2020 when The World of Frida comes to a close.

Visitor to the Museum at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido explores The World of Frida.
Visitor to the Museum at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido explores The World of Frida.

Defiant Deer, by artist Jamie Burnside, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.
Defiant Deer, by artist Jamie Burnside, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.

Seed of Life, by artist Crystal Moody, 2017. Acrylic.
Seed of Life, by artist Crystal Moody, 2017. Acrylic.

Frida Kahlo Shrine Box Day of the Dead, by artist Monica Balmelli, 2016. Mixed media.
Frida Kahlo Shrine Box Day of the Dead, by artist Monica Balmelli, 2016. Mixed media.

Young Frida, by artist Kim Bagwill, 2018. Oil on panel.
Young Frida, by artist Kim Bagwill, 2018. Oil on panel.

Frida with Flower Crown, by artist Betsy Gorman, 2018. Mixed media collages.
Frida with Flower Crown, by artist Betsy Gorman, 2018. Mixed media collages.

Frida's Chair, by artist Marian De La Torre-Easthope, 2018. Oil on canvas.
Frida’s Chair, by artist Marian De La Torre-Easthope, 2018. Oil on canvas.

Frida #51, by Stikki Peaches, 2017. Mixed media on paper.
Frida #51, by Stikki Peaches, 2017. Mixed media on paper.

1954 Chevy Belair. Trunk altar honors family from Uruapan, Michoacan, and Mexico City, Mexico. Manuel Navarro Sr.
1954 Chevy Belair. Trunk altar honors family from Uruapan, Michoacan, and Mexico City, Mexico. Manuel Navarro Sr.

Frida Kahlo Día de los Muertos Altar by artist Daniel F. Martinez.
Frida Kahlo Día de los Muertos Altar by artist Daniel F. Martinez.

Celebrating Frida in the Afterlife, by Hayle V., San Pasqual Union School District Grade 7, 2020. Acrylic paint, markers.
Celebrating Frida in the Afterlife, by Hayle V., San Pasqual Union School District Grade 7, 2020. Acrylic paint, markers.

Corazon de Frida, by artist Juan Solis, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.
Corazon de Frida, by artist Juan Solis, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Mingei’s lucky Japanese cats visit Friendship Garden.

The Mingei International Museum has a collection of over 150 maneki neko. Maneki neko are Japanese beckoning cats, made of clay, porcelain, metal, rock, wood or other material. They are talismans of good fortune in Japan.

Seventy examples of maneki neko in the Mingei’s collection are now on display in the Exhibit Hall at the Japanese Friendship Garden. Both the Mingei and JFG are located in Balboa Park, the cultural center of San Diego. Currently the Mingei’s building–the House of Charm–is closed to the public as it undergoes a major renovation.

This afternoon I visited the Japanese Friendship Garden and viewed this exhibition. It’s simply titled: Maneki Neko – Japan’s Beckoning Cats.

I must admit that until today I knew nothing about maneki neko. While admiring the many beckoning cats, I read some informative signs.

I learned that a maneki neko with a raised right paw indicates a wave of good fortune to a home, and a raised left paw brings luck to a business. The higher the paw, the greater the good fortune!

I learned maneki neko sometime wear colorful bibs, which represent an expression of gratitude for a wish realized. Also, the color of the cat is meaningful. Black symbolizes safety, gold symbolizes money, white symbolizes happiness, red symbolizes protection.

I learned about Hatsutatsu-san, a popular variety of beckoning cat that wears human clothing! (You can see an example in an upcoming photo.)

I also learned about a few of the different kilns in Japan that produce maneki neko, and how each kiln has its own distinctive style.

When you view this exhibition, you’ll probably learn a lot, too! And you’ll be charmed by the beauty and unique personality of every beckoning cat.

Planning a trip to Balboa Park? This wonderful exhibition can be enjoyed at the Japanese Friendship Garden through November 29, 2020.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Amazing murals in cross-border art exhibition!

An international cross-border exhibition of urban art can now be enjoyed in both San Diego and Tijuana. Nine amazing, newly painted outdoor murals, created by regional artists in Southern California and Mexico, are part of this binational exhibition, which is titled Walls – Cross Border Urban Art/Muros – Arte Urbano Interfronterizo. The event is a collaboration between the San Ysidro community development organization Casa Familiar and the Municipal Institute of Art and Culture of Tijuana.

Yesterday I was given a tour of some of the murals that were created north of the border. My guide was Francisco Morales, Gallery Director of The FRONT, Casa Familiar’s art gallery at 147 W. San Ysidro Boulevard. The FRONT Arte Cultura is a cool community gathering place for exhibitions, concerts, education, and other cultural and artistic engagement.

The FRONT Arte Cultura is an art gallery in San Ysidro operated by the community organization Casa Familiar.
The FRONT Arte Cultura is a gallery in San Ysidro operated by the community organization Casa Familiar.

We began by looking at the following indoor mural, which was spray painted just inside The FRONT gallery by artist Juan Carlos Galindo, who is known as GRVR. His urban art is like graffiti with a surreal pop art quality, full of the color, zest and dynamism of life near the border. I was told that at night the brightly lit mural attracts attention through the gallery’s front window, luring the eyes of those walking or driving by.

We then crossed San Ysidro Boulevard to take a look at the three nearest outdoor murals.

The following amazing artwork by Mary Jhun, an artist representing the Filipino community, is a work in progress. It will be a permanent addition to what used to be an old hotel called La Nola, an historic building that will be renovated and repurposed along with several other nearby buildings.

Next is a colorful mural by Jorge Mendoza, whose very cool Nest Murals in Barrio Logan I once photographed here.

The third mural across the street from The FRONT gallery is by Stephanie “Fifi” Martinez, who is a very talented cartoonist and student at San Diego City College. Her themes often concern emotional turmoil and inspiration, as you can see in this really great mural she painted.

We then walked a short distance down San Ysidro Boulevard to the El Rincon Restaurant, whose outdoor wall was painted by Michelle Ruby, who is also known as Mrbbaby. Her pinata character Chucho is riding with a doll atop a colorful Quetzalcoatl, who appears to be in love with the moon! (I must admit this was my favorite.)

A variety of older murals in the neighborhood are also included in the Walls – Cross Border Urban Art exhibition. You can see a Google map of all the mural locations that are in San Ysidro by clicking here. I happened to photograph two older murals by Sand One and Victor Ochoa on a previous walk. You can see those two great murals by clicking here!

After viewing the above Mrbbaby mural, we walked north up Cypress Drive. I was told by Francisco that this walkable stretch that connects The FRONT gallery to the San Ysidro Branch Library is called the Cultural Corridor.

Near an open park-like space where the annual Día de San Ysidro/San Ysidro Day event is held we paused to admire two more murals on a low wall. The fun swirly one was painted by Luisa Martinez and David Pena during the 2019 community festival; the other was created more recently by Hector Villegas to encourage participation in the 2020 Census.

As you can see, the murals that are included in this binational exhibition are rather amazing. I’m told the murals in Tijuana are equally superb! Unfortunately, as I write this, the border is closed to all but essential workers due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

If you’d like to learn more about the Walls – Cross Border Urban Art/Muros – Arte Urbano Interfronterizo exhibition, or visit Casa Familiar’s very cool The FRONT Arte Cultura gallery in San Ysidro, make sure to go to this web page for much more detailed information!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!