Fantastic architecture at Oceanside Civic Center.

Uniquely beautiful civic centers can be found all around San Diego County. I’ve photographed many of them. But the Oceanside Civic Center might be my favorite.

I walked randomly about the Oceanside Civic Center complex last weekend and was amazed by everything I saw.

As you can see from various plaques I photographed, the original Oceanside Fire Station (also called Oceanside Engine House and Police Station) was built in 1929/1930, and the original City Hall and Library were completed in 1934. They were designed by Irving Gill, a renowned San Diego architect who is now a recognized major figure in the modern movement. His welcoming simplicity, unadorned classic lines and graceful arches have appeared in various places on my blog. His style has been described as cubist. You can see that signature style in these photographs as well. Designing buildings for the City of Oceanside was the final monumental project of his career.

As you can see on another plaque, a City Hall renovation was completed in 1957, and as you can read in this article, a large new Oceanside Civic Center and Public Library were completed in 1990. The large complex “designed by Charles Moore emulated the styling of Irving Gill (with) the white arches and simple architecture…Moore remarked about Gill’s legacy: “We use his plain white walls, his unadorned concrete arcades, disciplined fenestration and flat roofs as our architectural vocabulary, and then allow ourselves the exuberance of bright colors with tiles in niches at the entrances, in the jambs and soffits of deep set openings, and through the contrast of palms and broad-leafed plants surrounding our structure.”

The Oceanside Museum of Art, with its exquisite 1972 Opus sculpture by James Hubbell situated near the entrance, is another beautiful part of the large civic center complex. It occupies the original City Hall.

In the same article, you can read that “After renovation of the interior of building, the Museum of Art opened to the public on October 6, 1997. In 2008, a new addition to the Oceanside Museum of Art was dedicated in 2008. The contemporary, three-level 15,000 square foot addition designed by architect Fredrick Fisher sits alongside the historic building designed by architect Irving Gill, who redefined the architectural landscape of Southern California.”

Should you ever visit Oceanside, California, look for the big colorful fountain at the corner of North Coast Highway and Pier View Way. Then take a stroll through one of the most fantastic civic centers you’re likely to ever see!

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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!

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Contemporary art sculptures at UTC mall.

I stopped by the UTC mall in University City last Saturday on my way from downtown San Diego to North County.

Laugh if you want, but it’s probably thirty or forty years since I last took a leisurely stroll around what used to be called University Towne Center. (When I was a young man, a friend and I would visit the arcade above the ice skating rink and play pinball, Defender, Galaga, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede…)

Over the past ten years, Westfield UTC has been renovated and enlarged. Today it’s not just a popular outdoor mall, but a major entertainment destination. (And before long the Mid-Coast Trolley extension, the construction of which appears to be making great progress, will terminate at the UTC Transit Center.)

As I wandered randomly about the mall last weekend, I noticed a number of very interesting sculptures along a stretch of its perimeter. Out came my camera. I read on some plaques that the three Beverly Pepper sculptures belong to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

After I got home and did a little research, I found out I’d missed other sculptures scattered throughout the mall. Perhaps I’ll have to make another visit in the future!

Here’s what I saw:

Three Graces (Madam in Bloom, Madam Elegance, Madam Beauty), Yuriy Akopov, 2016/2017…

Octo, Anthony Howe, 2015…

The First Amphitheater, Beverly Pepper, 1965…

West Coast School, Laddie John Dill, 2017…

Severio Column, Beverly Pepper, 1978…

Zeus Triad, Beverly Pepper, 1997-1999…

Radix, Joshua Koffman, 2017…

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!

Life returns to Balboa Park one strange summer.

It’s late summer. It has been a very strange year.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives. But even though we still wear face masks and keep our social distance, there’s a sense in Balboa Park that a more normal life is slowly returning.

Earlier in the spring and summer the park was eerily quiet. But in the past week I’ve noticed growing numbers of visitors. There seems to be a desire to recover a small part of a disrupted summer.

Some of the museums have reopened. Vendors and street performers along El Prado are back. Picnics on the grass have become numerous. People are once again posing for pictures by the lily pond.

The sunshine and beautiful flowers never went away.

I took these photographs during walks through Balboa Park yesterday and on Labor Day.

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!

Memories from the San Diego Museum of Art.

Exquisitely beautiful art shines at the Nancy Lorenz-Moon Gold exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art.
Exquisitely beautiful art shines at the Nancy Lorenz-Moon Gold exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art.

One terrible thing about the COVID-19 pandemic is the ongoing closure of so many great cultural institutions. Including museums.

One of my very favorite museums is the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Not only does SDMA feature masterpieces by important artists from all around the world, but it draws major exhibitions to our city. (Plus, my museum docent friend provides awesome tours!)

I’ve blogged about events and exhibitions at SDMA many times over the years. Because I miss visiting the museum–and perhaps you do, too–I figured now would be a good time to revisit some memories. Click the upcoming links to take a look at past exhibitions that I personally really enjoyed!

If you want to visit the San Diego Museum of Art virtually while it’s temporarily closed, check out their online activities page by clicking here! You’ll find podcasts, a cool app that allows you to remotely view the galleries, videos of lectures and performances, creative ideas for artists and art students, a book club, and a whole lot more!

Child Holding Book, Los Angeles, 1983, Guy Crowder.
Child Holding Book, Los Angeles, 1983, Guy Crowder.

Here come the links!

Black life and civil rights in Southern California.

Moon Gold shines in San Diego Museum of Art!

Alfred Mitchell’s fine paintings of San Diego.

Rare exhibition of Modern Masters from Latin America.

The fantastic art of Richard Deacon in San Diego!

Bathing, Alfred Mitchell, oil on board, undated.
Bathing, Alfred Mitchell, oil on board, undated.

The Native, oil on canvas, ca. 1936. Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Mexican, 1871-1946.
The Native, oil on canvas, ca. 1936. Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Mexican, 1871-1946.

Across this room soars Like a Bird. Laminated wood, 1984. Richard Deacon creates spacious wonders that tickle the mind and expand the spirit.
Across this room soars Like a Bird. Laminated wood, 1984. Richard Deacon creates spacious wonders that tickle the mind and expand the spirit.

Early American quilts: amazing color and patterns!

Amazing animal bronzes at San Diego Museum of Art!

The Art of Music lives in San Diego!

Museum exhibit brings Coney Island to San Diego!

Amazing modern masterpieces visit San Diego.

Fighting Buffalo, Arthur Putnam, 1900. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.
Fighting Buffalo, Arthur Putnam, 1900. Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Art.

Amazing early American quilts on display at the San Diego Museum of Art feature beautifully contrasted colors and abstract designs.
Amazing early American quilts on display at the San Diego Museum of Art feature beautifully contrasted colors and abstract designs.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Old Mill, 1888, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Vincent Van Gogh, The Old Mill, 1888, courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

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!

Even more changes come to Balboa Park!

Another weekend, another walk in Balboa Park.

I passed through the sunny park about noontime today and noticed even more changes to San Diego’s crown jewel!

First, the Museum of Man has changed its name. It’s now the Museum of Us. Which not only sounds more inclusive, but it strikes me as less stodgy and more personally relatable. Various banners hung about the California Quadrangle reflect the anthropology museum’s recent name change.

Next, I noticed that scaffolding is now up around the House of Charm’s tower and in front of the historic building’s facade. The Mingei International Museum’s huge renovation and expansion continues!

On the west side of the Plaza de Panama a new bronze plaque honors winners of the Patrons of the Prado ICON Award for Arts and Culture. Winners have greatly benefited many of San Diego’s leading cultural institutions.

Then, as I headed through the park, I noticed a fifth new structure is finally rising at the International Cottages. This cottage, when finished, will be home to the House of the Philippines. I took a photo of an informative banner on the construction fence.

Lastly, I took photos of a small but beautiful change that occurred a couple of months ago. But until today I haven’t blogged about it.

At the corner of Park Boulevard and Presidents Way, at the southwest corner of the Veterans Museum parking lot, a small flower-filled succulent garden has been created!

There are so many changes happening in Balboa Park, it’s hard to keep track of them all!

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 world’s “top three” maritime museum needs help!

Two beautiful tall ships of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, Star of India and Californian, head out into the Pacific Ocean.
Two beautiful tall ships of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, Star of India and Californian, head out into the Pacific Ocean.

The Maritime Museum of San Diego has been rated one of the top three maritime museums in the entire world, and the best in the United States.

For many museums that rely on a stream of paying visitors, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is causing financial strain. The Maritime Museum of San Diego is no exception.

I received a letter in my mail today from the museum’s President and CEO, Dr. Ray Ashley. You can read it online by clicking here.

The current COVID-19 crisis has placed the historic ships of the Maritime Museum of San Diego in the doldrums–that region just north of the equator where there’s little or no wind.

Without visitors, the museum is struggling. They’ve had to lay off 80% of the staff. They are relying on volunteers and new donations as they try to sail through a region that is “far more complex, ominous, and intimidating that a few degrees of latitude ever were.”

I know there are people reading this blog who love San Diego and its treasured Maritime Museum as much as I do, if not more. At this moment in time, the museum really needs our help.

Click here!

Painter creates vivid dreams in Balboa Park.

I was walking through the recently reopened Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park today when my feet carried me into Gallery 21, where exhibitions by local artists are in frequent rotation.

A painter was busy working on a canvas inside, and I quickly learned her name is Minnie Valero. Every wall in the gallery was covered with her work!

Minnie Valero was born and raised in Argentina, but has now lived in Southern California for over a decade. She is both artist and teacher–she has taught painting in southern France for fifteen years. She has also published several books. I could plainly see her unbounded passion for creativity.

According to Minnie’s website, she enjoys “working with watercolor, pastel, acrylic and oils, artfully blending classical and contemporary. I let the painting choose the medium. Portraits, landscapes, figures: my divergent interests in genre stem from a deep love of the interplay of light, shadow, mood and drama, always trying to convey harmony in the composition. I am a contemporary impressionist…”

I really like how she captures a moment’s mood, whether it’s a couple walking down a street, dancing the tango, or simply sitting on some sun-splashed grass by a river. Every emotion is authentic. And every emotion is vivid, rendered with much color and light.

Her paintings are so vivid, to me they seem almost like powerful dreams. Dreams captured with a brush, framed.

(Incidentally, she said she’d love to do some public art, such as painting murals. Anyone out there looking for a muralist?)

If you’d like to see some fine art by a painter who has won many awards, head over to Balboa Park’s Spanish Village and look for Gallery 21. Minnie Valero will be exhibiting her pieces, which are also available for purchase, through August 24, 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!