Art purchased by the city from artists during COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, local artists were supported through a special initiative undertaken by the City of San Diego. The city purchased almost 100 works of art for the Civic Art Collection. The initiative was funded by a generous art lover and philanthropist.

An exhibition of this acquired artwork, titled SD PRACTICE, can now be viewed at the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park, and at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights.

I visited the San Diego Art Institute on Sunday to view their pieces. I noticed some of the artists are widely known, including Hugo Crosthwaite and Mario Torero.

Contemporary art is often provocative: subversive, angry, skeptical, iconoclastic. But many of the pieces I saw conveyed mostly a feeling of loneliness. Which I suppose isn’t surprising. They were created during a pandemic–a time of forced social isolation.

One canvas shows an elderly woman alone at a table set with dinner and cold smartphones. Other works–often with political messages–show people trapped alone behind borders or squares or lattices of drawn lines, or wearing masks, or concealed beneath sheets, or in shadow.

One artist’s tintypes were created with random people on the street. The artist and strangers pose together as if they are family. But the tintypes are very dim like faded dreams. And the momentary “families” weren’t real.

In one piece, an isolating smartphone has been dropped to one side, and two people lean into each other for simple human warmth.

As I walked through the gallery, one plastic chair made to appear gleaming and precious seemed inviting. But it was only one chair.

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The corner lit by San Diego’s first gaslamp!

The very first gaslamp that lit downtown San Diego was located in today’s Gaslamp Quarter. But where?

Stand at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and F Street, and you’ve found the location!

You’ll be standing next to the historic Marston Building. A plaque on this interesting old building reads:

Marston Block, 1881

In 1881, George Marston located his third department store in this two-story Victorian Italian-style building. It remained here until 1896 when it was relocated to a larger building. Until the 1970s, Marston’s was the largest and most successful San Diego-based department store and was purchased by Broadway Stores. The building suffered severe fire damage in 1903, and had to undergo extensive remodeling. The first gaslamp was placed on this corner in 1885, and on March 16, 1886, the first electric arc lamp was illuminated outside this building.

If any of you remember visiting the Marston Department Store as a young child, it was most likely Marston’s final location, in a large four-story, neo-Renaissance building on C Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. That building was demolished years ago. To learn more about George Marston’s various stores in San Diego, click here.

To view a historical black-and-white photo of Marston’s 1881 store–the location of San Diego’s very first gaslamp–click here.

As you can see, things have changed quite a bit in nearly a century and a half!

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Enormous pipe laying ship docked in San Diego!

Take a look at this enormous ship! I saw it today docked at San Diego’s B Street Pier, across from the Cruise Ship Terminal. The vessel, with what appears to be a helicopter pad high above its bow, is so huge I spotted it several blocks from San Diego’s Embarcadero!

The Normand Energy is a Pipe Layer vessel built in 2007, sailing under the flag of Norway. I was curious why such an unusual ship is visiting San Diego, so I searched the news.

It turns out the Normand Energy was chartered by Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR) to test the Patania II, a deep-sea mining prototype. But on April 25 Patania II became detached from its 5 kilometer (over 3 miles!) cable and became stranded on the Pacific Ocean floor!

According to this article, the “25-tonne mining robot prototype was trialed in the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific since April 20. The machine was supposed to collect nodules rich in cobalt and other battery metals…such minerals would be used to supplement in-demand electronic products and energy storage such as smartphones, laptops, solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles…”

According to this article, a recovery mission successfully retrieved Patania II on April 29.

Environmentalists including Greenpeace oppose deep-sea mining and the damage to the ocean bottom that would result, but ironically the rare earth elements that could be extracted are required for various components in clean energy technology.

If you’re curious about the whereabouts of the Clarion Clipperton Zone and what this “geological submarine fracture zone” is exactly, here’s a fascinating Wikipedia article.

Check out additional photographs of the Normand Energy that I took from various angles. The next two are from the Broadway Pier…

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Monument to historic radio station KCBQ in Santee.

I remember listening to KCBQ 1170 as a youth. For decades it was one of San Diego’s leading radio stations, featuring radio personalities that are legendary, including “Shotgun Tom” Kelly and Charlie Tuna.

This groundbreaking AM radio station has had a complicated history, its many different owners moving the studio about from time to time and playing everything from contemporary music to country music. A detailed Wikipedia article can be found here.

A monument to the original KCBQ, which was influential in popularizing the Top 40 music format for the rest of the nation, now stands at the radio station’s old Santee transmitter site. It was dedicated on August 28, 2010. You can find the monument on Mission Gorge Road just east of Carlton Hills Boulevard, in front of an In-N-Out Burger fast food restaurant.

Scan the list of past on-air personalities and you’ll see names that have been well known in San Diego radio for decades. Personally, I easily recall the unique voices of Frank Anthony, Gene Knight and Gary Kelley, not to mention “Shotgun Tom” Kelly.

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Old photos on AT&T building in El Cajon.

I saw these during my recent walk through El Cajon.

Decorating the AT&T building at the corner of Main Street and Lincoln Avenue are various historical photographs on tiles. The old photos show telephone company personnel at work or out in the community.

One photograph shows Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. employees or dignitaries on a parade float. That was the name of the Pacific Bell Telephone Company, now owned by AT&T, between the 1910’s and 1984.

I assume these photographs were taken around San Diego, but I don’t know. The one taken of a worker with his truck out in sagebrush covered hills does seem to show a Southern California landscape. The exact same photo can be found on an AT&T building in nearby La Mesa. You can see that here.

Do you know anything about these photos? If you do, please leave a comment!

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!

New lights, new life for historic carousel!

Last October I noticed the Balboa Park Carousel was undergoing renovation during the park’s COVID-19 pandemic closure. You can read what I wrote and see those photos here.

Today I was walking past this historic 1910 Herschell-Spillman carousel when I noticed one side of its enclosure was open and lights were on inside. So I approached the structure to sneak a peek.

And I saw the same Armored Horse that I saw before! But now it’s painted more completely–and beautifully!

I also spoke to William “Bill” Brown, who has been operating and tending this historic carousel since 1972. He was carefully painting an intricate part of the wooden horse.

It’s apparent Bill absolutely loves what he does. You can read it in his eyes and smile.

He showed me how an earlier “model” of a hand-carved Herschell-Spillman Armored Horse appeared. You can see with that particular model the sculptural detail and the color scheme was quite different.

Bill also showed me how additional lights have been installed on the carousel!

The 1910 carousel had originally been designed to feature more lights, but too many electrical lights constituted a fire hazard, so many had not been installed.

In the next photo you can see two lights on either side of the carved head, just above the oval mirrors. For a hundred years there were two holes and no lights. That has changed!

That’s because all of the carousel lights are now safer, more energy efficient LEDs. New fixtures not only brighten the upper part of the outer framework, but the interior part of the carousel as well!

When the Balboa Park Carousel’s renovation is finally complete, it will be brighter and more colorful than ever!

To learn more about this carousel, which was built in New York, and which had been installed at Tent City in Coronado before moving to Balboa Park in 1922, click 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!

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!

First PRONTO ticket machine at a trolley station!

I’m a frequent user of public transportation in San Diego. I live downtown and work in Mission Valley. There are several different combinations of buses and trolleys that I can take for my commute. So I have a convenient monthly pass on my MTS Compass Card.

But there’s a new ticketing system on the way this summer that will replace the Compass Card. The new system is called PRONTO.

Today I saw the very first PRONTO ticket machine, which has been installed at the Convention Center trolley station!

If you want to learn more about PRONTO and how it will work, check out this website.

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!

Art museum to use new antiviral technology!

I learned of another improvement to Balboa Park this afternoon!

I was walking through the Plaza de Panama when I noticed several banners on a construction fence in front of the Timken Museum of Art.

One banner states the Timken will be the first museum in the world to install revolutionary antiviral and dehumidification technology. According to a museum web page, here, this new technology “originally engineered in conjunction with the United States Department of Defense” is considerably more effective at eliminating airborne pathogens than systems presently used in hospital operating rooms!

They hope to demonstrate this technology can be used in other museums, and for common everyday use. (Air that’s much safer than a hospital operating room? Sign me up!)

Other banners on the fence direct interested people to the Timken Museum of Art’s website, where they will find online educational experiences, including virtual tours and art tutorials, plus lots of other activities.

The museum, presently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled to reopen in Summer 2021 with this revolutionary antiviral system installed and ready to go!

If you’d like to learn a more about the Timken Museum of Art, you might enjoy viewing an old blog post here. It includes photographs and notes that I took during a special architectural tour of the Timken’s uniquely beautiful building.

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!

Big colorful engine welcomes to National City.

Do you know anything about this huge colorfully painted engine?

The very unique public artwork sits near a welcome to the city sign at the north end of National City Boulevard, by Division Street. I believe it was placed here outside the National City Auto Center about a year ago.

I took these photos yesterday as I walked past. What kind of engine is this? Where did it come from?

Please leave a comment if you know anything!

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!