San Diego County Arts Editor

David Beck Brown is still in a state of shock. The La Mesa artist had expected the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) to approve his proposed sculpture celebrating the San Diego Trolley, but instead the board’s directors voted Thursday to hold a design competition. Will Brown’s four-year project be derailed?

“When I first approached the transit board with the idea, I was told I’d need community support, which I got,” Brown said Monday. “The board also told me they hadn’t the funds for the artwork, so I offered to raise the funds ($30,000) myself. Then I was told I would have to have the Public Arts Advisory Board consider it, and that board voted in favor of it. I had the support of the major arts institutions in San Diego, plus sculptors like James Hubbel and Ron Tatro. The vote on Thursday took me completely by surprise.”

Brown’s work was proposed for the archway at the trolley transfer station at 12th and Imperial avenues, where the eastward trolley extension will begin and where the transit board proposes to locate its new offices. Entitled “Portal/Puerta,” the work would consist of old trolley tracks that originally ran along Kettner Boulevard and F Street during the 19th Century. The tracks, which Brown unearthed in 1981, would be fire-bronzed with a blue patina and welded into a 25-foot-high arch supported by two stainless steel pillars.

On Thursday, however, transit board directors differed in their opinions of Brown’s scale model of the sculpture. City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez didn’t like the design, City Councilman Ed Struiksma did. Board member Fred Nagel suggested the design competition, which gives area artists 90 days to submit designs, and that seemed the path of least resistance--considering the controversy that has enveloped the proposed Ellsworth Kelly waterfront sculpture, which was chosen by the Port District’s arts advisory board via a closed selection process.


“I haven’t given up,” Brown said. “I think I have an excellent chance of winning the competition because I doubt anyone can beat my concept of historical trolley tracks . . . But I encourage people to enter and let the city know there are artists out here willing to work for themselves and on behalf of San Diego.”

LA JOLLA BEAT: The La Jolla Playhouse is reporting a sold-out run for the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, “Merrily We Roll Along,” which rolls through July 7. About 50 standing-room tickets are being sold per performance, and a Playhouse spokeswoman noted that about half of those ticket holders are usually seated. Chairs are being added to the standing-room areas. Also in La Jolla, Gustaf Anders gourmet restaurant continues it series of mini art exhibitions. Beginning Monday, a show entitled “Under Four Figures” will feature the works of locally based artists Kenneth Capps, Marjorie Nodelman, Italo Scanga and Ellen Irvine--all priced under $1,000, hence the show’s title.

RASPBERRY BERET, LEMON GROVE GUITAR: It’s worth noting that “Raspberry Beret,” the new psychedelic rock video keyed to the smash hit song by superstar Prince, features a custom purple 12-string Artist acoustic guitar made by Taylor Guitars of Lemon Grove. The guitar, with its cutaway styling and multicolor flame motif, is played by Prince band member Wendy. According to a press release, Taylor Guitars built the 12-string exclusively for Prince, who purchased it through a music store in his hometown of Minneapolis.

CHAMBER MOVES: Facing the cancellation of four of the six Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra concerts scheduled for El Cajon’s East County Performing Arts Center, local sponsors have pulled together a new series to keep chamber music at the center in the 1985-86 season. Last week the La Jolla Chamber Music Society announced that the French orchestra, Capitol de Toulouse, will open the series on Nov. 9, followed by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson on Jan. 31.


On Feb. 21, a previously unscheduled Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra program of Baroque music featuring countertenor Paul Esswood is slated. The oft-recorded Jean-Francois Paillard Chamber Orchestra will appear on March 19, and the final two programs by the Los Angeles orchestra under the baton of Gerard Schwarz will be presented as scheduled on April 13 and June 1.

ARTBEATS: KPBS-FM brings back some golden-age radio series in July. At 7 p.m. Monday, “Suspense,” which first aired in 1942 and features such stars as Orson Welles and Cary Grant, will begin a regular weekly airing. Then at 7 p.m. the next day, the original 1955 radio series, “Gunsmoke,” with William Conrad in the Marshal Matt Dillon role, will begin . . .

San Diego’s Public Arts Advisory Board is inviting artists to exhibit in its thrice-yearly Public Sculpture Exhibition Project at downtown’s Community Concourse. Artists interested in exhibiting should submit 10 or fewer slides, each identifying the work by title, medium and proportions including weight, by Saturday to Kevin Munnelly, City Administration Building, 202 C St., San Diego, Calif. 92101 . . . “Cloud 9,” the comedy at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, will be extended through July 20 . . . On the grants scene, the Bank of America has approved a $30,000 1985 donation to the local arts-funding agency COMBO.