San Diego County Arts Writer

In an irony of ironies, San Diego--with its "undesirable" museum weather--may be bucking a national trend of reducing museum hours of operation. Local museums have been remaining open longer and are testing the waters this summer with evening hours.

"One of San Diego's greatest blessings is its terrific climate," said Hugh Davies, director of the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. "But, ironically, it's a detriment to museums. Nationally, the museums' best-attended days are the rainy ones. We couldn't be in a worse place than with this climate."

Still, Davies has extended the museum's former Saturday and Sunday half-day hours this summer to a 10 a.m.-to-5 p.m. full-day schedule, and has opened the museum with free admission from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. The nighttime hours are an overwhelming success, so much so that another security guard has been added, Davies said.

Davies acknowledges that one reason for the large Wednesday night crowds is that there is no admission charge. A grant from George's at the Cove restaurant underwrites the free hours. Still, Davies has announced plans to extend the number of evenings the museum will be open, and will switch the no-admission period to daytime hours. Beginning Oct. 12, the museum will remain open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Elsewhere, four museums in Balboa Park are experimenting with evening hours this summer, but with varying results. Arthur Ollman's innovative and successful Museum of Photographic Arts has been doing business Thursday nights (until 9 p.m.) since it opened three years ago. This summer, Ollman persuaded the directors of the San Diego Museum of Art, the Hall of Champions, the Museum of Man and the Natural History Museum to join the photography museum and the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater & Science Center, which is open every night. "Thursdays seem to be a singles' gathering night in the park," Ollman said. "People are looking at each other as much as at the exhibits."

While Ollman asserts that the evening operation is profitable, he doesn't have the same overhead as other, more traditionally operated museums. The Museum of Art, with its larger facility and greater security requirements, has not drawn enough traffic to turn a profit on its nighttime operations, according to Director Steven Brezzo. At the Hall of Champions, where a video machine will give you a replay of Ted Williams or The Garv slugging last year's game-winning home run in the playoffs, the facility has earned a profit on two of seven nights. The problem, spokesmen say, is lack of publicity. Hall of Champions Director Nick Apple said, "Not enough people know we're open."

COUNTRY STATE OF MIND: Station management still denies the yearlong rumor that ailing country-western radio station KCBQ-FM (105.3) is about to switch formats to album-oriented rock (AOR), but the local radio scene is abuzz with new rumors that just such a change is about to materialize.

In the last two weeks, midday disc jockey Jesse Bullet was elevated to program director and Russ (Albums) James was named music director. Bullet for years programmed now-defunct rock station KPRI-FM, then went on to WLUP-FM in Chicago--another longtime AOR powerhouse--before returning to San Diego a few years ago.

James, too, is a veteran of KPRI and WLUP, and last week the pair interviewed none other than Ernesto Gladden for a KCBQ airshift. Gladden also was a KPRI program director and in the mid-1970s was one of the most visible deejays for KPRI's rival, KGB-FM (101.5).

While denying any change, Bullet was rather cryptic when asked about KCBQ's future with country-Western: "We're all just sitting here, cueing up some Waylon Jennings records," he said. "Why does anyone think we're going to rock, just because three of our top six staffers used to be on KPRI?" Why, indeed.

LO-TEC AUDIENCE: The "Lo-tec" workshop-style dance series by Three's Company & Dancers has drawn a surprisingly steady audience to the troupe's Hillcrest rehearsal hall. "It's been a consistent attendance, which is weird," said Jean Isaacs, one of the company's co-artistic directors. As many dance aficionados have shown up for lesser-known terpsichoreans as for the local heavyweights. About 60 people have braved the Spartan accommodations--metal folding chairs and bare-bones productions--for the first four of nine concerts to discover what kind of mixed bag the local and out-of-town choreographers are into. The former fire station at 3255 5th Ave. will host Bay Area dancers Elaina Ashe and Regina Bustillos in two recitals at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. This is a schedule change. The previously scheduled recital by Cheryl Krown and David Landis, a member of the red hot Mark Morris troupe in New York, will be Aug. 24 and 25.

ARTBEATS: "Chronos" the visual and aural account of the essence of time, produced in part by the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater, can be seen locally at the Fleet or at the Centro Cultural Tijuana's Omnimax theater. "The lack of spoken or written narration lends itself to an international appeal," said Jeffrey W. Kirsch, the Fleet's executive director. Next stop for "Chronos" is Paris . . .

KPBS Television has been named a contributing station to the "MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour" and has agreed to produce at least four mini-documentaries specializing in border issues and science-related topics for the program. . . . Old Globe Artistic Director Jack O'Brien has been named to the National Endowment for the Arts Opera-Musical Theater Professional Companies Panel. A primary function will be reviewing grant applications.

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