San Diego County Arts Writer

More fallout on the aborted Ellsworth Kelly sculpture: A claim has been filed against the San Diego Unified Port District by the local Combined Organizations of Visual Artists. The action sets the stage for a civil suit even though, in the wake of Kelly’s refusal to proceed with the project, the issue is moot.

“I had all these artists and ordinary citizens come in to complain about (the port’s process) in selecting the Kelly sculpture,” said attorney Peter Karlen, who filed the claim for the artists’ group. Individuals, he said, could not be party to a claim against a body such as the Port District.

The Combined Organizations of Visual Artists, which was founded by paper sculptor Ed Pieters, alleges that the Port District failed to comply with state legislation regulating construction projects and the expenditure of public funds. “The port and its committee decided upon the project and selected the artist and entered into an agreement with the artist without letting these matters be heard before the public in compliance with the Brown Act,” the claim said in part.

“The risk you take with this sort of thing,” said Bill Rick, chairman of the Port Commission, “is that the (advisory board) may say ‘screw it.’ There’s no law saying we’ve gotta spend the money on art.”


MORE KELLY: In a related matter, a petition calling for the resignation of Port Commission advisory board chairman Gerald Hirshberg may be in the works. “Hirshberg has been infuriating local artists,” Pieters said angrily. Pieters referred to an article in the Tribune last week that quoted Hirshberg as saying that, in choosing artworks, excellence comes before local residence. Pieters called the quote part of a “continuous barrage against local artists” by Hirshberg. Pieters said that he discussed with Combined Organizations of Visual Artists President Jennifer Spencer mounting a petition against Hirshberg at this week’s group meeting.

Responding to the threatened petition, Hirshberg said, “How can I be against ‘local artists,’ whatever that means? Hell, I’m a local artist. To say that anybody who places excellence as the top priority, is bad for local artists--I can’t understand that. But what does location have to do with it anyway? When we look at art, I’d rather not know where anybody is from.”

MOVIE MARATHON: “Wagner,” the nine-hour cinematic endurance test for fans of Mr. Sturm und Drang , a.k.a. Richard Wagner, drew a respectable house Saturday--all day Saturday--thank you. Tony Palmer’s biographical film, offered by the San Diego Opera, attracted 1,432 customers to the Civic Theatre for the 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. showing. The audience, paying $10 to $20 a head to watch Richard Burton as the megalomaniacal composer and Vanessa Redgrave as his second wife, Cosima, and a supporting cast including Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and the late Ralph Richardson, did not get “I Survived ‘Wagner’ ” T-shirts. “I wish we’d thought of that,” said an opera company spokeswoman. But many in the audience did bring cushions and were described as “incredibly persistent.” By film’s end, the spokeswoman said, “A high percentage were still there.”

CAC GRANTS: Twenty-seven San Diego County organizations were awarded California Arts Council grants, the CAC announced last week. In the “prominent organization” category, $239,100 went to the county out of $2.76 million distributed to 26 organizations across the state. For the “artistic and administrative development” category, 432 groups statewide received grants totaling $3.29 million. The San Diego County total was $187,080.


Three prominent organizations, those with a budget of at least $1 million, received grants locally: the Old Globe Theatre, $115,500; the San Diego Opera, $94,500, and the San Diego Symphony, $29,100.

In a breakdown of the arts, theater led the pack in the smaller San Diego County organizations: Six theaters received $70,644. Six visual art organizations received $53,329. And six dance troupes received $32,465. Interestingly, among the dance groups, the top grant of $9,759 went to Three’s Company and Dancers, followed by the San Diego Arts Foundation, $7,030, and California Ballet, $5,002. The remaining $30,652 was distributed among music, literature, interdisciplinary, arts service and community organizations.

BOWERY THEATRE: Alan Ayckbourn’s marital comedy, “Round and Round the Garden,” has been extended through Sunday at the Bowery Theatre. It will be followed by “Talking With,” an award-winning piece of monologues by and about women, created for Louisville’s Actors’ Theatre New Play Festival. Written by Jane Martin, a pseudonym for an unknown writer or writers, the play took the 1982 American Theatre Critics Assn. Award for best regional play. The San Diego production will be directed by Ollie Nash.

ARTBEATS: British sculptor Bill Woodrow will conduct a walk-through of his found object exhibition Saturday at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. The public is invited to the walk-through, which begins at 11 a.m. Cost is $2 . . . .

The Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park has received two sizable donations: a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a $25,000 grant from the DeWitt Wallace Fund. The NEA grant helps fund an upcoming exhibition of photographs by William Klein. The Wallace grant underwrites an exhibit of works by portrait photographer Arnold Newman. . . . Sushi performance and visual art gallery has been selected by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles as a co-producer for an episode in its “The Territory of Art” National Public Radio series.