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ARTS BEAT : Theater’s Window Art Stirs Up Controversy

You won’t find stylishly clothed mannequins in the display windows of the Balboa Theatre, which are used for art exhibits. In fact, several people have complained to the theater’s landlord, the Center City Development Corp, about the content of the current window art, which was organized by Installation Gallery.

The windows bristle with socially relevant subject matter dealing with nuclear weapons, the controversial beatification of Padre Junipero Serra and, among others, how we pour money into a Soviet Arts Festival but are less willing to fund programs for the homeless.

Called “The Eggs are Coming,” Robert Sanchez’s full-sized diorama pictures hundred-dollar bills floating in the sky with a suspended cross of decorated eggs above a horizontal, newspaper-covered figure.

The window displays were meant to be “more of an art statement than the individual artists’ political opinions,” said CCDC spokeswoman Kathy Kalland. “We had wanted to give them pretty much free rein. The only thing we had asked them was that they refrain from featuring anything of a political nature. That is not the case of the latest display.”

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That’s not what Chelle Draper, who coordinates the exhibits for Installation, says she was told.

“That really surprised me; that’s not what they said at all,” Draper said. “The quote that we got from CCDC was that they did not want ‘fetuses.’

“I don’t think of fetuses as political. Evidently somebody had a dead baby in the window, and people got upset. So I told the artists nothing gory.”

Eventually, CCDC decided to take the longer view and leave the artworks up through their scheduled run, which ends Nov. 19. Then the window space will be taken over by San Diego theaters for the next few months.

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The Balboa Theatre Foundation wants to renovate downtown’s landmark--and closed--Balboa Theatre. But, with the price of a major renovation put at $4 million to $11 million, the foundation doesn’t want to spend all the energy and money of a major fund-raising campaign if San Diego’s deep pockets aren’t dramatically in favor of sprucing up the 1,500-seat theater.

So the foundation requested, and CCDC, the theater’s landlord, has granted the foundation an exclusive bargaining agreement that clears the way for a fund-raising feasibility study.

“We would not undertake the study if we did not have a good feeling about the interests the community has shown toward this theater,” said Robert L. Purvin, chairman of the foundation. “We’re extremely pleased with the base of support that has been demonstrated.”

So how does one determine how much a community will cough up?

“It’s a two-pronged study, internal and external,” said Cliff Underwood of the consulting firm, D’Agostino Underwood & Assts. “The internal study will determine how strong the board is--their capability for raising money--and how strong the staff is, how much they’ve (raised) in the past, how effective it’s been.”

The external study, including a series of confidential in-depth interviews with at least 50 of San Diego’s movers and shakers is designed to pinpoint individual and nonprofit foundation funding sources interested in the 64-year-old structure’s renovation.

The interviews of arts philanthropists are designed to reveal “leadership, someone to step forward and say what to do, people willing to make major contributions to the campaign,” when and how to launch the campaign, Underwood said.

The study will also bring to the surface any potential public relations problems as well as competing campaigns that would siphon off philanthropic dollars.

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“We ask people what sort of campaigns would interfere with your particpation with this campaign,” Underwood said. “There’s a lot of competition for the philanthropic dollar.” The landmark theater was closed in 1986 after it was acquired by the CCDC, the city’s redevelopment arm, through condemnation proceedings in 1985. A jury awarded the previous owners a purchase price of $2.5 million in July.

Two Coronado philanthropists, Ione and Paul Harter, think that the arts are meant for everyone. And they’ve put their money where their hearts are. The couple have donated $12,000 to the Coronado Performing Arts Foundation to sponsor a performance of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” for the children of Coronado.

The Harters’ beneficence allows young people--even those outside of Coronado--under the age of 14 to attend the 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 concert by the San Diego Symphony free. Tickets for adults are $15. The performance will take place in Le Meridien Hotel’s grand ballroom. The hotel is at 2000 2nd Ave. Advanced sales only, at the Coronado Performing Arts Foundation: 435-7121, Betty’s Hallmark Shop, the Diet Center in Coronado and the Coronado Chamber of Commerce.


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