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Downtown Night Life Gets A Boost

February 25, 1986|HILLIARD HARPER | San Diego County Arts Writer

SAN DIEGO — Saturday night may have heralded a new life for a "new" district of downtown. The pink neon sign that proclaims "art" glowed from Sushi's second story as an SRO crowd, eager to see the "Big Ladies" dance concert there, spilled into the upstairs hallway. While San Diego's dance enthusiasts craned their necks to watch the home-grown concert, 2 1/2 blocks away an ultra-hip group jammed Java, a coffeehouse scheduled to open in about 10 days.

Doug Simay and Stanley Fried, the two partners behind Java, had invited a couple hundred of their friends to preview what Fried says will be a combination art and performance cabaret and coffeehouse. Poetry readings, theater, performance art and dance may be a regular part of the Java scene, which in turn could open the door to some much-needed night life in San Diego's downtown art colony.

Art and the arts just may take the lead in transforming this drab neighborhood, a commercial and light industrial area east of the Gaslamp Quarter and south of Broadway. Java's planned 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. hours could spawn nighttime business hours in the important art galleries that have collected in the neighborhood.

Java will offer light "food to share," for today's grazers. The coffeehouse's huge picture windows allow patrons and passers-by to inspect one another at its corner site, Betty Slater's 9.G Art Complex building. It's devoted entirely to arts-related activities. 9.G contains Artfocus Ltd. and the associated Martha Chatelain Studio, a graphics firm, and the Patti Aande, Earth Bound and Quint galleries.

"I foresee there will be at least one night a week when galleries will be open, at least as an experiment," said Martha Chatelain of the effect of Java's coming. The revitalization possibilities for the area are considerable.

ANSEL TOO: The current exhibit of a corporate collection of 75 Ansel Adams prints at the San Diego Museum of Art drew a record crowd, averaging 4,000 a day while at Washington National Gallery of Art. But in San Diego, even before it opened, the show caused a tempest, or perhaps a gale, in a teapot.

A year and a half ago, the Museum of Photographic Arts had a similar Adams exhibition that set a MOPA attendance record of 43,000. MOPA's director, Arthur Ollman, felt the SDMA's show was too much, too soon. And he wasn't consulted in the planning. Regardless, the current exhibit is likely to find a large following for the very reasons the collection was acquired by the Pacific Telesis Group.

The groups's chairman of the board, Donald E. Guinn, with many of his top executives, was in town for last weekend's opening. His firm's acquisition of the collection gave an insight into the whys and wherefores of corporate support for the arts. It's a definite quid pro quo situation. Discussions between the communications group's officials and Adams began in the early 1980s. "We were a new group and wanted to create an identity with something really significant that had a West Coast relationship," Guinn said. The great popularity of Adams' works (a print of "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico," sold for $71,500 even before Adams' death) combined with his Carmel home, made him an obvious choice.

That doesn't mean the group doesn't support less popular art forms, Guinn added. Its foundation annually doles out several million dollars to arts and other groups with no strings attached. The foundation is funding the San Diego exhibition.

GLOBE GAB: A new drama festival will be launched by the Old Globe during October and November. Funded in part by the Reader's Digest Foundation, the Shubert Foundation, Columbia Pictures, Embassy Productions, the San Diego Community Foundation and David Geffen, the festival will showcase three of the top 1,000 plays received annually by the Globe's Play Discovery program. In a related matter, "Diminished Capacity," a drama about the judicial system by Tom Dulack that is in the running for the festival, will be given a reading at 8 p.m. March 3 in the Cassius Carter Centre Stage.

ARTBEATS: KPBS-TV's documentary about the life of Pedro J. Gonzalez, "Ballad of an Unsung Hero," will be screened Friday in London's National Film Theatre by the British Film Institute. . . . Former KFMB-TV, now NBC, broadcaster Reed Galin will have a photography exhibit, titled "Land, and Other Escapes," opening Sunday at Earth Bound Gallery, 835 G St.

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