The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is reimagining its downtown campus which consists of two separate buildings that are near each other.
Among the changes, the building at 1001 Kettner Blvd. will become an arts incubator and the Joan and Irwin Jacobs and the David C. Copley Buildings at 1100 Ketner Blvd. – the former baggage area of the Santa Fe Depot – will become a flexible exhibition and performance venue.
The idea is to turn the downtown campus into an urban hub for the arts, said Kathryn Kanjo, director and CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCASD), just as the adjacent train station and trolley station across the street form a transportation hub.
“It’s really not altering the physical plant as much as its creating new programs, new partnerships,” Kanjo said. “We have these exquisite properties in an exquisite location at the transportation hub. Folks are wanting to take advantage of that.”
The museum is forming partnerships with the La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WOW) Festival and Optika Moderna, Blindspot Collective with Disco Riot, and World Design Capital San Diego Tijuana 2024.
“What we’re doing with the playhouse is unprecedented,” Kanjo said. “We’re going to give our community something that they’ve been asking for.”
A Dynamic Period
The La Jolla Playhouse WOW Festival and Optika Moderna will present an interactive, immersive theater performance called “La Lucha” inspired by professional Mexican wrestling in which wrestlers wear colorful masks.
“Immersive theater is participatory. The guests are actually going to be moving through the space so there’s various and unexpected experiences for the audience. It’s not about fixed seats and a fixed audience,” Kanjo said. “The playhouse commissions world class projects. To have that entity now have a spot and a presence downtown is pretty exciting. I think there are plenty of people that haven’t been up to La Jolla.”
World Design Capital will work out of the 1001 Kettner Blvd. building, using the space for exhibits and events that focus on San Diego’s connections to Tijuana.
“This is going to be kind of their base,” Kanjo said.
Blindspot Collective will create the arts incubator at the downtown museum with dedicated offices, rehearsal space and a new program for young adults with support from the California Arts Council.
Blindspot Collective also will host other theater companies, including Disco Riot and its 2023 Queer Mvmnt Fest.
“This is a dynamic period for San Diego’s arts and culture community, especially for the neighborhoods surrounding downtown San Diego,” Kanjo said. “With this shift toward community based partnerships, we hope to more fully engage audiences through an extensive range of artistic content and media. Contemporary art looks forward and this initiative aligns directly with our forward-thinking mission.”
MCASD in 2022 completed a $105 million renovation and expansion of its main museum in La Jolla, nearly doubling the size of the museum from 58,239 square feet to 97,371 square feet.
Planning for the renovation began in 2014 and the actual construction took three years.
Betsy Brennan, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, said that the partnership the museum is forming downtown with other arts organizations “will help vitalize and energize our already evolving downtown.”
“MCASD’s focus on programmatic partnerships will further enhance downtown San Diego as a destination for arts and culture in our binational region,” Brennan said. “We can’t wait to see what the combination of MCASD’s deep knowledge and expertise in the arts and the innovation of our community will create in our urban neighborhoods.”
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Headquarters: La Jolla
CEO and Director: Kathryn Kanjo
Notable: Founded as The Art Center in La Jolla, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego has evolved into an organization of national and international renown.