Oct. 8 2012 09:09 PM

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

Ukulele artist Brittni Paiva headlines the festival
Photo by Tracey Niimi

1 Ukulele Hero

Living in Hawaii, it seemed only natural that Brittni Paiva would pick up a ukulele at some point. When she was 11, her grandfather gave her one that had belonged to his mother. Paiva, who’d played piano since she was 4, quickly mastered the instrument.

Now the 23-year-old’s touring the world, has released five CDs and is one of the performers at the inaugural San Diego Ukulele Festival taking place at the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14. The fest includes workshops, vendors and performances by two-dozen uke players. (You can catch Paiva at 7 p.m. on Saturday; she also recommends checking out Sarah Maisal at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday and fellow islander Taimane Gardner at 3 p.m. on Sunday.)

Paiva acknowledges that the ukulele often doesn’t get the respect it deserves. (Thanks, Tiny Tim.)

“Coming from Hawaii, we hold it to a very high value. It’s part of the band here, and so when you go out to other places like Japan, Australia, to the mainland U.S., it tends to change a little bit,” she says. “I guess I would like to bring that value back to the instrument. It’s a high-class instrument. It can play anything a guitar can play. I want to show that it’s able to keep up with the guitar.”

(To see some of what Paiva’s talking about, check her out on YouTube channel.)

She’s not yet sure what she’ll play at the festival—she says she’ll decide when she gets there.

“It really depends on the crowd,” she says. “If the crowd’s a little more relaxed, I’ll play stuff that has really good grooves to it. If the crowd is up and jumping and there’s a mosh pit in the front, then I’ll tend to play some upbeat stuff. I do like to shred on my uke once in awhile.”

2 Protest signs

The imagery that comes about during times of civil unrest usually stays embedded in our memory the longest. Like the Berlin Wall coming down or countless “We are the 99 percent” posters on Wall Street. At AgitPOP: Protest Becomes Graphic, opening from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery (7250 Mesa College Drive in Kearny Mesa) will celebrate artistic posters created by local artists during these moments of societal upheaval. It features original posters by Lalo Alcaraz, Chikle, Melanie Cervantes, Favianna Rodriguez and Jesus Barraza that were used to rally the people. Alcaraz and Chikle will lead a presentation at the opening. Attendees are encouraged to wear a T-shirt printed with their favorite protest slogan. The posters will be on view through Nov. 6. sdmesa.edu/art-gallery

3 Digital Collage

The photography methods that Ruud van Empel uses in his work make it easily mistakable for another art form. In a new documentary, Ruud van Empel: Beyond Innocence, his 21st-century, digital techniques reveal a new kind of photography that messes with the mind. In his series Strange Beauty, van Empel uses collage techniques to set children against lush, tropical backdrops, even partially submerging them in water; the creepy part is that the kids look similar to porcelain dolls with big white eyes. Trip out on the Amsterdam-based artist’s digital eye-candy at his first solo show in the States, opening at the Museum of Photographic Arts (1649 El Prado, Balboa Park) on Saturday, Oct. 13, and running through Feb. 3. mopa.org

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email our events editor, Alex Zaragoza. You can also bug her on Twitter.