March 2 2015 11:43 AM

Our top picks of San Diego events this week

Photo by Alexander Collins

Vacant lot no more

It's been more than a year-and-a-half since the guys behind Rad Lab first got San Diegans excited about the idea of building a big pop-up park on a vacant lot at 1102 Market St. in East Village. The popular concept—constructing a temporary outdoor wonderland complete with things like a dog park, food trucks and shipping containers filled with local food and drink vendors—raised more than $60,000 in 30 days through Kickstarter.

The young team of designers, architects and developers successfully gathered up the rest of the funds they needed to turn the dream design into a real-life development, and from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 7, they'll show San Diego what they've done.

"We're just in the process of finishing up the stage," Rad Lab's David Loewenstein says. "Other than that, we're getting final health approvals and going through the motions, but we're on track."

The Quartyard Grand Opening Party includes live music by Madi Diaz and Swim Team, food by S&M Sausage & Meat and Curbside Bites, craft beer and cocktails, coffee by Meshuggah Shack and a mini craft fair featuring local makers. There'll also be plenty of innovative design details to drool over.

"Aesthetics were definitely very important to us," Loewenstein says. "The reused shipping containers themselves are pretty cool—they're painted white for now, but, ideally over time, we'll be able to get some artists to come in and do some murals. For now, though, we'll use projectors and display images on them."

Loewenstein says that a lot of recycled and repurposed materials were used on the site, including trees planted in old dumpsters, an ATM in a refurbished telephone booth and tables made from 100-year-old wood.

"Almost everything on the site has kind of been something else at one time," he says. "It's been cool to be able to give everything a second life."

Tickets for the party cost $5 and can be purchased at

Photo courtesy of Andrew McAllister / Akron Art Museum

Reuse, transform

In El Anatsui's artwork, common materials (tin, bottle caps, wood sliced with a chainsaw) are transformed into majestic sculptures that belie their humble beginnings. Art in America described it as "African Baroque." The Ghanaian artist, whose work's been shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Venice and Liverpool biennials and the National Museum of African Art, is the featured speaker at this year's Axline Lecture, at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 7, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location (700 Prospect St.). After you hear the artist discuss his fascinating career and art, head to MCASD's Downtown location, where your lecture ticket ($10) gets you admission to Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, which opens Friday, March 6, and will remain on view through June 28. 

Full Circle Tattoo
Photo by Joshua Brody

Tattoo you

Thursdays through Sundays, March 5 through 15, the site-specific theater company known as The Trip will perform three short plays set in a tattoo shop, and they'll be staged, site-specifically, in a genuine tattoo shop—Full Circle Tattoo in South Park (2312 30th St.). Strangely enough, the evening is called 3 Plays in a Tattoo Shop: three writers, three actors, one director. Oh! And one tattoo recipient: During each performance, one patron will be part of the show, getting real-life, permanent ink by artist Bill Canales amid the action. Sadly, the free tattoos have been claimed for all performances. Get tickets at

Photo by Heather Van Gaale

Basking in busking

Jugglers, fire breathers, sword-swallowers, contortionists—what will the ninth annual Spring Busker Festival bring this year to Seaport Village (849 W Harbor Drive)? Find out from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 7-8. Bring the kids down to the waterfront to check out impressive feats—including a guy who juggles and plays the bagpipe atop an 8-foot-tall unicycle while wearing a kilt—by these street performers from around the world. For those without young humans in tow, stick around Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. for Buskers After Dark. Open to those 18 and older, the event includes drink specials, a DJ and acts aimed at a mature audience. Both Busker events are free, though the performers always appreciate tips.

Melissa d’Arabian

Cooking good

Melissa d’Arabian grew up with a single mom who was putting herself through medical school, meaning money (and time) were tight. The author and chef hasn't forgotten her humble beginnings and after winning season five of The Next Food Network Star, she went on to author two cookbooks and host TV shows (like Ten Dollar Dinners) that focus on cheap-and-healthy eats. From 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, d’Arabian will be at Puesto at The Headquarters (789 West Harbor Drive, #155) to sign copies of her new book Supermarket Healthy, which features delish recipes that don't require you to hit up specialty stores or spend your whole paycheck. During the book signing, and through March 6, Puesto will be offering a special taco created by d’Arabian and Puesto chef Luisteen Gonzalez: summer squash, portobello mushrooms and broccoli with melted cheese in a house-made corn tortilla. A portion of the sale of each taco will go to the charity Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry.

Installation view of Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui at the Akron Art Museum
Photo by Andrew McAllister

Remix it up 

We’re not 100-percent sure about this, but the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s Thursday Night Thing (TNT) may have been the first of what are now many San Diego after-hours museum art-and-cocktails events. Let’s just go with that. It’ll be back from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, March 5, with TNT: Remixed, highlighted by the opening of MCASD’s Downtown location’s newest exhibition, Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui—the Ghanaian artist creates large, beautiful works from mundane materials. You know who else creates beautiful works? Musician Jimmy LaValle (The Album Leaf), that’s who. The former San Diegan—one of our favorites—will perform two sets at TNT, at 8 and 9 p.m. Also on tap will be a performance by sound-sculpture artist Keenan Harsten, Collective Magpie and local teens will continue their work on a fleet of unmanned hot-air balloons, Green Truck will have food for sale and Stone Brewing Co., 619 Vodka, Euphoric Tequila and Snake Oil Cocktail Co. will be on-hand with adult beverages. Admission is $10, or $8 for students and seniors.  


he PGK Dance Project performing in a gallery in Boston
Photo by Liza Voll

Out and about

Taking traditional art forms and plopping them down in a different, unexpected context does more than just freshen things up. With the ongoing San Diego Dances series—happening for more than a decade now—PGK Dance Project's been moving their performances to interesting, alternative spaces around the city and the result has been years of exciting and original works that often use their urban surroundings as inspiration. At 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6, and Saturday March 7, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8, PGK will perform new works by the company’s director, Peter G. Kalivas, plus pieces by other established and up-and-coming choreographers like Blythe Barton and Kim T. Davis at grungy-but-cool Bread & Salt (1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights). Doors open an hour before the performances so folks can explore the old bread-factory-turned-arts-venue and take in a Women’s History Month-related art exhibition and film installation. Admission is $20.