Innovators of the Arts
Posted on May 1, 2019
Arguably a hub of artistic endeavors musical, theatrical, and visual, La Jolla continues to evolve and grow with programs and facilities that enrich the community far beyond its borders. The appreciation for the arts that resides here is both a springboard as well as a destination for important work, and the broad spectrum of offerings allows for wide-reaching appeal. In candid conversations with Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s Kathryn Kanjo, La Jolla Music Society’s Ted DeDee, and Debby Buchholz of La Jolla Playhouse, we hear from true experts on why San Diego’s cultural scene captured their attention and how it continues to flourish. Mia S. Park | Photography by Vincent Knakal
David C. Copley Director and CEO, MCASD
What stands out as a favorite memory or accomplishment during your time at MCASD thus far? K.K. As a curator, I am most proud of organizing the exhibition Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting, which debuted in La Jolla and traveled nationally. That show was an eye-opener and helped fortify Whitten’s rightful place in art history — it’s a true honor to be associated with that. In addition, the Museum acquired an important canvas from 1974, which now becomes a part of MCASD’s identity.
You joined MCASD long before the planning began for La Jolla’s renewal. What excites you most about the La Jolla facility’s expansion project? K.K. Architect Annabelle Selldorf has crafted a masterful program which quadruples our gallery spaces and celebrates our breathtaking location. The design welcomes visitors with a clear entry and expanded outdoor spaces — there will be a public art park and two new ocean-view terraces. But, the thing that excites me the most is to imagine this impressive piece of architecture filled with art and with people.
It was announced in the fall that many of the Museum’s collectors have promised gifts of art to MCASD. Can you shed some light on what can be expected? K.K. The Museum has dedicated supporters who have collected art for decades, buying paintings by then-young artists who are now legendary, such as Andy Warhol. The promised gifts both deepen our existing holdings and introduce new artists to the collection, like Francis Bacon and Barnett Newman.
Where you do feel that San Diego’s arts & culture climate is excelling? K.K. La Jolla is a dynamic focal point to San Diego’s thriving cultural scene. New works are being produced and performed at all three organizations featured here. La Jolla is further bolstered by the Visual Arts department at UC San Diego, as well as the Athenaeum and Murals of La Jolla.
President/CEO, La Jolla Music Society
You’ve overseen the operation of seven performing arts centers across the nation. What sets LJMS apart? T.D. The La Jolla Music Society has such a remarkable and rich 50-year history of presenting the finest in classical music programs. Expanding their programmatic offerings over the years to include SummerFest, jazz, and a touring orchestra plus adding an educational component has provided LJMS audiences a richer experience and has expanded its own artistic place in the San Diego community.
What drew you to La Jolla and LJMS? T.D. I have always enjoyed the challenge of leading the transition of an organization. LJMS was not willing to wait for another organization to build a suitable venue for its programs after the closing of Sherwood Auditorium. The Board took a huge leap of faith, encouraged by former President/Artistic Director Christopher Beach, to determine its own destiny by committing to build its own new home, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center. When I learned about how far this project had progressed by early December 2018 and that LJMS would be looking for someone to assume the responsibility as the new President/CEO, I expressed my interest. That caught the attention of many who knew I had retired the previous May from a successful run at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin. So, in choosing retirement or La Jolla, the choice became obvious.
Your role at LJMS officially began just days before the opening of The Conrad. What are you most excited about as far as what the new venue will offer? T.D. I’m excited about having the best of both worlds — the longstanding traditions that LJMS is noted for, and having a blank slate to create our own new programming in collaboration with other arts partners in San Diego. I’ve personally seen what a new venue can do to provide more options that enhance an organization’s core mission. And, a new building definitely offers more opportunities to expand LJMS educational programs and outreach to an even greater community good.
Managing Director, La Jolla Playhouse
You graduated from UC San Diego and Harvard Law School. What does it mean to you to be back, serving as La Jolla Playhouse’s Managing Director? D.B. It is tremendously gratifying to be working on the campus of my alma mater. I first fell in love with La Jolla Playhouse as an undergraduate at UC San Diego, and to have the opportunity now to lead this nationally-acclaimed institution is a dream come true. The Playhouse and the university have enjoyed a long history and partnership, creating an integrated environment for the adventurous, award-winning theatre produced by the Playhouse and the renowned theatre training program at the UC San Diego Department of Theatre & Dance.
How important is it to honor the organization’s Hollywood roots as it evolves? D.B. La Jolla Playhouse’s roots lie in its commitment to artists, from its founding Hollywood luminaries Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, and Mel Ferrer to today’s acclaimed playwrights, directors, actors, and designers, such as Pulitzer Prize winners Ayad Akhtar, Paula Vogel, and Martyna Majok, as well as emerging artists as exemplified by the amazing UC San Diego MFA students who each take part in a Playhouse residency as part of their training. That commitment has made us a home for artists and keeps them coming back to develop their work in a supportive environment.
Where you do feel that San Diego’s arts & culture climate is excelling? D.B. The arts are a growing force in our local economy, and San Diego is emerging as a major arts and culture destination. There are also more and more collaborations among arts organizations, such as our WOW Festival partnership with Arts District Liberty Station. I’m often told by our patrons that they are deeply proud of the work created here that goes on to have a life beyond San Diego. Our own Artistic Director Christopher Ashley recently took home the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for a show borne right here at the Playhouse, and the entire city shares in that celebration.