Culture Spotlight: Museum of Photographic Arts
Posted on February 10, 2018
In the early 1970s, a group of local photographers looked to bring the camera arts to the public. They spent nine years as an organization without a permanent home. The City of San Diego then donated space in its Balboa Park Cultural Complex. The Museum of Photographic Arts, or MOPA, has since grown into one of the top tourist destinations in Southern California, with 100,000 visitors walking through the doors each year.
MOPA is one of only three stand-alone museums exclusively dedicated to photography and film in the nation accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. In its permanent collection, guests can view the entire history of photography spanning contemporary works and photojournalism, and experience exhibitions from both local and global photographers. Nearly 8,500 photographs by 700 artists, as well as more than 21,000 related items, are stored within MOPA’s Edmund L. and Nancy K. Dubois Library.
Film buffs can experience MOPA’s annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival, also held in Balboa Park from February 1-4. “This year, six powerful films will investigate human experiences with corruption, abuse, censorship, activism, and resilience across the globe,” explains communications manager Danielle Lewis-Richardson. “After each film, guests will have the chance to hear from filmmakers and film subjects in a Q&A,” Richardson says.
MOPA offers numerous outreach programs for budding photographers, both young and young at heart. Spring Camp during the week of March 26–30 invites kids ages 7-12 to explore a variety of photographic skills and creative techniques. Artist talks, workshops, and lectures from renowned photographers provide insight and tutorials for novices and experts to hone their skills. For seniors, there is SEPIA (Seniors Exploring Photography, Identity and Appreciation), an initiative that offers museum tours, outreach tours, and classes in digital photography.
“Digital technology has created an artistic revolution in our hands,” says Lewis-Richardson. “In 2017, MOPA hosted an iPhone Image Adventures Workshop that focused on harnessing the potential of smartphone cameras and photo editing applications. In 2018, MOPA hopes to host more educational programs and will continue to encourage and guide photographers in combining artistic ambition with increasingly accessible technology.”
Current exhibitions include the 12th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition, Defining Boundaries, which showcases the creativity and ideas of San Diego County and Tijuana students exploring the theme of “boundaries” through photography and video. Point/Counterpoint: Contemporary Mexican Photography will run through April. After that, Artist Speaks: Erica Deeman will investigate the history of race, ethnography, and portraiture through large-scale photographs of people of color. Moment in Time: A Collection of Photographs, will feature a selection of works from the collection assembled by Beaumont and Nancy Newhall in the 1960s. 619.238.7559, mopa.org Ryan Thomas