Our affinity for artistic expression sets us humans apart from all other animals. We continue to find innovative ways to communicate our complex emotions and philosophical reflections. Though it is inarguably enriching to appreciate works of masters, it’s ever more important to become creators in our own right. It’s not just good for our heads, it’s also great for our hearts.
Whether it’s observing the work of others or creating our own, we have ample opportunities to experience art right here in San Diego. — Barbarella
2110 Hancock Street, Old Town
Culture Shock Dance Center
Dancing is as beneficial for your brain as it is for your body. We’ve long known about the benefits of dancing’s physicality, such as increased serotonins (makes you happier) and decreased stress (again, makes you happier). But apparently, dancing can also make you smarter and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease. According to a 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, dancing was “the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.” You can get smarter and happier with the help of all kinds of dance instructors at Culture Shock, who can teach you anything from hip-hop and break-dancing to contemporary choreography and tribal fusion belly dance. Drop in for $15 or sign up for one of the affordable packages.
340 N. Escondido Boulevard, Escondido
California Center for the Arts
Cheaper than a cup of coffee, the center asks only $2 per student in exchange for a 50-minute hands-on art experience, catered to your age and skill level. In addition to lessons in visual arts, the center offers a “Beyond the Words Drama Workshop” for $4 per person where students learn cooperative skills and theater vocabulary, as well storytelling and character development. Each group gets to perform a scene to immediately implement what they’ve learned. There are many other types of classes offered.
8510 La Mesa Bouelvard, La Mesa
Alan’s Music Center
Increased capacity for memory, enhanced coordination, and overall stress reduction are among the reasons to learn to play an instrument. All that, and it’s fun! Around 30 instructors are available to help beginners of any age learn almost any instrument, including piano, guitar, trombone, cello, drums, and even the piccolo. The schedules are flexible, as each instructor sets his or her own. All classes are held in the store. Fees are monthly.
2730 Historic Decatur Road, Barracks 16 #202, Liberty Station
San Diego Writers, Ink
By learning to write better, you can improve and refine the one skill that is transferable to any job or relationship: communication. Writing can also help you work through emotions and improve your quality of life. A study in the The Oncologist demonstrated that “a single, 20-minute writing exercise” helped cancer patients change their attitudes toward their illness and improved their moods. Whether you want to blog, write a novel or screenplay, publish an article, or learn how to better express your thoughts and feelings through journaling, the professional writers/instructors at San Diego Writers, Ink offer regular workshops to help.
3316 Adams Avenue, Suite B, Normal Heights
Rare Hare Studio
Geared toward children in preschool through eighth grade, classes offered by Rare Hare encourage kids to express their own points of view with the materials provided. Whenever possible, the studio incorporates recycled materials into the creative process. For example, to create sculptures of robots, kids used donated items such as silverware, old tins, and bottlecaps. The focus on recycled items helps the children “gain awareness of how their own ability to express themselves can be interconnected with their community.”
3216 Thorn Street, North Park
San Diego Ceramic Connection
For the ultimate hands-on approach, dig your fingers deep into the creative process by learning how to sculpt with clay. Master Japanese potter Kouta Shimazaki is as patient as he is fun as he walks students of all ages and levels through each step, from wedging and wheel throwing, to trimming, inlaying, and applying glaze, and, finally, firing a unique creation in one of the kilns.
3830 Ray Street, North Park
San Diego Art Department
Painting is the quintessential art form. The instructors at SDAD offer classes that delve deeper than the usual “how to,” such as Deron Cohen’s “Painting and the Creative Process,” which covers abstract painting, drawing, and oil painting; and Josie Rodriguez’s “Art of Encaustic Painting,” which incorporates techniques she gleaned from an intensive workshop in Italy. Though silk painting, acrylic, watercolor, and other painting-centric classes are offered, if you’re looking to stretch beyond the canvas, Art Department also offers wood-collage workshops, basket weaving, photography, and mosaics. Students are able to showcase their work in the gallery onsite.
What do Japanese paper theater, 14-foot puppets, and a liar’s contest have in common?
Under the motto “Let us read you a story,” the San Diego–based nonprofit Write Out Loud headed by creative duo Veronica Murphy and Walter Ritter brings the appreciation of literature to audiences of all ages. With staged readings, Stories for Seniors, the Read-Imagine-Create contest for 12- to 18-year-olds, and the yearly TwainFest, among other events, Ritter estimates that Write Out Loud reached up to 9000 people throughout San Diego County in 2013.
Inspired by Selected Shorts in New York and Stories on Stage in Denver, the organization is going into its seventh year with plans to expand its offerings. This winter they will introduce kamishibai, Japanese “paper theater,” to grades K–2 in several San Diego schools. Kamishibai is a story contained in a briefcase-sized box, fashioned like a miniature stage, which opens to reveal picture scrolls. Early readers respond excellently to it. Veronica and Walter hope to develop the program to include students crafting their own kamishibai.
August brings the fifth annual TwainFest — the most popular of Write Out Loud’s programs — to Old Town State Park. Last year the free event drew 5900 attendees and gave away 684 books as prizes. With the help of 120 volunteers, partners Todd Blakesley and Lee Lawless, Fiesta de Reyes, and many Old Town businesses, Write Out Loud puts on a day of 19th-century literature-themed fun inspired by Mark Twain. Meet a 14-foot-tall puppet of Emily Dickinson or Edgar Allan Poe, catapult the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, spin the Wheel of Fiction, drink tea in the Garden of Literary Delights, or practice the art of deception in the Liar’s Contest. The idea, Walter laughs, “is to make it all about literature in a way that the kids would never know it.”