I’m always amazed at those tablet commercials that show children creating wonderful art on their digital devices. If my kids get near a glowing screen, it doesn’t matter what apps are available; they instantly switch into play and/or watch mode. The closest they come to creating anything is choosing effects filters on Instagram. If I want them to develop an aesthetic sense beyond selfie curation — and I do — I’ve got to get them out into the world, the earlier the better. Happily, San Diego has plenty to offer in that department. Here’s a smattering of what our county has to offer its budding artist.
750 B Street, Downtown San Diego
Young People’s Concerts at Copley Symphony Hall in Jacobs Music Center
To quote Walt Disney’s Professor Owl: “The toot and the whistle and the plunk and the boom, that’s where the music comes from.” The San Diego Symphony gives youngsters a taste of symphology — the science of (musical) sound — by introducing their instruments individually, from dragging a bow across a string to banging a stretched membrane with a stick. Then these master musicians demonstrate how these motions combine to make beautiful music together. Kids from grades two through eight can enjoy the 50-minute performance for just $5 a ticket.
1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
$20 Under 30 at the Old Globe Theater
Way back, I decided it would be a shame if my kids grew up not knowing that America’s Finest City boasts some of the best regional theater in the country, and a bigger shame if they never understood all the fuss about Shakespeare. The Old Globe seems to share my sentiment. The Globe wants to make high-quality theater accessible to the (comparatively impoverished) young and have priced these tickets accordingly. My two teens have already booked theirs for the summer series, which includes Sense and Sensibility, Macbeth, and Love’s Labours Lost.
200 W. Island Avenue, East Village
New Children’s Museum
We always leave the New Children’s Museum with paint on our clothes and a project in our hands. Last time, my young daughters spent hours adding a layer of color to a vintage water wagon, learning to make handmade paper, climbing around all manner of ropes and wires, and crooning karaoke into microphones. The museum offers three levels of interactive exhibits designed to get kids thinking and creating while they play. Children under one are free; everybody else pays $12 — cheaper and more engaging than a ticket to the latest animated offering.
330 Park Boulevard, East Village
Neil Morgan Auditorium at the San Diego Central Library
I can make even my youngest kids sit still for one hour a month, especially if the seats are comfy like the ones in the Neil Morgan Auditorium. It also helps that there’s something cool to listen to, since we tend to visit during the library’s free concert series. The little ones get exposed to a plethora of auditory treats, from jazzy Afro-Cuban beats to contemporary contrabass to Medieval guitar to works by Beethoven on the violin. The Winter/Spring 2016 Series runs January to May.
The Shakespeare Academy
This is where my kids fell in love with the Bard: learning, rehearsing, and performing scenes from a range of his plays. I really believe that the early exposure made it easier for them to grok the complications (and sublimities) of his language and stories. The academy offers readings, games, performances, and a large collection of gorgeous costumes; the multi-faceted approach keeps things fun even while real work is getting done. Classes run $15 per hour per student; new locations can be added by request. Visit theshakespeareacademy.com for more info.
6845 University Avenue, Rolando
Kroc Center Junior Theater
My six-year-old daughter’s eyes widened as Belle strolled onto the stage and sang “Little Town” at the Kroc’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Soon the stage was filled with performers from 8 to 18, whimsically costumed and thoroughly in character. By the time we left, I had an actress on my hands. The Kroc Junior Theater produces two shows a year and nurtures the aspiring artist in any child who wants in (though auditions are required). Auditions for Peter Pan start in early March. Program fee: $240 Kroc members/$270 guests. Scholarships available.
Art with Larisse
My walls at home are all but covered with an impressive array of bright pastel drawings made by my kids. Some are new; some have hung for years. Most were made at Art with Larisse, where they received kind, knowledgeable, individual instruction that pushed them just enough and kept pace with their particular development. Pastels become charcoals, watercolors, and oils, with a short sharing period at the end of each class. Classes available for age five and up; $20 per 75-minute session, with family discounts available.