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Art +Tech

Part of San Diego's unique artistic identity

San Diego's coastal beauty constantly inspires landscape painters and nature photographers, with many showing their artwork in Balboa Park's Spanish Village Art Center or in galleries throughout ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station. But local artists are also strongly influenced by science and technology - that's no surprise, given San Diego's reputation for being a "smart city".

By: Susan Myrland

If you arrive by air, you'll see a few examples right away thanks to the San Diego International Airport's impressive art program. Above the baggage claim is Miki Iwasaki's interactive Signalscape, 592 boxes built from walnut, maple and cherry wood, embedded with energy-efficient lighting that activates when people walk by. Near the food court in Terminal 1, you'll find another Iwasaki piece, Astralgraph, installed in 2014. It combines elements of geography, geometry, cartography and navigation. Notice the metal dots representing constellations - an appropriate image for passengers traveling the skies.

If you want to discover conceptual art with science and tech overtones, one of the major sources is the University of California San Diego's groundbreaking Visual Arts Department. Located in La Jolla, UCSD encourages artistic experimentation through programs like the new undergraduate major in Speculative Design, where students imagine the future and develop solutions that blend art, science, culture and technology. To find out what's happening on campus, check the Visual Arts Department's calendar.

Science and tech influences pop up in local galleries and museums, especially the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, The New Children's Museum, Fleet Science Center, San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego State University's Downtown Gallery, Quint Gallery, alternative art venue Space 4 Art, and the San Diego Art Institute. Located in Balboa Park, the San Diego Art Institute has become one of the best places to find digital, video and sound art.

"There's a really interesting experimental sound art scene here," says SDAI Executive Director Ginger Shulick Porcella. "Artists are doing conceptual work but making it accessible - like Margaret Noble, Aren Skalman or Scott Nielsen. It's sound-based, but it's still an object that people can understand."

Makers, hackers and DIY crafters abound as well. Check out the recently-expanded Innovation Lab at the San Diego Central Library downtown, with rows of 3D printers and milling machines to create circuit boards. The library itself is a model of "art + tech." There's a wide variety of art throughout the building, capped by a 2,000 square foot art gallery on the top floor.

Unique art events are happening all the time in San Diego - don't be afraid to try something new. After checking larger event calendars, take a look at the Facebook pages of local galleries, bars and creative spaces. With a little investigating, you might find yourself at something truly special, like Dorkbot, a night of electronic music, digital art, craft beer and tinkering. Then you'll truly be in the heart of San Diego's contemporary art scene.

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