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Best of San Diego: Arts & Culture

The city's scene is heating up with new music venues, the return of theatre festivals, and the rebirth of a now world-class museum
Jenna Selby
Rady Shell

The Rady Shell

Jenna Selby

New Cultural Hub

Park & Market

The cultural renewal of Downtown got a jolt from this massive, inclusive project. It includes a 225-seat Guggenheim theater for plays, concerts, and lectures; a 58-seat movie house screening indie and foreign films; a 25-foot dual-sided video wall for video installations; gallery space; a “civic collaboratory” for research and public policy; a state of the art computer lab; a dance and wellness room. And that’s just the tip of its culture iceberg.

Formal Display, Informal Culture

California Center of the Arts

Subcultures don’t ask for recognition from art institutions, but it always warms the fringe heart when they get it. “Street Legacy: SoCal Style Masters,” includes the work of nearly 100 artists from the world of lowrider, surf, skate, tattoo, and graffiti. It’s curated by two local culture heavyweights: Bobby Ruiz (CEO of local clothing line, Tribal) and Dr. G Jim Daichendt, an art history professor at Point Loma Nazarene.

Stage as Feminist Expression

Moxie Theatre

The Rolando-area theater company embarks on its 17th season of bringing women+ stories to life with radically inclusive casting and all the determination of its namesake. Having survived the pandemic’s performance embargo with “ZoomFest,” they’re back on stage with world premieres alongside works by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights.

Church of Sound

Rady Shell

Rookie of the year, for sure. The city’s $98 million al fresco answer to the Hollywood Bowl or Sydney Opera House is one of the planet’s premier outdoor music experiences. A view of the downtown skyline. Gentle, bay breeze. Even better is the inclusiveness: public park by day and pay-nothing seats along the edges. Anyone else think it also kinda looks like a Dyson fan? (A compliment.)

Rebirth of Art Cool

MCASD La Jolla

Hand-wringing has a history of looking silly in the rearview. And hands were nearly dislocated in the wringing over the $105 million, four-year remodel of MCASD La Jolla. The result? A world-class reorientation toward the sea, doubling the size of the museum and quadrupling the exhibition space (which now has room for a permanent collection).

Long Wait Worth It

The Holding Company

Shortly after OB’s three-story music venue/restaurant/bar opened, the world shut down. Now that venues are open again, the stage is finally living its heyday, hauling in bigger acts like Buckcherry, Mickey Avalon, and Too Short. Looks like we’ve got the next beachside music venue.


Oya Art Gallery & Boutique

Madeline Yang

National Festival, Local Roots


Massive music festivals are often national-company pursuits. But this November, San Diego native and longtime promoter Ernie Hahn brings 80-plus bands (Gwen Stefani, Zac Brown Band, Kings of Leon, G-Eazy, Cage the Elephant, etc.) for a three- day music and arts fest that’ll take over the Downtown waterfront and parks.

Perch to Crush Popcorn

Rooftop Cinema Club

Movie lovers bask under the stars with a breathtaking view of the city and San Diego Bay—rows and rows of cushioned adirondack chairs, headphones to solve the problem of outdoor sound systems, and big, silly, indulgent flicks like Top Gun, Magic Mike, and The Greatest Showman.

Bookstore as Art Form

Lang Books

Daniel Lang has never lived outside San Diego, but thumbing through the pages of hardcover art books, quarterly glossies, and more-than-DIY zines, you’d think he was a seasoned ex-pat. Lang always has brand-new imports, like Japan’s Brain Zine, or a well-curated trove of used tomes. If you miss buying Purple magazine at Paras News in North Park, this shop’s for you.

Up-and-Coming Art House

Oya Art Gallery & Boutique 

Controlling the narrative is exactly what Kim Phillips-Pea and Raquel Rhone have done for the last several years as the Southeast Art Team. The Black-focused art gallery located on Commercial St. features fine art, portraits, prints, and jewelry created by Black artists. Their work extends into the streets, adding murals to walls that need some art.

Homegrown Theater Program

La Jolla Playhouse

The big news this year was the return of La Jolla Playhouse’s WOW Festival— when global artists take over the city streets. It marked the return to regular programming for our own Broadway factory. The second half of its 2022 season features Shakespeare’s As You Like It, co-directed by LJP’s Tony- winning artistic director Christopher Ashley, and the world premiere of The Outsiders. Stay on cue, Ponyboy.

See full list of contributors here

By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's content strategist. Prior to that, she was its managing editor. Before her SDM career, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics. Her work has been selected twice for Best American Travel Writing, and she has won a variety of national and local awards for her writing and reporting.

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