Ready to know more about San Diego?


Redefining San Diego’s Cultural Palate

ICA’s executive director Andrew Ütt invites locals to surround themselves with art

Andrew Ütt, ICA Director

Andrew Ütt, executive director of the Institute of Contemporary Art of San Diego (ICA), formerly the LUX Art Institute, is a rare breed in the visual art world.

Though intensely passionate and loquacious regarding the finer points of curation, Ütt eschews pretense. He’s approachable, affable, and, most importantly, he gets it: Art can be hard—especially in a city where tan lines can act as social currency and sandy feet are kudos to a day well spent.

Can the likes of Baldessari really compete with the beach? Ütt is optimistic but aware of the cultural challenges.

His calling card as a curator is his proclivity for studio visits with artists, which have clocked him hundreds—if not thousands—of hours interviewing makers and getting to the core of their visions.

“I think something we’re missing in San Diego that has a huge potential is to just surround ourselves with art,” he says. “We’re getting there.” Through his guidance, ICA’s dual locations in Balboa Park and Encinitas offer that chance to be surrounded: Both locations feature art classes and exhibitions from artists-in-residence.

“I think if San Diego wants to be an arts destination, and wants to be known as such, we need to be thinking as a global city and not as a local city,” he says.

A prodigal San Diego son himself, Ütt returned to the city after a post-art school stint in San Francisco and years abroad in Europe and South America. These travels, combined with his 20-years of experience in curation and arts organization, make Ütt seem like the most likely candidate to take our city to that lauded echelon. Tinged with altruistic ambition, he admits, “It’s my responsibility to bring in artists that are doing interesting things.”

Ütt hopes that with ICA’s broad reach throughout the county he can make art accessible, informative, and, yes, challenging. “I’m a true believer that if someone doesn’t like art, then it’s working,” he says, “and that’s a good thing because then they start to be more aware and cognizant of the things around them and the ideas that are being presented.”

He’s not asking you to give up the beach, just to give art a chance, too.


Lose yourself in the layered pattern paintings of artist Taylor Chapin,


Woodland creatures laze in the center of these ceramic bowls overlayed with blown-up florals,


Liven up your living space with ceramic tube-and-glass tables finished with swirling post-modern pastels, $7,200.


Lounge in artist Chris Wolston’s conceptual, anatomical nod to non- Western art-making,


Tikal green marble half-spheres conjoin to make this striking living room centerpiece, $32,000.


Reflect on yourself in these languid mirror shapes, $4,500.


Keep track with this surrealism-meets-animation timepiece,


Artist Darren Romanelli (DRX) upcycles camo for oversized, sustainable comfort, $25,000.

By Danielle Allaire

Danielle is a freelance culture journalist focusing on music, food, wine, hospitality, and arts, and founder-playwright of Yeah No Yeah Theatre company, based in San Diego. Her work has been featured in FLAUNT, Filter Magazine, and San Diego Magazine. Born and raised in Maui, she still loves a good Mai Tai.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA