May 12 2014 07:08 PM

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

Take Back the Alley at Media Arts Center’s Digital Gym in North Park
Photo courtesy Media Arts Center San Diego

1. Safe passage

When folks think of neighborhood revitalization, alleyways don't usually come to mind. Could the often-unwelcoming thoroughfares become attractive public spaces?

On Saturday, May 17, through an initiative called Take Back the Alley, makeovers will be happening at four locations: between Imperial Avenue and Commercial Street (bounded by 28th and 29th streets), between Clay and Franklin avenues (bounded by 30th and 31st streets) and at Bread & Salt (1955 Julian Ave.), all in Logan Heights; and the alley behind Media Arts Center San Diego in North Park (2921 El Cajon Blvd.).

Media Arts Center was where the initiative was born. Ethan von Thillo, executive director of the nonprofit, says that when they moved in three years ago, their alley was blighted. Since then, they've added a mural, planted trees and turned it into a safe space for film screenings and classes. The goal is to expand alley improvements down the block, creating a corridor that ties together restaurants and shops along that stretch of the boulevard.

If you'd like to help with the alley overhauls, go to and look for the link to the volunteer sign-up page. Or, stop by: From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Bread & Salt, help plant fruit trees and check out a mural-in-progress and an exhibit of Woodbury architectural students' ideas for neighborhood beautification. In the alley between Imperial and Commercial avenues, they'll be painting murals, building planters out of bike spokes and tires and holding a block party. Along the 2900 block of El Cajon Boulevard, the cleanup culminates with a block party from 6 to 10 p.m. that'll include Old Harbor Distilling Co. cocktails at Coffee and Tea Collective, the Puesto food truck and an exhibition of artwork by Paul Wig at Gym Standard. 

"I think next year you're going to see even more communities getting involved," von Thillo says."I think what you're seeing here is a little teeny movement that's just going to expand once more people hear about it." 

2. Art, music, dance, beer

The North Park Festival of Arts is in its 18th year, and itís really growing into something. Happening from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 17, along University Avenue and down side streets in the heart of North Park, the mostly free fest will feature 30 music acts on four stages and 25 dance performances on a dedicated dance stage. The North Park Craft Mafia will display its wares and hold craft workshops, and there'll be a quick-draw plein air competition, a juried fine-art show, a Veterans Art Zone focused on the work of military veterans and a section highlighting the Ray Street arts district. And the Waypoint Craft Beer Block will boast more than 30 brewers—get taster tickets ASAP because it'll sell out before the event.

3. Just your type

Artist Tim Youd wants to retype 100 classic novels in five years. To make it even more of a challenge, he's decided that each novel must be typed "on location," which means he sets up a typewriter in a place that somehow relates to the book or the author. Youd's currently retyping all seven of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels. Chandler lived in La Jolla, so Youd will tackle The Long Goodbye and Playback for his show opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla location (700 Prospect St.) on Saturday, May 17. Youd will start typing on Saturday and continue through Sunday, May 18. Heíll be back this summer to finish up, but art objects created during his performances will be on view through August.

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email Kinsee Morlan.


  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • The former local boy and creator of the highly influential blog, Advanced Style, will be signing and discussing his third book, Advanced Style: Older and Wiser, which features inspiring pictures and stories...
  • C.J. Chenier and Bonsoir Catin headline this annual Cajun inspired festival. Also enjoy 10,000 pounds of crawfish, dancing and cooking demonstrations. Held at Spanish Landing Park, across from the...
  • A Cinco de Mayo party featuring $2 tacos, cocktails and live music from Bostich+Fussible, Javiera Mena and Gepe
  • A spoken word showcase hosted by English instructor Karla Cordero and her City College students. There will also be a special reading from poet Mercedez Holtry, as well as an art and photography show....
  • Widely known as host of "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live and for his role in the Showtime dramedy Weeds, Kevin Nealon brings his unique humor back to the stand-up stage
  • New works from over a dozen UCSD undergraduate students. Participating artists include Charity Algarme, Richard Lin, Joseph Maas, Ignatius Nguyen, and more
  • This video art exhibition from UCSD MFA candidate Stefani Byrd features two installations that explore the themes of breath, mediation, and the nature of time. Takes place in the VAF Performance Space,...
See all events on Thursday, May 5