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San Diego County Museums Worth a Trip

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By Nicola Bridges

Beyond San Diego's world-class Balboa Park museums are a multitude more that each offer culturally immersive memories. Here are four San Diego County museum favorites just a little farther afield from downtown and off the beaten Balboa Park path.

The vibrant colors of Niraja Lorenz's wall-sized "Edge of Chaos" textile design is a wonderous welcome to Visions Museum of Textile Arts. Located in Liberty Station's Art District, this museum showcases unique textile artworks made from paper to more traditional yarn and thread fibers woven into exquisite works of embroidery, crochet and sewing. As well as international creators, many are by emerging local artists from within 250 miles of the only textile-art museum in Southern California.

"Sense of Place" by Eszter Bornemisza, who calls her technique "inner mapping," threads recycled paper fibers together, allowing shades to show through, including one constructed to resemble a kimono. "Tiny Pieces," a showcase of multidimensional works, ironically exhibits some of the largest pieces the museum has ever housed, said Katrina Bruins, executive director.

"A visitor brought 3D glasses," she said, "and the layers literally popped out at you."

Just as intriguing are "The Guardian Quilts" by Irene Roderick, who does improv quilting, starting with a center circle and then letting her mind and hands free-flow quilt. If you fall in love with a piece, most are for sale, and so are gift shop items from coin purses to earrings and jackets crafted by members and local artists.

 

The Museum of Making Music's mission is to make musical instruments more accessible by featuring a collection of close to 100 interactive instruments from guitars, ukuleles and pianos to percussion and electronic instruments to pluck, strum, bang and, literally, play with. Museum spokesman BJ Morgan says the intention is to remove instrument intimidation as you explore what he calls the ecosystem of musical products and see the magic that happens when people play them. There's a mixing and lighting station to discover how to make sonics and visuals to create your own faux concert. A "Making the Instruments" exhibit satisfies inquisitive musical minds that wonder how the accordion came to be, why the piano shrunk in size and how new instrument ideas helped the music industry innovate.

For example, you'll learn how a demo drum machine changed hip-hop by accidentally promoting a cultural music shift. Valuable artifacts on display include an "art case" Steinway grand piano adorned with a painted story and autographed by Henry C. Steinway himself. My favorite? A 1927 no-touch RCA Theremin, the precursor to all electronic instruments, with two antennae that play eerie spacelike sounds when your hands move close, as heard at the end of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" track.

The Barona Indian Reservation in Lakeside, just 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, is home to one of 12 bands of the Kumeyaay Nation. It's here at the Barona Cultural Center and Museum where you can learn the history of the original people of the area. The museum houses more than 3,000 cultural artifacts, including arrows, arrow points, baskets and pottery.

"Most people, even locals, don't know who and what was here before the arrival of Europeans," said Laurie Egan-Hedley, director-curator.

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