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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.

The People's Creation Story that traditionally took four days to tell is featured in a 20-minute theater-style film, along with a majestic mural showing how the Kumeyaay people lived in clans in the four ecological zones of their local territory. You'll learn about the "knowledge keepers," elders who were scientists in their own right, tracking the sun, moon, stars and seasons, studying pigments and knowing how to time events such as the grunion run. The "We Are Still Here" exhibit showcases -- from the Kumeyaay people's perspective -- their historic timeline not found in history textbooks, from creation through to today -- a powerful example of BCCM's mission to educate.

At the California Surf Museum you can see "The History of Surfing Through Surf Boards," which includes boards of 1800s Hawaiian royalty to the first California life-saving boards. You'll learn the evolution of the surfboard craft from handcarved redwood and balsa longboards to foam and fiberglass shortboards. These caused a surfing revolution that allowed mass production to fill the pent-up demand of wannabe surfers when the first surf-culture movie, 1959's "Gidget" debuted, said Jim Kempton, CSM's executive director.

You'll learn how hydrodynamic design changed boards from the late '60s 12-foot longboards to today's 6-foot shortboards. A fascinating Permanent Science Exhibit shows how live data recording wave swell size and conditions is collected from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association buoys, translating into the daily surf report.

 

More of a boogie board fan? The Morey Exhibit showcases boogie board inventor Tom Morey, whose creation lets millions who don't surf experience the thrill of riding waves.

"Then there's our Mona Lisa," Kempton says proudly. "The board pro surfer Bethany Hamilton was riding when she got bitten by a shark."

Seeing the dramatic teeth marks and missing board chunk is enough to make any wannabe surfer hang at the museum instead of hanging 10 riding San Diego's surf.

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WHEN YOU GO

Visions Museum of Textile Art, San Diego, California: www.vmota.org

Museum of Making Music, Carlsbad, California: www.museumofmakingmusic.org

Barona Cultural Center and Museum, Lakeside, California: www.baronamuseum.com

California Surf Museum, Oceanside, California: www.surfmuseum.org

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Nicola Bridges is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


 

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