Arts & Culture Newsletter: New SDSU exhibit explores social protest through comics art

Good morning, and welcome to the U-T Arts & Culture Newsletter.

I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week.

San Diego Comic-Con International is more than four months away, but if you need to be reminded of not only the popularity but the power of comics, you need not wait. Head for Love Library at San Diego State, first floor, where the university’s Center for Comics Studies in cooperation with library staff is presenting the exhibit “Rising Up: Depictions of Social Protest in Comics.”

Seven exhibit cases of comics and graphic novels are on display in the library’s Special Collections area. The works are both contemporary and historical, everything from reflections on the Civil Rights Movement to the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, from the Black athletes’ protest on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City to the activism of DC Comics’ Justice League of America.

“Comics have a long history of depicting current events and of challenging readers to engage in social issues,” said Pamela Jackson, SDSU’s popular culture librarian and co-director of its Center for Comics Studies. “The graphic medium is a powerful way to address social justice in part because it presents information in both text and graphics. It really brings issues to life.

“Visual representations of them help people develop more empathy and passion and to have a deeper understanding of the issues.”

This being an election year, Jackson said, social justice is a “perfect topic” for the times.

“Rising Up: Depictions of Social Protest in Comics” can be viewed throughout the year during Love Library hours. Visit


(Jim Cooper / Associated Press)

I hope you’ve got a ticket for the Madeleine Peyroux concert Tuesday night at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, because there aren’t any left. Even so, I must include this show here because this jazz vocalist who began singing while a teenager on the streets of Paris is a special talent.

How special? It’s bold to say this, but to me, Peyroux’s voice, her lilt and her phrasing come closest to approximating those of the legendary Billie Holiday. There’s a little Edith Piaf in Peyroux’s singing as well, evocations of the famous French cabaret and chanson vocalist. That’s all rare air for any artist, and to be fair the Athens, Georgia-born Peyroux deserves to be admired on her own.

Classical music

Grammy-nominated soprano Melody Moore will open the 2024 Bodhi Tree Concerts series Saturday, March 16, in La Jolla.

Another highly regarded singer, opera soprano Melody Moore, is in San Diego on Saturday evening when Bodhi Tree Concerts kicks off its 2024 season.

In a 7 p.m. concert at St. James-by-the-Sea church in La Jolla, Moore will perform a variety of works, including those from her album “Remembering Tebaldi,” her personal tribute to the famed Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi. Accompanying Moore on piano will be Ines Irawati, who is well known to local audiences from her performances on both sides of the border.

Tickets for Saturday’s concert are $25-$60.


Dancers from San Diego Dance Theater, which will present "Pieces of Us" in March at Liberty Station.

(Courtesy of San Diego Dance Theater)

San Diego Dance Theater’s spring repertory concert, rescheduled from earlier this year, is now happening Friday through Sunday at the Light Box Theatre at ARTS District Liberty Station in Point Loma. The program is titled “Pieces of Us.”

The performance by SDDT dancers features the work of four choreographers: Randé Dorn, Kim Epifano, former company artistic director Jean Isaacs and current artistic director Terry Wilson.

Performances are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Documentary film

The 1968-'69 junior varsity cheerleading squad at Patrick Henry High School in San Diego's Del Cerro neighborhood.

(Courtesy of Scott Aveldson)

Soon after it opened in 1968 in the Del Cerro neighborhood, Patrick Henry High School was hailed as one of the seven model schools in the U.S. on the basis of its groundbreaking modular scheduling system. Those first Patrick Henry Patriots enjoyed what was at the time a kind of unprecedented curricular freedom.

U-T arts editor Pam Kragen reported on David Plaut’s documentary “Give Me Liberty: The Early Years of Patrick Henry High” last fall, when the film was screened for the first time on the school’s campus.

For those who couldn’t attend, the documentary will make its prime time broadcast debut at 7 p.m. Saturday on The CW, KFMB’s sister station. The documentary, which is nearly an hour long, will be shown without commercial interruption.

Here’s the trailer for “Give Me Liberty: The Early Years of Patrick Henry High”:

U-T arts stories you may have missed this week

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay

(Courtesy Humphreys Concerts by the Bay)


University of California Television invites you to enjoy this special selection of programs from throughout the University of California. Descriptions courtesy of and text written by UCTV staff:

“Discussion of the Film ‘Lamya’s Poem”

Filmmaker Sam Kadi joins moderator Juan Campo, professor of religious studies at UC Santa Barbara, for a discussion of the film “Lamya’s Poem.” Together, they consider how the film employs magical realism to interweave scenes from the lives of contemporary Syrian refugees with the experiences of 13th-century poet Rumi. Kadi discusses the uses of animation in crafting a fantastical world, and shares perspectives on the important role of music, a conversation that continued with input from composer Christopher Willis, who was in attendance for the screening.

“How to Get Big Oil to Take Climate Change Seriously”

Paasha Mahdavi, assistant professor at UC Santa Barbara, explores the critical role of oil companies in combatting climate change through his work, “Power Grab: Political Survival Through Extractive Resource Nationalization.” Advocating for a major shift, he calls on these corporations to transform from leading polluters to advocates of sustainability. Mahdavi contrasts their historical environmental negligence with a slow but emerging recognition of climate change challenges. He underlines the influence of shareholder activism, highlighted by Engine No. 1’s triumph in ExxonMobil’s board election, as a key driver for adopting climate-aware governance. His presentation is a compelling call to action, stressing the vital need for collective endeavors across all societal sectors to secure a sustainable future.

“CARTA: Permanent Body Modification Through History”

Permanent body modification (PBM) is a widely embraced practice, with studies indicating that over a billion people worldwide have engaged in at least one form of it. This exploration traces the origins and history of PBM, focusing on seven principal types: tattooing, scarification, amputation, piercing, genital, dental and bone shaping. By examining archaeological and historical evidence alongside findings from non-human animals and extinct hominids, the presentation reveals that humans have practiced PBM for at least 15,000 years, with some evidence suggesting a tradition up to 80,000 years old. This investigation highlights the deep historical roots and cultural significance of PBM, underscoring its role in human identity and expression through the ages.

And finally, top weekend events

Christina Byrne,7, and Erin Karran, 8, wave an Irish flag for parade performers.

(Sandy Huffaker / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The best things to do this weekend in San Diego: March 14-17

Coddon is a freelance writer.

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