Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Reimagines Downtown Campus to Provide New Experiences, Expand Audiences

Partnerships with local arts groups signify strategic shift

Image of MCASD Downtown’s Jacobs Building and Copley Building.

(Thursday, January 5 – SAN DIEGO) – Coming off the ambitious expansion that quadrupled gallery space in its La Jolla location, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) announced a strategic shift for its Downtown San Diego campus that will provide new experiences to serve all audiences in its regional community more fully.

MCASD Downtown will develop a multi-disciplinary arts hub to nurture the visual and performing arts of the region. The goal is threefold:

  • Bridging new collaborations,
  • Engaging new audiences, and
  • Highlighting new voices.

“The strategic shift will leverage creative partnerships from across the region to further enhance downtown San Diego as an arts destination for the region,” explained Kathryn Kanjo, MCASD David C. Copley Director and CEO.

MCASD Downtown will welcome people to artistic performances, exhibitions, events, and experiences following a flexible schedule. The campus also will continue supporting MCASD’s education initiatives to encourage discovery and exploration and connect students with contemporary art through offerings like Extended School Partnerships and Teen Arts Collective.

“This is a dynamic period for San Diego’s arts and culture community, especially for the neighborhoods surrounding downtown San Diego,” Kanjo added. “With this shift toward community-based partnerships, we hope to more fully engage audiences through an extensive range of artistic content and media. Contemporary art looks forward and this initiative aligns directly with our forward-thinking mission.”

Beginning in 2023, MCASD will experiment alongside local leaders in art, design, and performing arts, including La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WOW) Festival, World Design Capital San Diego Tijuana 2024 (WDC 2024) and Blindspot Collective. MCASD has partnered with WDC 2024 to share its downtown exhibit space as a premier venue to spotlight regional design as part of the prestigious, year-long slate of programming and events.

"We are certain these new collaborations will help vitalize and energize our already evolving downtown,” said Betsy Brennan, President & CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. “MCASD’s focus on programmatic partnerships will further enhance Downtown San Diego as a destination for arts and culture in our binational region. We can’t wait to see what the combination of MCASD’s deep knowledge and expertise in the arts and the innovation of our community will create in our urban neighborhoods.”


In the late-1980s, MCASD began exhibiting at various sites downtown to meet the evolving needs of the Museum, including additional exhibition space in a geographically accessible region. In 2007, the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building and David C. Copley Building (1100 Kettner Blvd) opened on the site of the former baggage building of the Santa Fe Depot. This new facility expanded the Museum’s downtown presence from its existing, nearby location at 1001 Kettner Boulevard.

MCASD Downtown is one campus with two nearby addresses:

  • MCASD Downtown (1100 Kettner Blvd): The plan is to transform it into a flexible exhibition and/or performance space. With its vast gallery spaces, the Jacobs Building will continue to host MCASD’s education activities and art installations, alongside new, programmatic partnerships.
  • 1001 Kettner Blvd: The plan is to transform it into an arts incubator.


MCASD’s Downtown is finding ways to serve the needs of the region’s art, design, and performing arts communities through partnerships and collaborations. The first set of confirmed partnerships include The La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WOW) Festival and Optika Moderna; the World Design Capital 2024, San Diego and Tijuana; and Blindspot Collective with DISCO RIOT.

The La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WOW) and Optika Moderna: The Playhouse and MCASD have partnered to bring San Diego a new interactive experience, La Lucha, by award-winning designer David Israel Reynoso and his immersive theatrical company Optika Moderna. The company pushes boundaries of experiential entertainment with thoughtful narratives and unique perspectives. They often reflect Latin American influences in their aesthetic and styling. Reynoso and Optika Moderna have been featured in several past WOW Festivals with their acclaimed productions of Las Quinceañeras, Optika Piñata and Waking La Llorona. His work can be seen throughout San Diego at exhibitions in both the Museum of Us (Maya Peoples, Hostile Terrain 94, Living with Animals and Post-Secret) and The New Children’s Museum (Teatro Piñata).

Inspired by Lucha Libre - where professional Mexican wrestlers use masks and high-flying maneuvers to astonish and captivate audiences – La Lucha transports visitors to a realm of ringside thrills and backstage secrecies. The experience will be hosted at the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Kathryn Kanjo and the entire team at MCASD to launch one of the most ambitious Without Walls projects in the program’s history,” said Christopher Ashley, The Rich Family Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse. “As we grow the WOW series, we are excited to develop new partnerships that can help activate spaces in new ways. MCASD Downtown offers a unique opportunity to combine immersive theatre with an intricate production design to electrify audiences. Kathryn and I both greatly admire the work of celebrated local artist David Israel Reynoso, and we’re excited to share the world of La Lucha with San Diego.”

As part of its initial limited run, San Diego audiences will be able to preview the experience as part of The 2023 WOW Festival running April 27 – 30, 2023. After the festival, La Lucha will open to the public in May 2023.

As part of the plan to transform 1001 Kettner Blvd into an arts incubator, MCASD is hosting the World Design Capital 2024 and Blindspot Collective as its first two beneficiaries.

Led by CEO Carlos de la Mora, organizing partners and the regional design community, WDC 2024 will leverage the 1001 Kettner Boulevard space to house a number of WDC 2024 events and exhibits. MCASD is one of the first strategic partners to join with the WDC 2024 non-profit organization since its inception in June 2022. In 2021, the US-Mexico border cities of Tijuana and San Diego won an historic designation from the World Design Organization (WDO) to become the World Design Capital for 2024. The winning bid was the result of a multi-year effort led by a team of regional designers, innovators and civic leaders to showcase the region’s design-driven, innovative culture and economy.

A rapidly growing theater company established in 2017, Blindspot Collective was the first theater company to receive a residency at the San Diego International Airport and was the theater-in-residence at La Jolla Playhouse in 2020-2021. The company will launch an incubator that supports local artists in 2023 by providing dedicated office and rehearsal space, as well as a new program for young adults with support from the California Arts Council. In addition to producing new plays, musicals, and immersive projects at MCASD, Blindspot Collective will also host other companies such as Disco Riot; its 2023 Queer Mvmnt Fest is also planned for MCASD Downtown.


  • For the La Lucha pre-sale interest list signup, click here


The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the region’s foremost forum devoted to the exploration and presentation of the art of today. Open since 1941, we welcome all audiences to reflect on their lives, communities, and the ever-changing world through the powerful prism of contemporary art. Between two MCASD locations — one in the heart of downtown San Diego and the other in the coastal community of La Jolla — we showcase an internationally-recognized collection. MCASD’s dynamic exhibition schedule features a vast array of media in an unprecedented variety of spaces, along with a growing dedication to community experiences and public programs. As a cultural hub, MCASD seeks to catalyze conversation in our region.

La Jolla Playhouse is a place where artists and audiences come together to create what’s new and next in the American theatre, from Tony Award-winning productions, to imaginative programs for young audiences, to interactive experiences outside our theatre walls. Founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, the Playhouse is currently led by Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley, the Rich Family Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse, and Managing Director Debby Buchholz. The Playhouse is internationally renowned for the development of new plays and musicals, including mounting 108 world premieres, commissioning 60 new works, and sending 33 productions to Broadway, garnering a total of 38 Tony Awards, as well as the 1993 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.

La Jolla Playhouse’s signature Without Walls (WOW) experiences have become some of the region’s most popular and acclaimed performance series. Since 2011, the Playhouse has been commissioning and presenting this series of immersive, site-inspired and virtual productions throughout the community, including nine stand-alone productions, fourteen Digital WOW pieces, and the annual WOW Festival, which has become a staple of the San Diego events calendar for local, national and international artists and audiences.

World Design Capital San Diego Tijuana 2024 (WDC 2024) is the 501c3 organization created to guide the San Diego - Tijuana region’s planning, execution and community involvement of the World Design Capital 2024. The biennial designation is awarded by the World Design Organization, and recognizes cities for their effective use of design to drive economic, social, cultural and environmental development. The selection of the San Diego Tijuana joint bid makes it the first binational World Design Capital designation in history. While the designation is for the San Diego Tijuana region, San Diego is now the first U.S. city ever to receive the designation. Tijuana is the second city in Mexico to hold the title, following Mexico City in 2018. The region’s winning bid reflects the collective efforts of founding partners UC San Diego Design Lab, Burnham Center for Community Advancement, Design Forward Alliance, City of San Diego and City of Tijuana, as well as numerous community supporters. The year-long regional celebration, as well as its associated events, initiatives and programs, is expected to generate more than $1.5 billion in total economic impact for the region.

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Image of MCASD Downtown’s Jacobs Building and Copley Building.