The Best San Diego Art Experiences You Can Enjoy From Home

Get some culture from your couch.

Now that we’ve settled into the shelter-in-place mode, it’s too easy to let the days slide by in an endless stream of Twitter threads and Instagram feeds. It seems as though there’s an infinite number of channels, but nothing to see. Fortunately, local artists and venues are stepping up with virtual experiences to give you a dose of culture and connection with the San Diego community. We’ve collected our favorites right here for you, from virtually touring an aircraft carrier to shaking your booty in a live streaming dance class.

Paint a portrait of your pet

Even if you’ve never picked up a paintbrush before, Lovejoy Creations will inspire you with low-key, you-can-do-this narrative and step-by-step paint-along videos -- students are encouraged to take progress photos to document the journey. If you have some art supplies sitting around, Lovejoy’s lessons are available (many for free or $5) on her YouTube channel, but if not, you can order kits that contain everything you need to paint rolling waves, marine animals and dragons, or pick up her immensely popular “Paint Your Pet” kit -- you provide your pet’s headshot and she’ll send you everything you need to immortalize them. If that sounds intimidating, just know that she’s helped more than 4,000 other first-time artists before you.

Livestream a dance class

Malashock Dance is offering classes for various age groups and abilities, live streamed through its site and taught by company dancers. You can try anything from ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary, and Horton essentials. Classes are free, with a suggested donation of $15 and are available Mondays-Saturdays. If you’d rather just watch the experts, you can enjoy the dance company’s past performances anytime.

Tour the U.S.S. Midway

The U.S.S. Midway hosts more than 1.4 million visitors each year, with nearly 30% coming from outside the United States, making it not only one of San Diego’s most popular tourist attractions, but the world’s most visited historic naval ship museum. These days, they’ve pivoted from self-guided or docent-led tours to 360-degree virtual tours, new docuseries United Stories of America, and an aircraft gallery. If you have little ones to entertain, there’s a page of printable, sharable activities and puzzles for them to have fun with.

Visit the San Diego Museum of Art

Explore the San Diego Museum of Art with 360-degree views and hear the captivating stories behind the artists and styles through video, custom audio tours and augmented reality with their #Virtual SDMA app. You’ll also get access to the Masterpiece Minute podcast and ArtStops, watch performances inspired by works of art, virtually attend lectures and explore the collection’s highlights via their YouTube Channel

Learn the art of improv

Improv, or immediate theater built on working collaboratively in an unplanned environment, is a pretty good metaphor for today’s situation. Most often associated with comedy, the skills needed for good improvisation -- conquering fear, thinking quickly, building rapport, and communicating effectively -- translate well to daily life. The Old Town Improv Co. has both beginners and intermediate classes available for live streaming at 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays for just $7 per 90-minute session. Plus, there are deals like bring a friend for $5 each or $20 for a four-session package. You might not end up with your own HBO special, but you’ll make connections, build communications skills, and have some laughs along the way.

Explore Balboa Park

San Diego’s crown jewel has gone virtual with the launch of Balboa Park TV, 21 channels covering every aspect of Balboa Park’s arts and culture including the world famous San Diego Zoo, The Nat, the Fleet Science Center, the Old Globe Theatre and nearly every other nook and cranny of the park. 

Stock up on some new reads

Warwick’s in La Jolla, founded in 1896, is the oldest continuously family-owned and operated independent bookstore in the country. Delivery is free if you’re lucky enough to live in La Jolla, and a flat $2.50 each for books otherwise. Join their virtual Couch Surfing Book Tour or Q&A sessions with best-selling authors like Andrea Bartz, Lily King and Kristy Woodson Harvey.

Enjoy the San Diego Orchestra without leaving your couch

Nothing beats experiencing the raw power and energy of a live symphony orchestra, but you can have the next best thing with the San Diego Symphony's Symphony Stream and KPBS 89.5’s “live” broadcasts. Download SDO concert commentator Nuvi Mehta’s podcasts for a behind the scenes look and musical insights into each piece.

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Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling various vegetables, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.