As many of you know, last year I left the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles to take a position as the Director of a new organization called the Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC) in San Diego. I have been meaning to try and make some posts here to let people know what the BPOC is and also to give some status reports. But it seems that 10 months went by very quickly with only a single post of mine on collaboration. So to make up for it over the next few weeks I will try and make a few posts to let everyone know what has happened and what our plans are going forward.
This first post is an introduction to Balboa Park San Diego and some of the history leading up to the creation of BPOC. Additional posts will describe the primary funders, how the project is put together, what the plan is and how we are progressing on that plan.
In 1868, Alonzo Horton set aside a tract of land for a public park, one that would grow over the next 140 years into one of the most significant urban parks in America, with a third more land than Central Park and the perhaps the highest concentration of cultural organizations in one place in the US except the National Mall in Washington, D.C..
In the years leading up to 1915, after many years of public enjoyment, several Spanish Colonial Revival buildings and structures were built for the Panama-California Exposition, a huge fair commemorating the completion of the Panama Canal, transforming an urban wilderness into the national historic landmark we know today. Over the next 20 years, the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Museum of Art, and the San Diego Natural History Museum all opened their doors in the park. In 1935 and 1936, Balboa Park hosted the California-Pacific International Exposition, adding a replica of London’s 16th-century Elizabethan Globe Theater. Other park structures followed, including the opening of the Timken Museum of Art and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, officially making Balboa Park the cultural center of the city.
Today, Balboa Park represents the center of the thriving San Diego metropolis, housing a rich cultural tradition in an unparalleled setting. Spread out over 1,200 acres, the park is home to 85 cultural, conservation and recreation organizations and attracts more than 10 million visitors a year. According to the Trust for Public Land, Balboa Park is the fourth most visited city park in the country, attracting more visitors annually than the National Mall and nearly three times as many visitors annually as the Grand Canyon.
Nevertheless, looking beyond the Spanish architecture, important cultural destinations, and incredible collections, the park is in fact facing huge challenges. Over the last decade, organizations in Balboa Park have started to look to collaborative solutions to solve problems. In 2001, 24 institutions joined together to form the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership (BPCP), including such nonprofit organizations as the San Diego Zoo, the Timken Museum of Art, The Old Globe Theatre, the House of Hospitality, and the San Diego Museum of Art. BPCP takes a leading role in park advocacy, joint purchasing agreements, sustainability projects, management and facilitation of some park wide projects, and has created a learning institute for museum professionals, areas where collective strengths and resources make the organizations stronger together than they can be individually.
More recently 17 of the same organizations partnered with a local foundation to form the Balboa Park Online Collaborative… more about that and the foundation in my next post.