The Loft brings ArtPower to the people

The hottest spot for music and mingling these days is The Loft, UCSD’s sleek 150-seat performance lounge which lives up to its promo as a social crossroads where emerging art and pop culture collide.

They say “it’s all happening at The Loft,” and it is. The past few weeks featured a New York indie-pop group, a trio of Israeli girl singers, an L.A. noise-rock band, a mountain folk duo from North Carolina, and the Portland Cello Project, classically trained musicians who play everything from Manuel De Falla to the Super Mario Brothers theme song.

Besides music, there are readings, movies, improv comedy, and with the recent opening of the in-house Zanzibar, a tasty menu of pre-and post-show drinks and eats.

The man behind the venue is Marty Wollesen, director of the University Events Office, who powered up UCSD’s cultural programming six years ago by doing some “refreshing and rebranding” and creating ArtPower.

At the time, the main performance venue was 780-seat Mandeville Auditorium, but Wollesen was already thinking of a more intimate space where artists and audiences could interact.

“I was interested in expanding, developing and nurturing young audiences who tend to shy away from conventional performance venues — and conventional performers,” he said.

Since its opening in late 2008, The Loft has presented what Wollesen called “exceptional musicians who know no real boundaries, and performances that grab you and won’t let go.”

The space was an instant success, with audiences as eclectic as the performers.

“People tend to think ‘Oh, it’s at the university, it’s not for me,’ ” said Wollesen. “But The Loft really is for all the community. And parking is easy: the Gilman parking structure is just a block away.”

Hot Tips: If you can snag tickets to Suzanne Vega’s 10 p.m. show Feb.16, do it; the 8 p.m. show has been sold out for weeks. She topped the charts with Luka, a haunting song about child abuse, over 20 years ago, and she’s sounding better than ever, and just got great reviews in New York as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.

Another ArtPowerful event, too big for The Loft, will be at Mandeville Feb. 12, you’ll have to move fast for this one. It’s Akram Khan — one of Britain’s hottest young choreographers — collaborating with dancers from the National Ballet of China in a piece about alienation and belonging that’s certain to light up the stage.

If you can’t make these, how about Scottish indie-rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks (Feb. 24) or Malaysian singer/songwriter sensation Zee Avi (Feb. 28)? You gotta love those names and possibilities!

For more about upcoming shows, check the ArtPower Web site. And check the walls inside The Loft for the super-cool DNA Art installation, starting Feb.19.

If you like what you see and hear, remember that these days, art is fleeting, and funding is fast going dry. Consider becoming an ArtPower donor and helping to keep this exciting programming alive.

See you at the Loft!

Tickets, (858) 534-TIX