San Diego becomes the epicenter of pop culture for one week of every year but there will soon be a museum in Balboa Park that will allow fans and San Diegans alike to be inspired by comic book culture year-around.
The Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture is still years away from officially opening to the public -- in May 2021, Museum director Adam Smith hopes -- but he sees San Diego Comic-Con 2019 as a sort of "dry run," a chance to test how a museum filled with comic art exhibits, classes, panels, movie screenings and more can operate.
"The idea behind the museum is to extend the magic and the impact of Comic-Con beyond the four-day event that it is right now, to be a 365-day-a-year impact on the community of San Diego," Smith said.
A full lineup of events is planned for this week, starting with the museum's first major fundraising event on Wednesday. "The Gathering," is a Batman-themed night that will induct the Dark Night as the inaugural member into the Character Hall of Fame, plus give the public access to one of the biggest Batman memorabilia exhibits ever created by DC.
On Thursay through Sunday, the museum will be open to the public for free and will not require a ticket to San Diego Comic-Con, though once the museum reaches capacity, a line will form on a first-come-first-served basis.
Guests can experience "The Dark Knight Dive," which will combine skydiving with virtual reality for a unique experience; "The Batcave," which will give guests a chance to experience generations of Batman video games; plus, hundreds of pieces of DC memorabilia will be on display.
But the center is meant to be more than a place for Batman lovers and hardcore comic book fans. Smith sees the center as a space to encourage creativity and fandom within the San Diego community.
This week's lineup of other activities at the museum -- A "Paint Like Bob Ross" class and a Geek Couture exhibit, for example -- are a preview of what can be expected year-round when the museum officially opens.
"I feel it’s worth doing because we can demonstrate to everyone, the fans of comic con and the community of San Diego just what the potential of the museum is," he said.
Comic-Con International, the non-profit organization behind one of the biggest pop culture conventions in the world, has invested about $11 million into the museum, about a third of what's needed to get the museum opened by 2021.
The city has offered the 68,000-square-foot Federal Building in Balboa Park, which housed the San Diego Hall of Champions until 2016, as the museum's permanent home.
Despite the contributions, there's still plenty of work to be done on the three-story facility. Smith said the building will need to be remodeled to better serve their needs for the next 20 to 30 years; that includes creating classrooms that can serve as youth education spaces and adding a theater where they can screen movies and host panels.
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He hopes this week's events will give San Diego a glimpse of what's to come and encourage locals to support the endeavor. He has only been in San Diego for two years -- since he was hired on to work on the museum project -- but he already feels the city's warm welcome.
"This is the first new museum in Balboa Park in a generation and I think people understand that will bring new audiences, it will bring some excitement and attention to Balboa Park," Smith said. "For such a big city, there’s almost a small community feel about it and I really appreciate that."
The Comic-Con Museum sits at 2131 Pan American Plaza in Balboa Park, about a mile-and-a-half from the San Diego Convention Center, where the annual pop-culture convention is held.
It will open from 9:30 a.m. each day and close at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday. Shuttle service will not be available to the Comic-Con Museum during The Gathering.
Here are some other events happening at the pop-up Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture this year:
Cover Story: The Art of Comic-Con 50
The acclaimed original art exploring 50 years of Comic-Con program book covers will be displayed. First unveiled in March, the exhibit will have an exciting new addition: the original Jim Lee artwork that graces the milestone 50th anniversary cover.
Mondo Gallery: 80 Years of Batman
The first ever traveling exhibit from the Mondo Gallery in Austin, Texas, will stop in Balboa Park, celebrating the history of Batman through 19 iconic and fan-favorite comic book covers, reproduced as screen-printed posters.
Paint Like Bob Ross
In collaboration with Bob Ross, Inc., a make-and-take art class will be held where visitors can learn to paint like TV’s Bob Ross, under the supervision of a Certified Ross Instructor.
Geek Couture: Designs from the Her Universe Fashion Show
For the first time ever, an exhibition featuring more than a dozen designs that have graced the Her Universe Fashion Show runway over the past five years. The exhibit will be expanded following the conclusion of the 2019 Fashion Show on Thursday night to include this year’s winning designs and select gowns worn by Her Universe founder Ashley Eckstein.
Daily Panels in the Museum Theater
Four panels per day will give the broader community a taste of the great variety and depth of Comic-Con programming. Full details will be announced as we reveal the complete Comic-Con programming schedule.
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