Cool art exhibitions to explore in San Diego in 2024

The local art scene is drawing us in, that’s for sure.

SD You Can Do Almost Anything Andy Arkley WNDR Museum San Diego

“You Can Do Almost Anything” — a colorful, interactive installation by Andy Arkley — is coming to the WNDR Museum in San Diego in 2024.

Photo via WNDR Museum

San Diego’s arts and culture scene is strong — and in 2024, lots of creative works will be on display across our city. We’ve curated a sampling of 11 local exhibitions we can’t wait to explore.

“Tales of Thomas” | San Diego Model Railroad Museum

This exhibition about everyone’s favorite toy train — Thomas the Tank Engine — rolls into the museum Tuesday, Jan. 9, where it’ll stay for the next six months. It follows Wilbert Awdry’s creation of the beloved TV series and how characters were inspired by real-life trains.

SD La Frontera San Diego Mingei Museum 2024

“La Frontera” explores life at the US-Mexico border through the medium of jewelry.

Jackie Roffe, Little Saints, born and lives in Mexico City, MX, silver, found objects, enameled iron, 32.6 x 1.5 in, Collection of Jackie Roffe. Image courtesy of the Artist.

“La Frontera” | Mingei International Museum

Curated by Mike Holmes and Lorena Lazard, this exhibition opens Saturday, Jan. 27, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 4. The display uses jewelry as a medium to explore the complexity of San Diego’s own backyard — the US-Mexico border “as a physical location, politicized space, and personal experience.” Expect 85+ works from artists, including 24 who were born, raised, live, or work in the region.

SD ICA San Diego 2024 exhibition

This is Dr. Pinar Yoldas’ installation, “Metabolizing Plastics.” The artist is part of ICA’s 2024-2025 “Interface” exhibition season.

“Interface” | Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego (ICA)

ICA’s 2024-2025 season will feature six exhibitions spanning ICA’s Balboa Park and Encinitas campuses. Programming starts with the Danish art collective “SUPERFLEX” headlining a display that considers the perspective of plants and animals — Saturday, Jan. 20-Sunday, July 28. UC San Diego professor Dr. Pinar Yoldas will also headline an experience that “illuminates the connections between technology, creativity, and human desire in contemporary life” Saturday, Feb. 24-Sunday, June 23.

SD Hold Fast Birch Aquarium San Diego exhibition 2024

Oriana Poindexter, Giant Kelp Study 62: Original Cyanotype photogram created with giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) collected by the artist while freediving off Point La Jolla, California, 2022.

Cyanotype photo via Oriana Poindexter + Birch Aquarium at Scripps

“Hold Fast” | Birch Aquarium

Opening Thursday, Feb. 8, this immersive art experience will explore the impact of climate change on San Diego’s kelp forests through the works of three local artists and scientists — Oriana Poindexter, Dwight Hwang, and Mohammad Sedarat. According to the aquarium, guests will “weave through a labyrinth of cyanotype-printed giant kelp” while watching up-to-the-minute kelp forest mapping to understand what we can do to protect our ocean planet. Pro tip: UC San Diego Library is hosting an accompanying exhibit — “Ebb and Flow: Giant Kelp Forests Through Art, Science and the Archives” — Friday, Jan. 12-Sunday, April 21.

SD WNDR Museum You Can Do Almost Anything

“You Can Do Almost Anything” features lights and music, too.

Photo via WNDR Museum

“You Can Do Almost Anything” | WNDR San Diego

This interactive sound and light installation by Andy Arkley — set to be installed at the SD museum soon — features 33 wooden sculptures mounted with colored light bulbs, each piece cut with a jigsaw and handpainted by the artist. The display is controlled by 16 buttons that trigger synchronized music and light sequences, and visitors are asked to create their own songs. Pro tip: Look for the three cats incorporated into the display — they’re inspired by Arkley’s real-life pets, Coconut, Koala, and Baby Cloud.

SD PostSecret San Diego Secrets Museum of Us

The “PostSecret” exhibition at the Museum of Us now has a “San Diego Secrets” section — tell everyone.

Photo via Museum of Us and “PostSecret”

“PostSecret” | Museum of Us

We can’t keep this one a secret. Frank Warren’s longtime community project — which collects millions of postcards from around the world of strangers sharing their deepest, darkest secrets — inspired this exhibit that’s been on display at the Museum of Us for a while. But now, it has a very local twist: “San Diego Secrets,” an entire section of thoughts submitted by visitors, chosen by Warren to proudly display. We’re feeling all the feelings.

Art Alive San Diego Museum of Art

Each year, the floral arrangements of Art Alive take over the San Diego Museum of Art — including the rotunda.

Photo via Bauman Photographers

“Art Alive” 2024 | San Diego Museum of Art

The museum’s iconic annual exhibition — which interprets famous works of art via colorful floral arrangements — returns Friday, April 26-Sunday, April 28. The schedule includes the beloved three-day exhibition, Bloom Bash, and Garden of Activities. This year, “Art Alive” will also celebrate the art of India with a special installation.

SD San Diego Natural History Museum Atrium Art

Eva Struble’s “Frasera” mural is part of The Nat’s 150th anniversary celebration.

“Action from the Archives: The Nat at 150” | San Diego Natural History Museum

The Nat is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2024 and visitors can walk down memory lane with this exhibition that will open Friday, May 24, on the fourth floor. Learn about the people who have spent years protecting wildlife and wild places in San Diego County. We’ve also got eyes on the new Nature Trail at The Nat — an outdoor space featuring native plants set to open this spring.

SD Around the Way Girl Delana Delgado art exhibition Liberty Station

Delana Delgado’s solo show, “Around the Way Girl,” is on display at Arts District Liberty Station through March 31, 2024.

Photo via Delana Delgado + Arts District Liberty Station

This solo show runs daily at the Arts District through Sunday, March 31, and features the documentary-style photos of Delana Delgado. Via 35mm photography, the artist aims to capture traditions of Black and Latina femininity as she continues to explore her own gender expression and culture.

“For Dear Life: Art, Medicine, and Disability” | MCASD La Jolla

According to MCASD, this exhibition — opening Thursday, Sept. 19 — is the “first historical survey of artistic responses to sickness, health, and medicine broadly.” Works will explore artistic expression surrounding illness, caregiving, and the vulnerability of the human body.

SD Of Sea and Sand San Diego Museum of Art

One of the works featured in “Of Sea and Sand.”

Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin, Torrey Pines, ca. 1925. Oil on canvas. Gift of Wilda B. Dunnicliffe, by exchange, 1998.87.

“Of Sea and Sand: California Paintings” | San Diego Museum of Art

This exhibition highlights California’s remarkable geography — the beaches, mountains, and deserts unlike any other. The paintings feature loose brushwork and attention to light, and showcase why our state continues to be a source of inspiration for artists.

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