2012 Vanguard Award Recipient

ArtPower! at UC San Diego

for The Loft Performance Lounge & Wine Bar


The Loft Performance Lounge & Wine Bar


The Loft at UC San Diego was opened in 2008 as a performance lounge and wine bar where “emerging art and pop culture collide” – where contemporary music could sit side-by-side with global, indie, rock, pop, film, visual art exhibits, food and wine tastings, spoken word, and more. The only venue of its kind on a college campus, The Loft was created to transform the context of the delivery of the performing arts.

The space was intentionally designed to look and act differently from a university institutional space, and instead be a contemporary visual example of aesthetic experience that had more in common with hip restaurants and club spaces. At The Loft, artists don’t walk off-stage to back stage, but into the audience, with hosted artist conversations before, during, and after performances.

UCSD students are at the core of everything at The Loft. A “pay-as-you-can” model was developed so that price will never be a real or perceived barrier to trying something new, alongside a membership program that provides discounts, artist meet & greets, merchandise discounts, and advance priority access to special events. Furthermore, students participate on all levels of programming and operations: as performing artists, in facility management, in technical and event production support, as experienced curatorial or booking producers in the arts, film, and entertainment, as marketing, public relations, and graphic design professionals, and in financial management and accounting practice.

Project Timeline

In the summer of 2006 the University Events Office was delegated to operate a new space as part of the construction for an expanded student center. Two years later The Loft celebrated its "Loft Off" grand opening, featuring performances by the Nortec Collective, Build, and Calder Quartet; a visual art exhibit featuring San Diego and Tijuana artists; a curated public video gallery; and food tastings. The spring of 2009 marked The Loft's first year of 178 Performances/Events and 20,291 Attendees!

Strategies & Tactics

  • Creating a team strategic envisioning process with the University Events Office staff that reflected ArtPower's goals and mission. This allowed everyone to have a "tight" and unified understanding of what to achieve and how to achieve it.
  • Creating carefully constructed branding language to use in the "selling" process of The Loft, because this kind of venue/experience had not been done before.
  • Creating a business plan with mission, objectives, keys to success, and product and services descriptions; conducting market analysis; building management structure; and developing a financial plan.
  • Conducting surveys, focus groups, "Sales" presentations

Success & Results

  • Created a space with a focus on student health and safety by developing training modules for staff, ID/wristband process in partnership with campus police and working directly with campus ABC.
  • Developed significant partnerships with campus departments, student organizations, and local arts organizations that enhanced and encouraged student involvement in programming and management of the venue.
  • Created and engaged faculty, staff, student, and alumni participation by hosting specific events and activities for various constituents, including freshmen, graduating seniors, graduated students, etc.
  • Programmed The Loft 4-5 nights a week with curatorial intent and identity, to avoid ending up with a rental space that lacks distinction.
  • Achieved an average of 676 weekly attendance in the first year.



About ArtPower! at UC San Diego

ArtPower! at UC San Diego was created in 2004 to build creative experiences in music, dance, film, exhibition and food for our collective pleasure and inspiration. ArtPower! engages diverse audiences through vibrant, challenging, multi-disciplinary performances by emerging and renowned international artists. Through extensive partnerships, ArtPower! provides exciting opportunities for research, participation, and creation of new work, igniting powerful dialogue between artists, students, scholars and the community.