Artistic New World
A requisite of art is creation. And there's a lot of it going on in the world of art as we head into 2012. This year is shaping up to be one of dynamic transformation in the arts.
More is More at Orange County High School of the Arts
Now celebrating its 25th year, the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCHSA) is no stranger to drama, dreaming and chronic growing pains. Dr. Ralph Opacic founded the school in 1987 as an after-school program for the arts-challenged Los Alamitos school district. Back then, he opened with 120 students. That swelled to 500 and Opacic dreamed of opening a full-time school.
Unfortunately, Los Alamitos had other ideas. The city sued the school district to block OCHSA’s plans, concerned about, among other things, traffic and congestion. “In 1999 we found ourselves a year away from going out of business and without a home,” says Opacic.
But, like his performing arts-passionate students, Opacic is not afraid to dream. Or put in some hard work for something he believes in. And fortunately, other visionaries shared his belief that a proper education included the arts.
Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, a major force behind his city’s renaissance and economic revitalization, called Opacic and told him he would love to have them headquartered in Santa Ana. “He introduced me to developer Michael Harrah and we purchased a number of commercial office buildings. Harrah renovated them and turned them into our campus,” says Opacic.
In 2000, OCHSA became a public charter school and opened with 900 students. Overnight the demand grew, and a year later, the school had 1,200 students – and started leasing the 40,000-square-foot building next door. Today, they’re at 1,800 students, with 3,700 applications for the 350 openings available each year.
If you think that might mean they’ve had to get more real estate, you’d be right. “Basically, we purchased another city block,” says Opacic. It means the school takes up two city blocks.
Specifically, they purchased Harrah’s OC Pavilion, a 50,000-square-foot building that housed a 500-seat theater and the five-star restaurant Ambrosia. They also bought a 10,000-square-foot building across the street.
It’s a perfect fit, says Opacic, since the school identified with the performing arts will finally have a theater.
The growth of the campus mirrors the growth of the school’s programs. For instance, the kitchen for Ambrosia will be left in place to accommodate OCHSA’s new culinary arts program. Plus, the school has grown to include 12 conservatory programs, such as creative writing, film and TV, classical voice, ballroom dancing, commercial music…
And there is a reason for OCHSA’s demand, says Opacic. “Not only do we have a 25-year track record of graduating successful alumni in the arts and arts-related fields, but we are ranked in the top five academically in the county. Ninety-nine percent of our students go on to four-year colleges and universities and we have a 100% graduation rate.”
It also doesn’t hurt that “Glee” star Matthew Morrison is an OCHSA grad.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts Goes into its 25th Year with a New Moniker
This year will mark the first full season (which began in September 2011) for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Yes, you may have heard about the name change (formerly, the Orange County Performing Arts Center).
But why would such a successful and respected institution change its name, especially going into its 25th anniversary season? Basically, to honor the family that made it all possible. Henry Segerstrom, the iconic patriarch of the Segerstroms, and his family, have given approximately $150 million worth of land and cash to the center. That giving goes all the way back to 1974 when the family donated the first chunk of land. To date, the land donations total 14 acres.
The name also signifies a confidence that Orange County is now a force to be reckoned with in the performing arts world, according to the center’s president, Terry Dwyer. When it was first named, after the community, it was important to signify that Orange County did not want to remain in the shadow of Los Angeles on the cultural map. Now, de-emphasizing geography and honoring donors is appropriate.
Big Plans for an Anaheim Performing Arts Center
Did you know that there exists an Anaheim Ballet? Or that the Orange County Symphony hails from the city Disney put on the map? If you’re like most folks, you've probably never heard of them. That's because neither great performing arts company has a permanent home in Anaheim.
But an eclectic group of devoted performing arts lovers is trying to change that by building a world-class Anaheim Performing Arts Center. It’s a tall mission and they’ve just begun, but someone once wrote that every journey begins with a single step. So we spoke to the woman who is leading the charge, president of the Anaheim Performing Arts Center Foundation, Linda Knohl.
What is the Anaheim Performing Arts Center Foundation’s vision?
To build a home theater for the Anaheim Ballet and the Orange County Symphony and make Anaheim a destination for Broadway-class stage and musical theater performances.
With the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the Cerritos Performing Arts Center, etc., why does Anaheim need a performing arts center?
Cerritos, which literally no one in the United States has heard of, through public and private endeavor, has a fabulously successful performing arts center. I’m of course happy for them but it disturbs me personally that we, a city that everybody in the United States has heard of, the 10th largest city in California, don’t have one.
You have a lot of other entertainment venues, from Disneyland to sports teams.
Yes. We boast Disneyland and the Anaheim Angels and the convention center, all of which are wonderful revenue streams for the city, but I, along with all of the board of directors, envision making Anaheim an entertainment destination. So when all these conventions from all over the world come to Anaheim, there is more for them to enjoy than Disneyland. Don’t get me wrong, I think Disneyland is fabulous, but it would be nice to offer something a little more cultural. We’re pushing culture and having a lot more cultural diversity in the city.
How and when did the campaign begin?
About four and a half years ago I went to the city council to plead my case. They asked me to communicate with the Orange County Symphony and the Anaheim Ballet to coordinate efforts. I had never heard of them, but I was thrilled to reach out, and they inspired me even further.
And how did you get your passion for the arts?
I was born in New York and I developed a love for the arts at a young age. When I moved to California about 40 years ago, it was a cultural shock. There really wasn’t much here. You had to travel to Los Angeles. So I always had this burning desire to promote the arts.
Where are you at with your campaign?
We’ve held several fundraisers in the past year, including two capital campaigns. We’re still trying to find a suitable site. Once that’s done and we get proper funding, we estimate it will take 18 months to two years to build the building. It’s a big undertaking.
A Big Artistic Impact, a Low Environmental Impact at Soka University’s New Performing Arts Center
This past September 17th saw the grand opening of the new 1,000-seat Soka Performing Arts Center with a performance of the Pacific Symphony and Horacio Gutierrez. But judging from the unique properties of the building, it was as much a star as the performers that night.
In line with the university’s commitment to sustainability, the arts center was built to LEED standards, with a vegetated “living” roof and a bank of solar panels that provide 15% of its power needs. But the building is no slouch when it comes to acoustics. It was designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, the acoustician of noted performance venues such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Suntory Hall in Tokyo.
We spoke to the man charged with running the center, David Palmer, who spent 19 years with the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts, before coming to Soka.
It’s got to be both exciting and nerve-wracking to bring this center to life.
It really is both. The building is a true gem. But along with that goes a lot of expectations, especially in the south county region where everybody is familiar with the Irvine Barclay, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and others.
What is the primary reason the center was built?
It is first and foremost a concert hall. We’ve done the symphonies, we’ve done the chamber groups, we’re going to be doing some solo recitals. We knew from the get-go that this was going to have a great sound to it and that has panned out.
You are a university, though. So it does have a function for students.
Yes. It is an academic space that is also here for community. But that duality helps train our students to become global citizens and lead a contributive life. That’s really the goal of the performing arts center. But I have to meet the needs of the university as well as the community. So a lot of people will look at the schedule on the Web and say, “They’re not doing very much,” when, really, things are going on every day.
Why was the building built to LEED standards?
It really falls into the whole belief system that we’re part of a greater entity, so being aware of the environmental issues and taking a proactive stance is very important to us.
Meet the New Leaders at Two Top Orange County Museums
Malcolm Warner, Director, Laguna Art Museum
The Laguna Art Museum (LAM) is nothing if not staunchly independent. Founded in 1918 by a small group of painters that had settled in Laguna Beach, itself established as an artists’ colony, the museum was once merged with the Newport Beach Art Museum in the late '90s. For one year, at which time a new nonprofit reestablished the museum. Throughout it all, its mission has always been to promote “the understanding of the role of California art and artists…”
So it might seem curious that its new director, Malcolm Warner, is from England, currently with the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and known for his expertise as a curator of European art. It’s a curious choice, that is, until you hear his passion for the Laguna Art Museum and California art. We asked him about his new role.
What attracted you to the Laguna Art Museum?
It attracted me because it has such a great reputation in the museum world for the exhibitions it’s done. It really is one of the best places to see and understand California art. It has this great focused mission: to show California art at its best. It really is the only museum that shows a whole range of California art, from the 19th century right up to contemporary work. And nothing else. I like that.
How comfortable do you feel in the California art world, so to speak?
I feel like I have a good grounding in California art from the seven years that I lived and worked in San Diego, as the curator at the San Diego Museum of Art. And I’m proud to say that I actually knew some very significant California artists at that time. I was friendly with Manny Farber, who’s no longer with us, but was a wonderful film critic and great painter. He was an inspiration to me. But I still have a lot to learn and that’s part of the adventure for me.
Where did you get your passion for art? Were you an artist?
I’ve tried my hand at being an artist, but not with great success. I’m more inclined towards writing and the study of history, which is how I got into finding art history as my major in college. But going back before that, my first exposure to art was at my local library as a teenager. We didn’t have a museum in the town where I grew up but I got the love for art through looking through all the gorgeous reproductions in art books. I didn’t do much reading of the text, it was all the pretty pictures.
Dan Cameron, Chief Curator, Orange County Museum of Art
As of January 2012, and coinciding with its 50th anniversary, the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) will have a new chief curator, Dan Cameron. With more than 30 years of organizing renowned exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the U.S. and abroad, Cameron brings an impressive amount of perspective and experience to a museum that has grown itself over the past decade.
In fact, in the last eight years, OCMA has organized nine exhibitions of modern and contemporary art that have traveled to 22 museums in the U.S., Europe and Canada. It’s an unprecedented record for a museum of OCMA’s size. If you’re an art lover, you know that the museum’s California Biennial has become a major event, helping to launch and establish the careers of hundreds of artists.
OCMA’s collection has also grown significantly. Building on its strong collection of post-1950s California art, it has expanded into national and international contemporary art.
Cameron will only make these gains even stronger, says OCMA Trustee Dr. James Pick, the man who led the international search for the museum’s new curator. “Dan Cameron is an acclaimed curator who can build on the vibrant exhibition history of OCMA, significantly enhance the museum’s collection, energize conversations, reach out to the cultural communities of Orange County, California and beyond, and continue his renowned curatorial accomplishments,” he says.
Cameron will hit the museum running, too, with a full year already slated. He’ll focus on the 2013 California Biennial, organize the first major exhibition of modern and contemporary art from Orange County collections, and begin planning for a series of exhibitions that advance OCMA’s goals of collaborating with visionary artists and institutions.
According to OCMA’s director, Dennis Szakacs, Cameron is one of the most accomplished curators in the world. “His energy, passion, intellectual curiosity, and ability to make the case for contemporary art’s relevance within our broader culture are unparalleled. In every sense, Dan has always led rather than followed, taken risks rather than played it safe and amplified the voice of artists as creative individuals. We are the right platform and this is the right time and place for his talents to flourish.”