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The Next-Gen Segerstrom Center for the Arts

A $68 million campaign is underway to finance a new arts center plaza that in some ways will be the face of planned community programming.

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A New Front Yard: The Next-Generation Segerstrom Center for the Arts aims for outreach

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is already the cultural heart of Orange County. Now it wants to be even more open-hearted, becoming like a town square, where people find community in gathering, talking, listening to music, breaking bread.

A $68 million campaign is underway to finance a new arts center plaza that in some ways will be the face of planned community programming. Not incidentally, the fundraising effort will, at last, erase the center’s existing debt.

With free community events on the redesigned plaza and new programming, the initiative aims to reach groups that haven’t traditionally come to the Segerstrom Center, says Terrence Dwyer, the center’s president, adding, “This is meant to be an attractive public gathering place with lots of amenities that all of our audiences will enjoy.”

The campaign includes the Center for Dance and Innovation, to be housed in a renovated Judy Morr Theater and upgraded studios.

The center has raised $42 million in its fundraising effort, called the Next Act Campaign. The goal should be reached by the time construction is finished late next year, says John Ginger, chairman of the Segerstrom board.

The cost of new construction and programming is approximately $14 million. The remaining $54 million will cover the debt for existing spaces, notably the nine-year-old Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for January. The plaza will be renamed the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza, after the patrons who have given $13.5 million, the largest donation so far. Other major benefactors are Ginger and his wife Toni, Richard and Virginia Hunsaker, William J. Gillespie, Cindy and Steve Fry, and an anonymous donor.

Plans call for an outdoor stage along the south side of Segerstrom Concert Hall for performances and community events that could range from free concerts to college graduation ceremonies. The center plans to host outdoor events at least 30 weekends a year.

Around the stage will be three shaded green spaces with flowering pear trees, seating and walking paths.

A circular grand staircase will link Segerstrom Hall’s mezzanine level to the plaza level and end at a cafe with outdoor seating.

For the Center for Dance and Innovation, the Judy Morr Theater will get a more visible and accessible garden-like entrance and a small outdoor balcony where receptions could take place. The center will include the Segerstrom Center’s American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School, which started its first full-curriculum program in September, plus eventually adult dance classes in other genres.

The Orange County Museum of Art, currently near Fashion Island, plans to eventually move to the Segerstrom Center. Segerstrom’s reimagined plaza won’t affect that, Dwyer says.
A new initiative, the Center Without Boundaries, will expand Segerstrom’s community outreach efforts. Both Ginger and Dwyer noted the changes in Orange County demographics over the last few decades and said the Segerstrom Center is trying to draw newcomers.
“We hope to attract, definitely, a broader-based section of the county,” including those who will take advantage of free or low-cost programs, Ginger says. “Our plan is to include everybody.”


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