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Rita Goldberg's Cultured Approach to Newport Beach

Rita Goldberg, a member of the Newport Beach Arts Commission, helped develop the Newport Beach sculpture garden in the city's Civic Center Park.

Growing up in New York, Rita Goldberg received an informal arts education – ballet productions, films, the Met on weekends. She spent summers in Europe, wandering the world’s great museums. Such a rich curriculum only left her hungry for more. So when her husband’s job brought them to Newport Beach nearly 30 years ago, she went on the hunt for art in her new hometown – and came up short.

“When I came out here I loved everything about Newport except I felt that it was lacking in its cultural offerings,” said Goldberg. “And that made me a little sad because it was so perfect outside of that.”

Goldberg decided to help change things. When the now well-regarded Newport Beach Film Festival was in its infancy, Goldberg jumped in to help. For six years, she ran two luxury lifestyle magazines that emphasized the work of local artists. For the past eight years, she has served on the Newport Beach Arts Commission, which advises the City Council on such matters as what sculptures to display in Civic Center Park.

Goldberg said the change in what the city can offer has been dramatic. She once helped organize concerts that attracted a couple hundred people. Now the concerts at the Civic Center attract thousands, as do the juried art exhibitions. “There’s such a hunger in Newport Beach for art and culture and the opportunity to experience that sense of community you feel when you’re out among your friends and neighbors enjoying something,” she said.
In 2010, Goldberg also co-edited “The Art Lovers’ Cookbook,” featuring the favorite recipes of local artists. She lives with her husband, Ira, who works in sales; they have three grown children.

My Neighborhood: Newport Beach.

Why I live here: I love the people I have some amazing friends. I love that sense of community. I can go to a cocktail party and know so many people from all the different connections that living here affords. It’s a very strong sense of community. And it’s just so beautiful.

Perfect day: I walk the beach, Crystal Cove, from one end to the other. That’s my Zen. It would also include a happy hour with my friends at one of the waterfront places. And then just a quiet dinner with my husband. He’s my
best friend.

What’s on my nightstand: iPad. Honestly it really just is my iPad and the book I’m reading, which is on my iPad. I’m not a clutterer.

Favorite public art: I saw the most amazing artwork in Israel last year. It was by Yaacov Agam (an Israeli sculptor and experimental artist). It was a beautiful, vibrant contemporary piece of artwork. It was just fabulous.

Top museums: I try to get up to LA, of course: the Getty and LACMA. There are some great museums here, too, like the Bowers Museum. And I’m really excited because Chapman University just opened the Hilbert Museum of California Art. I’ve actually seen Mark Hilbert’s collection in his home. It’s fabulous.

Favorite piece of art in her own home: A vase by Caleb Siemon, an Orange County glassblower. His work is beautiful.

Favorite place to shop that’s not a chain: That’s so challenging. Honestly, the last shopping I did was at YogaSmoga at Fashion Island. I think I bought four yoga pants, and I’m obsessed with them. They are so comfortable. I think I’ve been living in them.

Favorite restaurant: Well, that’s a problem because our favorite restaurant for decades was the Ritz at Fashion Island. They closed (in 2014). And it made us so sad. We miss that restaurant so much. I know they opened up a new one, but it’s not the same. So we’re searching for our new favorite restaurant. Their food was delicious and their ambience was so old-world elegant, a real throwback to the kind of place that you’d go to for special occasions with your parents. It was our go-to for a lot of celebrations. I think a lot of people’s hearts were broken.

Red or white: Chardonnay.

Angels or Dodgers: Angels.

Rembrandt or Matisse: Both artists are, of course, amazing. But if I had to pick, it would be Matisse. His art makes me happy. The vibrancy, pop colors and whimsy of his style, which was so ahead of its time, resonate with me.

Favorite celebrity encounter: I was on the ground floor of The Newport Beach Film Festival. The Premiere Cinema Guild that I founded had a “Host-A-Filmmaker” program. Our group was always organizing intimate events, such as yacht cruises, dinners, and private parties for the filmmakers and celebrities. My favorite encounter was when I had dinner with Billy Baldwin. He was at the festival one year promoting an indie film, and we all went out for dinner. He is a great guy – very down to earth and real.

Favorite up-and-coming artist: Kathy Shapiro (a fine arts photographer specializing in abstract images). She’s from Laguna Niguel. She does this vibrant, colorful art.

Pet peeve: My pet peeve is a “sideliner” – someone who sits on the sidelines instead of becoming an active participant in bettering our community.

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