O.C.'s Segerstrom Center for the Arts turns 25
What have been your favorite experiences at the Segerstrom Center and why? Biggest disappointments? And hopes for the future? Share your memories in the comments below.
The Costa Mesa institution that until this year was known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center has of course been primarily a showcase for dance, music, touring Broadway shows and other attractions. But in some ways it also has mirrored the transformation of its community.
What truly has changed -– and the center sometimes haltingly with it -– is Orange County. In 1980, as fundraising began following the Segerstrom family’s 1979 donation of the center’s site, the county’s population was 78% non-Hispanic white (the U.S. Census Bureau’s term). In 2010, just 44.1% of the county’s 3 million residents fit that description.
In that light, perhaps the most socially defining moment for the center came in 1993. Call it a last gasp of the old Orange County, as center leaders tried to enforce a narrow definition of the arts and culture.
The Philharmonic Society went public about the refusal, and a furor ensued. The center reversed itself, but warned that it was only making a one-time exception. No future performance series by resident groups such as the Philharmonic Society would be welcome without “a primary focus on quality touring symphony orchestras and other classical music attractions,” according to a statement issued by center President Thomas Kendrick and its board’s executive committee.
As it happened, Kendrick announced his impending resignation four months later. Two days after his exit, Mariachi Los Camperos packed the 3,000-seat house for a concert that the late Daniel Cariaga, in his Times review, described as “artistically satisfying … long on tradition and polished to a shine … [and] rapturously greeted.” As Cariaga concluded, with tongue in cheek, “this should have given some impresarios ideas."
And share your memories of OCPAC/Segerstrom in the comments section below.
-- Mike Boehm
Photo: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, with original 1986 hall at left of the 2006 concert hall addition. Credit: Los Angeles Times