Top 10 Art and Culture Attractions
Claire Trevor School of the Arts, UCI
The Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA) is arguably the most significant art and cultural institution in Irvine. The school produces more than 200 plays, concerts, dance performances and art exhibitions annually, while providing a world-class liberal arts education, with undergraduate and graduate degrees in art, dance, drama and music. UCI’s art school played a pivotal role in the development of contemporary art in California, as documented by the Best Kept Secret exhibit at Laguna Art Museum in 2011. Now, that role will be amplified with the recently announced UCI Museum and Institute for California Art to be built on campus.
The live concert venue opened for three shows in October 2017. This summer, live music at the 12,000-seat interim venue will return for a full season. Expect the amphitheatre to be a popular community spot this year and for two more to follow, while a larger permanent amphitheatre is planned at the Great Park.
Great Park Gallery/Orange County Great Park
The small art gallery at the Palm Court Arts Complex is a wonderful venue at the Great Park. The exhibitions are eclectic and expertly curated, covering everything from contemporary abstract painting, to surf photography and even military history with last year’s “Walt and the Flying Bull” exhibit about the emblems and mascots Walt Disney created for MCAS El Toro and other units. Exhibits in 2018 include the current “Eureka: A California Design Story” and “Golden Parks: Huell Howser,” opening in March.
Irvine Barclay Theatre
Since its debut in 1990, Irvine Barclay theatre has offered wide-ranging theater, music and contemporary dance programs in the 756-seat Cheng Hall. The theater is a collaborated venture between UCI, the city of Irvine and the private sector created to showcase top quality artists, to provide a superior facility for local and regional arts groups, and to enhance UCI’s educational mission, particularly the programs generated by the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.
Irvine Fine Arts Center
The Irvine Fine Arts Center offers exhibits and juried shows from local artists, as well as hundreds of art classes, art camps and other programs from beginning to advanced levels for youth, teens, and adults in fully equipped art studios. It’s one of the best places in Southern California to learn to make, appreciate and experience art.
Irvine Unified School District
When the band Young the Giant opened the new FivePoint Amphitheatre in October, the band with Irvine roots was quick to credit their public school education in the city for giving them a foundation for success. The same story is told at Irvine Public Schools Foundation gala fundraisers by honored actors, artists and musicians honored at the event, which have recently included musician Tom Dumont from the band No Doubt, actress and comedian Nasim Pedrad, and members of the rock band Thrice. IUSD provides a comprehensive arts education in visual arts, dance, theater, and music from grades kindergarten through twelve. The results include virtuoso musicians such as Sierra Vista Middle School student Kevin Miura, whose music educators include Sierra Vista’s Henry Miller, who was named one of 10 finalists for the GRAMMY Foundation’s 2017 Music Educator Award. The Grammy Foundation has awarded 12 Gold and Signature Grammy awards to IUSD high schools for outstanding music programs, with Woodbridge named the top Grammy school in the nation in 2016. IUSD high school students significantly outperform their peers throughout California, the U.S. and the world in performing and visual arts. For some, this leads to careers in the arts. For many thousands more, an IUSD arts education contributes to a fuller, more creative life.
Maple Conservatory of Dance
This past season’s performances of “The Nutcracker,” by Maple Youth Ballet, were held at Portola High School’s impressive Performing Arts Center. Founded by Kathy Crade and award-winning ballet choreographer and artistic director Charles Maple, Irvine-based Maple Conservatory of Dance teaches and trains ballet students to the highest standards, with the goal of joining professional ballet companies and university dance programs.
The Reneé and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa is the hall where most performances by Pacific Symphony are enjoyed, but the headquarters for OC’s major orchestra is in Irvine. The Charlie and Ling Zhang Musical Arts & Education Center includes the orchestra’s home, along with the offices of Arts OC and the nonprofit Orange County Music & Dance (OCMD). Charles Zhang created the nonprofit O.C. Music & Dance to provide top-quality musical arts education and training for children, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Its 21,000-square-foot facility in Irvine has practice rooms, classrooms, studio space for recording and dance, and a 140-seat theater. Pacific Symphony also performs one of its Symphony in the Cities programs at Irvine’s Mike Ward Community Park each summer. After decades of success at Irvine Meadows, the symphony’s much-loved Summer Festival concert series was presented last summer at Pacific Amphitheater. This summer the symphony will hopefully return to Irvine at FivePoint Amphitheatre.
Philharmonic Society of OC
The Philharmonic Society of Orange County’s mission is to foster an appreciation for music by presenting national and international performances of the highest quality, including many of the world’s most acclaimed symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists. While most performances of the Irvine-based arts organization are at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the Philharmonic Society presents several engaging events each year at Irvine Barclay Theatre. The Philharmonic Society also provides an extensive array of music education programs, free of charge, to nearly 200,000 children from kindergarten through high school each year.
Southland Ballet Academy/Festival Ballet Theatre
Though its main headquarters are in Fountain Valley, the acclaimed Festival Ballet Theatre has a branch of its Southland Ballet Academy in Irvine. The ballet company performs regularly at Irvine Barclay Theatre, including its annual “Nutcracker” programs, as well as annual engagements at Pretend City.