Pacific Symphony’s new home is in Irvine
Located at 17620 Fitch Ave., just off of MacArthur Blvd. near the 55 Freeway, the building is also home to Arts Orange County and the newly founded Orange County Music & Dance (OCMD).
At an opening ceremony for the building, Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte revealed the new name of the building in honor of Charlie and Ling Zhang, the man and woman whose vision and generosity made the move possible.
Forsyte honored the Zhangs by mentioning them along with Andrew Carnegie and Henry Huntington. “Orange County is similarly blessed with visionaries who can make a profound difference,” said Forsyte. “Think of a man who came to the U.S. with a few dollars and a clarinet, who dreamt of being a professional musician. Charlie Zhang and his wife, Ling, have catalyzed dramatic change for our region and have given us all a gift that will transcend generations. We cannot thank them enough.”
Charles Zhang created the nonprofit OC 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.
Having OCMD next door creates an opportunity for the Symphony to utilize the performance and rehearsal spaces and create more programs for children and adults in the community. In addition to Symphony musicians holding music lessons in the building, it is also launching “Parent and Me: Music and Movement” workshops this month. The 21,000-square-feet facility features eight music rooms, three dance studios, two classrooms, a recording studio and a 120-seat theater, as well as the Monkey Business Café and the Arts OC office.
The Zhangs started Pick Up Stix, the fast-casual Chinese food chain, in 1989 and sold it in 2001 for $50 million to TGI Friday’s parent company, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide.
The Zhangs will receive the prestigious Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award at the 18th Annual Orange County Arts Awards on Oct. 17. The Arts Awards are held in the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
OC’s second city of the arts
Irvine may not threaten its neighboring city of Costa Mesa as Orange County’s center of art and culture anytime soon. The Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory Theater, the several stages and thousands of seats at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, significant works of public art highlighted by Richard Serra’s Connector and Isamu Noguchi’s California Scenario sculpture garden and an anticipated move of Orange County Museum of Art to the city put Costa Mesa well in the lead in that regard.
Still, Irvine is arguably in second place in the county (with apologies to Laguna Beach), and gaining, with the Charlie and Ling Zhang Musical Arts & Education Center and the adjoining Orange County Music & Dance key additions to the arts and culture institutions in the city.
UCI’s influential role in art history is no longer a secret. Just search “Best Kept Secret: UCI and the Development of Contemporary Art in Southern California, 1964-1971” to learn more about the impact the university has had, and still has.
The galleries, theaters, programs and productions of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts are a community treasure, and The Irvine Museum’s collection of California Impressionism masterpieces is now also part of the school. Dance, theater and digital art and technology are all leading programs at UCI, and the MFA Program in writing has produced some of the country’s finest authors.
The Irvine Fine Arts Center, Irvine Barclay Theatre, and IVC’s Performing Arts Center, add to the cultural mix, as will the upcoming Concordia University Irvine’s Music, Worship and Theology building–the music wing will include an orchestra hall, and a choral hall.
Arts education is also an important part of curriculum at Irvine Unified School District, augmented by the many art, dance and STEAM enrichment academies, companies and schools throughout the city.
Time will tell what the Cultural Terrace at the Orange County Great Park will add to the city’s artistic environment. If allowed to reach its potential (while still remaining practical financially) the impact should be significant.