Henry Segerstrom remembered in exhibition at South Coast Plaza

Henry Segerstrom remembered in exhibition at South Coast Plaza
Elizabeth Segerstrom is shown at aSouth Coast Plaza exhibition celebrating the legacy of her late husband, Henry Segerstrom, who was an influential Orange County developer and philanthropist. (Peggy O'Donnell)

The event: Elizabeth Segerstrom and the Segerstrom family celebrated the life and legacy of her late husband Henry Segerstrom Thursday by unveiling an exhibition honoring him, "Courage of Imagination," at South Coast Plaza, the upscale mega-mall he founded in Costa Mesa. An arts supporter, philanthropist and businessman, Segerstrom,  who died in February at age 91, had a profound influence on the cultural and commercial life of Orange County, as evidenced by the display of photos, awards and memorabilia in the retail center's Jewel Court.

The scene: Between conversations over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, guests waited their turns to enter the exhibition, named for a quote about Segerstrom by Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese American artist who installed the nearby sculpture garden called "California Scenario." In a separate area, Elizabeth Segerstrom and family members including Henry Segerstrom's children Toren Segerstrom, Anton Segerstrom and Andrea Grant welcomed  friends, who lined up to share their memories.

The exhibition: Photographs chronicling Segerstrom's role in creating the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and developing South Coast Plaza lined the walls of the exhibition space. Some of them, going back decades, showed the family's sprawling bean fields before the rise of freeways, office buildings, arts venues and the retail center, which has now become a major shopping destination for top international luxury brands.

In other shots, Segerstrom can be seen with a diversity of notables, including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, opera star Placido Domingo, singer Tony Bennett, artist Richard Serra and others. Honors and awards filled the interior cases, and sculptures by Jean Dubuffet, Joan Miro and Alexander Calder stood beside the display.

The exhibition is to remain open through May 31.

The crowd: Supporters of the arts, government officials, representatives of retailers and family friends included Segerstrom Center for the Arts President Terry Dwyer, Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte, South Coast Repertory's managing director Paula Tomei, the theater's founding artistic directors Martin Benson and David Emmes, Chapman University President James Doti, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, Newport Beach Mayor Ed Selich, Costa Mesa Mayor Stephen Mensinger, State Sen. John Moorlach, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and many more.

Quote of note: Elizabeth Segerstrom said she hoped the exhibition would provide closure for all the people who mourned the loss of her husband. "We saw such an outpouring of emotion at the memorial service," she said. "My husband was one of the most humble men in the world. He accomplished so much in his lifetime. ... How he had the energy, I don't know. He was a role model for Orange County, the nation and the world."

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