The Crowd: Artistic vision helps shape community

A most significant contribution to the Orange County landscape by businessman-philanthropist Henry T. Segerstrom, that is also possibly the least recognized, is his artistic vision, and the elevated standard demanded by that vision.

Last week in Laguna Beach in association with the Laguna Art Museum, Henry and Elizabeth Segerstrom representing the Segerstrom Family Foundation served as presenting sponsors joining forces with corporate sponsor Hurley and additional donors for the opening of "Noguchi: California Legacy."

The formidable exhibit will be on display through October 2.

Henry Segerstrom met Isamu Noguchi, born in Los Angeles in 1904, nearly 50 years ago. The Japanese American, who passed away in 1988, was considered one of the 20th century's most acclaimed sculptors.

His artistic work grew to include large-scale public installations encompassing garden design, first in Mexico, then in Japan and China. In the late 1970s, in association with his friend and patron Henry Segerstrom, a remarkable urban project began to take form for a Costa Mesa garden between office buildings.

For Costa Mesa, the creation of California Scenario, otherwise known as Noguchi Garden, was nothing less than revolutionary. Ground broke in 1980 and the South Coast Sculpture garden was completed in 1982. It could never have been created without Segerstrom's artistic vision.

Nearly 30 years later, California Scenario is recognized as world-class urban landscape art. The museum exhibit traces the evolution of a remarkable career of Noguchi's life through his work, including California Scenario, "The Courage of Imagination" (Akari Light sculptures), and additional sculpture multiples he created in the 1980s. During that time he was associated with Gemini G.E.L., the L.A.-based artist's workshop responsible for publishing and duplicating limited editions of a selected class of work by highly regarded contemporary artists and sculptors.

The distillation of the artistic equation is simple. The great artist must have patronage with vision. And the patronage must not only have the vision but also the tenacity and the clout to lead those in community seats of power to abandon their fear and their provincialism — all in order to open the door to uncharted artistic territory.

In Henry Segerstrom's case, Costa Mesa is now a world-class suburban community that has become a standard bearer of American quality of living. It would not be so without the Noguchi Garden or any number of endeavors encompassing art, design, culture, education and community centers of opportunity — all resulting from exemplary leaderships and, yes, artistic vision far beyond the ordinary.

Visit the Noguchi Garden and treat yourself to the exhibit at Laguna Art Museum. For more information call (949) 494-8971 or go to

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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