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The art of relocation

The art of relocation
Todd DeShields Smith, CEO and Director for Orange County Museum of Art, poses for a portrait at OCMA's future relocation site near the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. (Kevin Chang, Daily Pilot)

Todd DeShields Smith stood earlier this month on a grassy lawn, identifying a site on an acreage of land where culture is centered in Orange County.

"It's going to be a spectacular design," he said.

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Smith, the chief executive and director of the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, was looking at the future site of a brand new museum building by the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

The new facility will be wholly owned and operated by OCMA as an organization within the arts complex, which is comprised of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, South Coast Repertory and a plaza that features the Richard Serra sculpture "Connector."

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The addition to the arts complex will mark a milestone for Orange County, as the museum will move into an internationally recognized home for the visual and performing arts.

Steve Rosansky, Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce president, said he and the chamber are sad to see OCMA leave Newport Beach.

"It has been one of the cornerstones of the arts community here in Newport and will not be easily replaced," Rosansky said.

The land donation is thanks to Henry Segerstrom, the arts philanthropist who transformed his family's lima bean farm into one of Orange County's flourishing cultural and commercial downtowns. Segerstrom died Feb. 20 at age 91.

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"Henry Segerstrom had this passion for the arts, life and business, and he ensured that whatever was done was with the highest standard," Smith said. "I took away a man who was truly committed to making this community on par with other cities in supporting the arts."

Smith, who began at OCMA seven months ago and was the director of the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida for six years, said the 1.64-acre parcel by the Segerstrom Center is an exciting opportunity for the museum's growth in programs, attendance and visibility, both locally and internationally.

The land, now being transferred to OCMA, is part of a six-acre gift announced in 1998 by South Coast Plaza and the Segerstrom family. The new facility is expected to open in 2016, but a specific date has not been determined.

The museum's new facility will make a world-class collection more accessible to the public, Smith said, along with bringing more visitors to the arts complex.

"There will be so much activity, and it allows for visitors to have more spontaneity," Smith said. "Our peers are more nighttime-based, whereas we are daytime-based, so visitors can stay to pick up a later performance. You can stand in the circle and pick what you'd like to attend."

OCMA, which has been in its current building off San Clemente Drive since 1977, underwent a renovation and expansion in 1997. Its move to Segerstrom was planned after its remodel, when South Coast Plaza, directed by Segerstrom, donated six acres to the performing arts center, including space for OCMA.

The new site, about eight miles north of the museum's current location, will allow OCMA to grow from 38,000 square feet to an estimated 140,000 square feet.

The project will be designed by Thom Mayne, a Los Angeles-based architect who founded Morphosis Architects. Mayne received the Pritzker Architecture Prize, an award honoring a living architect who has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity through architecture.

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OCMA, which was opened in 1962 as the Balboa Pavilion Gallery by 13 women, focuses on modern and contemporary art. By 1968, the museum became known as Newport Harbor Art Museum, and, in 1972, it moved to a larger location. With growing interest and support from visitors and community members, the museum opened its doors at its current location five years later.

Today, with a collection of over 3,000 works of arts, the museum lists its assets as a house for California-based holdings, highlighting movements such as early and mid-century modernism, pop art, minimalism and installation art. Featured artists include John Baldessari, Elmer Bischoof, Charles Ray and others.

OCMA also offers school tours, serving approximately 6,500 Orange County youth each year. One of the musuem's popular programs is Free Second Sundays, where the public is invited to visit the galleries for free and participate in hands-on projects as well as attend live performances and family-geared gallery tours.

In February, the museum announced Free Fridays, offering free admission and extended hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays as well. The museum also has lowered its admission prices for the remaining days of the week. The $12.50 general admission price has dropped to $10, and seniors, educators and students who previously paid $10 will get in for $7.50.

It's the museum's mission to enrich visitors' lives in a diverse and vibrant community, Smith said.

The museum, he said, works on the move's details every day. Smith is not new to serving in a leadership role during a museum's planning for an expansion. Prior to joining OCMA, he led the Tampa Museum of Art through a construction of a new 66,000-square-foot facility, with post-opening attendance 87% above projections and new memberships 145% above stated goals.

He said visitors can expect an increase in galleries with more exhibitions after the move.

"There will be an amazing amount of opportunity for us and the four other venues to work together and reach new audiences together," Smith said. "We're all excited to hear what this move means for the community."

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