When Roger Johnson plans an evening of cultural entertainment, his first choice is likely to be an opera, although ballet and choral performances also figure in his list of favorites.
Johnson, chairman, president and chief executive of Western Digital Corp. in Irvine, brought his interest in the arts into his corporate activities when he assumed leadership of the computer-products company 6 years ago.
And Sunday night, Western Digital's involvement was recognized with a Business in the Arts Award at a gala reception and tribute at the Newport Harbor Art Museum. Johnson's firm was one of 13 Orange County businesses honored by the Orange County Business Committee for the Arts.
Over the years, Western Digital has provided financial support and thousands of hours of volunteer works for numerous arts organizations in the county, including South Coast Repertory and the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
But it was the high-tech visual arts, not opera or music or drama, that won Western Digital its first-time recognition this year.
The company was cited for its involvement with the Art Institute of Southern California's Computer Graphics Laboratory. Western Digital donated $25,000 to the program, several company executives sit on the institute's board of directors, and Western Digital employees provide computer training for Art Institute administrators.
"Our philosophy is that enterprises must be involved in the local community," said Johnson, whose wife was trained in the vocal arts and whose daughter is a professional actress.
The awards have been presented annually since 1982 by the Business Committee for the Arts. Including this year's winners, 67 companies have been honored.
In addition, the committee each year selects a not-for-profit arts organization for its Arts Award, recognizing the organization's achievement in developing partnerships with businesses.
This year, the 11-year-old Children's Museum at La Habra was chosen to receive the award and the $1,500 cash grant that goes with it.
Betty R. Moss, the committee's executive director, said the purpose of the awards is to recognize outstanding and continuing support of the arts by businesses in the community.
In addition to Western Digital, other first-time Business in the Arts Award winners for 1987-88 are:
- Kathryn G. Thompson Development Co. in Irvine, recognized for "setting a standard or corporate support that belies its relatively small size." The company and individual employees provide in-kind and volunteer services for a number of arts organizations and events. Thompson has served since 1983 as the only woman on the Performing Arts Center's board of directors. She is also on the board of the South Coast Repertory.
- Latham & Watkins, honored for its financial support of the Newport Harbor Art Museum and South Coast Repertory and for providing hundreds of hours of free legal services for a variety of arts organizations.
- The Times Orange County Edition, for a "broad-based program" that included substantial financial contributions as well as provision of free advertising space and volunteer services to a number of county arts organizations. The award, said Ernie Vitucci, general manager of the Orange County Edition, "recognizes that we care about and are a vital part of Orange County."
A Special Recognition award was presented to the Newport Beach regional office of the national accounting firm of Deloitte, Haskins & Sells, which has provided the committee with free office space, accounting services and operational facilities since its founding.
The Business Committee for the Arts also gave "repeat" awards to four companies honored for a second time for outstanding support.
Viatech International in Orange was cited for "a level of corporate support exemplary for smaller-scale businesses in the county." The computer technology firm company has provided financial support for fine arts students at UC Irvine and underwrites operation of the Laguna Art Museum's Young Artists Gallery at its satellite location at South Coast Plaza.
The Fieldstone Co., a Newport Beach residential developer, garnered its second award for a variety of activities, including grants to the Laguna Art Museum and South Coast Repertory. The company this year began matching employees' donations to arts organizations. First Interstate Bank's regional office in Newport Beach was honored for financial and leadership support of a number of programs, including a second consecutive sponsorship and $50,000 contribution to the Performing Arts Center Triathlon. First Interstate officers serve on the board of South Coast Repertory and on the Center 500 support group for the Performing Arts Center. The company is endowing a guest artist chair at South Coast Repertory and helped finance SCR's 1987 production of "A Christmas Carol."