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Curtain Rises on Decade II

Performing Arts Center Has Met Cultural Hopes, Boosted O.C.

September 08, 1996

The Orange County Performing Arts Center opened a decade ago amid high hopes and expectations, and it aimed to fill a cultural void. As the celebration of this milestone takes place, it is nice to be able to say that the center has done better than establish and sustain itself, which in themselves are accomplishments. More, it has flourished and fulfilled many of the fondest hopes that were held for it as a venue and as a symbol of the county's coming of age.

The center has brought in the world's best ballet companies, and set itself as a touring site for classical music and Broadway shows. A local opera company, orchestra and two local chorales have had a venue.

Many residents, while expressing some unfulfilled hopes, say that having the center has given Orange County an entertainment destination, and so they are pleased that they can enjoy so many things locally without having to travel to Los Angeles. In short, the center can boast of contributing a sense of cultural place and identity to the area, which is no small achievement.

The center has retained loyal donors, and has had significant impact on the entire artistic community, making it possible for Opera Pacific to exist, and enabling the launching of a choral festival by the locally based Pacific Chorale. Pacific Symphony's executive director, Louis Spisto, credits the center with making possible its substantial growth over the past decade.

Fortunately, the hope that the center would be a boon to the arts community in general, under the theory that "a rising tide raises all boats," has been largely true. Having the center has led to a growth in the arts-consuming public, and creating a market for it.

Some immediate projects for the future include carrying out an expansion that would allow for a second or even third theater. The question of filling the vacant position of the center president remains. Center chairman Mark Johnson talks of building consensus and of following careful processes.

But with these challenges, there remains cause for celebration now. To have managed all that has happened without government funding is an achievement. The center stands as a compliment to the Orange County community, and is a model for others.

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