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Jerry Hicks

Orange Coast's New Gallery Is a Showcase for Efficiency

November 02, 1996|Jerry Hicks

Remember the time you cleared the junk out of your garage and it gave you all this space to work with? Then a year later, you had to clear the junk out again?

It always amazes me how some people are great at envisioning how to turn some extra space into something extraordinary. And others of us, well, less than skilled at it. Irini Vallera-Rickerson ranks among the great ones. You see, she had this storage room. . . .

Doug Jackson is Vallera-Rickerson's assistant at the Fine Arts Gallery at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa; she's its director, curator, art historian and catalog writer. I'm guessing she does the wastebaskets and windows too.

Jackson and I have something in common. When we see a storage room, we know exactly what we're looking at--a place to put your leftover stuff with no particular order to it; just toss it in there.

"But Irini has this incredible vision," he told me. "She sees a storage room and thinks of its possibilities."

If you've been to the small Fine Arts Gallery at Orange Coast over the years, the 12-by-12-foot storage room was behind the black curtain along the south wall. It was filled with so much junk that Jackson says you had to watch your step to get through it.

You ought to take a look at it now. It opened last month as a beautiful, small Museum Room, with its own separate show. The one right now is on California Native American artifacts, most of the pieces from a private collection owned by Ellen Woods of Salinas. Vallera-Rickerson got her husband, architect Robert Rickerson, to design a huge, beautiful display case that takes up one wall in the new room. Good friends Myrella Moses, an artist, and Eric Mondrian, a musician, donated their time to paint the concrete floor with a grainy texture to give it the appearance of red clay, especially fitting for this particular exhibit.

The Native American exhibit is an interesting mix of tools, weapons, breath-taking woven baskets, and game pieces from the 19th century. After taking it all in, I turned to Vallera-Rickerson and asked: OK, where did you come up with this gem of an idea?

"We wanted something that the community could enjoy as well as the students," she said. "We had all this space; there was no reason not to put it to good use."

She and I had never met. But I'd asked our art critic Cathy Curtis about her. "She's warm and very deserving," Curtis said, referring to all that Vallera-Rickerson does on a small budget.

The main gallery right now is displaying works from members of the Orange Coast faculty. The Native American show will run through the end of the semester. Hours at the gallery are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and Thursday nights from 7 to 8:30. You can't beat the price: It's free.

A Little Politics: As Orange County's diversity grows, sometimes it takes some adjustment. And that doesn't always come without a few bumps along the way. Lue Wulff has run a polling booth out of her Santa Ana home each election the past 15 years. But this year, the county registrar's office took it away from her. Here was the problem:

As the designated inspector, it's been Wulff's job to select the four-member board for the polling place. This year she was told she had to have someone bilingual on her board. In this case, someone who spoke Vietnamese. She refused, for a reason she's convinced was important. As inspector, she must make sure that nobody working her board on election day is trying to influence any of the voters. But how can she be sure that's not taking place, she says, if the board member is speaking a language she doesn't understand?

I sympathize with Wulff's dilemma. But saying no to the registrar's office isn't the answer. Seems to me we need to take every step we can to make it easier for registered voters to want to show up at the polls. Sometimes that means adjusting to changing times. . . .

If Jack Kemp has his way, the rest of his November will be spent helping Bob Dole put together his Cabinet for the new Dole-Kemp administration.

But then, of course, Kemp is a realist, and his side is sagging in the polls. So Kemp also has plans to speak at a Nov. 21 conference on entrepreneurship put on by Chapman University.

The conference, sponsored by Merrill Lynch, will take place at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. The hosting group is Chapman's Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics. Attendance by reservation only. . . .

Here's a quiz for you: How many statewide propositions will be on your ballot Tuesday? Count them: 15. Now, how many do you know so far?

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