Darlene D. DeAngelo sees art in everyday life. From a traffic signal or overturned umbrella to ocean waves, she sees beauty in life's simple details.
That vision is what guides her as the Huntington Beach Art Center's exhibit curator.
DeAngelo assumed her post Dec. 15. She is poised to lead the center in a new direction.
"I wanted something I could sink my teeth into," DeAngelo, 44, said.
Her plans for the next two years are to present a mix of artwork from paintings and sculptures to installations and performance art, such as poetry readings, and experimental video. She also wants to bring in international artists, including Peter Alexander and George Segal.
"I think there's a misconception that internationally known artists may not want to show at a regional center, but I don't think that way," said DeAngelo, who lives in Claremont but plans to move to Huntington. "I just want to make art as accessible as possible. All artists have the same concern. They just want a space to show their work."
DeAngelo was executive director at the DA Center for the Arts in Pomona, a nonprofit multidisciplinary community arts organization. She was also assistant director of the publications department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1978 to 1985. At the Met, she conducted sales projects, planned exhibitions and developed the museum's limited-print edition program. She also organized some traveling exhibitions.
"It's the same vision whether I'm working for the Met, a small alternative art space or a regional art center like Huntington Beach Art Center," said DeAngelo, who was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "It's about the art."
As a curator, DeAngelo goes through the same creative process as an artist when preparing for an exhibition.
She gets nervous. Then she settles down and sees how all the works come together.
"There's a real high, then there's a real drop-off point," she said. "Designing an exhibition is extremely intuitive. Sometimes I have a theme I'm working toward, a trend I see in studios."
"Ties That Bind," an exhibition using fiber, is her third curated show, and its theme came to her as she thought about the artists' feelings about their work.
"Halfway through the process of choosing artists and artwork, I noticed that each had a deeply compelling story about their pieces from family [connections] to traditions," she said.
DeAngelo will oversee a staff of 20 employees and will be working with a $280,000 budget, down from $500,000 five years ago. But DeAngelo and the art center's director, Michael Mudd, are hoping to increase that number to at least $350,000.
To help, DeAngelo will also be writing the art center's grants.
"I love writing grants," DeAngelo said. "I'm a real split between the artistic and administrative side."
Under DeAngelo, the art center will begin to present works by artists who are deceased. The center's previous mission only allowed for shows by living artists.
"It's the start of a whole new direction, a new adolescence if you will, for the art center," Mudd said.
This approach will lead to a better dialogue with the community, DeAngelo said. "It makes me more flexible and accessible to people. . . . I can listen to what they want to see."
Those who know her say visitors will have plenty of chances to make their preferences heard. She enjoys hitting the gallery floors and mixing it up with art lovers.
"She's very approachable," said Diana Casey, co-chair of the center's foundation. "She finds the time to talk to artists and patrons. She [mingles well] with the rich or poor person, a student or surfer."