When the Orange County Museum of Art opened Oct. 8 at its new home in Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, leaders vowed the institution would be a welcoming space for all, announcing admission would be free for a decade.
Members of the public responded to that invitation, lining up along Avenue of the Arts as early as 10:15 a.m. — more than seven hours ahead of the grand opening — to partake in a 24-hour celebration that included music, dancing, meditation and rooftop fireworks show.
“I really wanted it to be an experience, to kind of capture the emotion of all the effort that went into 17 designs in 14 years,” Chief Executive Heidi Zuckerman said Thursday. “I wanted people to feel they were part of something momentous.”
In the month since, it seems the vision of OCMA as a contemporary museum, architectural marvel and a community gathering space is beginning to yield positive results. Zuckerman confirmed more than 45,000 people have visited the site.
“We saw 20,000 people in the last week,” she said, contrasting the spacious new location to its previous location in Santa Ana. “In our old facility, that was essentially our annual attendance.”
Adults and seniors made up roughly 90% of those who visited in the museum’s first month, while children accounted for 7% and an estimated 3% were identified as teenagers, according to a Nov. 11 weekly update emailed to members.
Among those who turned out, more than half — or about 57% — revealed through ZIP code information they lived in California, although many declined to state their city of residence. Of Orange County guests, 9% lived in Irvine, while 5% were from Costa Mesa and 3% from Newport Beach and Santa Ana.
International guests hailed primarily from Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and China, though others came from Australia, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
Not content to rest on their laurels, OCMA leaders are already looking ahead to December to roll out new programs for families with babies and young children and will soon begin school visits for kids 5 and older.
Zuckerman said it’s part of a new effort to make art a meaningful experience for younger generations and a wider cross-section of the community, no matter who they are or where they come from.
She acknowledged the 10 years of free admission, made possible by a $2.5-million donation from Newport Beach’s Lugano Diamonds, played a significant role in creating a welcoming environment. But once the decade is up, would OCMA officials consider extending the offer?
“Yeah, for sure,” Zuckerman said.
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Sara Cardine covers the city of Costa Mesa for the Daily Pilot. She comes from the La Cañada Valley Sun, where she spent six years as the news reporter covering La Cañada Flintridge and recently received a first-place Public Service Journalism award from the California News Publishers Assn. She’s also worked at the Pasadena Weekly, Stockton Record and Lodi-News Sentinel, which instilled in her a love for community news. (714) 966-4627
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