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The Orange County Museum of Art: A Newport Beach Treasure

Located in Newport Beach, the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) boasts a collection of more than 3,000 objects. From traditional paintings and sculptures to photography and video, the museum concentrates on the art of California from the early 20th century to now.

The History of the Orange County Museum of Art

Dating back to 1962, the Orange County Museum of Art began with the creation of the Balboa Pavilion Gallery by 13 Newport Beach women. In 1968, the women rented space in the Balboa Pavilion to exhibit modern and contemporary art. The space was then renamed the Newport Harbor Art Museum. In response to needs for more space, the museum relocated in 1977 to a 23,000-square-foot building on Fashion Island. After a few later expansion attempts that never came to fruition, the museum finally completed a $1.8 million renovation and expansion of the building in 1997.

Last year, the museum revealed new plans to move to a 1.64-acre site near the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. The land, which was given to the museum by philanthropist Henry Segerstrom following his death at the age of 91, has been in the museum’s possession since 2015. The museum plans to fund the project by selling its current site to a developer.

Exhibitions and Events

The Orange County Museum of Art has organized numerous exhibitions of both contemporary art and modern art and design. The museum also launched the California Biennial in 1984, with a focus on emerging artists in the state. In 2013, the program evolved into the California-Pacific Triennial, becoming the first on-going exhibition in the Western Hemisphere to be devoted entirely to contemporary are from around the Pacific Rim. The Orange County Museum of Art also works cooperatively with other organizations, which has allowed its exhibitions to travel to more than 30 museums throughout the United States and Europe.

Each month, the museum hosts events such as Thursday evening lectures, artists’ talks and special activities for children. Approximately 20,000 children and adults participate in these award-winning programs every year. To help make this possible, the museum hosts free tours to schoolchildren that includes an interactive studio component. It is also the only institution in the county to provide financial support to cover transportation expenses for those schools that would otherwise be unable to attend.

The Third Thursdays evening series, which is geared toward adult audiences, provides participants with unique and exciting access to exhibition-based events. These include film screenings, artists’ talks, performances and more. The museum also partners with the Newport Beach Film Festival to present monthly screenings and independent films, while artists of all ages enjoy participating in Studio Sundays where artists and educators work together to create an array of contemporary art inspired by the museum’s current exhibitions. During the museum’s Free Second Sundays program, the public is invited to visit the museum’s galleries for free while also participating in hands-on art projects and attending live performances.

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