SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County Museum of Art CEO Heidi Zuckerman said Wednesday she was leading a tour of the museum's new building in Costa Mesa when she noticed some passersby.
"Some random people walking their dogs walked by and waved at us," she told reporters at an unveiling of the new museum on the campus of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which opens to the public on Oct. 8. "It was awesome. I was a kid in a candy store: `Hey, it's working, it's working."'
Zuckerman said the architectural firm Morphosis understood what the museum's directors wanted in a new facility.
"They understood what we wanted in a building most of all was an invitation, a beckoning to the entire community to come on by and experience what we have to offer... a seamless connection between outside and inside. It allows people passing by on the Avenue of the Arts to glimpse what's happening in the galleries."
Architect Thom Mayne, the design director, said he had planned the design of the 53,000-square-foot building on and off for the last 14 years with South Coast Plaza Partner and OCMA Trustee Anton Segerstrom, son of the founder of the arts campus.
"We understood this is an educational facility," Mayne said.
The facility includes a piazza to encourage more open-space mingling for patrons.
Mayne's partner, Brandon Welling, told reporters that the process started in 2007, but more in earnest in 2014, with a "design reveal" for media in 2018.
The architects aimed at "breaking down barriers" throughout the art museum, which is housed near the performing arts center, concert hall and theater. He noted the gallery space is nearly 25,000 square feet, double the room of the previous building, with a 10,631-square-foot upper terrace.
"If the past two years have taught us anything it's how much we need the experience of communal spaces where new connections can be made and unexpected conversations can happen," Zuckerman said. "That's where the sparks of creativity can fly."
And thanks to a donation from Lugano Diamonds, admission to the museum will be free to all visitors for the next 10 years, Zuckerman said.
"There's no economic barrier to experience our exhibitions and programs," she said.
The new museum also features Sanford Biggers' work, "Of many waters," a 24-foot-wide by 16-foot-tall multimedia outdoor sculpture featuring shiny metal sequins. Biggers said it was an extension of a large bronze sculpture he completed and some other recent work with repurposed quilts.
"It was really sort of a hope and a prayer how we would figure it all out," he said.
The artist is originally from Los Angeles, so when thinking about the commissioned work he reflected back on "billboards and ads and Hollywood." He included an "archetypal body" of a "river god" with a "cornucopia in god's hand that shows the life-giving qualities of bodies of water and earth" as well as African masks.
He said the work puts "all that together for goodwill and a good omen for the museum."
The added gallery space will allow for more use of the museum's permanent collection along with its exhibitions, chief curator Courtenay Finn said.
The museum will kick off with five new exhibitions. One is "California Biennial 2022: Pacific Gold," and will feature work from the museum's permanent collection, which has been expanded. The "13 Women" exhibition focuses on the founders of the Balboa Pavilion Gallery, which is the origin of the museum as it celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Another exhibition features the work of Fred Eversley, who had a groundbreaking show at the museum in 1976. And another exhibition pays homage to the work of Peter Walker, a leading landscape architect best known for the National 9/11 Memorial, and who has a long history of work with the Segerstrom family and the arts center.
The museum will hold a 24-hour party kicking off at 5 p.m. on Oct. 8 that will feature various performances, film screenings, music and other activities.