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ART & SOCIETY

P E R F O R M I N G A R T S

A Tradition of Artistic Excellence NORTH COUNTY ARTS CENTER CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY BY ERICA MINER

alifornia Center for the Arts, Escondido, has much to celebrate. This year commemorates the Center’s 20th Anniversary season. After a three–year break in their operations, the newly–invigorated organization has reentered the Southern California arts scene with energy and ambition to present top entertainment to arts aficionados. The Center features some of the world’s most prominent performers in a diverse range of programs with wide appeal, from classical music to Broadway shows to popular performers such as Garrison Keillor and also sponsors museum exhibits and education programs. According to Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, “As Escondido’s cultural icon, the Center draws audiences to our city, driving the economy and showcasing our investment in the arts.” In this interview Executive Director Jerry VanLeeuwen adds his own perspective. EM: Congratulations on California Center for the Arts, Escondido’s 20th Anniversary season! How would you describe your distinctive venue?   JVL: The Center’s unique campus is situated on 12 sprawling acres of Grape Day Park and includes a 1,523–seat concert hall, a 404–seat theater, a contemporary art museum, art and dance studios and a full–service conference center with meeting and banquet facilities. The Center also runs an extensive education program and produces free community events, such as the Jazz Jam Sessions, Holiday Tree Lighting, Day of the Dead, 4th of July and WOW First Wednesdays performances. Our offerings attract over 250,000 people to our campus each year. What is the Arts Center’s mission?  Our mission is to bring people together to discover, create and celebrate the visual and performing arts. Tell us about the Center’s re–launch.   The re-launch was based on the Board of Trustees’ desire to re–enliven the Center through expanded programming while not incurring the financial risks seen in previous years. Solid market research, strategic marketing and public relations efforts allowed the Center to bring performing arts into a positive cash flow. In addition, new collaborations with other arts organizations have created a base for even more broad scope and exciting programs next season and beyond. Significant growth is anticipated in Visual Arts, Performing Arts and Education programs. A very good plan indeed. What are some of the highlights of this Anniversary season?  Broadly speaking, one of the main highlights of the season was presenting diverse programming that entices and engages audiences from in and around Escondido.  Our intention in creating such an eclectic season was multifaceted: we wanted to attract new audiences, re–energize our previous patrons and create an experience 80

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