The Crowd: Celebrating 25 art-filled years

October 14, 2011|By B.W. Cook
  • CENTER VIPS: Larry and Dee Higby, Henry and Elizabeth Segerstrom and Terry Dwyer unveil a special exhibit of Segerstrom Center for the Arts history in the Jewel Court at South Coast Plaza.
CENTER VIPS: Larry and Dee Higby, Henry and Elizabeth… (Daily Pilot )

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts launched its 25th-anniversary season in grand style. The Founders Plus, an organization comprised of citizens who were the early visionaries involved in the creation of the center, came together for a silver anniversary dinner in the Samueli Theater.

It was a gathering of longtime friendships, as some 120 members of Founders Plus and their dinner guests reminisced on the early days when the Segerstrom Center — formerly known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center — was nothing else but agricultural land.

The evening marked the inauguration of the Founders Plus Legacy Endowment Program, which, along with other significant Founders Plus financial support, enables the center to provide programs for schoolchildren in the community and tickets to many performances throughout the year. It's an effort for O.C. citizens who might not be able to attend otherwise.

The Founders Plus evening was hosted by Shari Esayian, president of the group, who joined the Silver Celebration gala chair Ruth Ding in welcoming many of the most significant philanthropic partners who have been mainstays of the center's growth.


Very special guests of the evening included the distinguished Elaine Redfield, a past president of the center's Board of Trustees. She originally worked with Henry Segerstrom to secure the land from the Segerstrom family for the eventual creation of the project.

Honored at the 25th anniversary dinner were Benton and Wanlyn Bejach, presented with the annual Founders Plus Maxine Gibson Award for their longtime service to arts-related community based organizations in Orange County. In particular, the Bejachs have directed their attention to the center's "Summer at the Center" education program for at-risk youth.

VIPs in the crowd included center President Terry Dwyer, Jan Landstrom, Judy Morr, Gini and Bob Robins, Nora and Jim Johnson, Barbara and Robert Kleist, Kathy and Emory Frink, Bill Gillespie, and Barbara and Keith Johannes.

The crowd was served a trendy dinner of braised longbone short ribs in sauce Merlot and then was treated to a marvelous performance, which began with the impressive young pianist Umi Garrett followed by vocalists Heather Calvete and Tyler Thompson accompanied by Daniel Faltus.


Two additional events connected to the center's 25th anniversary unfolded this month. The Sound of Music Chapter of the Guilds of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts presented "The First Notable Kitchen Tour and Showcase."

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