For The 2018 Orange County Arts Awards
Event Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Past Arts Awards Honorees

Arts Orange County congratulates the recipients of the 2017 Arts Awards:


Charlie and Ling Zhang, Arts Philanthropists
Charlie and Ling Zhang have been major supporters of the arts in Orange County for many years. A talented clarinet musician, he came to the U.S. at the age of 23, with $20 in his pocket and acceptance to the Pasadena music conservatory. After one semester, Charlie dropped out because of lack of money, and worked as a dishwasher. A work-related injury caused him to lose his ability to play. Soon afterward, Charlie bought one Chinese restaurant, then another, and then he and Ling created Pick Up Stix, building it to more than 100 locations. They eventually sold the chain, created another food company, a state of the art aseptic food and beverage company, which they sold as well. They currently own a real estate development company, Zion Enterprises LLC in Laguna Niguel. With their financial success came a strong desire to give back, and as a result, they founded OC Music and Dance to nurture, inspire and empower students of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay for instruction. Charlie serves on the Boards of Pacific Symphony, Bowers Museum and Pacific Chorale. In addition to generously supporting the arts in our community, Charlie and Ling have dedicated their time and treasure to many other local & international causes, and Charlie currently serves on the Boards of Concordia University, Cal State Fullerton, Chapman University as well as other organizations.

James Luna, Artist
James Luna is a Payómkawichum (Luiseño) Indian and Mexican-American performance artist. His work is best known for challenging the ways in which conventional museum exhibitions depict Native Americans, and is often comedic and theatrical in nature. In 2013, he appeared to a capacity audience at the Orange County Great Park in Native Stories: Life From the Colonia to the Rez, in which he recounted his childhood and teen years growing up in Orange County. Luna was born in 1950 in Orange, California and moved to the La Jolla Indian Reservation in 1975, where he lives today. In 1976, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of California, Irvine, and he received in 1983 a MS in Education Counseling. In 2012, Luna was awarded an honorary PhD in Humanities from the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, NM . Luna has performed over 58 solo exhibitions since 1981, and has partaken in group exhibitions and projects around the world. In his 1987 "Artifact Piece" at the San Diego Museum of Man, Luna lay still in a display case filled with sand and other artifacts. In the early 1990s Luna stood outside of Washington D.C.'s Union Station and performed "Take a Picture With a Real Indian." In 2005, he was invited to appear at the famed Venice Biennale in Italy, and this year he received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Molly Lynch, Arts Visionary
Molly Lynch is an award-winning choreographer, artistic director and longtime Orange County arts leader, with over 30 years of experience creating, producing, and presenting dance. She is currently an Associate Professor of Dance in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine, where she teaches ballet, pointe, partnering, repertory, and arts management. Lynch is the Founder and Artistic Director of the National Choreographers Initiative (NCI), an internationally known project to nurture the development of new choreography, which was begun in 2004 and showcases the works-in-progress each summer at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Her research with NCI was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2015. Lynch's choreography has been performed in Singapore, Philippines, Mexico, Italy and throughout the United States. From 1988-2003, Lynch was the Artistic Director of Ballet Pacifica, and during her tenure, established that company as Orange County's leading professional dance company. Previously, she served as Annual Fund Director and Special Events Director for South Coast Repertory, and from 1983-85, she was Administrative Director of the Orange County Arts Alliance, a nonprofit arts services organization that served the community from 1974-1988.

Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, San Clemente
Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens is located on 2.5 acres in the Ole Hanson estate, a registered historic landmark and legacy of the founder of San Clemente. The building celebrates 90 years in 2017, while the cultural center is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Hanson built this Spanish Colonial Revival home as his representation of the California dream in 1927, and patterned the development of the rest of the city after this property. The property passed through many hands throughout the twentieth century, and was on the precipice of destruction when it was saved by a group of forward-thinking individuals who saw what Casa Romantica could become. It was registered as a historic landmark, restored to its original beauty through a major capital campaign, and transformed into a cultural arts center as well as an architectural and botanical destination. Today, this vibrant institution programs nearly 100 multi-cultural events every year, hosts a variety of educational programs, maintains a garden comprised of diversified water-wise coastal flora from all over the world, and welcomes over 35,000 visitors annually.

Kevin Staniec, Arts Impresario
Kevin Staniec is an American writer, publisher and arts impresario. He is an author of children's literature, poetry, essays, fiction, non-fiction and screenplays. The 38 year old Staniec was born in Chicago, Illinois, and moved with his family to Southern California where he was raised in Orange County and continues to live. Staniec graduated from the School of Film and Television at Chapman University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He received a minor degree from the Department of English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Staniec is the founder of 1888 Center in Orange, a literary arts center opening this summer. On staff at the City of Irvine, he has overseen the Palm Court Arts Complex, curating exhibitions and programs for artists and the community to engage in conversation in the Great Park Artist Studios, Gallery and Historic Hangar 244.

Trio Céleste, Musical Ensemble
Fresh from its debut at New York's Carnegie Hall and the Seoul Art Center in South Korea earlier this year, Trio Céleste is comprised of Iryna Krechkovsky, violin; Ross Gasworth, cello; and Kevin Kwan Loucks, piano. Trio Céleste is currently Ensemble-in-Residence at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC Irvine and Directors of the acclaimed arts organization Chamber Music | OC where they have been featured in collaborations with violist Paul Coletti, Emerson String Quartet violinist Philip Setzer, and principal players of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In 2014, the ensemble was selected from over 500 applicants to be Artists-in-Residence at The Grand Canyon National Park. Critics have called Trio Céleste as "a first-class ensemble" (Orange County Register), "unfailingly stylish" (The Strad), "technically dazzling" (Long Beach Gazette), "flawless" (New York Concert Review) and "the epitome of what chamber musicians should be" (Palm Beach Daily News).


The 2017 Arts Awards were made possible by the
generous support of our underwriters



Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award Honorees, Arts Patrons Charlie and Ling Zhang, with Presenters and Past Modjeska Honorees, Arts Patrons Yvonne and Damien Jordan

Presenter and Director of the Orange County Museum of Art Todd DeShields Smith, with Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award Winner,
artist James Luna

Presenter, Arts OC Board Member and Past Board President Mary Lyons, with Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award Honoree Molly Lynch - dancer, choreographer, Founder and Artistic Director of the National Choreographers Initiative

Presenter, ArtsOC Board Chair Rick Smetanka, with Casa Romantica Executive Director Berenika Schmitz, accepting the award for
Outstanding Arts Organization

Emerging Arts Leader Kevin Staniec (C) with Presenters and Arts Patrons
Bette (L) and Wylie (R) Aitken

Ross Gasworth, Iryna Krechkovsky, Kevin Kwan Loucks of the Emerging Artists Honoree Trio Céleste with Presenter and Official Awards Host, ArtsOC Board Member Bill London


Guests mingle on the VIP patio at the pre-dinner reception, generously sponsored by Phil & Mary Lyons

The Itai and Guy Jazz Connection provided pre-dinner entertainment with versatility and a world beat

Arts OC Board Chair Rick Smetanka and wife Cheri

Honoree Charlie Zhang poses with Arts OC Board Member and President of the Pacific Symphony
John Forsyte

Marc Lyncheski, Director of Marketing and Community Relations for the new OC Music & Dance Center, with Kim Wilmot

Honoree James Luna with Adelaide Luna,
Rebecca Garcia, and Peter Luna

Elizabeth Stahr and Founding and Emeritus Board Member of Arts Orange County John Stahr

Awards Ceremony Volunteer Camille Ahola with father Chris Ahola

(from L) Cari Hart Bunevith, David Bunevith, and Ian Layman

Past Arts Awards Honorees Yvonne and Damien Jordan pose with fellow arts patron Isabelle Villaseñor, a major donor to dance company
The Wooden Floor

Mark and Jan Hilbert - the longtime collectors are now the namesakes of the new Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University in Orange

Don Laffoon, founder of the Stop-Gap drama therapy program, with wife, artist Grace Songolo

(seated, from L) Erika Williams, Michelle Barker, Stephen Barker, Tim Shaw, Ruth Denault, Berenika Schmitz
(standing, from L) Ivan Williams, Ellen Breitman

(seated, from L) Ross Gasworth, Michelle Gasworth, Terry Dwyer, Jason Holland
(standing, from L), Iryna Krechovsky, Kevin Kwan Loucks, Talena Mara, Judy Morr

(seated, from L) Peter Luna, Adelaide Luna,
Rebecca Garcia, James Luna
(standing, from L) Jeff Schwarzer, Scott Murillo,
Ila Gomez, Ernesto Maldonado

(seated, from L) Cheri Smetanka, Julia Foster, Doug Vogel
(standing, from L), Hogi Kurinawan, Rick Smetanka, Sue Harrison, Marguerite Adams, Ellen Richard

(seated, from L) Kathy Kramer, Alison Stein, Rick Stein, Bette Aitken, Wylie Aitken
(standing, from L) Kevin Staniec, Janet Kim-Staniec

(from L) Chris Ahola, Karen Ahola, Austin Muckenthaler, John Mangum, Todd DeShields Smith

(seated, from L) Sally Anne Sheridan, Carl Neisser, Barbara Roberts,
Molly Lynch, Alan Andrews, Carol Reynolds
(standing, from L) Jenny Szabo, Bobbi Cox

(from L) Sam Anderson, Susan Anderson, Joe Aronoff-Sadacca,
Leona Aronoff-Sadacca, Joann Leatherby, Greg Bates

(seated, from L) Carol Saindon, Elizabeth Pearson, Joe Lewis, Mary Lyons, Phil Lyons, Nancy Lyons
(standing, from L) Steve Venz, Stacy Harris

(seated, from L) Doug Freeman, Lynn Freeman, Ling Zhang, Charlie Zhang, JoEllen Chatham, Joanne Tang, Thomas Lien, Ruth Ding
(standing) David Bunevith, Cari Hart-Bunevith

(seated, from L) Rich Wessman, Adriana Wessman, Bob Davis, Susan Hori, Kay Mortenson, Kelly Kelly
(standing, from L) Jan Hilbert, Mark Hilbert

(seated, from L) Isabelle Villaseñor, Tod White, Linda White, Dawn Reese, Arthur Ong, Ginger Ong
(standing, from L) Yvonne Jordan, Damien Jordan

(seated, from L) John Stahr, Thomas H. Nielsen, Judith Posnikoff, Elizabeth Stahr, Gary Good
(standing) John Forsyte, Michele Forsyte

Admirers, Volunteers, and Staff from Honoree Casa Romantica pose with Executive Director Berenika Schmitz

Attendees mingle, enjoy refreshments, and pose for pictures in the Samueli Theater lobby prior to the ceremony

The Samueli Theater - set up for dessert

Co-Emcee Rick Stein, President & CEO of Arts Orange County, with Dan Spector accompanying the show on piano

OC Fair & Event Center CEO Kathy Kramer didn't just attend her first Arts Awards, she co-hosted

Ling and Charlie Zhang accept their Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award for their Arts Patronage

The acclaimed local dance troupe backhausdance kicked off the ceremony with an athletic and high-energy performance

The band Trio Ellas performed their unique and acclaimed fusion of country, mariachi, and blues

Long Beach-based Cambodian hip-hop artist praCh Ly performed an uplifting rap about moving beyond the horrors of the past and finding a way to come together as people

Actress and singer Erika Schindele from South Coast Repertory's upcoming production of "Ella Enchanted" gave the audience a musical sneak preview of the modern spin on a fairy tale

Author, teacher, and guzheng virtuoso Bei Bei played a transporting piece on the ancient Chinese zither

The After Party on the Samueli Patio - generously ponsored by Zion Enterprises

The Saddleback College Jazz Combo entertains guests at the After Party with classic selections from the American jazz catalog

View list of past Arts Awards recipients