Arts Orange County has played a pivotal role in a generational evolution in the arts & cultural landscape of Orange County

  • 1980s


    Arts leaders call for creation of an arts council after OC Arts Alliance dissolves in 1987, and meet periodically to move it forward.

  • 1990s


    OC arts leader Bonnie Brittain Hall founds ArtsOC with help from community leaders and becomes its first Executive Director. OC Community Foundation provides office space. Its first Board president is John R. Stahr.

  • 1998

    Arts Orange County is designated official nonprofit local arts agency and state-local partner by the County of Orange & receives its first grant from the California Arts Council, a state agency.

  • 2000s


    The County of Orange awards financial support to ArtsOC as part of an economic development initiative involving other organizations--but ceases the initiative after 3 years.

  • 2000

    First annual OC Arts Awards is held. To date, more than 75 have received the Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award, recognition for lifetime achievement, and more than 135 have been recognized for annual achievement in categories such as art (all disciplines), arts philanthropy, arts leadership, arts organization, emerging arts leaders.

  • 2004-2010

    The James Irvine Foundation's "Communities Advancing the Arts" program awards major funding to ArtsOC & OC Community Foundation, supporting 6 years of arts community building.

  • 2005

    ArtsOC acquires the Imagination Celebration through a merger of the two organizations. Imagination Celebration originated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., which later licensed it to select communities. 2022 marked its 37th year in OC, offered in collaboration with OC Department of Education.

  • 2006

    Arts OC releases benchmark "Cultural Indicators Report," documenting the state of the Orange County arts community.

    Download the Report Here


  • 2007

    ArtsOC's first competitive grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency (additional NEA grants were received in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023.)

  • 2008

    ArtsOC establishes an endowment fund to support future activities. Founding Executive Director Bonnie Brittain Hall retires. Former longtime Laguna Playhouse Executive Director Richard Stein is appointed President & CEO.

  • 2008-2015

    California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE) contracts with ArtsOC to establish 16 Local Arts Education Alliances serving most OC school districts, which CAAE now manages.

  • 2008

    Arts Orange County is contracted by the City of Irvine to conduct an arts plan for its Great Park, and served in an ongoing capacity as consultant through 2015, helping to create an artist in residence program, a monthly program of free performances (Palm Court Experiences), and to prepare a report documenting all arts and culture programming at the Great Park since its opening.

  • 2008

    SparkOC.com, a new state-of-the-art online arts calendar & resource is launched. More than 30,000 visit it monthly.

  • 2010s


    Creative Edge Lecture presented, bringing to our community renowned thought-leaders to speak about the importance of creativity, in collaboration with Orange County Department of Education. The program has featured such eminent speakers and best-selling authors as Daniel H. Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, Randy Nelson, Tom Kelley, John Maeda, Sarah Lewis, Dr. Charles Limb, U.S. Poet Laureates Joy Harjo and Juan Felipe Herrera, Vijay Gupta, Dr. Robert Duke, and Donn K. Harris

  • 2010

    ArtsOC increases its focus on consulting and project management amidst the recession. Services include commissioning public art, executive search & interim management, strategic planning, and retreat facilitation. Clients include local government, higher education, and arts organizations.

  • 2012

    ArtsOC launches Día del Niño, a one-day Latino-themed children's arts festival, featuring Grammy Award-winning ensembles & community artists, and attracting more than 3,000 in 2017. After 6 successful years in Santa Ana’s Birch Park, moved to OC Fair & Event Center in 2018 and 2019 where attendance exceeded 10,000. The 2020 event cancelled due to COVID-19, while in 2021 the festival transitioned to a virtual presentation. 2022 saw the festival return to live events, now expanded to three days at two sites.

  • 2014

    Arts Orange County is contracted by the City of Newport Beach to prepare a Master Arts and Culture Plan.

  • 2015

    Arts Orange County is first contracted by the City of Newport Beach to manage the Sculpture Exhibition in its new 14-acre Civic Center Park, installing ten new large scale works annually for two-year loans. ArtsOC has now managed seven phases of the program, which has become a beloved community institution. 

  • 2015

    ArtsOC launches pilot program, VOICES: Veterans Storytelling Project, a workshop for veterans that culminates in a free public performance by participants. After seven years the program is currently on hiatus. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program evolved into a virtual edition, producing more than 30 recorded veteran stories for ArtsOC's YouTube channel.

    Also this year, Arts Orange County is contracted by the City of Santa Ana to manage the selection of a new work of public art, “We Too Were Once Strangers” by Richard Turner, for its bicycle trail.

  • 2017

    ArtsOC moves its offices into new nonprofit "arts hub" building that houses Pacific Symphony, OC Music & Dance (a performing arts school), Southern California Children’s Chorus, and Monkey Business Café (operated by nonprofit Hart Community Homes.) “The Table of Dignity,” a new work of public art selected in a process managed by Arts Orange County, is installed at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.

  • 2018

    Arts Orange County prepares an Arts and Culture Master Plan for the City of Costa Mesa. The plan was approved by the Costa Mesa City Council in 2020.

  • 2019

    Arts Orange County prepares the Arts Component of a Community Services Master Plan for the City of Temecula, under contract to RJM Design Group. Arts Orange County is contracted by Jamboree Housing Corporation to manage the selection of two works of public art for its new Heroes Landing affordable housing residence for military veterans. Arts Orange County is contracted by the City of Moorpark to prepare an Arts Master Plan.

  • 2020s


    In response to COVID-19, Arts Orange County surveyed local arts organizations about the impact of the pandemic upon their operations and finances. It then presented the results to Orange County Community Foundation, which agreed to partner with Arts Orange County and Charitable Ventures in creating the OC Arts & Culture Resilience Fund. In addition to private gifts raised, Arts Orange County secured public money, and awarded these funds in assistance to artists, arts organizations and arts related businesses.

    Our COVID-19 Response Report may be found here

  • 2020

    Arts Orange County and its partner Heritage Future are selected as Programmatic Partners to the City of Fullerton for its Historic Hunt Library Revitalization Project. Arts Orange County partners with SA Exhibitions to operate a gallery space in the new Santa Ana Arts Collective affordable artist housing residence in a two-year pilot project.

  • 2021

    As a result of ArtsOC’s successful advocacy, the Orange County Board of Supervisors allocated $5 million ($1 million for each district) to provide relief grants to nonprofit arts organizations and arts-related businesses from its federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. ArtsOC had presented to the Board of Supervisors results of its survey that the nonprofit arts community had suffered more than $121 million in financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 2021-2022

    Arts Orange County is enlisted to conduct a comprehensive survey of arts organizations and venues in Orange County's District 2; and coordinates a $1 Million relief grant program directed at affected organizations and artists within those communities.

  • 2022

    Arts Orange County is contracted to facilitate three major artwork searches in Orange County. The investment firm Compass Diversified sought help to commission original pieces of visual art for its Costa Mesa workspace, while the City of Placentia and CalTrans partnered with ArtsOC for a Clean California Initiative to add beautifying murals to a major freeway underpass, and a permanent sculpture installation on city land contained by an on/offramp.