18th Annual Orange County Arts Awards

SAVE THE DATE! The 18th Annual Orange County Arts Awards will be held on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 in the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

(to avoid Eventbrite fees, we suggest you instead click the Reservation Information & Form and mail in your payment)

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).
Kathy Kramer, CEO, OC Fair & Event Center
Richard Stein, President & CEO, Arts Orange County



Bei Bei

praCh Ly

Erika Schindele

Daniel Nathan Spector

Trio Ellas

Dave Cross

Itai and Guy Jazz Connection

Saddleback College Jazz Studies Student Combo


View list of past Arts Awards recipients

2016 Ceremony Information and Pictures

On Tuesday, October 25, 2016, Arts Orange County held its 17th Annual Orange County Arts Awards in the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Emceed by Jennifer Backhaus, Founder and Artistic Director of Backhausdance, and ArtsOC Executive Director Rick Stein, the ceremony celebrated both lives and accomplishments in the arts community, and gave special honors to outstanding organizations and individuals

2016 OC Arts Awards Honorees
(from L) John Forsyte; Damien & Yvonne Jordan; Mike McGee; Andy Russell, accepting for PBS SoCal; Yevgenia Mikhailik; Allen Moon

The 2016 Arts Awards were made possible by the
generous support of our underwriters


Reception on the Plaza of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Phil & Mary Lyons   Jesse Burgess & Yevgeniya Mikhailik

Walkie & Janet Ray; Shaheen Sadeghi   Bill & Clare Cusato

John Forsyte; Yvonne & Damien Jordan; Mike Kerr   Rick Stein and Joann Leatherby   Carl St.Clair; Elizabeth Pearson; Michele & John Forsyte

William London and Guest   Janet Ray and Alison Stein   Carl St.Clair and Rick Stein

Cherie & Rick Smetanka; Janet Ray   Karen & Camille Ahola   Jane Bauman and Kate Hoffman

Carl St.Clair and Charlie Zhang   Judith Posnikoff, Jim Driscoll, and Judy Morr   Jo Ellen Chatham, Michele Forsyte

Don Prime, Betty Disney, Michael Kaupp, and Roger Mendes   John & Elizabeth Stahr   Jon & Katherine Gothold

Adriana Sanchez Alexander, assisted by artist Ysidro, with their "Make an Arts Wish" archway   Members of Dinicu   Guests making their arts wishes

Karen Hanlon, Lori Grayson, and Harish Murthy   Jennifer Backhaus and Mike Kerr   Leslie Ann Mogul and Ramya Harishankar

Bart McHenry, Dave Anderson, Dru & Larry Maurer   "Jedi Master" Rick Stein   Karen Wood, Malcolm Warner, and guest

Alex Stimpson and Honoree Allen Moon   Bill Cusato and Andy Russell, accepting for Honoree PBS SoCal   Rick Smetanka and Honoree Yevgenia Mikhailik

Honoree John Forsyte, with Phil & Mary Lyons and Carl St.Clair   Susan Hori and Honoree Mike McGee   Wylie & Bette Aitken and Honorees Yvonne & Damien Jordan