GCAC is approximately one mile from the Santa Ana freeway (Interstate-5), approximately twenty-five miles south of Los Angeles and seventy miles north of San Diego.
Grand Central Art Center is the result of a unique partnership between the California State University at Fullerton and the City of Santa Ana. Located ten miles south of the main campus in the heart of downtown Santa Ana, the art center is a mixed residential, commercial and educational complex. The art center is a 45,000 square-foot, full city-block long and half-city block deep, three-level structure that houses: live/studio spaces for visual arts graduate students, the Grand Central Main Gallery, Project Room, Education/Teaching Gallery, Grand Central Theater, Gypsy Den Café, Hipcooks, Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Institute, MASKA, classrooms, and a studio and living space dedicated to the center’s international artist-in-residence program.
Santa Ana community activist and visionary Don Cribb and Cal State Fullerton Gallery Director Mike McGee originally conceived the Grand Central Art Center in 1994, as the anchor and catalyst for a ten-square block area in the heart of downtown designated as the Artists Village. The subsequent success of the Artists Village has helped spawn a cultural and economic renewal.
The City of Santa Ana purchased and refurbised what was the Grand Central Building—originally built in 1924, the building served as the central market for Orange County up until the 1940s. LA-based architect Steven Ehrlich did the original design for the remodel; Orange County-based Robbins, Jorgensen and Christopher was the executive architectural firm. The project has won numerous architectural awards.
Twenty-seven apartments are available for students who have been accepted into the university MA or MFA visual and performing arts programs. Students live and work at Grand Central. Each resident who rents an apartment is assigned a studio and parking at the twenty-four-hour-guarded parking structure on 3rd Street.
One of the residential apartments is reserved for the art center’s artist-in-residence program. In addition, an 800-square-foot private studio space is designated for the artist-in-residence.
The Grand Central Art Gallery, Project Room and Education/Teaching Gallery feature exhibitions and projects by internationally noted artists. GCAC presents four to six exhibitions a year in each space.
The Theater is centrally located in the building. It is configured in-the-round and seats an audience of eighty-five. CSUF’s Theatre and Dance Department schedule the space through their nationally recognized programs.
The Grand Central Market complex was built in two stages. In 1922 a one-story market building containing stalls for independent grocers, produce vendors, butchers, etc. was constructed mid-block between First and Second Streets, with openings facing both Broadway and Sycamore Street. Two years later, in 1924, a two-story addition (the Grand Central Building, 125 North Broadway), fronting on Second Street and containing 12 storefronts topped by 29 residential apartments, was erected. The main entrance on Second Street provided additional access to the original market to the south.
The complex was the product of the Santa Ana Investment Company, a syndicate composed of prominent local citizens, who had been inspired by the Grand Central Market located in downtown Los Angeles. Principals of the firm included Linn Shaw, pioneer resident and former postmaster; Roy Russell, realtor; A. N. Zerman, H. Work, and Frank Purington. The architect of the 1922 building was W. W. Kays of Santa Ana; the architects of the addition were H. Newton Thornton of Santa Ana and F. L. Lindsay of Long Beach.
Although primarily known as a market and residential venue, the complex also was home to a variety of retail concerns, including clothing and notions shops, a clock shop, a cleaners, a flower shop, and a smoke shop. One establishment, the Radio Den, became home to Orange County’s first radio station, KFAW, which was licensed in 1922 and moved to the market in 1924 upon leaving its initial location at the Santa Ana Register.