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The focus of Grand Central Art Center (GCAC) exhibitions and residencies is on the relationships and connections built through engaged contemporary art practice, inviting artists of diverse backgrounds to explore with an open process.  We thrive on discoveries, research, risk, and building personal bonds through opportunities of bringing individuals together.  In the past, most of these connections build through direct onsite, in-person contacts in our institution, throughout immediate Orange County/Santa Ana communities, the Southern California region, and beyond.

In early March of 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis began to impact our direct communities, we decided to close our physical institution to the public.  We paused our onsite exhibition and artist-in-residence program to ensure the health and safety of our GCAC team, the student residents who continue to live onsite, visiting artists, our direct Santa Ana community, and the communities for which we engage.  One visiting artist-in-residence was staying with us at that time, lauren woods, and we worked with her to extend her residency to ensure that her travel home could be as safe, informed, and secure as possible.  Artists scheduled for onsite visits during the spring and summer of 2020 were called and made aware of the program’s pause.  We engaged the artists in conversations regarding new possibilities. What might a new project look like with such restrictions in place and with access to technologies GCAC had available?  We informed the artists that any such project developed during this time would not replace a future onsite residency with our institution, as we feel truly honored and excited to be working with them moving forward.

The goal throughout the COVID-19 crisis has been to remain focused on the mission of our exhibitions and residency program, the connections and relationships that can build given new circumstances such as homestays, shuttered institutions, travel limitations, and a shift to virtual.

Our first connections were made by us initiating outreach and scheduling a ZOOM meeting with the museum/gallery directors of our colleague California State University (CSU) institutions statewide, a connection among the institutions that previously did not exist.  Through the first meeting and continued twice-monthly discussions, the new ConSortiUm was formed, including individuals representing 18 CSU’sthroughout the state, north to Humboldt and south to San Diego, west to Sonoma, and east to San Bernardino.  The first collaboration has been the six-part, free to the public, PLATFORM conversations series featuring artists and curators, including artist Beatriz Cortez with Erin Christovale (UCLA Hammer Museum, Curator)Postcommodity (Kate Twist and Cristí­³bal Martí­­nez)Forensic Architecture (Founder Eyal Weizman), artist Shaun LeonardoValerie Cassel Oliver (curator of modern and contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) with artist/scholar Howardena Pindell, and People’s Kitchen Collective (Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, Jocelyn Jackson, and Saqib Keval).  The program had over 2000 active participants.  Looking past the COVID crisis, GCAC has proposed to ConSortiUm the concept of a pilot, collaborative statewide artist-in-residency program.  Basing an artist-in-residence through GCAC, that artist could travel to each institution for discoveries and connections in developing a project that could provide access to unique resources, diverse campuses, extended communities, and opportunities for a multi-location/statewide project – all with the ability to connect back to our Santa Ana communities.  In addition, ConSortiUm plans to continue the PLATFORM conversations series into the 2021/2022 academic year.

Through a conversation with artist Pablo Helguera, one of our paused onsite artists-in-residence, we developed The Grand Central Singing Telegram Co.  This project explored the possibilities of connecting while stay-at-home orders were in place internationally. Chief Telegraphist Pablo Helguera delivered over 900free Spanish, English, Italian, and French language singing telegrams live through Zoom conference technology. Individuals in 19 countries and 42 states of the U.S. (including numerous sent and delivered within Santa Ana) received messages from their special someone. Telegrams marked such occasions as 80th & 90th birthdays, 50th wedding anniversaries, individuals graduating high school and college, recovery from COVID-19, new births, etc.  Upon hearing about the project, Western Union reached out to GCAC and became involved, providing financial support and creating a promotional video connecting the project to the history of singing telegrams.  The Grand Central Singing Telegram Co. was a way of building individual live connections with the technology GCAC had available as, around the world, governments placed stay-at-home orders.

In the fall of 2019, GCAC was in conversation with artist Nina Katchadourian to present her work Monument to the Unelected during the late election cycle of fall 2020.  Keeping that commitment, our institution arranged for the installation of the work on an Orange County, CA front lawn, creating a site for safe engagement with contemporary art during the COVID pandemic.  The project allowed for national connections in collaboration with PACE Gallery, New York; Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco; Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland and Transformer Station, Ohio; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona; Abrahamson Family Trust of Madison, Wisconsin, and Roots Community Health Center, Oakland.  Through a Zoom event  first-time voters at each location, Lesly Bautista for GCAC, placed the 2020 unelected candidate sign into the monument, providing their brief thoughts on the importance of voting in the 2020 election and connecting the varies sites virtually.

In early 2021, GCAC began collaborating with artists Joshua Michele-RossAdam Brick, and Adam Lucasto present The Adjacent Possible, an evolving communal orchestra free to the public. For each performance, and with no musical experience required, twenty individuals would come together in a series of virtual rooms to generate a new unique work of music that becomes published.  With over 600 performers engaging the project from diverse international locations, spanning 35 countries and 31 states of the U.S., participants included individuals from as far away as Kenya, Taiwan, South Africa, and nationally from Hawaii to Maine (including numerous participants from across Santa Ana).  The experience has provided the opportunity for individuals to connect with strangers when travel had been severely limited. 

Through conversations with CSUF Art Faculty member Mary Anna Pomonis, GCAC sponsored and promoted the Fall CSUF Teaching & Socially Engaged Artists Series, a virtual program that was open free to CSUF students and the public.  The series presented artists, curators, and educators, providing current CSUF Art Students and community members the opportunity to engage with this inspiring group of individuals through direct dialogue and Q&A components of the events.  Participants of the series included Dajin YoonLili BernardZel HarrisCristal SabbaghCarolyn Castaí­±oJennifer FriasZeina BaltagiJune Edmonds and Darryl KingMartin DurazoPhung HyunKim AbelesAllison StewartMaya Mackrandilal, and April Bey

Collaborating with CSUF Begovich Gallery Director/Curator Jennifer Frias, GCAC presented Origins and Displacements, Vols. 1 & 2, an on-going body of work examining Orange County’s history through contemporary photographs, videos, and performance produced by artist William Camargo. This two-part exhibition featured Camargo’s artistic investigation that challenges the social depiction and erasure of Chicanx/Latinx people in historical documents, photographs, and news archives while recounting issues related to gentrification, systematic racism, and police brutality.  The exhibition was a storefront installation that could be viewed anytime from GCAC’s 2nd Street promenade. A second portion of the exhibition, as arrange by Jennifer Frias, was presented at MUZEO Museum & Cultural Center in Anaheim.  GCAC hosted a free performance by the artist that took place on the 2nd Street Promenade in Downtown Santa Ana that was streamed live to audiences over the internet.  The artist currently has his studio located in the Santora Building within Downtown Santa Ana.

Grand Central Art Center was active and participated in the Santa Ana Digital Artwalk over the course of Summer 2020.  Artists associated with GCAC programs presented during the virtual event, including a live sound performance/studio visit with artist Chris Kallmyer and the delivery of a Grand Central Art Center Singing Telegram birthday greeting through artist Pablo Helguera to Santa Ana Resident/Business Owner Delilah Snell.

Over this past year, through a virtual residency funded by CEC ArtsLink International Fellows program, GCAC has hosted Estonian curator and residency director Ann Mirjam Vaikla, who works at the intersection of art practice and arts management. She is the Director of the Narva Art Residency (NART), a unique cultural platform facilitating residencies, art exhibitions, talks, and educational workshops in Narva on the Estonian-Russian border.  The current residency is a collaborative residency model which GCAC is co-hosting with Triangle Arts Association, Brooklyn, NY.  The artist is scheduled to make an visit to GCAC in the fall of 2021, through the continued financial support of CEC ArtsLink.

In 2017, GCAC hosted artist in residence Alfadir Luna from Mexico City, who invited into collaboration Cal State Fullerton Student/Santa Ana Resident Alejandro Olivares in the development of his project Seí­±or de Maí­­z, or Corn Man.  The residency at GCAC was in collaboration with OTIS College of Art and Design for the Getty PST:LA/LA exhibition Talking to Action.  Luna and Olivares set-up on a Downtown Santa Ana plaza in front of the mural of the Virgin de Guadalupe, working together and inviting community members to adhere locally sourced corn kernels to the sculptural object.  Since its completion, Corn Man has been exhibited at OTIS College of Art and DesignArt Institute of ChicagoPratt Manhattan, and Arizona State University Art Museum.  A ceremony to return Corn Man to the Santa Ana community, in which the kernels would be removed one by one and given in artistic packages to individuals and merchants, was originally planned to take place in early Summer of 2020.  With pandemic restrictions, the artist hasn’t been unable to return in residence to realize this ceremony.  We are currently working to reschedule his visit for a time when such travel is safe.  As the sculptural elements of the work returned to GCAC in July 2020, we created a storefront installation that could be viewed safely 24-hours a day from our 2nd Street promenade.  The installation, currently on view, includes Corn Man, 18-banners, photo documentation of process, and a bi-lingual text panel.  As GCAC works toward reopening, we will work with the artist to travel to GCAC in residence for the official ceremony.

In December 2020, American Alliance of Museums (AAM) recognized the GCAC produced exhibition catalogue Cognate Collective: Regionalia in the 29th Annual Museum Publications Design Competition. This competition recognizes and encourages superior execution and ingenuity in the graphic design of museum publications and is the only national, juried competition of its kind. Regionalia, a catalogue published by CSUF Grand Central Art Center in collaboration with X Artists’ Books, features text by Karen Stocker, Professor of Anthropology at California State University Fullerton; Christian Zí­ºí­±iga, director of the undergraduate Fine Art program at the Art School of the Universidad Autí­³noma Baja California, Tijuana, MX; Cognate Collective, artists Amy Sanchez Arteaga and Misael Diaz; and a foreword by CSUF Grand Central Art Center Director/Chief Curator John D. Spiak.  This year’s winners were chosen for their overall design excellence, creativity, and ability to express an institution’s personality, mission, or special features. The panel of judges included: Nancy Hacskaylo Senior Graphic Designer, National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; Bennett DeOlazo, principal, Studio B; and Selena Robleto, principal, Red Velvet Creative.  The catalogue is based upon project realized during the residency and exhibition Regionalia by Cognate Collective (Amy Sanchez and Misael Diaz), which was developed in collaborations with Resilience OC (ROC)Manos Unidas Creando ArteChulita Vinyl Club Santa AnaCSUF Anthropology DepartmentUniversidad Autí­³noma Baja California’s Art DepartmentCollective Magpie, and numerous individuals from Santa Ana and throughout the region.

In addition to CSUF university-based meetings that have helped develop new policies and procedures, GCAC Team members and director have taken advantage of numerous Zoom based professional development opportunities, attending Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs and training, along with programs presenting top non-profit leaders across the US.  GCAC Director John Spiak was also invited virtually into university graduate level classes as a speaker across the US, from Virginia CommonwealthPortland State UniversitySchool of the Museum of Fine Art at Tufts UniversityUniversity of Colorado at BoulderArizona State University Art MuseumUniversity of Southern CaliforniaNuLawLab at Northeastern University School of Law, Hunter University, among many others.  In addition, the GCAC Director was invited to be a virtual presenter on public programs through Mass MoCA, the Art Gallery of Guelph Museum in Ontario, Canada, and CEC ArtsLink

Projects that originated through GCAC’s artist-in-residence and premiered in our galleries have had continued success over the past year through exhibitions and opportunities at other institutions.  These projects have included Valerie Tevere & Angel Nevarez Layers of the City that exhibited at the Institute ofContemporary Art (ICA) at Maine College of Art.  Layers of the City reflects on spaces in Santa Ana, both inhabited and boarded up, of immigrant owned entities that passed through generations only to be pushed out by rising rents and revitalization plans. The video work, filmed throughout Santa Ana, includes a collaborative chorus of 12 Santa Ana residence and features original music created by the artists in collaboration with Santa Ana resident/musician Eduardo Silva.  Paul Ramirez Jonas Public Trust exhibited in Summer and Fall of 2020 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) ClevelandPublic Trust is a series of interactive performances about promises, with the members of the public invited to perform a speech act by declaring and validating a promise.  The process includes creating collaborative artwork contracts with the artist, one of which is free for the participant to keep, one which is kept by the artist as part of the installation.  The work was previously recognized by Americans for the Arts as Outstanding Public Art Project (2017). Individual songs from David Greenberger’s GCAC residency project It’s Happened to Me have continue to be played on air through radio stations and online programs nationwide.  In collaboration with community partners, Greenberger spent his time in GCAC residence visiting senior community centers, a museum, and senior living apartments. Through the support of GCAC and with permission from the individuals whom he had engaged, he developed text based on his dozens of recorded conversations that took place at the Santa Ana Senior Center, Heninger VillageFlower Terrace Apartments, and Bowers Museum.  What emerged were 60 pieces in the form of song, each one carefully composed and arranged to convey individual emotional potency, giving dignity to the small moments, as well as the larger overall narrative. Artistically it became a way of expressing the breadth of the City of Santa Ana’s population and its varied and rich cultural identity. The recordings of It Happened to Me were assembled in full through a 2-disc CD release, with an additional smaller selection of the works available on a limited-edition vinyl 12€ ³ LP that is accompanied by a download of all 60 pieces. A documentary film about Greenberger’s life work (Beyond the Duplex Planet, Beth Harrington) is currently in production and currently7 scheduled for release this fall.  The film will feature elements of his GCAC residency and performance of It Happened to Me that premiered on stage at the Bill Medley Auditorium of Santa Ana High School, as well will include interviews at GCAC that took place with the artist, Louie Peres (Los Lobos)Evan Lipson (Prime Lens)Jose Magana (Santa Ana Resident who performed live on stage with the artist), among others.  Finally, Santa Ana Unified School District board of education recently approved the publication SanTana’s Fairy Tales as a CORE text for English Ethnic Studies 9th grade. High school students in Santa Ana Unified School District will now be reading this bilingual book as core curriculum. Sarah Rafael GarcIa SanTana’s Fairy Tales was developed through an artist-in-residence at GCAC.  SanTana’s Fairy Tales was presented as a visual art installation, oral history, storytelling project that integrated community-based narratives to create contemporary fairytales and fables that represent the history and stories of Mexican/Mexican-American residents of Santa Ana (inspired by the Grimms’ Fairy Tales).  The project was realized by the artist in collaborations with Sol Art Radio€˜s Carla ZarateViento Callejero’s Gloria Estrada, local singer/songwriter Ruby Castellanos, members of the Pacific SymphonyMariana Bruno, CSUF Graduate Student in the Department of History, and an open book performance with special chorus support from members of Transgeneros En Accion / Transgender in Action.  These original artist-in-residence projects, as well as others realized during the 2017-2019 GCAC seasons, were supported in part by a two-year, $100,000 grant to GCAC from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Despite the pandemic, GCAC has continued to receive strong national and international press coverage over the past year. Forbes Magazine stated that Grand Central Art Center’s exhibition Monument to the Unelected,by artist Nina Katchadourian, was one of the “6 Exceptional Art Exhibits to Redeem 2020”. It was the second time in 2020 that GCAC appeared in their publication. Additions press coverage of GCAC projects over the last year appeared in print and online publications that included: Los Angeles Times, KTLA, No Proscenium, FOUR33, Hyperallergic, KCET, Daily Pilot, OC Times, OC Register, Frieze Magazine, VoiceofOC, LA Maleta Magazine, KCAL, Finnish Art Magazine Taide, WFMU, Los Angeles Magazine, KCBS, Spectrum News 1, Cí­³digo Magazine, Zí­³calo Public Square.

The engagement and support you have provided helps GCAC look forward, taking experiences and our approaches we have explored over the past year to develop new approaches to diverse engagement, respect, and connections. We will strive toward opportunities for individuals and communities to build even stronger connections, understand, and equity through the explorations of engaged contemporary art practice.  We will continue to invite artists from diverse backgrounds that challenge and expand our institutional thinking and work to support their process of discoveries and research to the very best of our abilities. Openness will continue to be key to our approach, letting exploration happen through a flexible process, one that allows a journey to occur more organically and outcome to evolve from passion rather than deadlines, a creative process that is fluid and porous. 

Like most institutions, GCAC’s program and budget have been directly impacted by the COVID crisis.  Still, we are committed to working hard to ensure that we can continue to engage at the highest levels with our communities and those far beyond our own.  We will continue to work toward building connections that extend beyond GCAC, ones that are personal, collaborative, and positive.  As we structure toward the new realities ahead, we do so with openness, positivity, and values we hope are shared with those of our communities – local, regional, and national. 

We are scheduled to open with a series of new exhibitions on the evening of Saturday, September 4th, so keep an eye out for an upcoming announcement.    We will be excited to have you join us and be together again.    

Our very best to you, 

Grand Central Art Center