The Grand Central Art Center

gcacThe College of the Arts is fortunate to count as one of its units the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana. Grand Central, run by Director, John D. Spiak, and Associate Director, Tracey Gayer, is a contemporary visual arts space that serves the campus, local, and regional communities through art exhibitions and programs curated by the GCAC team, as well as projects initiated by their artists-in-residence. The organization stands out as a unique place that hosts projects through their on-site galleries, blackbox theatre, and provides housing for both master level arts students of CSUF and visiting artists-in-residence. “Absolutely worth it! This graduate housing it totally different,” explains MFA Theatre student, Tina Burkhalter, “I am surrounded by people who are artists, my neighbors – literally right next door… There are art galleries and a theatre below in Grand Central which has allowed me to meet many wonderful artist-in-residence who have put on deep, meaningful, and well thought out exhibitions.” The theatre students, through the director of the CSUF Department of Theatre and Dance, are active in the spaces provided by Grand Central to create a unique work and performance environment that allows for the production of their works.

Many other universities and organization have these spaces or programs, but rarely are they all located in one place, under one roof.

Through the GCAC artist-in-residence program, Grand Central supports and works directly with the artists to develop new projects. “We invite and believe in our artists and their process. They don’t have to have a project when they come, so they are open to explore and get to know this community and the resources that GCAC may be able to provide,” explains Spiak, “the works are all well received because they are relevant to this community and beyond, addressing the issues, concerns and wonderment of the now.”

Grand Central and the College of the Arts have worked to provide students opportunities to interact with their artists-in-residence through exhibitions, studios engagements on site, as well as workshops and integrated academic collaborations on campus.  Artist/Composer Lisa Bielawa has been an ongoing visiting artists-in-residence at GCAC for the past four years, as she has been researching, developing and realizing her ambitious serial broadcast opera project and winner of the 2015 ASCAP Multimedia Award, “Vireo.” During her time in residence, she has provided master workshops with CSUF music and composition students.  She has also made possible the opportunity for other performers involved with Vireo to provide workshops to CSUF students.  Through the residence Lisa, as well as Vireo performers Laurie Rubin and Matthias Bossi, performed as part of the CSUF New Music Festival founded by CSUF Music Professor Pamela Madsen. The full twelve episodes of Vireo will premiere in spring of 2017, in collaboration with Los Angeles based independent television station KCET.

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Photo from the Unfinished Conversation: Reconstructing the Invisible Exhibition last year!

Spiak highlights last year’s exhibition by Bosnian born, New York based artist, Aida Šehović, in collaboration with Santa Ana forensic investigator, Leonard Correa, as a great example of relevancy. There work and resulting exhibition Unfinished Conversation: Reconstructing the Invisible explored the similarities in their process of dealing with personal traumas. Šehović lived through the war in the 1990s in her homeland while Correa also lives with the images of locations where horrific crimes were committed in Santa Ana. Šehović created a video interviewing her parents about their experience losing everything during the war – including her father drawing their beloved house from memory. Correa photographed common and familiar locations in Santa Ana, scenic images taken during perfect morning sunlight with no individuals present, yet locations where he was a first responder to horrific crime scenes of the recent past.  The images were presented with written text by Šehović from recollections told to her by Correa. A visitor may not have come knowing what the exhibition was all about, but after seeing the locations in Santa Ana and the stories that accompany them, they would realize that these locations were all places where homicides took place within their own communities. By connecting these stories of trauma and place, which is a relationship we are all familiar with through minor and major personal life experiences, the art becomes more relevant to the visitor.

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Join us on the first Saturday of each month for the Downtown Santa Ana First Saturday Art Walk where Grand Central opens its doors for visitors to experience exhibitions and programs! Currently, Exploring The Nowannago: Kentifrican Modes of Resistance, a video and performance work featuring Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and Tyler Matthew Oyer is on exhibition in the main gallery. The work provides a critique on labels of queerness, racial, and gender constructions. 

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