Culture Spotlight: California Center for the Arts, Escondido

Posted on February 1, 2015

What began with a vision for a city’s communal arts location in 1985 became a reality in 1994 when the California Center for the Arts broke ground adjacent to Grape Day Park — the historic site of the city’s Grape Festival that began back in the 1880s. An artistic wonder in itself, the Center’s12-acre campus in downtown Escondido was designed by Santa Monica firm Moore Ruble Yudell, after beating out over 100 other design firms from all around the world. Comprised of a City Hall, multiple theaters, conventions halls, and museums, it is one of the largest art hubs in California. With an ever-changing calendar of events, today the Center hosts everything from musical performances to art projects to community parties, and attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually, making it one of the most visited arts organizations in Southern California.

Outside of performances, the Center provides educational and non gratis cultural amenities to the community. Extensive programs for local schools include field trip opportunities, weekday performances for youth, artist- and performer-led master classes, free arts and crafts workshops for families, teacher workshops, music education programs, and more. Free community programs include the Jazz Jam Sessions, 4th of July Celebration, Day of the Dead Festival, Holiday Tree Lighting and WOW First Wednesdays performances. Additionally, visitors can sign up for programs offering inside looks into the Center’s numerous arts and performance-oriented exhibits, such as the In the Studio: Artist Dialogs! Series — this season’s focus is artists assistants, and runs through the end of February.

The massive campus includes a 1,523-seat concert hall and a 404-seat center theater, which has hosted some of the world’s most renowned performers and is touted as the most acoustically advanced Concert Hall in Southern California. The 9000-square-foot museum has hosted installations from all over the world as well as highlighting local artists. And for those who want to make the most of the Center’s artistic architecture, there are banquet facilities and ballrooms for parties and weddings, and an impressive 17,000-square-foot conference center that can host a multitude of events.

The 2015 season is currently underway, with something for everyone, including the First Marine Division Band Annual Concert, Les Miserables, Harlem Gospel Choir, Art In Nature: Legacy of the Land, and so much more. (760.839.4138, artcenter.org)   RYAN THOMAS