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Cultivating Our Cultural Canvas

I Heart Costa Mesa: Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee Utility Box Public Art Project, Costa Mesa, California

The well-known British sculptor, Antony Gormley, is often quoted as saying:

“I believe in the city as a natural human environment, but we must humanize it. It’s art that will re-define public space in the 21st Century. We can make our cities diverse, inspirational places by putting art, dance and performance in all its forms into the matrix of street life.”

He should know. He’s spent a lifetime creating sculpture designed to adorn public spaces.

Here in Costa Mesa, we do not (yet) have street-art installations of the Gormley magnitude. But we do have a local group of City-sponsored, art advocates working hard to humanize our public spaces in the Gormley spirit.

They call themselves the Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee, with the stated goal of:

“…[working] with City Council to support cultural arts programs and to bring art awareness to the residents of Costa Mesa, the City of the Arts. This committee works to establish programs, events and information that help residents access the arts in many different venues, and through multiple sources.”

Being superfans of all things art and creativity, we sat down with Committee Members, Rocky Evans and Andrea Marr, to learn more about this unique group of Costa Mesans putting more “art” into the City Of The Arts.

Local Art Advocates: Andrea Marr and Rocky Evans, of the Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee
Costa Mesan, Andrea Marr, of the Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee
Costa Mesan, Rocky Evans, of the Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee
Photos: Brandy Young

The Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee is an 11-member group (nine members + two alternates) that meets the 2nd Thursdays of the month at 6:45pm at City Hall. Evans, a Technical Engineer and Instructor at Urban Workshop, and Marr – a Senior Program Manager and Engineer currently running for City Council – have both been part of the committee for roughly three years, each with different motivations for joining up.

“I first got the urge to get more involved in my city through protest,” quipped Evans. “Originally, I moved to Costa Mesa to be close to the skate park at Tewinkle. I love that park, even though she broke my wrist.”

“Love hurts,” joked Marr.

“About three years ago, I heard the city was threatening to reduce the hours at the skate park,” continued Evans. “Obviously, I have the opposite opinion and believe the hours of use should be increased.

“So, I started going down to City Hall to speak up on that issue and eventually I decided to find more ways to get involved. I’ve always liked art and street style, so when I saw the application for the Cultural Arts Committee, I thought, ‘Ok, let’s have some fun.’ It was a chance to push some more youthful, modern art.”

Marr discovered the committee through the local newspaper.

“I was reading the Daily Pilot and saw an article about the city seeking applicants,” said Marr. “I said to myself, ‘That’s something positive for the city. I would really like to be a part of it.’ At the time, the committee was just launching the Utility Box Project and that just sounded like so much fun – and it has been! I get excited whenever I see one of the art boxes around town.”

The Cultural Arts Committee began over 13 years ago, with modest goals like maintenance of the Youth Art Gallery on the ground floor of City Hall. But since that time, its list of accomplishments has grown well beyond those humble beginnings.

They are the group responsible for all the art-wrapped utility boxes popping up around town – and the recently-installed Joshua Madrid mural at the Volcom Skate Park at Tewinkle Park.

I Heart Costa Mesa: Youth Art Gallery on the Ground Floor at Costa Mesa City Hall
The “Youth Art Gallery” Wall on the Ground Floor of City Hall (Costa Mesa, California)
I Heart Costa Mesa: Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee Maintains the Youth Art Gallery at City Hall
I Heart Costa Mesa: Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee Utility Box Public Art Project, Costa Mesa, California
Photos: Brandy Young

But the group’s achievements don’t stop at public-art installations. Over the past three years, the Cultural Arts Committee has also taken a big leap into events with the launch of Action Arts In The Park each spring and ARTventure each fall. Both events serve to marry local artists and businesses, with the maker community, in true ‘City of the Arts’ spirit.

“The Action Arts In The Park idea just came from committee brainstorming,” said Marr. “We wanted something truly ‘Costa Mesa’ – more ‘skate culture,’ less ‘oil paintings of sailboats.’ We wanted to combine the action-sports industry, with local art and artists, and bring it all to life at a nearby park. Action Arts In The Park is really a community celebration of all the fun stuff that makes Costa Mesa just a little bit weird and a little bit different.”

“I remember it as a joint effort between Andrea and Tracy [Taber],” said Evans. “They basically suggested to the committee that we should change our annual, art event from the old, classic style to something new. They said, ‘What about an action-sports theme because we’ve got so much surfing and skating industry here?’

“I was just like, ‘Oh my god, I can get behind that.’ So, we voted and it happened.”

Action Arts In The Park, Every Spring at Tewinkle Park in Costa Mesa
Annual Events: Action Arts In The Park (at Tewinkle) and ARTventure (at SOCO) in Costa Mesa, Calif.
ARTventure at SOCO and The OC Mix, hosted by the Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee in Costa Mesa, California

In contrast, ARTventure is billed as “a fusion of the arts and entertainment” and has more of a polished, Segerstrom-Center-For-The-Arts vibe. It happens one weekend, each fall, at SOCO and the OC Mix – featuring performing arts, food and drink, artist exhibits and creative, hands-on activities.

“ARTventure is our big, premiere art event in Costa Mesa,” said Marr. “SOCO is such a great place for it. We’re fortunate to have a bunch of people who are super enthusiastic and dedicated, all putting the time and energy into invigorating these programs. We’re just doing whatever we can to bring as much art to our city as possible.”

Proceeds from events like ARTventure are reinvested back into the local, arts community through the Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee grants program.

“We’ll be raffling off some baskets of awesomeness and then those funds will go into our grants program,” said Marr. “Our goal is to contribute to the local art community as much as possible. We want to be able to give up to $500 per non-profit, artist or student – supporting those individuals and organizations with an art mission – so they can come up with more good things for our city.”

Thank you, Costa Mesa Cultural Arts Committee, For Sharing Your Story with I Heart Costa Mesa!
Photo: Brandy Young

We had to know – as we always do – what drew Evans and Marr to Costa Mesa in the first place?

“Simple,” said Evans. “Temperature’s always nice. You can walk lots of places. There’s a bunch of stuff here – like the skate park – and we live by the beach.”

“My answer is more longwinded,” laughed Marr. “Before I got to Costa Mesa, I was in the Navy – so I’ve literally moved all over the world. But from the moment I got to Costa Mesa in 2012, I knew I was home.

“For me, it’s the people most of all. Then we also have all the awesome shops and restaurants and so many things to do. And the nature… I can leave my house and go for a run on the Back Bay or through Tewinkle or Fairview Parks. I just love this city. It’s a really wonderful way of life.

“Costa Mesa is just incredibly inspirational. I think people who have big dreams get the sense that they can thrive here. This city is a pull for creative types.”

“I know there’s a lot of creative people here,” agreed Evans. “It would be nice to get them to share more ideas and input with us. What art do you want to see? I’ve always wanted to create an interactive art installation in Costa Mesa. Is that something one of your readers can help with? Bring your ideas to us and let’s make some cool stuff happen.” ♥

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About The Author

The Mesa Maven

The Mesa Maven is a writer, entrepreneur, community organizer and - most importantly - Costa Mesa Superfan!!! She's simply mad for this Mesa On The Coast and all the creative, independent, amazing, everyday things happening in our sunny backyard. The Maven lives with her husband, two kids and guinea Costa Mesa, of course!

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