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Arts Orange County Announces Honorees for 24th OC Arts Awards

The event will be held Sept. 24 at Samueli Theater in Costa Mesa.

The 24th OC Arts Awards honorees include, from left, Carl St.Clair, Virgina Arce, Nancy Lee Ruyter and Quyen Nguyen-Le. Haskell and White LLP and Orange County Music and Dance will also be honored at the awards event on Sept. 24, 2024. Photos courtesy of ArtsOC
Carl St.Clair, music director of Pacific Symphony, will get a special recognition award during the 24th OC Arts Awards in September. Photo courtesy of ArtsOC

Arts Orange County has announced its 24th OC Arts Awards, recognizing lifetime achievements in the arts, honoring an outstanding arts organization, an emerging artist and an emerging arts leader, and giving special recognition to an individual who has sustained an unprecedented musical career in Orange County.

Carl St.Clair will receive special recognition for 35 years as music director of Pacific Symphony. St.Clair stands as the longest-tenured American-born music director of a major American orchestra, according to ArtsOC. Under his leadership, Pacific Symphony has grown into an internationally celebrated ensemble, touring abroad and earning acclaim for its dedication to excellence, accessibility and music education. As Pacific Symphony seeks a new conductor and St.Clair transitions to a laureate role, Arts Orange County and others in the local arts community are uniting to honor his extraordinary legacy.

Nancy Lee Ruyter, left, will receive a Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award for her contributions to dance at UC Irvine. Photo courtesy of ArtsOC

A Helen Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award will recognize Nancy Lee Ruyter for her lifetime of achievement. Ruyter, 90, is a dance historian, teacher and choreographer who retired as professor of dance at UC Irvine at the end of June 2014, after 32 years there. Her training in dance includes ballet, modern, Spanish, East Indian, Balkan and other world dance forms. She has generously supported the preservation, management and growth of the UCI libraries’ dance collection.

Another Helen Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award will be given to Haskell and White LLP, an Irvine-based audit, tax planning and advisory business. For 35 years, Haskell and White has provided business advisory services to many Orange County arts organizations, as well as charitable contributions and pro bono services.

Achievement awards will go to:

  • Orange County Music and Dance (Outstanding Arts Organization), which during its seven years has evolved from a dream to provide children arts training to one of Orange County’s premier performing arts schools;

  • Quyen Nguyen-Le (Emerging Artist Award), a queer Vietnamese American filmmaker whose work spans scripted, experimental and documentary formats;

  • and Virginia Arce, exhibitions program coordinator for the city of Irvine, who organizes shows and events at the Irvine Fine Arts Center.

Filmmaker Quyen Nguyen-Le, left, and Virginia Arce, exhibitions program coordinator for the city of Irvine and the Irvine Fine Arts Center. They will receive Emerging Arts Leader Awards at the 24th OC Arts Awards in September. Photos courtesy of Arts OC


The emcees for the awards – which will be held Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts – will be Arts OC president and CEO Richard Stein and Cheer Pan, executive director of the Pan America Chinese Dance Alliance. Pan also serves as a member of the board of directors of Arts Orange County.

“Arts Orange County proudly honors the people and organizations that have profoundly impacted the creative life of our community,” Stein said. “We wanted to start recognizing people who may be below the radar for the general arts public. And we wanted to encourage the next generation of artists and arts leaders who are already making an impact in their early careers.”

Arts Orange County is the county’s nonprofit arts council. The organization has been honoring local artists, arts leaders and patrons with the Orange County Arts Awards since 2000, except for 2020, which was skipped because of the pandemic.

This year’s awards will feature performances by Ramya Harishankar, an acclaimed champion of dance from India; her son Aashray Harishankar, an accomplished composer and musician; and Gabriel Roldan, a 19-year-old sensation who is a talented singer of ranchera music.

At the after-party, to be held on the patio of Samueli Theater, Block x Block, a six-member ensemble of musicians from Pacific Symphony and other area orchestras, will play jazz, klezmer and other musical genres. Additional performances will be announced later.

Prior to the ceremony, honorees and sponsors can enjoy a pre-event reception and an elegant dinner in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall rotunda.

“We’ll be celebrating the honorees and getting to see everyone in the arts community together,” Stein said of the festivities. “A huge part of our mission is to connect people. During the pandemic, we held over 125 meetings on Zoom, with cohorts from various organizations. So many collaborations have come out of the connections that people make at ArtsOC programs, not least of which is the arts awards.”

Tickets for the OC Arts Awards – which range from $40 for balcony seating to $12,000 for a VIP eight-person table –  are on sale now. For tickets and more information, visit the OC Arts Awards event site.


Richard Stein, quoted in this story, is a member of the advisory board for Culture OC.


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