People have been flocking to Irvine for nearly 20 years for its great schools, utopian planned communities, and gorgeous sprawling landscape. As more and more of Irvine becomes developed and populated with diverse cultures and people with a range of interests, the more cultural offerings we find popping up all over the city. Among those offerings are fantastic art galleries that have been springing up all over the place with vibrant exhibitions and compelling histories.
The city of Irvine has a long history supporting the arts, and as our community grows, our interest in artistic expression expands as well. Whether you are a single individual looking for some good art close to home or a part of a big family in need of a cultured experience, Irvine has offerings in every category of art. From historic impressionist paintings to contemporary sculpture and installation, we’ve got something for every kind of art lover.
Irvine Fine Arts Center
Tucked away in the gorgeous Heritage Community Park on the edge of a pond and just next door to the O.C. Library – Heritage Park Branch, the Irvine Fine Arts Center (IFAC) is a community art gallery and venue that puts together innovative and approachable exhibitions that deal with a range of concepts and themes. The IFAC also offers art classes in a range of mediums and styles for every age. IFAC has a prominent reputation for outstanding contemporary art exhibition programming that deals with relevant topics to our life here in SoCal and fascinating universal themes. They regularly highlight established local artists and partner with local high schools and colleges including UCI to incorporate and showcase the up-and-coming artists and the diverse talent around Irvine. Currently on view at IFAC is the annual juried “All Media” exhibition. Curated and juried by Dave Barton, this exhibition has over 60 different local artists on display in every medium imaginable.
The Gallery @ WorkWell
The Gallery @ WorkWell is a new gallery in Irvine that is rethinking the traditional gallery space and creating a new environment for emerging artists and the community. Focused on collaboration, discovery, new technologies and pushing boundaries – in art and in life – The Gallery @ WorkWell is a hybrid office space, gathering area and art gallery. WorkWell is interested and invested in the Irvine community and is working on creating internships for UCI art history students as well as working on bringing more contemporary public art to the city of Irvine.
The current exhibition on view is “Mind the Gap,” featuring compelling artwork by James Thistlethwaite, Travis Grant, Olivia Elia and Alejandro Sosa. Exploring the human tendency to interpret and investigate personal experiences, the artists in “Mind the Gap” all deal with ambiguous moments and spaces in visually different styles and techniques. Gorgeous and elaborately created, the work on view is adventurous and evokes a sense of wonder and adventure, much like the avant-garde structure of WorkWell.
O.C. Great Park Palm Court Arts Complex
The 1,300-acre park in Irvine is a well-known destination for sports fields and courts, community activities and the beloved farmers market, but you may not have known that it also houses two centers for contemporary art. The Great Park has a beautiful area called the Palm Court Arts Complex where they host community events, screen movies and hold exhibitions. The Palm Court Arts Complex holds the Great Park Gallery and the Great Park Artist Studios.
The Gallery hosts rotating themed exhibitions with high-end and well-established artists throughout the year (although is temporarily closed for a few weeks at the time of this publishing). The next exhibition at the Gallery opens in December and is “Federal Art Project: American Design” which surveys the visual culture of graphic illustrations to explore the Works Progress Administration and the era of the Great Depression in American art history.
The Artist Studios often hosts artists-in-residence and community group curated art installations in a more casual setting. They are currently showing artwork by Coastline Community College art students, and starting in December will be showing Laguna College of Art & Design student work, with Irvine Valley College art students taking over the March-June slot.
In the heart of the Irvine Spectrum, next to the movie theaters, there is a small but successful art gallery that offers a peek at the more traditional side of art including classical and realist painting, animation, fantasy art, fan art, contemporary realist painting and sculpture, watercolor paintings, movie-inspired art, concept design art and more. For over 40 years, the Village Gallery organization has operated many galleries in L.A. and O.C., helping to launch and build the careers of many well-known artists, including Thomas Kinkade, Andy Thomas, Daniel Del Orfano, Kira, Michael Godard, Rob Caz, Thomas Arvid, Stephen Fishwick, Mary Baxter St. Clair, and more. Although poorly laid out and only offering a specific niche style of classic art, this gallery is the oldest art gallery in Irvine and is a great gallery for novice art aficionados and classicists. Originally located on Culver Drive for 20 years, the Village Gallery has lived at the Spectrum for over 10. The Village Gallery also offers rotating exhibitions and collector art events for particular art collectors. If you and your family are headed to the Spectrum, this gallery will be an easy experience for the whole family to enjoy.
The Irvine Museum Collection
For fans of Impressionism, there is no better place to go in Orange County than the Irvine Museum. Although the past two years have been slightly difficult to adjust to, as the Irvine Museum Collection has transferred to the University of California, Irvine, the collection remains on view in a temporary home on Von Karman near the airport while the new home for the collection is being built on the UCI campus.
The Irvine Museum Collection is well regarded as one of the most prestigious collections of California Impressionist paintings. Exploring what makes the California landscape so special, we can see the deep reverence for the natural beauty and bounty that was present over 100 years ago, and only some of which still remains. The collection offers rotating exhibitions showing different sections and pieces of the impressive collection of art. The current exhibition on view is “Drawing On The Past: Works on Paper” on view through November 1, 2018. In this exhibition we see a range of gorgeous drawings, pastel works, watercolor paintings and etchings by California artists from as far back as the 1880s, that illustrate the beautiful life and landscape of our beloved state.
University of California, Irvine Art Galleries
On the campus of the University of California, Irvine, artistic expression is a finely tuned skill and has places all over the campus. Luckily, with such a big university, there are three official art galleries all offering fascinating experiences through artistic innovation.
The University Art Gallery (UAG), the Contemporary Arts Center Gallery (CAC) and the Room Gallery (RG) are all located within the UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts, near the Bren Events Center on campus. These galleries often collaborate and share programming, offering multiple spaces for bigger shows, or have separate exhibitions that offer multiple perspectives on contemporary and historical art simultaneously.
Currently on view at the UAG and the CAC is “First Glimpse: Introducing the Buck Collection” as a preview to the upcoming Institute and Museum for California Art, running through January 5, 2019. In the RG there is a slightly more experimental solo art exhibition of Ella de Búrca entitled “Flat As The Tongue Lies” on view through December 15, 2018. At one of the best art schools in the country, you’ll never be disappointed with the art you see at any of these galleries.