On Sunday, May 17, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is hosting their first-ever virtual Spring Carnival. The community is invited to “come one, come all” and enjoy fun, crafts and even food – all accessed virtually and all free. 

Take a break from your quarantine routine and explore a range of activities aimed to entertain everyone no matter their age. From curated playlists and interactive activities led by Center carnival staff and local artists to carnival food tutorials and a virtual treasure hunt, the family-friendly event will feature easy instructional videos accessible directly through the Center’s website

The Center has scheduled performances from a plethora of local and regional talent, including a storyteller from the Costa Mesa/Donald Dungan Library and circus entertainment from Circo Etereo.

“As we await the time when it is safe to welcome you all back to our outdoor Plaza, we hope this Virtual Spring Carnival can spread some joy at home with fun activities and experiences for the whole family to do together where you live,” says Jason Holland, VP of Community Engagement at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “I’m particularly excited to see what fun games you invent at home and delicious, new carnival treats you create. The only limit is your imagination and we can’t wait to see what you come up with!”

The Center is working hard to preserve the health of the art community and keep the community creatively engaged. 

COVID-19 has proposed a large challenge for the local arts community, as we thrive in a communal environment. We have adapted to follow all safety precautions and mandates from the governor’s office,” explains Casey Reitz, president at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “The Center, as well as many others, pivoted immediately to stay connected with and supportive of our patrons, donors and students using new on-line platforms. One specifically is our new Center at Home site on the Center’s website.”

“Center at Home is a portal to FREE online entertainment, informational and educational videos that appeal to a wide range of interests and ages. New videos are added nearly every day,” he furthers. 

Available programming includes instructional videos created by the faculties of the Center’s ABT Gillespie School along with the School of Dance and Music for Children with Disabilities, as well as video classes and presentations by the Center’s teaching artists. 

What drove the Center’s desire to create this extravagant virtual event? Ensuring the spirit of art and community remains alive in such uncertain times. 

“With shelter in place orders in effect, we really

(Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

wanted to find ways to continue the spirit of events on the Plaza while holding them in a digital space for the time being. Learning, discovery, connecting with loved ones, having fun, exploring the arts and being creative – these are all things we can tap into and encourage with a virtual event. We looked at the calendar and saw our 3rd annual Spring Carnival coming up and felt it would make a good first-effort for our virtual event activations,” says Jason Holland, VP of Community Engagement at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. 


Not without its difficulties, Holland praises the efforts of the Center staff for going above and beyond in creating this groundbreaking community experience. 

“The event has been shaped and inspired by a committee of staff members across all of our departments – they are the magicians behind the scenes on this fun event,” he says. “Having a cohort of staff working on this, made it not only more fun to plan but helped share the workload. We are eager to learn from this experience as well. The arts are often a process of discovery – we learn by exploring, creating, revising and trying it again. It will be like that in the virtual space, for now, and we’re embracing that challenge.”

The Center refuses to let COVID-19 silence the arts and deprive the community of educational and uplifting events. “Our number one concern is the safety of our patrons, donors, artists, faculty members, volunteers and employees,” promises Reitz. “That is our Center family, and we promise to stay connected even as our theaters are dark and the plaza quiet.”

The Center president acknowledges that virtual performances aren’t the same as a live experience, but they are doing their best to create meaningful interactions with the community. 

“Nothing equals live performances, and we would love to bring in a big show tomorrow and open our doors wide to welcome everyone back. But we must be responsible,” explains Reitz. “Necessity is proving to inspire our creativity and resourcefulness. Even as this situation is temporary, we are discovering new, innovative ways to keep communication going. We love hearing from people through social media. The expanded on-line programming makes us available 24/7 – the curtain is always up on ‘Center at Home.’” 

The Virtual Spring Carnival isn’t the only virtual event in the works. Behind the scenes, staff are hard at work to create more magic. 

We will continue to deliver great content online and work on more ‘virtual events’ until such time as we can safely gather together in person,” commits Holland. “We are already delivering many great classes, workshops and now ‘events’ serving a number of different communities in Orange County and beyond.”  

“The arts have a way of lifting us out of our day to day challenges and stresses – of inspiring us, continues Holland, the vice president of community engagement. “We hope what we are putting out there can do that for our friends and neighbors at this time and we look forward to continuing to be of service in that way.”

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Beyond Sunday’s event, patrons of the Center can look forward to quite a bit of programming in the coming days. Talena Mara, the vice president of education at Segerstrom Center for the Arts gives Irvine Weekly a glimpse as to the future programming from the Education Department: 

  • Arts Teach Showcase: We are excited to launch the first-ever virtual Arts Teach Showcase. This event will provide schools, teachers and PTA members the ability to learn more about how the Center’s teaching artists can serve them next school year through assemblies, workshops, residences as well as expanded digital offerings. Though we typically produce this experience live inside the Concert Hall spaces, this new format presents the opportunity to share about the programs without being together in person.
  • Teacher Professional Development for SAUSD: In May we will also be supporting Santa Ana Unified School District and their teachers as the education team and a group of teaching artists present online professional development sessions that will serve approximately 70 SAUSD teacher participants. These teachers will experience arts integration workshops where they will receive training on how to utilize the arts in their classrooms every day. 
  • Virtual Five Days of Broadway Program: Knowing that it may not be possible to have students at the Center in the summer months for 5 Days of Broadway, we are planning to host both the middle school and high school level camps virtually. We are anticipating that classes in musical theater performance, dance, technical theater, acting (and more) will be made available to our “at-home campers” so that they can still have a communal arts experience over the summer.
  • New Teaching Artist Series: The next round of teaching artist produced content will be brand new and will feature multiple artist groups presenting content within the themes of mindfulness and music, costume/regalia discovery, visual arts in the home, and musical instrument discovery.
  • Arts Teach Residencies: Even though Southern California schools are doing their learning virtually, that hasn’t stopped the Center from serving students and school communities through the roster of talented Arts Teach teaching artists. We are finding new ways to serve students for large arts education residency projects with our partners in San Bernardino Unified School District and Saddleback Unified School District, as well as sessions with community schools like Paul Revere Elementary and St. John Elementary.
  • Virtual Tour of Segerstrom Center for the Arts: We are developing a virtual tour experience highlighting the architecture of Segerstrom Hall and the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall as well as a brief history of the Center.

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is an acclaimed arts institution as well as a beautiful multi-disciplinary cultural campus. You can support them by tuning into the virtual Spring Carnival on Sunday, May 17 directly through the Center’s website: scfta.org/springcarnival

You can also engage with them socially via Instagram @segerstromarts