With a diverse mix of arts and entertainment venues featuring local symphony performances, theater productions, sporting events and pop music concerts, the cultural arts scene in Carson continues to grow while maintaining strong ties to the community, according to local arts leaders and promoters.
“Carson to me is a town that really understands the importance of the arts,” said Bill DeLuca, theatre program coordinator for California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), which has served as a local cultural arts hub for decades.
StubHub! Center General Manager Katie Pandolfo is pictured at the center’s 27,000-seat soccer stadium, home to five-time Major League Soccer champion LA Galaxy. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)
Several theater productions take place every year at the university’s campus, most notably at the 485-seat University Theatre, which also hosts lectures and cultural performances. CSUDH is also home to The Edison Studio Theatre for smaller, more experimental productions.
DeLuca, who has been involved in the arts community for nearly 25 years, founded the Teatro Dominguez theater troupe, which travels to area schools to perform educational productions based on local history. Over the years, the university, which also administers the Black Theatre Program, has provided a “bridge” between the arts and the community through plays that highlight local past and current events, he said.
Last year, for instance, the theater troupe performed “Watershed,” a production based on the California drought, and this year the group is performing a play about the local ranchos, DeLuca said.
“We provide an educational theater lesson that backs up what the students are learning in their class,” he said. “We have had a lot of interaction with the City of Carson. It’s a pretty vibrant, healthy collaboration.”
In recent years, the university has combined its theater arts and dance programs while focusing on producing more musicals to increase attendance and boost recruitment of theater majors, DeLuca said.
In November, the university theatre arts program is performing its version of the musical “Hairspray,” he said. The high school-themed play highlights the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, providing a social message that is still relevant today, DeLuca said.
Funding for the production, he said, is partly dependent on whether Carson voters approve extending the city’s utility users tax, which, if passed, will provide ongoing arts grants through the cultural arts commission.
The university is also home to an art gallery, located at the University Library Cultural Art Center, that hosts various exhibits each semester and collaborates with local nonprofits and nearby schools.
Earlier this year, the art gallery displayed a student art exhibit highlighting the Watts riots that took place 50 years ago. The exhibition called “Watts Now: A Student Exhibit” ended on May 12 and featured 130 works of art, poems, photography and graphic designs. The exhibit will be transferred to the Watts Labor Community Action Committee to be displayed later this year at the Watts Cultural Center, according to Kathy Zimmerer, director of CSUDH’s art gallery.
Meanwhile, the city-owned Carson Center has recently seen an increase in bookings for events, such as weddings, seminars, conferences and cultural activities, since undergoing renovations, the center’s acting manager, Regina Ramirez, said.
The community center, dedicated in 1983 to former Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, provides 40,000 square feet of meeting space and a 12,000-square-foot ballroom, which was remodeled with new carpeting, acoustic walls, paint and upgraded audiovisual equipment, Ramirez said, adding that the lobby and restrooms were also renovated.
Carson Community Center Event Supervisor Victor Fernandez and Acting Community Center Manager Regina Ramirez are pictured at the center’s lobby, which was recently refurbished. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Larry Duncan)
Throughout the year, the center hosts a variety of performances by community-based arts groups, including the Carson Symphony, Sophisticated Dance and the Mariachi Academy of Carson, while offering a low-cost venue for community events, Ramirez said.
“Our main goal at the community center is to offset the cost of operating the facility,” she said. “We are looking to increase revenue so that the arts can enjoy use of the facility.”
The center is located at 801 E. Carson St. in the Carson Civic Plaza, adjacent to the 405 freeway. For more information, call 310/835-0212 or visit: www.carsoncenter.com.
The StubHub! Center, located on the CSUDH campus at 18400 Avalon Blvd., meanwhile, is host to major sporting events, music concerts and youth programming.
Home to the LA Galaxy, a five-time major league soccer (MLS) champion, the venue includes an Olympic training facility, a 2,500-seat indoor velodrome, an 8,000-seat tennis stadium and a 27,000-seat soccer stadium.
Katie Pandolfo, the center’s general manager, said the venue recently completed a $15 million upgrade, including a new video board that debuted last year and renovations to the soccer stadium’s premium seating area, which can be used as a restaurant and for hospitality purposes on non-event days. Renovations also included upgrades to LA Galaxy’s locker rooms and hallways, she said.
“We just continue to upgrade our facilities to make them the best experience for all of our guests who come in,” Pandolfo said, adding that the center is in an “excellent position” to continue attracting some of the best name events in the region.
In July, the Reebok CrossFit Games, a weeklong fitness and sporting event, is expected to draw 20,000 people, mostly from out of state, she said. The center will also serve as the West Coast training headquarters for the U.S. soccer team and other athletes competing in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
“We’ve brought an unbelievable amount of content and people to this region and to the City of Carson,” Pandolfo said. “We’ve had an overwhelming economic impact on the area, between all the restaurants, the hotels and all the different small businesses. . . . I just see that continuing to grow as events continue to come into Los Angeles.”
For more information on StubHub!, visit www.stubhubcenter.com.
Another attraction in Carson is the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, a registered California state landmark that includes a historical home first built in 1826. The museum features various lectures, tours and panel discussions throughout the year.
This year, the museum is featuring an exhibit on the Anza Spanish expedition into California through July 17, and also hosts garden tours and bird walks. Located at 18127 S. Alameda St., the museum conducts guided tours on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1, 2 and 3 p.m., and the same hours during the first Thursday and Friday of each month. For more information, call 310/603-0088.