Kevin Staniec ’01 was honored with the Arts Leader Award at Arts Orange County’s 18th Annual Orange County Arts Awards on Oct. 17, 2017 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.

Wylie and Bette Aitken presenting Kevin Staniec with his Arts Leader award at Arts Orange County’s 18th Annual Orange County Arts Awards. Photo courtesy: Arts Orange County.

Kevin is an author of children’s literature, poetry, essays, fiction, nonfiction and screenplays. He is employed with the City of Irvine, where he oversees the Palm Court Arts Complex, curating exhibitions and programs for artists and the community in the Great Park Artists Studios and Historic Hangar 244.

Kevin’s greatest passion is to help the arts in Orange County thrive. His vision is to help make Orange County a seminal destination for the arts, in the same major way Disneyland is an iconic destination for tourists. He founded 1888 Center, a literary arts center located in Old Towne Orange named for the year the City of Orange was incorporated, that works to preserve, present, and promote cultural heritage and literary arts in Orange County. The organization publishes novellas, broadcasts podcasts, hosts educational events, and provides many other enriching arts-related activities and resources for the community.

Although Kevin has a broad agenda for the arts in Orange County, he recognizes how arts in the area has already expanded.

“I was honored and humbled with the award, but at the same time, inspired because of how far the arts community in Orange County has grown,” he said. “All these bridges are connecting all our cities, and the threads of the arts are pulling tighter and closer together.”

He emphasized the significance of the intersection between the various art locations and programs in Orange County—notably the Irvine’s Fine Arts Center, Palm Court Art Complex and Orange County Great Park; Santa Ana’s many galleries and arts districts, including its Grand Central Arts Center; Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts; and Laguna Beach’s arts culture.

The 18th Annual Orange County Arts Awards honors and celebrates those in the community who have made tremendous efforts and contributions to support the arts across the county. Kevin said the awards ceremony struck a chord with him when the presence of these great leaders reminded him that Orange County continues to forge ahead on the two components he says Orange was founded on: creativity and collaboration.

“I feel like we’re working together to beautify the community by being creative and collaborative, which is really inspiring,” he said.

His inspiration was further ignited when Wylie and Bette Aitken, paramount arts supporters in Orange County and chairs of the Artistic Advisory Board for Chapman University’s Musco Center for the Arts, presented Kevin with his award.

“As a Chapman alumnus and resident of Orange County, it was deeply inspiring for me to have the Aitkens present me with the award and it instantly made me want to do more in the arts community,” said Kevin. Both Kevin and Mr. Aitken are Chicago natives who moved to Orange County and, as Kevin puts it, “fell in love” with the community and with Chapman University.

“(The Aitkens) have both done so much in Orange County to support the arts. Their resumes show me that what I’ve done so far with the arts in Orange County is essentially just one of the many steps that I’ll have to take to keep fighting for the arts in the community.”