Four years ago tomorrow, Voice of OC partnered with some of the region’s best arts and culture journalists to launch the Arts & Culture page.

Right out of the gate, their first story, “Is It Time for Local Arts Leadership to Reflect a Changing World?,” made an impact, questioning the diversity in Orange County’s arts leadership positions.  

The story went on to win first place from the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism awards.

“Arts enhances quality of life,” says founding editor Paul Hodgins. “Having a strong Culture gives a city bragging rights.”

But what happens if there aren’t any journalists to cover the arts?

Orange County almost found out. 

In late 2017, The Orange County Register largely eliminated staff positions for arts and culture coverage. In 2018, many of the region’s best known writers found a new home at Voice of OC. 

Journalists who had earned distinction for many years of coverage connecting with local residents, including performing arts writer Hodgins, visual arts writer Richard Chang (currently the Arts & Culture senior editor) and classical music writer Timothy Mangan, along with Heide Janssen, an editor for Varsity Arts, a first-of-its-kind high school arts section, and a handful of other available freelance arts writers, partnered with publisher and editor-in-chief Norberto Santana, Jr. to ensure the coverage continued. 

“We were committed to the philosophy that good arts coverage is an important part of a healthy community,” recalls VOC’s Arts & Culture managing editor Janssen.

“These wonderful writers have worked really hard to provide critical, innovative arts and culture coverage for Orange County residents, who have in turn truly connected with the stories, forging a vibrant donor base that is committed to keep the coverage thriving,” said Santana.

“We’re excited about the added coverage and look forward to keep expanding upon it,” he added. 

Through the years Arts and Culture has covered traditional Arts stories, such as the closure of Shakespeare OC and the expansion of the Hilbert Museum

They have also brought community cultural celebrations to life with coverage of annual Tet festivals, Juneteenth celebrations, and coverage of the first annual Chicano Heritage month celebration in Santa Ana.

They even scooped the national theater press when they broke the story of Terry Dwyer’s sudden departure from the  helm of the Segerstrom Center.

Voice of OC Arts & Culture is also the home of columnist Anne Marie Panoringan, one of the few food writers in Orange County. Her work garnered the attention of the James Beard Foundation who invited her to serve as a judge this year for their annual awards.

So, what does the future hold for the next four years of Arts and Culture? 

Look for a partnership this fall with PBS SoCal for museum coverage.

“Voice of OC Arts & Culture picks up the slack from traditional newspapers,” says Hodgins. “We will never replace what has been lost with the shrinking of the newspaper industry, but Voice of OC Arts & Culture provides a good alternative. We are building something new and reflective of the community we live in.”

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