Heidi Zuckerman, the new director and CEO of the Orange County Museum of Art, offers a glimpse of upcoming exhibits and her go-to spots in Newport.
By Sharon Stello
Heidi Zuckerman, who was the longtime director of Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, realized during the pandemic that she wanted to return to the coast, having grown up in Palo Alto in Northern California. So, when the opportunity to lead the Orange County Museum of Art presented itself, she decided to go for it.
“I love California and have spent much of my life here,” Zuckerman says. “Like many people, COVID offered the opportunity to reevaluate what matters most to me, and living by the beach feels essential. I have also been a longtime fan of OCMA and I am incredibly honored to be the CEO and director here.”
She started the position in February and OCMA will move into a new building in late 2022 on the Segerstrom Center campus in Costa Mesa after formerly being located in Newport Beach. A temporary space, OCMAExpand-Santa Ana, closed during the pandemic. Like the Aspen museum she helmed from 2005 to 2019, OCMA’s new structure is also designed by a Pritzker Architecture Prize winner.
During her tenure in Aspen, she worked with the board to reimagine the museum as a world-class institution. Over her career, she has curated more than 200 museum exhibitions and believes it’s important to make contemporary art both accessible and engaging for the public. Here in OC, she’s excited about the possibilities with the new building and a recent announcement that admission will be free for the first decade due to a $2.5 million donation by Newport-based Lugano Diamonds.
“The building is the opportunity to finish Henry Segerstrom’s dream for the Center—OCMA is the final piece of the cultural puzzle here,” she says. “… We are creating the museum for the 21st century. … I believe access to art is a basic human right, not a privilege. Our goal is to remove as many barriers of entry as possible and to connect as many people as we can to art and artists, and free admission is a critical step in that direction.”
Some of the upcoming exhibits include the “California Biennial 2022”; a Zuckerman-curated exhibition called “13 Women,” which refers to the female founders of the modern and contemporary art museum and will draw from the collection; and “Fred Eversley: Reflecting Back (the World),” his first museum retrospective on North America’s West Coast since the 1970s when he exhibited at OCMA—then known as Newport Harbor Art Museum.
In addition to her work with museums, Zuckerman has written a book series titled “Conversations with Artists”; the third volume is set to come out by year’s end. She also started a podcast, “Conversations About Art,” in 2019 and has since recorded more than 70 episodes.
“On the podcast, we talk about art and ideas around art and uncertainty, art and happiness, and art and spirituality,” she says. “I speak to all sorts of people in addition to visual artists, curators and collectors—I talk to athletes, actors, musicians, politicians and CEOs, people I admire and respect, about these topics. The hope always is to connect people to art, artists and ideas to make their lives better.”
The Om Zone
When she wants to roll out the yoga mat for some fitness time, Zuckerman heads to EKAM YOGA & PILATES. “Linda Chen is my favorite teacher there,” she says.
For breakfast, Zuckerman can often be found at CREW COFFEE & CREMERIE at Lido House hotel. “I am obsessed with the overnight oats with peanut butter,” she shares.
For meals with a view, THE DOCK serves up an impressive menu right by the harbor. “The decor and location and ambiance is amazing,” Zuckerman says.
With plenty of veggie-forward dishes, MALIBU FARM is a go-to for Zuckerman. “I’m vegan, so I love eating here because there are so many options for me,” she says.
For Zuckerman, a boat ride through Newport Harbor is the perfect way to spend some time out on the water. “My family and I love to rent a Duffy [from DUFFY ELECTRIC BOAT CO.] and spend a few hours motoring around the islands,” she says.