Exhibitions

The Palm Court Arts Complex is home to the Great Park Gallery and the Great Park Artist Studios. The Palm Court’s re-purposed military structures now form a cultural campus supporting the development of a fresh approach to establishing an interdisciplinary, public arts program.

Learn more about exhibitions at the Irvine Fine Arts Center here.
Learn more about exhibitions at City Hall here

As part of the City of Irvine’s Fine Arts Program, the Great Park Gallery and Artist Studios present a varied exhibition program from year to year, with shows scheduled 12 to 24 months in advance. For more information, see the Exhibition Proposal Requirement form here.  

Great Park Gallery

Thursdays & Fridays: Noon–4 p.m.
Saturdays & Sundays: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Free Admission
 


UPCOMING EXHIBITION

Photograph: Courtesy of MCAS Miramar Archives and the Flying Leathernecks Museum

Life on the Base: MCAS El Toro 

Exhibition: February 19–May 7
Exhibition Reception: Sunday, February 19, 1–3 p.m.     

Marine Corps Air Station El Toro opened in 1943 giving opportunities to young men and women who would come to call the base and surrounding areas home. While their days included the expected activities of life on a military base, their free time and recreational activities were fun and diverse. 

Through a curated selection of photographs and in collaboration with OC Archives in Action, Life on the Base: MCAS El Toro will provide a glimpse into the recreational lives led by the men and women who served at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro throughout the '40s,'50s, and '60s.

Swingin' in the Palm Court
Great Park Gallery and Palm Court Arts Complex

In support of Life on the Base: MCAS El Toro, the Great Park Palm Court Arts Complex presents a three-part live swing and jazz music series, Swingin’ in the Palm Court. Inspired by the swing and jazz music that filled the banquet halls of early MCAS El Toro, this event echoes the recreational activities service men and women partook in while stationed here. Bring folding chairs and blankets for seating around the Gallery and Palm Court; no advance registration is needed for these free events.

Swingin’ in the Palm Court will take place on the following dates and times:

  • Sunday, February 19, 1–3 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 12, 1–3 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 23, 1–3 p.m.

Orange County Archives Bazaar Green is the New Orange: The Environment, Art, and Us
 
Sunday, March 12 • 11 a.m.–4 p.m.

Presented by OC Archives in Action, the Orange County Archives Bazaar Green is the New Orange: The Environment, Art, and Us brings together libraries, special collections, and cultural institutions. Showcasing materials from these collections, this event highlights the known and unknown stories of Orange County. In addition to institutional collection displays, the bazaar will feature discussions, presentations, and activities for all ages. 

This event runs in support of the Great Park Gallery’s exhibition Life on the Base: MCAS El Toro and is held in collaboration with the Anaheim Public Library, CSUF Pollak Library, Heritage Museum of Orange County, and UCI Libraries. No advance registration is needed for this free event. 

Great Park Artist Studios

Saturdays & Sundays: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Free admission
*Great Park’s Artist Studios is subject to closures due to private event rentals and/or larger city-wide events.
 

UPCOMING EXHIBITION

The Great Picture: Making the World’s Largest Photograph  

February 19–May 7

On July 12, 2006, six photographers — known as The Legacy Project — unveiled The Great Picture, the world’s largest photograph created by the largest camera. The photograph is three stories high by eleven stories wide (31 by 111 feet). It depicts a panoramic view of a portion of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, which closed in 1999, now Great Park. It is a foreboding image, illustrating the desolate runways and station’s control tower, qualities emphasized by its grey tones from the gelatin silver process. The Great Picture: Making the World’s Largest Photograph highlights the nostalgia and melancholia associated with the station’s closing. To create the image, members of the Legacy Project (Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Rob Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada) converted a hangar into a pinhole camera; an ancient image-making technique discovered by the Chinese in the 4th century BC. This project is a complex and multi-faceted statement about the history of photography, its changing technology in the digital age, and the interchange between process and subject matter in the making of a photograph. 

Hangar 244

Thursdays & Fridays: Noon–4 p.m.
Saturdays & Sundays: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
*Great Park’s Hangar 244 is subject to closures due to private event rentals and/or larger city-wide events.

Special Exhibition

1971: Building Irvine

In 1971 the City of Irvine became an incorporated city by the State of California, enabling it to become the thriving city we know today. In collaboration with University California, Irvine, Hangar 244 at the Great Park presents 1971: Building Irvine. Through historic photography and text, this exhibition celebrates community milestones, landmarks, and spaces built after 1971 while recognizing the past that brought us here. 

Ongoing Exhibitions

MCAS El Toro, 2003

In 2003, a group of six photographers branded as The Legacy Project, set out to document the transition of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro into the Great Park. Located in the History Room of Hangar 244, these photographs capture MCAS El Toro, archiving the buildings and structures on the base before construction would commence. 

Opening Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro

Construction of Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro began on August 3, 1942, on land previously owned by the Irvine Company. The runways and taxiways were completed by December 1, 1942, and all squadron hangars were complete by January 15, 1943.

These photos, taken by Bob Blankman, a history archivist and member of the first unit stationed at El Toro, capture the building of the base.

Closing Marine Corps Air Station El Toro

In 1993, Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro was designated for closing by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and all of its activities were to be transferred to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The station officially closed on July 2, 1999.

Since 2002, the Legacy Project has documented the transformation of the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro into the Orange County Great Park. They have created more than 200,000 images and famously turned a giant jet hangar into the world’s largest camera and used it to take the world’s largest picture.

These photos capture the Flying Bull insignia around the military base and its buildings.

Coordinates

This photography collection from the Legacy Project highlights seven former MCAS El Toro buildings, their purpose when the base was open, and their coordinates.

The Legacy Project is comprised of artists Mark Chamberlain, Clayton Spada, Jacques Garnier, Robert Johnson, and Douglas McCulloh.

A Guide to Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro

A Guide to Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro is a documentary about the history of the region.

This 9-minute archive will take you on a retrospective journey from the early days of the Irvine family’s prodigious ranching and agricultural projects, to the coming of World War II and the subsequent arrival of Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro.

The film screens every 20 minutes in the History Room hallway of Hangar 244.