Allen Moon Created a Genius Arts and Music Movement in Santa Ana

Allen Moon
Allen Moon
Courtesy of Santa Ana Sites

In the mind of an artist, drab routines are meant to be interrupted. That includes the typical concertgoing experience. Instead of buying a ticket to some stuffy club or a theater you've been to a thousand times, what if you caught a classic ensemble booming in the echoey marble foyer of SanTana's Santora Building? Or how about an avant-garde sound manipulator hypnotizing you with swells of celestial white noise on an underground racquetball court? The Santa Ana Sites (SAS) series, the brainchild of artistic director Allen Moon, combines challenging, eclectic sounds with makeshift venues in unlikely places for people who like their entertainment spontaneous, inspired and cerebral.

The next installment, Saturday's "Santa Ana Sites: Maya Beiser--Uncovered," will take over Logan Creative, a 20,000-square-foot artists' complex that originally operated as a spiral-staircase factory. Amidst an open house by Logan Creative's resident artists and artisans, cello ingénue Maya Beiser plans to include what she describes as "uncovers" of staple rock songs from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Nirvana.

"[The series is] set up to be mobile, quick-reacting and as lithe as possible," Moon says. "The artistic agenda doesn't need to flirt with the social and cultural politics, but it certainly can if the proper project comes along."

Moon--who serves on various art committees, including the CSU Summer Arts Advisory Board and the International Society for the Performing Arts--has a background as an artist and a tour manager, so the series was a natural combination of ideas for him. But getting Santa Ana Sites off the ground was a collaborative effort, fueled by support and development from John Spiak, director and chief curator of Santa Ana's Grand Central Arts Center, which partnered with SAS for four events. Moon says that the union was integral to the series' early stages. The success of previous events was enough to snag the talents of Beiser, whose new album, Uncovered, can be described as a collection of emotional reinterpretations that rival the effect of the originals.

Beiser's physical, magnetic performances, which also incorporate looping equipment, turn classical music on its head while making a strong case for the cello in the world of rock & roll. In a setting such as Logan Creative, Beiser's show promises to be electric. "The idea of performing in this repurposed stairway factory is really exciting," Beiser says. "I've dedicated my career to reinventing the way the cello as a classical instrument is viewed, so the idea of reinventing the traditional performance space goes along with that."


The moment he stepped into Logan Creative, Moon says, he knew it was ideal for SAS. Not only did he find the industrial vibe appealing, but also the general enormity of the space compelled him to fill it with sound. Add in the patchwork of professional screen printers, sculptors, graphic artists and painters, and the choice to partner with them for an event was obvious, he says. "[Moon's] energy is terrific," Logan Creative owner Jack Jakosky says. "There's absolutely no shortage of creative thought. He's immersed into [the series], taking compelling performing art and placing it in these nontraditional venues. This one is clearly out of the box and adds a different element to performing art."

Jakosky's description of Moon's genius is pretty accurate. The series' fourth installment, "Santa Ana Sites: wild Up at the Santora," presented waves of entertainment from vocalist Lisa Bielawa and the LA-based music ensemble, wild Up. The experience began with a reception at Grand Central Arts Center and ended with what Moon refers to as a "music scavenger hunt." Attendees darted from room to room in the Santora Building, searching for various classical performances that ranged from timeless arrangements to contemporary works by Katy Perry.

The event titled "Santa Ana Sites: Steve Roden" guided attendees from an art salon, through a tunnel and into an underground racquetball court, where sound artist Steve Roden performed. It initially competed with sounds from a live cumbia band in a nearby space, but Moon says the beauty of an event such as this lies in the unknown. Roden gracefully utilized the outside musical components to the advantage of his performance and, according to Moon, lead listeners on an intensely satisfying musical journey. While the series continues to gain momentum, Moon says it's an idea that people will have to nourish.

"What's challenging both in my personal and professional life is proving or opening up people's eyes to the value of the arts. It's something that people have to invest in and cultivate, not just pick the fruit off the tree without watering the plant," Moon says. "Without support or partnerships, Santa Ana Sites will be inviting people over to my apartment to watch Netflix. That just doesn't sound very interesting."

"Santa Ana Sites: Maya Beiser--Uncovered" at Logan Creative, 800 E. Washington Ave., Santa Ana, (949)-673-0500; Sat., open house, 6 p.m.; performance, 8:15 p.m. $10. All ages. For tickets and additional information click here.

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