Arts-X-press was created in 2001 out of an outpouring of support from the Orange County community for Pacific Symphony Music Director, Carl St.Clair and his family. Carl and his wife, Susan, lost their firstborn son, Cole, in a tragic accident and in dealing with their loss, reflected on ways to celebrate his life. Carl had been assistant conductor for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and admired their program, Days In The Arts (DARTS), where middle school students explore the arts and find their voice.
Middle school was a very important time for Carl — he loved to write poetry, play music, perform in one-act plays, and he has always loved to find intersections between art forms. Carl and Susan decided to create arts-X-press in celebration of Cole Carsan St.Clair so that his memory would live on, and middle school students across Orange County would have a safe place to take creative risks, meet new friends, and embrace life’s magic moments.
Carl and Susan remain involved with arts-X-press and often make guest appearances throughout the week.
Since the founding of arts-X-press in 2001, the program has continued to evolve to stay relevant for the current times, while also remaining true to its core values. Notably, in 2017, arts-X-press took residence at Concordia University Irvine after summers spent at University California Irvine and Vanguard University. In 2020 arts-X-press shifted to AXP@Home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, program leadership overhauled the arts-X-press schedule in response to lessons learned from AXP@Home and to accommodate a safe return to in-person programming. In 2023, arts-X-pansion was launched, marking the first time that arts-X-press alumni could return to the program as students.