The Expo Arts Center was originally Aaron Schultz & Sons Furniture Inc. in 1947. Over time several different companies did business in the space from Silo Electronics and Circuit City and back to furniture as Expo Furniture. In 2008 the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) for the City of Long Beach began the process of purchasing the property from the family trust that owned it at the time. The RDA had the intention of demolishing the 27,000 sq. ft. building and then selling the land to a developer. Former 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich and the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA) fought to keep the building and turn it into an arts and culture space for the Bixby Knolls and North Long Beach areas of the city.
To prove there was a need for an arts and culture space in this part of the city, the BKBIA worked with K-JAZZ radio to put on a Sunday evening Jazz show that featured Al Williams Jazz Society & Barbara Morrison, and Jack Sheldon and the California Cool Quartet. The response was overwhelming. The expectation was that 200 tickets would be sold. The reality was that 500 tickets were sold and people had to be turned away due to reaching our fire marshal capacity. Since the first jazz show, the Expo Arts Center has become an active space for arts and culture of all types in Bixby Knolls.
In January 2013, the Expo Arts Center suffered water damage during a rainstorm when the roof, which was being repaired at the time, had not been properly secured for weather. As a result the northern third of the building was severely damaged and had to be closed until repairs could be made. Total estimated damages were $200,000. In December 2013 work finally began to repair the building and with a commitment from the City of Long Beach the BKBIA offices and the 8th District Council Office were built out to provide onsite management. It is through volunteer efforts, political will, community support, and the management of the space by the BKBIA, that the Expo Arts Center has become the center for arts and culture in Bixby Knolls.
The future of Expo Arts Center is bright with continued art exhibits, theater productions, comedy shows, and community meetings. This once empty furniture warehouse has been transformed into a community arts hub for our neighborhood.