Thursday, May 7, 2009

Arts & Culture Commission holds firm

Three years and three months ago the City mandated process for choosing public artworks for the Pasadena Center began. $150,000 has been spent along the way, and the meter continues to run. The Pasadena Center plaza, already wired to receive the sculptures of Hans Peter Kuhn and Dennis Oppenheim, remains empty, and the interior mural that was selected has yet to be painted (it seems a return-air vent was installed where the mural was to have been placed).

What we do have is a memo from the Arts & Culture Commission to City Council members that reaffirms the Commission's recommendation of the Kuhn and Oppenheim sculptures for placement on the Pasadena Center plaza. (See "Commission Report to City Council, 4/24/09," under Links; also check out the latest from the Pasadena Star-News.) Now the ball is back in the City Council's court.

When will they decide if the Art at Pasadena Center planning document and dutifully executed art selection process are to be honored? Unconfirmed rumors are circulating that the City Manager might seek to prevent the increasingly sticky issue from landing on the desks of Councilmembers any time soon by arguing that the City must first create a Public Art Master Plan, an idea that was blasted by the Arts & Culture Commission in its April 24 report. Stay tuned; it gets more Kafkaesque by the moment.

Monday, April 20, 2009

See Work by Kuhn and Oppenheim

The work of both Hans Peter Kuhn and Dennis Oppenheim graces many important public spaces around the world. Click on the links at right to see examples of the sculptures and installations of these two world-class artists.

(For Hans Peter Kuhn, click on "english" and then view "installations.")

Friday, April 17, 2009


The Arts & Culture Commission met last night with a one-item agenda -- "Discussion of Arts and Culture Commission Report to City Council Regarding 90-day Council Directive of a Pasadena Center Operating Company Amended Artist Selection Process."

Chair Dale Oliver helmed a mostly forward-moving discussion about whether to present a one-part or a two-part recommendation back to City Council; the original proposal alone, or a Part A/Part B. Oliver, acting on the consensus from the group's previous meeting, had drafted a two-option proposal, re-recommending in very strong terms the original Kuhn and Oppenheim pieces but adding an "if you still won't go for it" contingency -- that the remaining $630,000 be spent on interior -- hardly public -- art.

The Commissioners in attendance (only six of nine were present) had a meticulous discussion about what was at risk if they returned with the same recommendation they'd submitted back in January; however, Patrick Conyers observed that "it wouldn't be the same recommendation -- there has been more evaluation and more input by the public" and this extended process has only served to strengthen the Commission's resolve.

In the end, the Arts & Culture Commission decided to hold their ground, defending the last three years of diligent planning, selecting and evaluating, and will send their support of "Lightfield" and "Thinking Caps" back to City Council, eliminating the interior artwork option.

In expressing his belief that the Convention Center plaza deserves "monumental works of art," Oliver exhorted the community to demonstrate their support of the artworks to City Council when the moment arrives. He can rest assured that we will.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Compromise = Solution?

A Special Meeting of the Arts & Culture Commission will be held Thursday, April 16, at 5:30 pm in the Hearing Room of the Permit Center (Hale Building), 175 N. Garfield Avenue. This meeting has been called to discuss the options discussed by the Public Art Subcommittee at its meeting last week, as the Commission prepares to take its "information item" -- their decision on sticking with their original recommendation, or another option -- back to City Council.

The Pasadena Arts Council has developed a compromise proposal which it has sent to Commission members and other community leaders. This proposal suggests a re-siting of the Kuhn and Oppenheim works which retains the spirit of the original "Art at Pasadena Center" planning document, addresses the concerns of both Pasadena Heritage and PCOC, and keeps iconic artwork on this important public space.

Please click on the link at the right, "EAST OPTION," to view this proposal as a PDF.

And please plan to attend the Special Meeting of the Arts & Culture Commission on Thursday the 16th. Your voice in support of public art on the plaza is urgently needed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


The long-awaited meeting between the Public Art Subcommittee and representatives from the Pasadena Center Operating Company finally took place last night at the Conference Center. Less well-attended than the previous (non)meeting, there were nonetheless a number of arts supporters, arts leaders and other members of the public who voiced their support for public art and concerns about the ongoing debacle on the plaza -- including the observation that the place, now empty except for light standards, was actually more interesting during the messy construction phase. Heritage folks were in the audience, though they were silent during public comment.

The Public Art Subcommittee held fast to their position that good -- no, great public art belongs in this space, that the space in its current state languishes, empty and unappealing, and that Pasadena's citizens deserve a lively and significant gathering point. PCOC continued to insist that the entirety of the plaza must be kept clear for money-making events and that the art they envisioned would be attached to the walls in the two pavilion buildings. Back and forth it went, ending up even with some confusion as to whose meeting it was and who was to vote on the issue at hand.

Ultimately, the Subcommittee agreed amongst themselves that they would go back to the full Arts & Culture Commission with the recommendation that the Commission return to City Council with the original Kuhn/Oppenheim option as Option A, and a to-be-determined Option B.

The original 90-day deadline may still be ticking in some minds, but in fact Pasadena Arts Council reps Stephen Nowlin and Terry LeMoncheck have obtained Mayor Bogaard's OK on extending the 90 days to a more reasonable amount of time for the process to have the full measure of deliberation it deserves.

Arts & Culture Commission Meeting
5:30 pm
Hearing Room, 175 N. Garfield Avenue, Pasadena

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Received late Thursday afternoon was a Public Art Subcommittee meeting agenda, short on details and co-signed (in absentia) by Subcommittee chair Wallett and PCOC chair Seifert. All that can be inferred at this point is that there's an agenda. Who shows up from officialdom is anybody's guess.

Public Art Subcommittee Meeting
Tuesday, April 7, 5:30 pm
Pasadena Convention Center, Conference Bldg. Room 211


This is the Time for Action

We have learned that on Monday of this week, staff of the Pasadena Planning and Development Department recommended to the Pasadena City Council that any further consideration of the Kuhn/Oppenheim sculptures at the Convention Center be put on hold until after a so-called "Citywide Public Art Plan" can be developed.

While a debate about future public art policy in Pasadena may be a good idea, the Pasadena Arts Council (PAC) strongly disagrees with the sudden creation and prioritizing of such an action at this time, uinderstanding that its primary effect will be to halt the democratic process presently moving forward regarding the Arts & Culture Commission's selection of Kuhn/Oppenheim sculptures for the Pasadena Center Plaza.

Two things may happen now:

1. The City Council may vote at its meeting this Monday to adopt the staff recommendation that the "Citywide Public Art Plan" usurp any further discussion of Kuhn/Oppenheim. We will have a clue about this when the Council publishes its agenda, by 5:30 on Friday.

2. Depending on what City Council does Monday, the Arts & Culture Commission may finally have its first meeting with the PCOC (Pasadena Center Operating Company, which opposes any sculpture on the plaza) to discuss Kuhn/Oppenheim on Tuesday, April 7.


PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS THE TIME FOR ACTION! The art community must show up in force at one or both of these meetings -- MONDAY and/or TUESDAY -- to let City officials know that THE ARTS HAVE A VOICE IN PASADENA! YOU ARE NEEDED!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ears to the Wall

Anyone attending last week's Public Art Subcommittee meeting would have noticed the front-row seats reserved for representatives of the Pasadena Center Operating Company. As was noted in the previous post, the meeting had been called for the purpose of having (to quote the agenda) "a Discussion of creating an Amended PCOC Artist Selection Process." But, as we saw, there was no discussion at all.

Last night, 58 days after the City Council mandated that the PCOC sit down in a public forum with the Arts & Culture Commission to discuss options, the PCOC Board met and passed a resolution to create an ad hoc committee to participate in those discussions. Seems unnecessary, as they already had an "expansion committee" in place to work on issues related to the new center...but before the creation of this new committee, Board Chair Tom Seifert remarked that his group had attended the March 18th Public Art Subcommittee meeting simply in order "to listen" to the conversation.

Representatives of the arts community in the audience at this board meeting were stunned to hear Seifert's representation of events. It was, as one arts supporter noted, supposed to have been a discussion, not an invitation to "put their ears to the wall to hear what was being said next door."

Efforts by the Pasadena Arts Council and others are being made to build a bridge between the arts community and the PCOC leadership in the hopes of avoiding the sort of collision that may result if PCOC continues to insist that the Art at Pasadena Center planning document be summarily dismissed -- a document that members of the PCOC Board themselves helped to create.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

That Was The Meeting That Wasn't

At least 50 members of the public (including notables Mayor Bogaard and wife Claire Bogaard, former Commissioner Sasha Anawalt, Planning & Development head Richard Bruckner and others) attended last night's Public Art Subcommittee meeting, convened to allow members of the Subcommittee to begin discussing the "amended artist selection process" with the Pasadena Center Operating Company. Interestingly, by the time the meeting rolled around, the folks on the dais had begun calling it a meeting to "create an amended artist selection process," causing some in the audience to wonder whether the distinction was intentional. None of what the Arts & Culture Commission nor the Public Art Subcommittee has been charged with carries a specified outcome, only that the parties concerned consider alternatives and make another round of recommendations back to City Council. Re-recommending the original Kuhn and Oppenheim sculptures as planned is still an option.

And that is what was urged, encouraged, implored and respectfully requested by many audience members who were allowed to make public comments after Cultural Affairs Manager Rochelle Branch's powerpoint overview of the planning to date. Artists, educators, philanthropists, community leaders, curators, businesspeople, even a public art administrator for the City of Los Angeles (and a Pasadena resident) expressed varied points of view -- support for contemporary art, for the public art planning process, for allowing Pasadena to move purposefully into an artful future -- but all exhorted the Subcommittee and by extension the Commission to return to City Council with a sustained endorsement for the Kuhn and Oppenheim pieces.

A minority opinion was expressed by a small handful of heritage adherents, whose position is that the Civic Auditorium is art enough on the plaza and that the proposed artworks would interfere with the sightlines to the Civic, that the contemporary Lightfield and Thinking Caps just "don't fit."

And then the weirdest thing happened. The meeting, or whatever it was, was adjourned. One powerpoint presentation, lots of public comment pro and con, and then -- no meeting. The Subcommittee and City representatives, including Cultural Affairs, were assembled with mikes before them. Representatives from PCOC were in their reserved front-row seats. It looked like a meeting. It sounded like a meeting. It was billed as a meeting. But, no meeting. No discussion, let alone creation, of an amended artist selection process.

Lip service was paid to a future meeting, and a date to return to City Council -- Monday, April 27th, if they can pull it off in time.

Turns out that PCOC didn't get its act together in time to nominate, according to its Bylaws, representatives to sit on a committee charged with working alongside the Public Art Subcommittee on the getting-thornier-by-the-minute public art debacle. Of course, they've had since January 27th, the day after the City Council authorized this Round 2. You'd think they would be eager to get on with this "amended selection process" in the hope that it would net them the result (no art on the plaza) they want. Or maybe they're just stalling.

In any case, it would have been helpful and considerate for the Subcommittee to have explained to the assembled public why the meeting was being adjourned so abruptly. It wasn't their doing, after all, that caused the shut-down. And adding yet another layer of obfuscation just tempts suspicious minds when the appearance of preferential treatment is hard to ignore.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


When: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 5:30 pm

Where: Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green St., Conference Room 211

The Pasadena public art situation has reached a crisis point, and the Pasadena Arts Council is calling on arts supporters, engaged citizens, artists of any medium or performance type, cultural and community leaders, and those who support an open democratic process to attend this meeting.

The meeting has been convened to attempt to sort out the problems created by the City Council's rejection of two artworks proposed by the Arts & Culture Commission for the new Civic Center plaza.

Much is at stake. The artworks were developed in response to a clearly (and process-driven) identified need for iconic sculptures in one of our few major public spaces -- an opportunity for Pasadena to make a statement about itself as an "arts city," as a "cultural destination," as the city's own marketeers like to call it. The works were then tossed out by the City Manager and City Council, responding to a last-minute (and very suspicious) switcheroo on the part of the Convention Center operators.

And why? To preserve more red carpet room for glitzy awards ceremonies held at the Civic? Or because some have decided that Pasadena must stay frozen in time, held forever hostage to some past architectural ideal? And when did "heritage" start meaning "interfering with the future"?

If we don't engage with what is going on right now, we will get what we deserve -- a cold, empty Convention Center Plaza, hundreds of thousands of dollars down the rat hole, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create important works of art squandered.

It is imperative that the arts community turn out for this meeting. You don't have to speak, you don't have to identify yourself, but you do have to be there if you believe that arts policy in Pasadena must not -- will not -- be hijacked.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Who's Afraid of the Old and New

So on it goes. At this point, the ball is back in the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission's court, which means it has entered the sub-court of the Public Art Subcommittee, and anyone feeling passionate, or even moderately tepid, about the issue should plan to attend. These subcommittee meetings are open to the public, just like the full Commission meetings, so check back here at Arts Answers for the date and time of the next subcommittee meeting.

While the bureaucrats are rassling and the pundits are pundicizing, over here at the PAC offices we have been considering the "old and new" question in broader terms. We'd like to open the discussion up to the community, and to get the conversation under way, we asked Stephen Nowlin (Director of Art Center's Williamson Gallery and PAC Board President) to give us his take on old and new. Steve has opined in the Comments section of this blog on previous occasions (and at City Council meetings), but we thought his viewpoint would be a great place to start:

"I'm reminded of a visit to the famous postmodern architect Charles Moore's Northern California house at Sea Ranch, in the late 1960's. Modernism had up to then been a series of sequestered moments in history, each one priding itself on having rebelled against, overturned, and made obsolete the hard-fought assumptions that had come before. Thus Impressionism was supplanted by Cubism, Cubism by Constructivism, Constructivism by Surrealism, Surrealism by Abstract Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism by Minimalism. By then, in architecture, Louis Sullivan's "form follows function" and Mies van der Rohe's "less is more" ruled, and the minimal reductive International Style was tantamount to an aesthetic moral imperative. Everyone reveled in the superiority of a sequential time -- and the more present, the more superior.

"So I entered Moore's contemporary, angular, barn-like home expecting to worship in the Religion of Now as a card-carrying young aesthete knew was the godly thing to do. Instead, my religion was shattered. Inside, Moore's house broke all the rules, reinforced no doctrines, confirmed no righteousness -- it was a den of iniquity, a sinful repudiation of everything sleek and au courant. Antique furniture, curious objects of non-western culture, ornate rugs, curios, the old and the new, the high and the low, all melded together in a cacophony of overlapping histories. No precious dogmas reigned, no one history dominated. It was loving embrace of all moments, all pasts, all the good products of human artistic endeavor. In their mingling, each shone with its own dignity and added up to a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

"There is, in honoring the resonance between old and new, a certain liberation from the sense that different generations, styles, and traditions represent insurmountably conflicted values and beliefs. Like differing people in a family or a community or a country, histories exist side-by-side, and their interlocking mosaic is what gives the present its richness and depth.

"In the matter of the Pasadena Center sculptures, some have argued that the contrast between historical architecture and contemporary sculpture is jarring -- that the sculpture and the architecture don't speak the same visual language, and so they can't communicate. Or worse, that the sculpture, by its presence, communicates disparagingly of the historical. There is, some have argued, a preservation issue at stake that cannot withstand the irritation of this new art next to these old buildings. It might be worth pointing out, although it seems somewhat absurd to have to do so, that most of the old buildings at the Pasadena Center are, well, new. They're not historical buildings at all, but rather brand new buildings that try to look historical by echoing some of the superficial characteristics of the actually historic Civic Auditorium. Sort of like Disneyland does on Main Street. The sculptures flank the auditorium far left and right and at the bottom of the steps to its grand entry, much closer to the contemporary faux-historical buildings than to the genuine one. It makes one wonder about the claim of preservation, or rather what is not being preserved -- because if preservation means that everything new, like some Hollywood film set, should confirm to a style frozen in a past moment of time, then there is no opportunity to celebrate a real history layered with multiple times.

"Postmodernism recognized over forty years ago that ending the cold war between the old and new allowed the quarreling realities and stimulating nuances enbedded in true history to inform a deeper and more profound aesthetic. We should not be afraid of the old and the new together, we should welcome it. It will add to all else that is intelligent and extraordinary about our city of Pasadena."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Moving forward, but how?

At the Arts & Culture Commission meeting this past Wednesday night, there was no holding back by many Commissioners, when they expressed their reaction to the City Council's decision to reject its recommendation of the Kuhn and Oppenheim artworks proposed for the Pasadena Center, with anger, frustration, disbelief and dismay served up in hefty portions. Commission Chair Dale Oliver -- expecting City Manager Michael Beck's support and clearly annoyed by the switcheroo recommendation to "consider alternatives" -- called upon Commissioners to consider how they are to move forward.

Particularly baffled by PCOC's position that it did not want anything -- including public artworks -- on the Convention Center plaza was Commissioner Patrick Conyers, who wondered how any alternatives to the Kuhn and Oppenheim pieces could even be considered...if PCOC doesn't want anything in the area of the Convention Center plaza, how does the Commission recommend something...anything...? Quite the conundrum.

Charged by City Council to "consider alternatives," the Commission does not appear to have ruled out the possibility of returning with its original proposal, an option that was acknowledged during the January 26th City Council meeting and referenced by Mayor Bogaard during a conversation with Pasadena Star-News reporter Janette Williams, who quizzed him about the options available to the Commission. Bogaard said that "rethinking the plan and sending it back to the Arts & Culture Commission didn't preclude the present option."

With fewer than 75 days to come up with possible alternatives to the Kuhn and Oppenheim works, the Commission faces some daunting challenges, not the least of which would be mounting a new round of requests for proposals and then evaluating then -- if the City is to keep the whole process fair and truly competitive.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Public Art Subcommittee back at it; meanwhile, the story's getting around

The Public Art Subcommittee of the Arts & Culture Commission-- the group (if two people is a group) responsible for beginning the process of "consideration of alternatives" for the public art proposed at Pasadena Center -- met Wednesday, February 4th, for their second meeting since the controversial City Council decision to reject the recommended artworks.

Subcommittee members Kellye Wallett and Dale Oliver (who also serves as the Chair of the Commission) were joined by Cultural Affairs staff, A&C Commissioners Lyla White and Patrick Conyers and members of the public not willing to let the case close quietly. Absent was representation from Pasadena Center Operating Company (PCOC) and Pasadena Heritage, the two factions against the Kuhn and Oppenheim pieces being placed on the plaza -- against, in fact, any public art being placed on the site.

A number of alternatives arose during the discussion, including temporary artworks, alternative locations for the existing works, the identification of existing artworks as opposed to newly commissioned pieces, and others. It is hard to imagine how temporary or existing works would satisfy PCOC, who made it explicitly clear that they want no artworks of any kind on the plaza. When asked whether the original plan (developed with input from PCOC) for the artworks on the plaza would be relied upon in developing a new selection process, Commissioner Oliver indicated maybe, maybe not, but that it would be hard to ignore the original intent of that plan.

When pressed on the need for participation by the community on the decision, the Subcomittee made clear the distinction between transparency and public input, the former necessary, the latter...not so much.

A goal of a "written articulation" of alternatives by March 1 was set; Cultural Affairs staff has the task of preparing this report.

In the meantime, arts journals in print around the country and online continue to follow the controversy; no less a voice than the New York Times has picked up the story, which was blasted onto the newswire by Sasha Anawalt's resignation from the Commission. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's art and architecture critic, Mary Louise Schumacher, wonders if Pasadena made a mistake "by not involving the public in the process enough, which can lead to polarized, over simplified debates that bring good projects to early ends." (See Links)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Commissioner Sasha Anawalt resigns in protest

Sasha Anawalt has resigned from the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission, stating that the recent decision by City Council was "a poor and cowardly decision for which the citizens ultimately pay. The word is out among the artists in Pasadena, in Los Angeles, and it may spread across the network of America's 100,000 arts organizations and also abroad: Engage with Pasadena at one's own peril. Public art can and will be censored by a powerful few. And, yes, censorship is an appropriate word."

Anawalt is a significant presence in the arts community, both locally and at a national level; she runs programs at the Annenberg School at USC in arts journalism, and the Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater for the National Endowment for the Arts. She brought a deep understanding of the issues and an important perspective on the artist and his/her creative process. Her resignation is a blow to the Commission, the community and the ongoing dialogue about importance of art in our lives.

Full text of Anawalt's letter:

Dear Colleagues:
I resign my position as Commissioner for the fifth district on the Arts & Culture Commission. My eye is fixed on the artists, Hans Peter Kuhn and Dennis Oppenheim, whose work was left undefended last night by us on the Commission.*

My eye is also on our citizens who must see $150,000 and three years of work be regarded as negligible; this is an unconscionable waste. On the Commission, we approved a particular position on December 10 and we were superseded by City Manager, Michael Beck, and staff who presented a different position last night. To me, the democratic process established by the Arts & Culture Commission is not democratic when a few can dictate and alter what the body has in good conscience decided, using its collective expertise and valuable volunteer hours.

The decision last night not to move ahead and approve Kuhn and Oppenheim's works was a poor and cowardly decision for which the citizens ultimately pay. The word is out among the artists in Pasadena, in Los Angeles, and it may spread across the network of America's 100,000 arts organizations and also abroad: Engage with Pasadena at one's own peril. Public art can and will be censored by a powerful few. And, yes, censorship is an appropriate word.

I am sorry for my decision to resign, because I very much enjoyed the company of each and every one of you and of my fellow commissioners. I know I can do more on the outside for Pasadena than I can on the inside. Had there been a more healthy, robust coverage of this issue in the media, perhaps the Council, the Commission, Michael Beck and the Pasadena Cultural Affairs staff would have stopped to think, question and examine the repercussions of participating in a late date decision that the art is, for whatever reason, unworthy.

In fairness, I have been taxed by the amount of time this Commission has taken in my schedule and have been weighing whether I can keep it up for some time now. The scales tipped last night. But I still believe in my heart in the value that an Arts & Culture Commission can have -- perhaps at another time in my life and in the Commission's.

I wish you all the best in the next stage.
Sincerely yours,

* Amendment 01/29/09 - I include myself foremost in this charge and regret that I did not speak up more loudly before or at all during the Council meeting. It concerns me that at this financially critical time, the Council's decision also means not giving jobs and work to those who would have forged and installed the sculptures. The Pasadena Civic Auditorium is regarded as "sacred," its plaza, too - so said several citizens who addressed the Council. But I believe that Kuhn and Oppenheim and their works, as well as the potential builders and installers are just as sacred. These artists and artisans were not treated with the same respect given the building and space that they worked so hard to honor. For this, I apologize.

Sasha Anawalt

Los Angeles Times picks up Pasadena public art controversy

The Los Angeles Times reported today on the decision by Pasadena City Council to "reject a recommendation by the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission to install controversial public artworks of light tubes and giant caps on the plaza in front of the Pasadena Civic Auditorium."

Arts advocates in favor of placing the artworks as proposed (who include supporters of the works as well as defenders of the public process) continue to discuss what they consider to be flawed arguments by the Pasadena Center Operating Company and the whiff of censorship. The mention of the controversy by the LA Times will inform a wider audience about this issue. Please continue to post your comments, and email Pasadena City Council members through

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pasadena City Council Votes to Send Public Art Proposal Back to the Drawing Board

At last night's Pasadena City Council meeting, the Council voted to reject a recommendation by the Arts & Culture Commission to install works it had solicited and approved by internationally-known sculptors Hans Peter Kuhn and Dennis Oppenheim at the new Pasadena Center plaza, and instead accept a recommendation by City Manager Michael Beck to seek alternatives. The decision followed impassioned public comment from both sides of the debate; the discussion encompassed specific points of contention such as sight lines and structural issues, and wider contexts of policy, finances, aesthetics, heritage, even the purpose of art itself.

To this point the Pasadena Arts Council has not taken a position on either side of this public art debate. However, it is the mission of this organization to speak for, advocate for, and defend the arts.

The process was followed in accordance with policy and procedure. The Arts & Culture Commission, in recommending that the artworks be placed on the plaza of the Pasadena Center, adhered to the guidelines that were created expressly for this process, and the only reason the matter was before the City Council was the stipulation on approval of expenditures over a specific amount.

It has become fashionable to quote our new President. However, we here paraphrase one who preceded him, John F. Kennedy, who spoke to the nation's responsibility to current and future generations: "The nation which disdains the mission of art has nothing to look backward on with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope." Substitute the word "city" for "nation," and the message is clear.

Please take the new Quick Vote, and post your comments below.

Friday, January 23, 2009

BREAKING NEWS...City Manager issues recommendation on public art

The agenda for Monday's City Council meeting has been posted online. City Manager Michael Beck's staff recommendation states, in part, that"in consideration of the dissatisfaction expressed by the PCOC board with the exterior artworks ... [Council should] refer this matter back to staff and the Arts and Culture Commission for consideration of alternatives."

City Council may still vote on the matter, however. Click on the link at right to view the entire agenda and attachments.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Public Art at Pasadena Center

On Monday, January 26th, the Pasadena City Council is scheduled to vote on an important public art project planned for the new Pasadena Center, exactly three years and one day after the first meeting to consider what artworks should be placed at the site of the new civic buildings.

The Pasadena Center is comprised of the historic Civic Auditorium (built in 1927) and two flanking new and renovated buildings that will contain meeting rooms and a ballroom. The Center serves as the southern terminus of the Civic Center axis, a classic Beaux Arts plan implemented in the 1920’s. Situated on Green Street in downtown Pasadena, the Civic Auditorium is one of several original buildings constructed as part of a grand civic design that includes iconic Pasadena City Hall and the Public Library. These buildings are civic and national treasures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Following an extensive review and approval process, which included 403 submissions from artists around the world, the Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission approved the final art plans on December 10, 2008, for the exterior artwork for the Pasadena Center.

A spirited public conversation has arisen regarding two of the three selected artworks, all of which are contemporary in nature. Supporters of the project are excited about the placement of contemporary works by internationally noted artists, and feel that the civic space will be complemented and enlivened by these works. Others feel that the beautiful fa├žade of the Civic Auditorium is a piece of art in and of itself, and that the placement of these unusual artworks detracts from the Auditorium and is not in keeping with Pasadena’s traditional architectural heritage.

Where do you stand? Take our Quick Vote, and post a comment below. If you’re not familiar with the issue, read more below and follow the links on the right. Take a drive down Green Street and check the site out for yourself. Contact your City Councilperson with your thoughts on the Pasadena Center public art decision. And most importantly, plan to attend the City Council meeting on Monday, January 26th at 6:30 PM. Contact Pasadena Cultural Affairs at 626-744-7062 for up-to-date information.

The artworks are:

Lightfield by artist Hans Peter Kuhn, an abstract light sculpture installation to be located on the public plaza adjacent to the east Conference Center pavilion. “Lightfield” is composed of 25 illuminated polycarbonate tubes that rise approximately 5 feet from the base. The field of light will swivel and be randomly repositioned by an automatic mechanism, a two-axis swiveling base programmed to allow each tube to move and rotate in a conic fashion. The tubes may also be programmed to disengage, allowing them to sway in the wind. The base is concrete with granite-clad sides and top, 15’x38’ in plan and 20” high.

“Thinking Caps” by artist Dennis Oppenheim, a sculptural piece in architectural scale forming an enclosure of projection surfaces which conveys the notion that it creates and holds ideas, thereby reflecting the many activities, conferences, functions, and meetings that take place within the Pasadena Center. Sited on the west end of the Plaza, adjacent to the Ballroom, the sculpture is 15’h x 30’d and consists of three hats: train hat, sun hat and conductor’s cap. They are made of structural steel, galvanized and/or powder coated steel, punch plate, perforated metal and grating, Lexan and pattern projectors. These hats form an enclosure or gathering space that viewers can enter to observe the images projected onto each of the hat’s surfaces. These images are an abstract representation of thought – of the person “wearing” the hat and producing the “ideas.”

Click the images in the slideshow on the right for a larger view of the proposed artworks.