2018 Bright for the Arts in Pasadena

City’s Cultural Affairs manager touts arts in education, looks forward to major new landmark public art installation, notes changes to the landscape of Pasadena’s arts scene

Published : Wednesday, January 31, 2018 | 6:26 AM

Cultural Affairs Manager Rochelle Branch

[Updated Wednesday, January 31, 2018 | 11:48 a.m.]     Long one of the most supportive and vibrant arts cities in America, Pasadena is well-positioned to retain that status in 2018, according to Pasadena’s Cultural Affairs Manager, Rochelle Branch.

While management and leadership changes are forthcoming at a number of local arts organizations, the City is also looking at a major and dramatic gateway art project at its Arroyo Parkway entrance, she said in a recent interview.

The Glenarm Power Plant Public Art Project, which is the culmination of a year-long search for artists, will likely feature the large-scale work of artist Alice Aycock. Aycock’s work has been displayed in museums around the world, and she has created public art sculptures in a number of U.S. cities.

Her planned work for the Glenarm plant, according to a Cultural Affairs staff report, “centers around the forces of energy,” and will consist, in part, of a sculptural installation to be located on the front facade of the plant’s northernmost cooling tower, along the western edge of the 110 Arroyo Seco Parkway. The installation’s structure is based in part on diagrammatic images of cloud chamber photographs of particle collisions as well as wind and wave patterns in space, combining the disciplines of art and science. Three silver aluminum “ribbons” will also twirl to suggest turbine forms unraveling in space.

The installation, which yet needs Arts Commission and City Council approval, is designed to become a permanent Pasadena landmark and serve as a focal point for motorists entering the city from the south. It is also appropriately positioned across Glenarm Street from the new ArtCenter campus, reinforcing a message of arts and education.

“It’s a very exciting time for the arts in Pasadena. 2018 has some brought some changes already in terms of some of our major organizations,” added Branch, going on to note the departure of Executive Director Scott Ward from The Armory, as well as the presence of new board members and changes at Pasadena Playhouse. Branch also pointed to the naming of Susana Smith Bautista as the new Executive Director of the Pasadena Museum of California Art last Spring.

Branch took a cautionary tone with regard to the possible effects of new tax legislation, cautious about its effects on local arts supporters.

“Certainly, all of the organizations will be looking out to see the results or the impacts, hopefully not negative, of the new tax legislation,” said Branch, “which may discourage charitable donations because the personal exemption has been doubled and many people may not choose to itemize, and therefore may not to make charitable donations. I think that’s one of the concerns that all nonprofits share. We’ll have to see what that impact is a little further down the road.”

Branch, long a believer in arts education, stressed that “arts education has been and continues to be an important part of the school system.”

“The City has several joint programs with the Pasadena Unified School district (PUSD) and the Cultural Affairs Division at the City,” offered Branch.

“We maintain a great relationship with PUSD in terms of their No Boundaries, district-wide, K-12 art exhibits,” said Branch, especially pointing out the “Bridging Boundaries” art exhibit, traditionbally mounted outside City Council Chamber at City Hall.

“We’re also a part of the ‘My Masterpieces’ program which is K-6 at this point,” added Branch.

As she explained, “All second-graders in PUSD are exposed to public art through a series of pre-imposed visit programs. They have a site visit and they have several public art projects that they visit and learn more about public art. Again, based on a particular curriculum that we helped to provide.”

The Arts and Culture Commission also assists every year in the selection of a student finalist from a local high schools, said Branch, for artwork that will be replicated at the Hollywood Burbank Airport Tower, for a four-month exhibit.

“We’re very supportive of arts education because it’s a part of our cultural nexus master plan. And we know that it’s a wonderful way to ensure that we have a lifelong learning. Our art and science emphasis continues to have traction in the city,” Branch said.

Branch also touted the upcoming COSPAR Conference coming to Pasadena this year. That organization was created in 1958 to promote international cooperation in the pursuit of scientific research in space. According to its website, the Committee on Space Research of the International Council for Science (COSPAR) was created with an emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions in space research.”

“It’s a big conference,” said Branch, “and it’s tied to STEAM ‘18, which is an initiative that many community members including Cultural Affairs staff, have been working on for the last year to highlight all of the STEAM activities.”

“That would be science, technology, engineering, arts, and math throughout our community,” Branch continued. “The idea is to highlight all of those activities at the various organizations, including the ArtCenter, and the various other arts and cultural organizations as well.”

Finally, Branch noted that the Pasadena Arts Council has now morphed into Fulcrum Arts, and will now embark on a different mission.

“As I understand it,” said Branch “it no longer will have any mission regarding arts advocacy. It will focus on their ‘Emerge’ program, which is sponsorship and the arts and science festival and some related programming. So that’s a major shift. The Pasadena Arts Council has been around for many many years and various iterations. It will remain to be seen if there’s void to be filled. But certainly, their programs have been successful [in the past]. That will be a major change in the city.”

In addition, said Branch, the City’s rotating public art exhibition program will begin to be installed at the end of January into February, placed throughout the city.

“We will be working on phase 4 of the rotating program at the same time,” said Branch.

“So there’s a lot going on with public art,” concluded Branch, who couldn’t resist acknowledging, “Pasadena continues to outshine its neighbors in terms of the number of arts and cultural organizations and the quality of their programs.”