Armory Center for the Arts Honors Susan and John Caldwell Tonight

Susan and John Caldwell“Armory Center for the Arts 25th Anniversary Benefit Committee (from left): Denise Mathews, Jim Watterson, Gale Kohl (Benefit Co­Chair), Maria Khader-Karp, Carolyn Cutler, Louise Brinsley, Dianne Magee, Sally Bickerton, Clare Tayback (Benefit Co­Chair), Catherine Arias, Alex Kritselis. Not pictured: Jane Abascal, Jill Barnes, Jay Belloli, Martha Chowning, Tammy Godley (Board President), Stan Kong, Pete Kutzer, Steve Nowlin, Rebecca Shehee, Joel Thvedt.”A young man from Pasadena Unified School District carefully observes and draws a leaf in   Eaton Canyon. Children Investigate the Environment, one of the Armory’s flagship education   programs for the past 25 years, give elementary school children hand­on experiences in nature   while combining art and natural sciences.”“The Armory’s Artful Solutions: Pathways from Homelessness program engages homeless   adults and families­in­transition by giving them access to weekly studio sessions at the Armory.   The multi­week program runs year round and results in an exhibition and sale of artwork created   by participants, with 100% of proceeds going directly to the artists.”“Oliver Opie (center), son of world renown photographer Catherine Opie (right), gets a kiss on   the head from Connie Samaras (left) at her opening reception at the Armory. Photographer   Connie Samaras’ Tales of Tomorrow exhibition at the Armory in 2013 was lauded by critics from   Artforum & the LA Times and represented the most comprehensive survey of the artists’ work to date.”“Armory Teaching Artist Nery Gabriel Lemus leads a participatory art happening on “doll making”   during Armory Show & Tell: a summer 2013 exhibition that invited past & present Armory   Teaching Artists to “perform their practice.”Armory 25 Invite logo“The Armory\'s tuition­based, on­site studio classes encourage children, teens and adults to   experience, understand and appreciate contemporary art.”“The Armory\'s tuition­based, on­site studio classes encourage children, teens and adults to experience, understand and appreciate contemporary art.“The Armory\'s tuition­based, on­site studio classes encourage children, teens and adults to   experience, understand and appreciate contemporary art.”“Children explore Torus, and inflatable architectural concept created by Armory Board Member   and renown local architect Peter Tolkin. Tours was staged in Memorial Park by the Armory as   part of the 2013 Pasadena Earth & Arts Festival.”


12:21 pm | March 24, 2014

On April 5th, celebrate the historic 25th anniversary of Armory Center for the Arts at the contemporary art center’s Annual Benefit Gala, a fabulous evening birthday bash held at the Armory and honoring Susan and John Caldwell — two remarkable individuals who have championed anniversary of Armory Center for the Arts the Armory’s mission to bring the power of art into the lives of countless children and families throughout the region.

The event, featuring cocktails, wine, and a strolling supper by The Kitchen for exploring Foods is being generously underwritten by two anonymous benefactors. 100% of ticket sales and donations from the evening will directly benefit Armory exhibitions and art education programs. To donate or purchase tickets to this special event, visit, or call Suzette Stambler at (626) 792-5101 ext. 118.


25 years ago, pure chance brought together a prestigious gallery program and an innovative visual arts education program under one roof. Armory Center for the Arts was born through the work of many  individuals including Elisa Crystal (then­director of Pasadena Art Workshops), Jay Belloli (then­director of Caltech’s recently­closed Baxter Art Gallery), and especially Susan Caldwell (then­president of the Pasadena Art Alliance).

The Armory’s roots, though, were planted as far back as 1947 in the education department of the Pasadena Art Museum. Classes there were led by artists whose teaching concepts grew out of the  museum’s exhibitions of modern art — a common practice today, but a revolutionary idea at the time.

After the Pasadena Art Museum closed in 1974 (and became the Norton Simon Museum), the art education program was informed by the new leadership that youth art education did not fit into the  vision of Mr. Simon’s “new” museum. The art education department splintered off and became known  as the Pasadena Art Workshops. Without a permanent space for exhibitions, and using professional artists as teachers, the workshops focused on the development of arts programs that presented alternative forms of learning. Gala honoree Susan Caldwell, currently president of the Rowe & Gayle Giesen Trust, recalls the transition:

“In 1974, Norton Simon assumed control of the Pasadena Art Museum and closed the children’s education department. Rowe (Giesen) gathered friends together in the abandoned school yard of Lincoln School. We sat on broken benches, amidst dirt, leaves, and shattered glass, and explored how the Trust could be the catalyst for the creation of a new children’s art institution. Rowe had a vision, and the Pasadena Art Workshops was born.”

By working in partnerships with schools, libraries, parks, neighborhood groups, community centers and city agencies, the Workshop’s programs brought the arts to new audiences . These types of  community­based collaborations continue to this day.

In 1989, the move to a former National Guard Armory in Old Pasadena began when a city­appointed task force charged with identifying underutilized city property reached out to Susan Caldwell at the Pasadena Art Alliance. Susan, along with Jay Belloli (Caltech’s Baxter Art Gallery), met with Pasadena Art Workshops director Elisa Crystal to tour a hulking, dilapidated, pigeon-filled building on Raymond Avenue — which was the home of the somewhat­defunct Pasadena Badminton Club.

After negotiations with the City and raising $1 million dollars, The Pasadena Art Workshops renovated the former National Guard Armory, joined forces with the Baxter Art Gallery supporters, moved in, and renamed itself Armory Center for the Arts. With 20,000 square feet, the building provided ample space for art studios, workshops and galleries. The new setting also allowed for the reintroduction of contemporary exhibitions and performances, which in the years since have become an integral part of  the Armory’s programming. The unique floor plan of the Armory encourages ideas to flow freely among  exhibitions, classes, artists, teachers and students.

After 13 years in the National Guard Armory building, the Armory began to experience growing pains. In 2002, it underwent a $2.4 million transformation, creating an additional 6,800 square feet of  classroom and studio space for drawing and painting, digital arts and photography. In its first year the Armory welcomed approximately 40,000 visitors. Twenty-five years later, the number of participants and visitors to Armory programs exceeds 100,000 annually.

Meet the Honorees: Susan and John Caldwell

Over the past 25 years, Susan has championed the Armory’s mission to bring the power of art into the lives of countless children and families in this community – as a board member, board president, a  tireless advocate and fundraiser, a valued mentor, and devoted attendee of the Armory’s many cultural events. A graduate of Pasadena High School and UCLA, Susan taught English at PHS and Westridge  School. Susan is past “Woman of the Year” by the Pasadena YMCA, is a member and advocate for  All Saints Church, and, since 1977, has played a key leadership role in the Pasadena Art Alliance — one of the region’s foremost charitable foundations dedicated fostering appreciation for contemporary art in Southern California by supporting artists, exhibitions, educational programs, and art­-oriented nonprofit institutions.

John Caldwell, an accomplished, award-winning furniture designer, understands the deep impact that art and design have on our quality of life and the challenges faced by those pursuing a career in the arts.

Caldwell got his first break as a furniture designer in Los Angeles in the 1950s. In the early days, he freelanced for:

● Brown Jordan, a company that built steel army cots and Quonset huts during World War II (and then went on to produce high­design modern outdoor furniture by Caldwell)

● Walter Lamb, a furniture designer who salvaged bronze tubing from sunken WWII battleships off Hawaii for his pieces

● Van­Keppel Green, a legendary design partnership that created the majority of the patio furniture for John Entenza’s Arts and Architecture case study homes.

Since selling Brown Jordan his Mai Tai design in 1957 at the age of 19, Caldwell has designed outdoor furniture, office furniture and accessories, umbrellas, lighting, and ceiling fans for markets in the United States, China, Indonesia, and Mexico. He also taught design for twenty years at various southern California colleges including Long Beach State, Pasadena City College, and the Art Center College of Design. Caldwell and his eight employees continue to produce new twenty­first­century designs in his busy South Pasadena studio.

Armory 25th Anniversary Benefit Committee Members

Anniversary Benefit Committee: Gale Kohl & Clare Tayback (Benefit Chairs), Jane Abascal, Catherine Arias, Jill Barnes, Jay Belloli, Sally Bickerton, Louise Brinsley, Linda Burrow, Martha Chowning, Carolyn Cutler, Tammy Godley (Board President), Maria Khader­Karp, Stan Kong, Alex Kritselis, Pete Kutzer, Dianne Magee, Denise Mathews, Steve Nowlin, Rebecca Shehee, Joel Thvedt, Jim Watterson

Honorary Benefit Committee: Peggy Phelps & Jane Olson (Co­Chairs), Ann Dobson Barrett & Olin Barrett, Claire & Bill Bogaard, Jay Belloli, Elisa Callow, Maureen & Bob Carlson, Miller Fong, Curtis Giesen, Lawrence Giesen, Katharine Harrington, Adelaide Hixon, Walt Milner, Wendy Munger, Tessa & Kenton Nelson

Past Board Presidents: Susan Caldwell, Joan Fauvre, Jetty Fong, Stephen A. Kanter, M.D., Harvey Knell, Pete Kutzer, Dianne Magee, Wendy Munger, Joan Palmer, Clare Tayback, Craig Watson, Martha Williams (in memoriam)

About the Armory

Armory Center for the Arts believes that an understanding and appreciation of the arts is essential for a well­rounded human experience and a healthy civic community. Founded in 1989, the Armory builds on the power of art to transform lives and communities through presenting, creating, teaching, and discussing contemporary visual art. The organization’s department of exhibitions mounts over 25 exhibitions and events each year at its main facility and off­site. In addition, the Armory offers studio art classes and a variety of educational outreach programs to more than fifty schools and community sites.

Parking is available on the street or in the Marriott garage directly north of the Armory for free for 90 minutes. The Armory is off the Gold Line at Memorial Park – walk one half block east to Raymond and one half block north to the Armory. For more information please visit