Board Chairman: Pasadena Museum of California Art Was Financially Unsustainable

First reports of Museum’s impending shuttering were vague on reasons

Published : Thursday, June 21, 2018 | 5:31 AM

Faced with mounting financial woes and no solution on the horizon, The Pasadena Museum of California Art’s Board of Directors Chairman says this week’s decision to close down the local institution in October is the best available option.

The museum at 490 East Union Street, which has showcased the Golden State’s historic and modern artwork for more than 16 years, will shut its doors following the run of the current exhibition on Oct. 7.

Executive Director Dr. Susana Smith Bautista had on Tuesday confirmed news of the closure, which stunned and dismayed the Southern California art world, but she would not say why the decision was made.

Museum Board of Directors Chairman Jim Crawford made the reason clear Wednesday

“We’re a small museum and raising funds for the arts is always a challenge,” Crawford said. “And in our case, we were having increasing difficulty in making our budget. And so rather than let the clock run out without some planning, we felt like we needed to kind of target the exhibit we have running through (October) and then have an orderly closing.”

Crawford said the love of local art remains, but the money to support it is simply drying up.

“Since I’ve been chair, it’s been a struggle every year,” he said. “I think the arts don’t get the same attention that other worthy causes too and so it’s a struggle. So I think after several years of sort of having to reach out to sort of the same community to raise funds and having to struggle at the end of every year, we decided it would make more sense to close.

It’s not for lack of asking, Crawford added.

“We’ve been doing this for years — looking for funding,” he said. “I don’t think we left any stone unturned, so to speak. But I think it’s common knowledge raising funds for the arts is a challenge… it’s been a couple of years trying to overcome that hurdle and just weren’t able to do it in a way that we felt was sustainable.”

Many in Pasadena’s art community were shocked and saddened to learn of the planned closure.

Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division Manager Rochelle Branch said the museum’s absence will be sorely missed. The City has partnered with PMCA in the past by providing grants, as well as collaborating in the annual ArtNight event.

“Like so many others, I was troubled by the news of PMCA’s decision to close. The museum has played a vital role in the city by presenting exhibitions and programs that have shown a spotlight on California artists and content,” Branch said.

“The loss of PMCA will be felt throughout the region, as it had a unique mission,” she said.

“It will remain to be seen if a reconstituted PMCA can emerge,” she said.

While Crawford said the Board has no plans to resurrect the museum, he hopes other may take up the mantle of PMCA’s vision.

“It is our hope and plan to keep the 501(c)(3) open so that it could come back at some time,” he said. “It would come back under a different sort of leadership. We don’t want to close the door entirely.”

The Museum Board expressed gratitude to the community for its support.

“After sixteen years of presenting art and design through exhibitions that explore the unique cultural dynamic of California, the board of directors would like to thank all of the museum members, donors, contributors, lenders, and especially our hard working, dedicated staff who have made this wonderful adventure possible,” the PMCA board said in a prepared statement.

But before they say their final farewells, museum staff are inviting the community to one last exhibit.

The exhibition, featuring Judy Chicago’s “Birth Project: Born Again,” Grafton Tyler Brown’s “Exploring California” and Brody Albert’s “Strata,” opened Sunday.

More information on the museum and the exhibit is available online at www.pmcaonline.org.