The State of Pasadena Art: Curator, Art Consultant Jay Belloli Looks at the Past, Present, and Future of the Rose City’s Art Scene

Published : Monday, May 21, 2018 | 5:45 AM

Jay Belloli

Jay Belloli has seen the ebbs and flows of Pasadena’s art world over the past the 35 years. While the Rose City’s love of art continues to be unabated, the way in which to create, teach, and view it here has changed over the years. The primary reason? Money.

“It is much more expensive to run a commercial gallery in Pasadena that it used to be — there used to be a lot more galleries. I also think art has taken a significant hit in public schools. The person who is in charge of the arts at PUSD is wonderful, but money (for the arts) is very challenging,” Belloli said. He gives his former employer, the Armory Center for the Arts, recognition for keeping the interest alive and well. “It’s one of the things that the Armory does — because schools just don’t have a lot of money for the arts.”

Despite these obstacles, all is not lost. Pasadena’s art culture is thriving. “I think, regarding non-profit art institutions, it’s gotten better. Obviously, there’s the Norton Simon also, which does exhibitions and has collections, lectures, films, and other wonderful programs,” Belloli said.

“As for public art, its become much more popular in the last 20 years, and more so in terms of parents getting their children into art classes at places like the Armory or the Pasadena Museum of California Art. There’s also a lot of public art in Pasadena from private construction, because they have to spend 1% of their budget for the art.”

Belloli’s said he was concerned that Pasadena lags behind other cities as far as public art goes, primarily because of other budget woes. “The idea of spending public funds for public art is still controversial. It’s not (that way) in Los Angeles or other cities.”

Belloli began his career at the former Baxter Art Gallery at Caltech in the early ’80s. He then became the director of gallery programs at Armory Center for the Arts for two decades, before a stint as acting director of Pasadena Museum California Art. Belloli recently retired, but still freelances as a curator and consultant. He is not an artist, however.

“I’m an art curator. Some curators also make art, but I do not. I almost always put on contemporary art exhibitions,” he said. Belloli also curates exhibitions that are decidedly Pasadenan in nature. “I’m very interested in astronomy. I’ve done five exhibitions of either astronomical photography or space photography. So that’s the other thing that I do besides contemporary art. I’m very interested in images of space, satellites or spacecraft.”

Belloli also weighed in on how to support artists in Pasadena’s new reality.

“All you have to do is look; if there are things [that] really interest you, buy them from commercial galleries, the Armory auctions, and institutions like non-profits who have art for sale as well,” he said.

“Pasadena is a city where there are a lot of options to see art and purchase it. I love living in Pasadena, not just because it’s a wonderful city — I love that it’s filled with artists, exhibition spaces, and collections that you can easily visit.”