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PCC’s Center for the Arts Opens, Garners Reactions: “Stunning,” “Spectacular”

Published on Friday, January 24, 2014 | 5:27 am

Pasadena City College officially opened its Center for the Arts with plein air festivities in a quad in front of the modern building attended by close to 500 on Thursday evening.

The Center for the Arts brings together the disciplines of art and music in one facility.  The building is 87,000 square feet with 14 classrooms and 3 performance spaces.

“I think the building is absolutely spectacular. It will be an incredible place for students to learn and make a difference in the quality of their education too, that’s what great educational spaces do,” Art Center for Design President Lorne Buchman said, also commenting on the rich relationship between the Art Center and PCC.

Congresswoman Judy Chu said the building was “stunning,” and that the world-class community college has now gone “into the stratosphere.”

Film Director and Academy Award Nominee John Singleton attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, saying the new facility would benefit the Pasadena community as well as the world at large.

“My first film classes were here at PCC. The first time to access equipment, to touch a camera, to go in the old photo lab, and basically formulate my dream to become a filmmaker, all that began here at Pasadena City College. For me to come here and see this new facility dedicated to fostering creativity, it really warms my heart,” Singleton said.

The high-tech building that has a “life of its own” features specialized modern classrooms with a dark room and photo studio for the photography students, entirely sound proof practice rooms for music students, a recording studio, and a welding station for the jewelry students.

After 21 years in a windowless office connected to a windowless hallway, Dean Jim Arnwine of the Performing and Communication Arts Division said he loves the light in the building. Natural light infiltrates almost every room and into the hallways through the large window panes that allow passersby to look in on the “creative process.”

“It’s a place people like to be. Art students tend to hang out so we wanted places they could gather,” Arnwine said. “I remember the joy of seeing it for the first time, it was a dream come true.”

David Dickerson graduated from PCC in 2008 and was back for a visit of the new Center for the Arts, “When I was a student we had absolutely no outside space except for two to three tables by the cafeteria where we would disturb everyone with our music. I love how much sitting space there is in and outside the new building—we were just playing for fun out here.”

Arnwine has hopes to see partnerships happen between the different arts that could never have happened before because the arts were spread across campus. Crossovers of performing arts to visual arts could pair a digital media display with a guitar player’s recording.

The recital hall offers a much needed space to the over 80 smaller events like chamber ensembles, jazz bands, pianos, soloists that PCC previously had no place for. The recital hall will also be open for various community events when not in use by the college.

“The first I heard someone in the recital hall, the choir practiced there, I couldn’t stop the tears because it was a beautiful, beautiful sound in there. The acoustics are just lovely and very even,” Arnwine said.

The Black Box Theatre will provide an intimate theatre setting with 95 permanent seats and features to allow theatre students to uniquely develop the craft.

The Boone Family art gallery will feature professional artists including the Artist in Residence, Casey Reas who will have an exhibition with digital design displayed until March.

PCC intentionally coincided the opening of the Center for the Arts with the Mayor’s speech to further their existing relationship with the city.

“The City of Pasadena has been on an arts and innovation campaign. It was a natural synergy for us to partner with them on this particular occasion because of their emphasis on arts and innovation. This building encompasses both, the written, the printed art form as well as technology,” PCC Public Relations Director Valerie Wardlaw said.

Programs in the Center for the Arts include Visual Arts—painting, printmaking, photography, art history; Media Studies; and Performing Arts—music, theater and dance.

Voter-approved construction bonds funded the majority of the building, but the college is still seeking donations for additional funding including “naming” opportunities of the recital hall, black box theatre, or the whole building itself. To give donations, visit

Pasadena City College is located at 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (626) 585-7065 or visit

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