Chances are by the time you read this article, Pasadena Museum of California Arts (PMCA) has closed its doors for good (last day is scheduled for Sunday, October 7th, 2018).
By Toti O’Brien
I will miss the excellent quality of the exhibits the Museum has consistently produced and the clear, informative documentation provided. I will miss the festive quality of the opening nights, all the way from the desk set almost on the street—at the entrance of the ‘Kosmic Krylon’ garage, animated by Kenny Scharf’s whimsical murals—up the stairs where groups of visitors pause to greet, chat and comment, to the gorgeous terrace hosting music or poetry, not to speak of the magnificent view. Openings feel like parties at PMCA—more than usual—maybe due to the beautiful and bizarre architecture, to the infectiously welcoming attitude of staff and organizers, or both. I will miss the programs accompanying the exhibits, always articulate and thoughtful, giving further insight into the artists’ process, inspiration and context.
A unique color is lost while many don’t know it existed
On the corner of Oakland and Union, the Pasadena Museum of Californian Arts has the distinctive mission of exhibiting Californian art and design, highlighting its breadth and diversity. Since its inception, PMCA has fulfilled its scope, bringing to the pallet of local art institutions its unique color, adding a sui generis contribution, indisputably enhancing the whole.
Why would concentrating on the art and artists of the place we live in be important? Let’s take a small detour before answering. Here is another question. Who can possibly be on the side not regretting the PMCA closing? All those who have no idea of what the acronym stands for, though they live next door. I have verified they are, alas, a majority—certainly not by their fault—on two occasions. First, through the micro social online neighborhood networks where the news has spread, causing great amounts of astonished responses. “What is this, and where?” “Sorry, I never heard about it”. Also, as a docent on the Pasadena ArtNight buses, I have witnessed how many residents didn’t know the Museum even existed.
In spite of dedicated efforts on behalf of the institutions themselves, the press, and the education system, art hasn’t lost her Cinderella status within society, even in the circumscribed universe of a single town. Which explains both why PMCA (a nonprofit mostly based on donors’ generosity) might have met unsurpassable odds hindering its chance to survive, and—circling back to the very worth of its mission—why it is priceless to devote punctual effort to what flourishes on site, right under our eyes, but goes often unseen.
Behind the quality of service PMCA has given the community for sixteen years, there is obviously a number of individuals endowed with outstanding competence, animated by great passion, guided by a clear, lucid vision. I had the occasion to meet some of the donors, and to hear what a pleasure it was for them to sustain this specific institution, due to the genuine involvement of all board members and staff. Competence, passion, and vision don’t die when an organization bumps against a roadblock. There are reasons to believe they will bloom again, soon, in more favorable circumstances.
Should we intend that PMCA is taking a hiatus, perhaps, of indefinite length? I would like to think in such terms. Museum exhibits and programs are planned with years of advance, as they require more preparation than we can imagine. The brisk closure of a cultural institution leaves a great deal of ‘pending’ works-in-progress. Hopefully, these unfinished projects (meaning those who invested creativity and effort in them) will strive to find other outlets. Doubtless, they will resurrect the Museum in one form or another. They will generate its next incarnation, because passion and vision don’t die.
> Closing weekend activities:
Saturday, October 6, 2018: 2:00 pm
Join Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D., curator of Grafton Tyler Brown: Exploring California as she leads a discussion with art historian Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins, Ph.D., on the life and work of this groundbreaking artist.
Sunday, October 7, 2018: 12:30pm – 2:00 pm: Saying goodbye.
– 12:30 pm: Education & Engagement Coordinator, Leah Clancy, leads a complimentary guided tourof “Judy Chicago’s Birth Project: Born Again.”
– 2:00 pm: Brody Albert leads atourthrough his exhibition, “Brody Albert: Strata” to provide insight into his practice.
Toti O’Brien, a Pasadena resident, is a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer.
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