In most California communities, including Pasadena, fall signals the end of all the freedom and fun that summer represents and the start of school, work and a host of new responsibilities and worries.
But unlike most other places, autumn in the Pasadena area also means celebrating culture and art — theater, music, dance, literature and visual exhibits — at every possible opportunity. Here, fall is a time when all these separate jewels of artistic endeavor seem to shine brightest.
This season, however, despite all the terrific entertainment and enrichment options for art patrons to choose from, something of a pall permeates this otherwise joyous time with the pending closure of the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) in October.
How could such a thing happen? Back in 2002, Bob and Arlene Oltman set out to build a museum to showcase the works of California artists, an unfilled void in the local art scene. Because PMCA never had an endowment, the museum had to rely on nonprofit fundraising efforts and admissions to meet its goals, as writer Patricia Cunliffe pointed out in our Aug. 9 edition. Unfortunately, potential funders had concerns with the museum’s history of deficits and the fact that the Oltmans, who sold their home to be able to build the museum, lived on the property.
It was a dream come true, as Oltman told Patricia. However, “There was a perception that our living here made this our candy store and we should be responsible for taking care of it,” Oltman explained. “Therefore, foundations, grant organizations and so forth were very hesitant, and that was often the reason they gave.”
Their last day is Oct. 7, but it should be said that whatever the problems may have been, the couple and museum staff amply filled the void presented by the lack of representation of California artists in local museums.
One of the most anticipated events of the season is ArtNight, scheduled for Oct. 12. Here attendees enjoy a free evening of art, music and entertainment as 19 of Pasadena’s most prominent arts and cultural institutions open their doors. Free shuttles transport guests to each destination. In March, an estimated 28,000 people took part in the city’s spring ArtNight event.
In the world of literature, Oscar-winning actress Sally Field will be returning to the town of her birth to talk about her memoir “In Pieces” during an appearance for Vroman’s Bookstore to be held as a special off-site event at Pasadena Presbyterian Church on Sept. 27.
And speaking of home, the impressive latest edition of the perennially popular book “Hometown Pasadena,” edited by Colleen Dunn Bates, with contributions by author Naomi Hirahara, columnist Chris Erskine, and chats with activists Roberta Martinez and Monica Hubbard, among others, has been published and is available for purchase. (Please see our Feature Story on page 9.)
In the world of music, along with the Eagle Rock Music Festival on Oct. 6 and Open Arts & Music Festival in Glendale Sept. 15, perhaps the most sought after ticket in town is Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s OTR II concert at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 22 and 23.
While exhibitions at most local museums and galleries —including PMCA — have been ongoing, the most anticipated premier of the season may be at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, which presents, “Nightwalk in the Chinese Garden,” a play written and directed by Stan Lai, and premiering exclusively in the museum’s Chinese Garden from Sept. 21 to Oct. 26.
In theater, the wildly popular Wicked Lit ensemble returns Oct. 4 through Nov. 10 with spooky tales from the Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery in Altadena, while A Noise Within tries its hand at horror with Oscar Wilde’s “The Portrait of Doran Gray.” The Pasadena Playhouse also gets in on the ghostly fun with “The Woman in Black,” beginning Oct. 17. Prior to that, actor Jason Alexander directs the new comedy “Native Gardens,” opening Sept. 5. Also in September, the popular Sierra Madre Playhouse starts off its fall season with a rendition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Gin Game,” by D.L. Coburn, on Sept. 22.
Dancing seems to have really taken off this season, with Ballet Hispánico and Ballet Folklorico de México set to perform, and the Arte Flamenco Dance Theatre in Alhambra hosting a Flamenco Intensive with Cristobal Reyes in October. As critic Jana J. Monji notes in her story on the local dance scene, actually doing some flamenco or salsa dancing is a wonderful way to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
In November, many are looking forward to the annual Victorian Grand Ball at the Pasadena Masonic Temple. Another chance to make a grand entrance before that is at the Lineage Gala on Sept. 29, which includes a silent auction, food catered by Alchemy Kitchen and a special performance by the Lineage Dance Company, temporarily housed at First United Methodist Church at 500 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.
At the Alex Theatre in Glendale, Los Angeles Ballet (LAB) presents “Modern Moves,” a bill of three choreographic interpretations from master choreographers Aszure Barton, Alejandro Cerrudo and George Balanchine.
For those looking for another venue to move to the groove, the Masonic Temple hosts weekly swing and blues dances hosted by Lindygroove.
With so much going on in the worlds of theater, music, dance, literature and museums and galleries, there really is no place quite like Pasadena when it comes to zealous community devotion to the arts.