PASADENA — The city has approved a lease arrangement that will allow the Pasadena Art Workshops to move into the city-owned National Guard Armory in exchange for providing a full range of free art classes for the people of Pasadena.
The vote last month by the Board of Directors paves the way for the formation of the Armory Center for the Visual Arts, which will house the Pasadena Art Workshops and two other arts organizations under one roof.
"We think the city has taken a visionary step," said Craig Watson, president of the center's board of directors. "They found in this proposal a confirmation of how the arts can play a role in city development. The concept is to turn it into a full arts center. We want to create a place where people can come for the arts and also revitalize the community."
All Programs Are Free
The 40-year-old, nonprofit Pasadena Art Workshops, which now operate out of a building on South El Molino Avenue, offer a variety of classes and programs in painting, music, dance and theater.
Last year, about 5,000 schoolchildren took classes after school, on weekends and during the summer, said Elisa Crystal, executive director of the workshops. The program also brings in professional artists to work with children and displays art and sculpture borrowed from museums, she said. All its activities are free.
Watson said the group needed a new location because it had outgrown its present quarters, owned by the Pasadena Unified School District. That building does not meet modern earthquake standards and is not accessible to the handicapped.
Officials also said the 21,000-square-foot armory at 145 N. Raymond Ave. is more centrally located and closer to the city's northwest area, which has a large minority population.
"It's difficult to serve that community," Watson said. "We need to be more centrally located."
Will Pay No Rent
Under terms of the lease, the center will not pay rent, Watson said. Instead, it must provide "direct community services" in the form of a citywide arts program, which will include classes and exhibitions, he said.
Watson said the services to be provided by the center will far outweigh the estimated $37,500 a year it would cost to rent the facility. "We've already documented to the city we're going to provide services of $95,000 (a year)," he said.
The private Pasadena Badminton Club, which has been renting space in the armory, will be relocated by the city to Victory Park at a cost of $15,000 to $20,000, Crystal said. The city will pay for that move because of a law that stipulates that the city absorb moving costs for tenants displaced by a redevelopment project. The city may eventually locate the badminton club at Brookside Park, she said.
The center will utilize and renovate 18,000 square feet of the 55-year-old building.
The new facility will house an exhibition gallery and a large workshop area. The Pasadena Art Workshops will have classroom space on the first floor, accessible to handicapped students, Watson said.
Several rooms will be used for drawing, painting, and pottery making. Three rooms will house the "Cultural Heritage Gallery," a program that allows students to study art objects borrowed from museums. Other space will be used for offices and meeting rooms.
The building will also house the Pasadena Art Alliance, a private, nonprofit organization that raises money for colleges, museums and other arts-related organizations, such as Pasadena Art Workshops; and Pasadena Art Services, a nonprofit group that helps manage and promote art programs in the area.
Fund Raising Started
It will cost $400,000 to $450,000 to renovate the armory, Watson said. The arts center board already has raised $154,000 and is campaigning to raise another $750,000 for the renovation and other projects, he said.
The workshops receive funds from the Pasadena Art Alliance, the California Arts Council, the Rowe and Gayle Geisen Trust, the Peggy Engl Trust and several business and community foundations as well as from private donations.
The center board also has requested $150,000 from Community Development Block Grants, federal funds available for local projects, Watson said. A ruling will be made in March, he said.