Professor Emeritus Suzanne Bravender, former Divison Dean Linda Malm, and State Senator Jack Scott, a former president of Pasadena City Collete, at the gallery reception commemorating 20 years of the Artist-in-Residence program, January 12, 2006.
DR. LINDA MALM, Former Dean, Visual Arts and Media Studies Divison
Faculty at Pasadena City College have always welcomed visiting artists into their classrooms, because such events create fresh opportunities to dialogue and broaden student perspectives. Visiting artists often introduce new techniques, but perhaps more importantly, they share the many challenges involved in the making of art.
For many years prior to the establishment of the Artist-in- Residence program, the ceramics area in the Visual Arts Division supported an artist in residence with its funds from the biannual student ceramic sale. The year before the first official Artist-in-Residence program began, the studio area had a visiting artist who donated a painting to the school. There has always been a tradition of artist talks and demonstrations, some relating to shows in our campus gallery. The Artist-in-Residence program we now celebrate brought all these different traditions together and provided form and continuity in order to continue those traditions.
The new, formal Artist-in-Residence program had an advisory, multi-area, art faculty committee that determined the choice of artists and activities, and a dean who facilitated the event. As the founding administrator, I put the pieces together. If faculty nominated a particular artist, I negotiated with the artist and then planned events and solved problems to make the many scheduled activities happen. The events were developed and broadly advertised. Through an art poster, open-studio observation times, a public lecture by the artist, and a coordinated gallery opening and several receptions, the Artist-in-Residence program served to reach out to the entire college and surrounding community. The donation of a work was formalized, and each piece was put on permanent exhibition in the Shatford Library or the Boone Sculpture Garden.
Why would a new administrator, dealing with all the difficulties that position implies, ever undertake such a mammoth "voluntary" effort? Simply put, it was a good thing for art at the college. These activities directly benefited interested students and faculty. But, I also understood that many of the most time-consuming elements were necessary in order to publicly establish the value of the program. Our society does not nurture artists very well, and as a result, public institutions have difficulty defending strong support for art education. A few years of professionally presented programs, successful publicity, broad involvement, and the gift of art helped create a commitment from the college that assured the program would continue.
I did what was necessary to accomplish this goal. I had never had to be so publicly and privately persuasive. I had never negotiated with artists or given formal speeches in auditoriums filled with people. I had never managed such an intense series of activities, and I had never done fundraising. But, I was driven by the realization that the event mattered to PCC faculty and students. I also personally cared that those at my community college should have access to the advantages and experiences that elite institutions provide in order to further inspire and complement teaching and art making. Also, I was committed to having art present everywhere. Much of my professional life in education was dedicated to such equity issues. My work was an expression of that passion. Nothing has given me more pleasure than to see how the program has continued and how its fundamental core remains vibrant.
One of my first press interviews resulted in an Edmund Newton article in the Los Angeles Times (May 3, 1990). He observed, "On the busy Pasadena campus, the yearly Artist-in-Residence program has become the art world equivalent of a 'star turn' - like Katherine Hepburn performing a cameo role in an ensemble production or Pavarotti stepping out of the audience to sing a brief aria." I quote this passage because my particular joy is to see how the artists associated with the program are now part of a growing cast.
Despite the loss of a donor in recent years, which effectively halved the budget, the program has been resilient. The new constraints reduced the amount that could be offered to the artist and resulted in the selection of more mid-career participants who are based more locally. Faculty have made astute selections. The artists who have been invited to take part in the program have strong records of national and international experience and exhibitions. The more local connection has resulted in a considerable increase in audience participation for the Artist-in-Residence program. It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge former colleagues and new faculty on this great success.