Community voices concerns over city hall art gallery leadership changes

Story by Noah Kuhn
Staff Writer

Photo by Katelyn Hernandez
Staff Photographer

Community members spoke at the South Pasadena city council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 2, after the city art commission’s decision to contract for city art services outside of South Pasadena. Art services outside of South Pasadena will now be in charge of the city hall’s monthly art galleries under the new contract instead of the South Pasadena Art Council (SPARC).

The recently formed city art commission notified the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC) that the contract to curate the city hall art galleries was being outsourced to a business in Encino. The commission’s decision surprised and frustrated Lissa Reynolds, founder of SPARC, as she didn’t believe it considered community input or impact.

“We’ve reached out to [the arts commission], they haven’t reached out to us… I don’t think they understand our history [with South Pasadena] so for them to make the decision, it didn’t seem like it was an even [decision],” Reynolds said. “When SPARC had the contract, the money we got went back into art activities into the community. The money they [the Encino curator] will get from the contract is not going to go back into the city.”

Community members created SPARC ten years ago to strengthen the role of art in South Pasadena at a time when it was being depleted due to the recession.

“When there’s not enough money [people] always think the arts aren’t that important,” Reynolds said. “I disagree. I think the arts are very important. They make us human. Art is how we communicate with other people of races, other languages, other geography, there’s no geography in art. It brings us together as human beings.”

Reynolds brought her passion for the arts into the establishment of the “windows of art” galleries in South Pasadena city hall. However, the city plans to give this same exhibit space to outside hands. 

South Pasadena Public Information Officer John Pope believes that the Arts Commission made a fair decision in changing leadership of the city hall installations.

“The contract with SPARC was not terminated, it expired and was opened for competitive bids,” Pope said. “There was general agreement that the Arts Commission was the appropriate body to evaluate and make decisions about the direction of the City Art Gallery. Unless overturned by the Council, the Commission’s decision will stand.”

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