Funding for the arts might be under the gun in most American communities, but Armory Center for the Arts is fighting to make sure that isn’t the case in Pasadena.
The Armory will host “Off the Wall” — the Armory’s Biennial Art Auction & Gala — on Saturday, April 22, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at its facility, located at 145 N. Raymond Ave. in Pasadena.
Scott Ward, the Armory’s executive director, said the auction and gala serve the purpose of educating the public about the work the Armory does in the area of visual arts.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate the Armory,” he said. “It’s an essential gathering of our friends. It’s wonderfully helpful and gives support for our work. It’s a surprisingly fun night.”
The Armory hopes to raise about $200,000, with the funds benefitting art exhibitions and education programs.
“It is unrestricted income, which is fabulous,” Ward said. “It expresses a personal endorsement from community members. It builds community and it allows us to bring services to a community that wouldn’t have visual arts in their neighborhood, inside their lives.”
Formed in 1989, the Armory has always assumed the role of making the community better and brighter through the education and access of visual art, according to Jon Lapointe, director of communications.
“Our mission has always been to transform lives and communities through the power of art,” he said. “We’ve always had contemporary art exhibitions, meaning artists who are alive, vibrant, working and who are on the leading edge of moving the cultural dialogue forward.”
Much of what the Armory does is offer on-site, tuition-based community art programs for children as young as 18 months through adulthood, with many of its more popular programs being painting, drawing and ceramics, and other programs, including developing film in a darkroom and working with a letter press studio.
Lapointe added that the Armory also leaves its facility to do work at community locations.
“We do classes on-site,” said Lapointe, who notes that classes take place during the day and on Saturday. “That also branched out to doing classes throughout the community in parks and recreation centers. We’re actually working with kids in detention centers. It’s life-changing stuff.”
He also said the Armory’s philosophy is unique in the way it uses the work and knowledge of local artists in an effort to educate the community.
“We have teaching, working artists who work with members of the community to share their craft,” Lapointe said. “It’s very much like an art school. You go to an art school not to learn how to do a task, but to study and mentor people.”
Lapointe said one of the challenges the Armory continually faces is its relative anonymity — the fact that many do not know about the work it is continually doing.
“Eighty percent of our education programs happen outside in the community and is unseen,” he said. “People just don’t realize the volume of what we do.”
Susan Delaney, an Armory board member and graphic designer, is one of the gala’s co-chairs. She said the community would not be as much fun without the work that is done by the Armory.
“It would be a really bleak place,” Delaney said. “It does so much great work with children, with people of need, with teachers. It’s kind of an amazing place. It provides a service a lot of people don’t think is important, but if you’re emerged in the arts it makes a big difference in the life of a child.”
Her fellow gala co-chair, local restaurateur Gale Kohl, said the event is a lot of fun with a lot of culture.
“It’s great world-class art,” Kohl said. “We’ve been doing this for quite a few years.”
And why does a center for the arts have the word “armory” in it? The organization is headquartered in a former California National Guard armory that dates back to the 1930s.
The gala will be featuring food from nearly 20 local restaurants and the auction will feature works from 80 renowned artists, Lapointe added.
Tickets are $150 each and will be held at the door. For more information or to donate to the Armory, call (626) 792-5101, ext. 118, or visit armoryarts.org/auction.