How Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts is Transforming Lives

The Armory Center for the Arts makes art accessible.
Photos by Mario Boucher

The Armory Center for the Arts transforms lives through exhibits and studio programs, offering people of all ages an avenue to experience contemporary art.

“The Armory Center is dedicated to helping people who may not have access to art,” says Jon Lapointe, director of communications. “We provide quality art experiences for many school classes that come to the center, and we also go on the road and visit places like juvenile detention facilities and senior centers. Art can also inform important issues like social injustice.”

The center’s exhibit highlights the work of Tanya Aguiñiga, a Los Angeles-based artist who uses art to illuminate immigration and transnational issues. Extensive renovations beginning in 1999 left a giant hole in the ground near the center’s entrance. What emerged was Michael C. McMillen’s “Motel Under the World” exhibit, which featured old equipment like a typewriter and TV set complete with “rabbit ears” antenna.

Photos by Mario Boucher

“Art can be found in unexpected places,” says Lapointe. “This exhibit is proof that art is open to interpretation and that you can find something new, conceptually and quite literally. We try to get this across to kids because art is about ideas and possibilities.”
About 4,500 students benefit from a school program where they receive in-class instruction and engage in discussions after visiting the main gallery. The program combines hands-on experimentation with visual arts integrated lessons, helping students understand science concepts.

Founded in 1989 and housed in a renovated 1930s National Guard Armory, the non-profit center uses art to transform local lives regardless of race, ethnicity, and social and economic background. The exhibits are always free and accessible to anyone, and the Armory Center awards more than $140,000 in scholarships every year. Children and adults can take art classes in letterpress, ceramics, collage and assemblage, drawing, painting, and watercolor illustration, among others.

“They are all tools that people can use, whether traditional or digital, to create art,” says Lapointe.

At press time, the Armory Center is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Armory Center for the Arts
145 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena

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