In 1972, Pasadena resident Rowe Giesen created the Gayle Gibbs Giesen Trust in honor of his wife, a passionate arts supporter who had recently passed. The couple had long been involved with the Pasadena Art Museum (PAM) and were especially passionate about its teaching program for children. The goal of the trust was to create lasting support for innovative children’s visual arts programs throughout Pasadena.
In 1974, Rowe revitalized a program called the Pasadena Arts Workshops, seeing it as an important vehicle for his trust. With the help of fellow arts patrons, he grew the Workshops into a dynamic program that fostered arts experiences for children across the city, especially those who lived in underserved neighborhoods. Rowe Giesen died in 1982, and one of his adult sons, Curtis Giesen, stepped in as Board Chair to ensure that the Trust – renamed the Rowe & Gayle Giesen Trust – continued making an impact throughout Pasadena. By 1989, the Workshops had formally evolved into what is now one of our city’s preeminent arts institutions, the Armory Center for the Arts.
Pasadena Community Foundation Steps In
Curtis Giesen and the Advisory Board oversaw the trust and its grantmaking for more than three decades. In 2013, the Giesen Board turned to Pasadena Community Foundation to administer the trust and its grantmaking. “That decision was a way to create a succession plan, to establish a legacy for the community, and to preserve the future mission of the Giesen Trust,” says Jennifer DeVoll, PCF President & CEO. “The Giesen Endowment honors the trust’s original purpose and establishes a permanent legacy for Gayle & Rowe Giesen in the community in which they raised their sons.” The Giesen Trust is administered by PCF as one of the Foundation’s Funds for Pasadena, and grant proposals are reviewed by an advisory committee of community members, arts and education professionals, and Giesen family members.
In 2022, in honor of the trust’s 50th anniversary, PCF produced a video about the legacy of the Giesen Trust. Watch it here. In it, son Curtis Giesen marveled that the trust continues to make such meaningful connections and impact throughout Pasadena. “Our parents would be amazed that it’s as strong and vibrant as it is after 50 years and that it continues to play such a unique role in the Pasadena arts community.”
“It takes a whole community to nurture and support an arts community and in Pasadena we’re very lucky to have people like Mr. & Mrs. Giesen, the Pasadena Community Foundation, all of our donors, the artists, and the institutions – we all make up this arts ecosystem.” Leslie Ito, Executive Director, Armory Center for the Arts