Pasadena Community Foundation Steps Up for the Arts

Kristin Naran and Gwen Robertson, pictured in July 2021, of Foothill Creative Arts Group, which received a PCF Performing & Visual Arts Recovery Grant.

In June 2021, PCF announced it would award $100,000 in unrestricted funding for the Performing & Visual Arts Recovery Grant Program. Throughout the pandemic, PCF proactively reached out to Pasadena’s nonprofit agencies to learn how they were faring. The news from local arts leaders was dire: Their organizations were in precarious financial and operational positions, largely because the experiential and in-person nature of the arts led to protracted closures.

Arts & Culture is one of PCF’s priority areas of interest. While PCF focused much of its grant making in 2020 around health, human services, and education, the Foundation continued to prioritize the arts as much as possible: PCF contributed $50,000 to support the City of Pasadena’s emergency Art & Culture Relief Grant Program and awarded an additional $45,000 in grants through the Giesen Trust, a component fund of PCF.

In 2021, local arts leaders have continued to advocate for program support. This summer, 14 Pasadena-area arts organizations learned that they would benefit from PCF’s unique, one-time grant opportunity.

Foothill Creative Arts Group

Foothill Creative Arts Group (CAG) is one of PCF’s Arts Recovery grantees. PCF staff visited the Sierra Madre location in late July to hear from Executive Director Kristin Naran and Assistant Director of Operations Gwen Robertson how CAG has weathered the pandemic and what the grant means to the organization.

Founded in 1960, Creative Arts Group (CAG) is a nonprofit art center where children and adults can experience the joy of creating art and appreciate the artistic talents of others. As the landscape continuously shifted during the last 18 months, “we will work it out” became the center’s modus operandi, as staff had to make near-constant and nimble decisions. CAG converted all classes to an online format by April of 2020 and subsequently held nine shortened sessions in 2020 to cope with the uncertainty; a normal year would have had only four. They repurposed the ImaginArt Program for Sierra Madre Elementary students, creating take-home clay kits that still maintained the California Common Core standards. A new accounting system was created to take care of fluid class registrations, cancellations, credits, and refunds.

Silver Linings Despite the Hardship

Silver linings at CAG were abundant, however. The ceramics program is one of its most popular, and prior to the pandemic, the studio was in a basement full of pottery wheels, kilns, workstations, and storage. The center was able to permit and covert their driveway into an outdoor studio and added lighting, misters, and heaters to weather the elements. Gwen lights up remembering what happened next. “In August 2020, when we started programming outdoors for the first time, the kids’ program went crazy. Parents loved finally having a place for their kids to socialize, a creative outlet. We became a real sanctuary for children. The outdoor space has been so successful and really kept us going.”

CAG was able to create an outdoor ceramics studio in the summer of 2020 to maintain programming. Families were thrilled to have a place to gather and make art during the long pandemic.

Kristin points to the show of force from the community, which turned out in record ways to support CAG’s fundraisers and the annual Scarecrow Festival. She also remembers that college interns, suddenly home from school, volunteered to use their wide-ranging skills to keep classes going or to help with operations. “We relied on a deep set of relationships to survive,” she says.

Grant Will Support Vital Employee

CAG will use the Arts Recovery funds to maintain their valued Lab Technician, a position that is highly specialized and needs considerable training. Considered the heart of the ceramics studio, the Lab Tech has to operate and maintain all the equipment, mix glazes, order supplies, and monitor safety. “We greatly appreciate the support to maintain our employees and pay them their value,” says Kristin.

The two leaders are grateful that some sense of normalcy is beginning to return and that the community stuck with center and helped keep it open. “At the heart of CAG is a community that loves art, values making friends here, and our welcoming space,” says Gwen. Kristin concurs: “We got to witness a renewed appreciation for one another. Our students have been so grateful to be back together, back with their people.”

Recipients of PCF’s Performing & Visual Arts Recovery Grant 
  • A Noise Within
  • Armory Center for the Arts
  • Boston Court Pasadena
  • Foothill Creative Arts Group
  • Light Bringer Project
  • Lineage Dance Co.
  • Los Angeles Children’s Chorus
  • Pasadena Community Orchestra
  • Pasadena Conservatory of Music
  • Pasadena Dance Theater
  • Pasadena Master Chorale
  • Pasadena Playhouse
  • Side Street Projects