Part 3 — DCI Championship week extras: Pasadena culture, from fine art to flea markets

by Christine T. Hoeffner, DCW staff

This article originally appeared in the April 2007 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 1), mailed to subscribers on March 15.

Fans attending DCI Championships in Pasadena this August can take in all forms of art — from music to dance, fine art to flea market art, and architecture to rare books. We’ve already explored gifts from American entrepreneurs Getty and Wrigley (DCW February and March 2007 issues). Let’s explore Pasadena and meet some more local entrepreneurs and their art legacies.

But first, what is good art? The same question often arises in drum corps — what makes a good show? Pasadena’s Norton Simon saw communication as the essential quality of visual arts.

“[A]rt at its finest gives us a deep sense of history, tradition and the true potentialities of man’s creativity. In today’s world, where often scientific development is regarded as the highest goal and where the individual frequently feels alienated from himself and those around him, the role of art becomes increasingly important in keeping open the lines of communication.”

Norton Simon, 1972

Some say the Norton Simon Museum (above) houses the greatest painting collection in the Western United States. Norton Simon built a multi-industry company that included Hunt-Wesson Foods, Avis, Canada Dry Corporation, and Max Factor, among others. He also amassed one of the world’s great art collections in only 24 years — works ranging from the 14th to the 20th Century, from India to Europe, and from Botticelli to Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Degas, Picasso and Rodin, to name just a few.

Simon believed deeply in the power of art to communicate and his priceless collection is a gift to Pasadena visitors.

Just three blocks north of DCI’s Hilton headquarters, you will find the only museum in Southern California devoted exclusively to Asian and Pacific cultures, the Pacific Asia Museum.

The Chinese-style villa was built in 1924 by Grace Nicholson to house her successful curio store and galleries of Asian carvings and tiles. Her clientele called it The Treasure House — her business was on the first floor and her residence on the second floor. Today it houses the museum, which communicates well with concise educational narratives about culture and art from India, Thailand, Korea, Tibet, China, Japan and many other locales.

The beautiful interior courtyard with a koi pond, rock sculptures and seasonal plants offers a place for rest and contemplation. This tiny museum is a gem.

If you don’t get enough of the Rose Bowl during DCI Championships week, you’ll want to return Sunday morning, August 12, right after finals, for the Rose Bowl Flea Market. On the second Sunday of every month, rain or shine, present-day artists and entrepreneurs magically appear with everything from art to antiques, musical instruments to mosaics, and new to pre-owned items. And yes, “Antiques Roadshow” has been here.

Billed as the largest flea market in the West, you can watch for celebrities while checking out the merchandise. To avoid the crowds and heat, you can enter as early as 5:00 AM, but be prepared to pay a premium — otherwise the regular fee of $7.00 (cash only) starts at 9:00 AM.

This is truly a cultural experience, with over 2,000 vendors and a crowd of over 20,000 according to the organizers. A tip to DCI Championships vendors — if you want an extra day of sales, rent a spot at the flea market and enjoy thousands of potential customers. But vendor spaces can sell out quickly so make reservations early.

One of my favorite Pasadena spots is The Gamble House, the exquisite winter home of David and Mary Gamble (son of James Gamble, of Proctor & Gamble). Built in 1908 by brothers Charles and Henry Greene, this home offers possibly the greatest remaining masterpiece of the turn-of-the-20th-century Arts and Crafts movement in America.

Excellent docent tours showcase the rich interior of Burma teak with inlaid mahogany, plus the original furniture designed by the brothers. And yes, this was also Doc Brown’s home and time travel laboratory in the movie “Back to the Future!”

Only a block away is the Pasadena History Museum, including the 1905 mansion of Dr. Adalbert and artist Eva Scott Feynes. This home recalls the era of high living that once was the standard on Orange Grove Avenue. It later became the Finnish Embassy and gained fame as the mansion in the Peter Sellers movie, “Being There”.

Afternoon docent tours offer access to the interior and the Finnish Folk Art Museum.

In three cities adjacent to Pasadena, former ranch estates of local businessmen provide yet more cultural riches.

The Huntington in San Marino includes the Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. It was the home of Henry Huntington, who inherited much of his fortune from his uncle, Collis P. Huntington, one of The Big Four who created the transcontinental railroad.

Henry Huntington later created the Pacific Electric Railway (the “Red Cars”) in Los Angeles. When he moved to Los Angeles, he purchased a working ranch and transformed it into a magnificent estate that today offers fine art, rare books, magnificent gardens and architectural elegance, all in one location.

Comprehensive works of 18th and 19th Century British and French artists include “The Blue Boy” by Gainsborough and “Pinkie” by Lawrence. Huntington collected rare books and manuscripts, and his Library Collection includes a Gutenberg Bible on vellum (animal skin) from 1455, and a collection of the early editions of a number of literary masterpieces, including Shakespeare’s work.

The Huntington’s 120 acres of gardens invite strolls through a Japanese Garden with a drum bridge, furnished Japanese house and Bonsai Garden. Marvel at The Rose Garden and the history of the rose. Enjoy the comprehensive collection of camellias, the desert garden, ponds and much more.

Don’t miss the new Conservatory, Greenhouse and Children’s Garden, where adults have as much fun as the children. Under construction is the largest Chinese Garden outside of China, with a one-acre lake and bridges of carved granite. Still to be added are the pavilions and four seasonal gardens. The Huntington Mansion (1910) is under renovation until Fall 2008. Allow 4-plus hours for this location and enjoy lunch at the Tea House and Café.

Who but a man named Elias “Lucky” Baldwin would transform his Arcadia ranch into the Santa Anita Park Racetrack (seen in the movie “Seabiscuit”) and still have enough left for what is now the 127-acre Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden?

“Lucky” was a colorful character who made a fortune in mining investments, among other ventures. He also developed much of the woodland and gardens that can be viewed at the Arboretum today, along with the historic Santa Anita railroad depot, coach barn and his restored Queen Anne Cottage on a lake. You’ve seen the cottage if you watched “Fantasy Island” — it was the home of Mr. Roarke and Tattoo!

Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge was the estate of E. Manchester Boddy, the owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News. Today it offers 160 acres of woodland, gardens and chaparral, including a Japanese Garden and Tea Room and one of the largest collections of camellias in the world. The Boddy mansion is preserved here and is open to the public daily.

Vacations are good for the soul, but at this location, a two-week vacation will go by in a flash. So make sure you allow ample extra time in Pasadena when you come to DCI’s 2007 Championships!

Next time, car-free in Pasadena.