By Tom Williams
The Pasadena Museum of History is currently hosting a special exhibit – running until Aug. 13, 2017 – commemorating the famous Pasadena Chalk Festival, which this year celebrates its silver birthday anniversary. The Chalk Festival began outside the Pasadena City Hall in 1993, at the instigation of the Light Bringer Project, with relatively few attendees. Since then its growth has been boundless – in 2010 the Festival was awarded a Guinness World Record when it was crowned the world’s Largest Display of Chalk Pavement Art, a feat which attracted a crowd of over 100,000 visitors and 600 artists.
The current exhibit celebrates this momentous rise to fame in such a relatively short space of time. Of special interest are photographs of previous winners of the Festival’s “Best Drawing” Competition, actual copies of the drawings donated by the artists themselves, and beautifully detailed chalk drawings of many of Pasadena’s most famous attractions. A clever nod to the city’s important artistic past comes with the prominent chalk copies of Gainsborough’s famed “Blue Boy” and Lawrence’s “Pinkie” paintings, which overhang the exhibit and dominate the space as their inspirations do in the Huntington Library, San Marino.
Speaking of the Huntington, the concurrent exhibition currently on display at the Pasadena Museum of History is entitled “The Art of Getting There: Railroad Inspired Artistry.” As one might suspect, the museum’s exhibit celebrates the romantic beauty and technical innovation of railroads: a theme of specific importance with regards to the area’s historic development at the hands of the railroad magnate Henry Edwards Huntington. Nineteenth century to modern railway advertisements, track, lights and models are displayed, as well as stunning paintings, drawings and carvings of Southern California’s railway heritage.
As well as the exhibits within the museum, the Pasadena Museum of History is also home to the 1906 Fenyes Mansion, a Beaux-arts style masterpiece which boasts a several-thousand strong watercolor painting and decorative art collection. The mansion itself is still maintained in its traditional Edwardian style. Visitors to the Fenyes Mansion can also enjoy a tour of the Finnish Folk Art Museum located next door. In 1948, one of the members of the family that owned the mansion, Y.A. Paloheimo, was appointed as the first Finnish Consul for Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. He held this position for about 16 years, and the Fenyes Mansion remained a Consulate until 1964. To this day, both the American and Finnish flags are flown in front of the mansion.
Tickets to the Museum exhibits are $7, and tickets including guided tours of the Fenyes Mansion and Finnish Folk Art Museum are $15.