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Spring Arts Guide to Pasadena

February 24, 2020

| Posted in Arts & Culture

This spring, Pasadena’s entertainment roster blooms with vibrant events, exciting exhibitions and illuminating tours. The Rose Bowl will play host to star-studded concerts, parties and culinary experiences. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens welcomes new works by notable L.A. contemporary artists as part of the Hammer Museum’s biennial Made In L.A. Writer-Actress Holland Taylor graces the stage of Pasadena Playhouse in the L.A. premiere of her play, Ann. That’s just a sampling of the many hot tickets beckoning cultural adventures to our dynamic city in coming months. Read on for more info about what’s happening in Pasadena this spring.

Pasadena International Film Festival

More than 100 film screenings will take place over the nine-day Pasadena International Film Festival March 12-19. Filmmakers and Hollywood heavy-hitters will also captivate audiences with their entertainment industry insights shared during panel discussions held at Vroman’s bookstore. The festival’s grand finale is a Great Gatsby Gala & Awards Ceremony. 

ArtNight Pasadena Returns

Twice a year, Pasadena’s most prominent museums and cultural institutions open their doors for ArtNight Pasadena. The spring edition of the popular free event put on by the City of Pasadena is set for Friday, March 13th from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Tens of thousands will come out to see exhibitions and special programming offered at more than a dozen venues around town, such as the Armory Center for the Arts, ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena Museum of History and Kidspace Children’s Museum. Complimentary shuttles running on a loop make venue hopping easy-breezy.

Pasadena Heritage’s Spring Home Tour

Homes designed by Wallace Neff, an “Architect to the Stars,” will be showcased during the Spring Home Tour March 29th. Pasadena Heritage docents will be on hand to lead tours of homes created for Hollywood royalty, offering opportunities to see inside select architectural masterpieces. The tour is inspired by a recently published volume of Neff’s work sourced from early issues of Architectural Digest, as part of the series Master Architects of Southern California 1920-1940

The Rose Bowl Stadium Line-Up

L.A.’s top chefs bring their best culinary game to the Rose Bowl field April 5th for Masters of Taste. The benefit for Union Station Homeless Services serves up endless eats and drinks prepared by popular restaurants, craft breweries, cocktail bars and regional wineries.

The Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation hosts the star-studded Party of the Century on April 18th. The Roaring 20’s themed evening—held right on the turf—kicks off the Rose Bowl’s Centennial celebrations leading up to 2022. Proceeds go towards protecting, preserving and enhancing the iconic community treasure.

K-Pop sensation BTS and their MAP OF THE WORLD tour descends upon Rose Bowl Stadium with two consecutive shows May 2nd and 3rd.Justin Bieber’s CHANGES tour will also attract thousands of fans to Pasadena May 29th. Bieber will be joined by guest artists Kehlani and Jaden Smith. 

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens plays host to “Made in L.A. 2020: a version” June 7th through August 30th. This will be the fifth iteration of The Hammer Museum’s biennial exhibition, which highlights the practices of artists working throughout greater L.A. while creating a cross-town conversation between the two venues. Expect to see long-standing research projects alongside newly commissioned works by a mix of artists, writers, filmmakers and performers. Subtitled “a version,” the exhibition will highlight conceptual threads that connect the artists’ works: entertainment both as a subject and a material; the genre and aesthetic of horror in contemporary practices; and the film and theater convention of the fourth wall, a device through which fiction is built and dismantled.

Another reason to visit The Huntington this spring? The Chinese Garden will reopen after a massive expansion, growing from its original 3.5-acres to 12 acres. New features include a Stargazing Tower and an exhibition complex with a traditional scholar’s studio and an art gallery for changing displays. The inaugural exhibition, “A Garden of Words: The Calligraphy of Liu Fang Yuan,” is scheduled to open May 30th

On Stage at Pasadena Playhouse

Emmy Award-winner Holland Taylor (The PracticeLegally Blonde and Two and a Half Men) steps into the shoes of Texas Governor Ann Richards for Ann, showing at the Pasadena Playhouse May 27th through June 28st. Holland researched and wrote the play, which is neither partisan nor political, but rather an uplifting tribute to the courageous leader, dedicated mother, loving grandmother and legendary personality. After playing throughout Texas to sold-out audiences, Ann went on to win critical acclaim in Chicago, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and on Broadway at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. The New York Times described her performance as “frank, funny and warm.”

Location Tours for Film & TV Fans

My Valley Pass and Jared On Location will offer their fan favorite Pasadena TV and Film Driving Tour of Pasadena’s most iconic filming locations on March 28th. The three-hour ticketed tour led by film location expert and pop culture guru, Jared Cowan, features locations from productions like Back To The FutureBeverly Hills 90210, Legally Blonde, Mad Men, Catch Me If You Can, Batman, Indiana Jones, Transformers and La La Land. 

On May 31st, Jared will lead a Film Tour & Tea at the Langham Huntington. This version entails a walking tour of the classic Pasadena hotel and its grounds as Jared recounts the many films and television shows that used the hotel as a backdrop over the past century. From Saving Mr. Banks to American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, there’s something for everyone on this very special tour of one of L.A.’s most magnificent filming locations. The tour wraps up in The Langham Huntington, Pasadena’s Lobby Lounge with a “Cream Tea” service that’s included in the tour’s $60 ticket price.

Norton Simon Museum


The Norton Simon Museum will debut some highly anticipated art exhibitions this spring.The Expressive Body: Memory, Devotion, Desire (1400–1750) opens April 17 th and runs through August 31st.  The exhibition will feature more than 60 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures from the museum’s collections that, together, reveal the historically affective power of the human form to connect viewers to the richness of human experience. 

May 15th brings Unseen Picasso, a selection of innovative, rarely seen prints created throughout the artist’s prodigious career, that will be on display through October 19th. For nearly all of his career, Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) engaged in printmaking with gusto and freedom from tradition. His prodigious facility in etching, lithography and linocut led him to deconstruct and reinvent conventional practices, and this exhibition demonstrates how Picasso favored the possibility of discovery over technical perfection.

The Norton Simon’s annual Garden Party, to be held the evening of June 27th, promises to be a delightful, social affair. Set in the gorgeous Sculpture Garden inspired by Monet’s Giverny, the buzzy party features live music, art-making and a special menu in the café. 

USC Pacific Asia Museum

Oscar Oiwa: Dreams of a Sleeping World will remain on display through April 26th. Through the immersive exhibition, Oiwa invites visitors to enter his 360° dreamscape dome. In addition to the new immersive space, a dynamic installation of Oiwa’s large scale paintings sheds light on his surrealist and imaginative dreamscapes.

We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles opens March 13th and runs through June 14th. The special exhibition brings attention to the dynamic voices in the diverse metropolis that is Los Angeles, ultimately extending viewers’ knowledge and understanding of what constitutes the Asia Pacific region. The works of seven female contemporary artists of diverse Asian Pacific heritages—all living and working in L.A.—will be featured. The artists draw from their lives and family histories to create compelling works of art that invite viewers to think about their own experiences and heritage. 

Explore our Calendar of Events for a comprehensive list of more spring events and exhibitions.

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