The South Pasadena Arts Council – or more aptly known by their acronym ‘SPARC’ – has been the driving non-profit organization for the arts in South Pasadena for more than a decade.
From the utilization and reimagining of both City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce as galleries to showcase the gamut of heavyweight to local artists, SPARC has truly made its mark here in South Pasadena.
Being a labor of love – coming from a pure desire to display the abundance of culture and design present in town – they have successfully blended local and neighboring artists, local businesses, city hall, local government, and the community.
After years of involvement and proliferation of the arts, it seemed the natural progression was to begin an official awards ceremony, The SPARC’tacular.
Promoted as a crossroads of fashion, art, and architecture, the ceremony defies labels while retaining the pomp and circumstance of a formalized awards ceremony. Fitting then, to have had this year’s location be the stylish, post-modern home of Jamie and Anne-Elisabeth Sobieski.
Attendees were greeted by a gallery of photo stand ins and Griffins of Kinsale, with hand-crafted cocktails and mocktails expertly mixed. Making one’s way through the breezeway, a photo corner with ornate hats and an explosive backdrop designed by Jeannie Joe, provided a unique moment to pose and run with the theme of the evening, “People Who Look Like Art”.
An audible accompaniment was the elegant sounds of Michaela Keating with her ‘String Along Trio’, paired with the graceful stylings of ballet dancers.
Dotted across the compound were art instillations designed and curated by fashion Designer, Candice Cuoco of ‘Project Runway’ fame, sculptures by Guillermo Bert , host Anne-Elisabeth Sobieski’s open studio, and photography by Lorraine Triolo.
Refreshments were of course aplenty, with a beautiful edible display – or grazing table – provided by Girl Friday, and an open bar stocked with a selection of beers and wines manned by SPARC volunteers.
A raffle and silent auction were also part of the program, with prizes including a 6-person dinner at the local fire station, and a private party at the Moonlight Roller Rink.
But of course, the at the center of it all was the heartfelt awards ceremony which recognized several members of the community who have made significant contributions to the arts. Each were given one-of-a-kind, handmade trophies designed by sculptor Robert Burgert.
Before the awards were presented, Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian gave a speech promulgating the importance of the arts and dubbing SPARC Founder, Lissa Reynolds as the “Mayor of the Arts” in South Pasadena.
Along with the Mayor Khubesrian, Representatives from Senator Anthony Portantino’s office as well as Assemblymember Chris Holden’s were also in attendance to present certificates of Achievement to the recipients and to SPARC itself.
Among those who were recognized were:
South Pasadena High School senior Adam Yang (Violinist) and SPHS junior Yoojin Lee (Cellist) for Student Artistic Achievement in the Arts, introduced by SPHS Band Director, Howard Crawford
Christian L. Schrader, an Emmy Award-Winning audio engineer/ musician for Artistic Achievement, introduced by Actor, James Reynolds
South Pasadena’s Bianca Richards, a board member of Red Hen Press, and the Library Board of Trustees for Artistic Support, introduced by Poet Laureate, Ron Koertge.
Margo Newman, and Emmy Award-Winning documentarian Film and Television Director/ Producer for Artistic Inspiration, introduced by SPARC Founder, Lissa Reynolds
And a special surprise Artistic Achievement Award was presented to Lissa Reynolds by her husband, James Reynolds, to a rousing applause.
Of those who were given official commendation during the evening was none other than SouthPasadenan News Editor, Bill Glazier, who offers his gratitude and perspective to those at SPARC and to the city of South Pasadena.
A Thank You from Editor Bill Glazier
Thank you to South Pasadena Arts Council founder, Lissa Reynolds, current president Sandy Kitto, and the organization’s board and membership for the high honor. Ten years after its launch, SPARC and the Arts in the city are alive and well.
Lissa Reynolds wasn’t expecting much of a crowd, maybe 25 people tops, but when they kept coming through the door, she figured this just might work.
Ten years ago a new organization calling itself the South Pasadena Arts Council, or SPARC for short, was just gaining traction in town.
Today, it’s thriving.
The first meeting took place inside the Fremont Centre Theatre where Lissa Reynolds, an actress and active community member who co-owns the venue with her husband, Emmy-Award winning actor James Reynolds, greeted the guests.
With its creation, her vision was to place a bigger spotlight on the arts in South Pasadena, and little did she know that the city’s appetite for it was more than she anticipated that morning as 75 community members poured into the theater to hear Reynold’s creative vision for the future.
“They just kept coming in,” she remembers, laughing at the thought today. “Looking back, it was at a time when the economy was really bad. Teachers were getting pink slips at the schools, and art programs were the first to go – those in drama and music. The expendable classes always seem to be the arts, and I disagree with that way of thinking. I know what the arts meant to me growing up as a kid, giving me a lot of confidence. The arts are something that are so inclusive. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, what country you are from. You can always appreciate dance, music and art. It is our commonality as human beings.”
When faced with making cutbacks at schools, Reynolds argues the arts should be at the top of the list in terms of importance, not the bottom.
It was part of that motivation that pushed her to create SPARC, which has picked up nothing but steam through the years, and is the cornerstone behind an influx of art-influenced activities that South Pasadenans seemingly have found to their liking. Reynolds, along with dozens of volunteers who have followed her down the same path, continue to develop programs, create projects and collaborate with other organizations in the community to produce cultural events, as outlined on SPARC’s website. The organization looks to engage the public, make the arts approachable and relevant, exemplify professionalism and ethics, and empower and support artists.
In addition, SPARC’s basic belief is that the arts should spark creativity and innovation, invigorate the economy and local business, and lead to higher social and health benefits.
Humbled, I was among those on the receiving end of special SPARC’tacular Award, presented to individuals who embody SPARC’s mission to ““Ignite Creativity & Illuminate the Arts.”
While I’m honored, it was pointed out by my presenter, Steve Lawrence, publisher of the SouthPasadenan.com News, I’m not comfortable being in the limelight, favoring to cover an event rather than being at the center of it.
Thankfully others, more deserving I’m sure, were recognized as well, all walking off with skillfully created SPARC’tacular Awards designed by sculptor Robert Burgert.
I personally want to thank Reynolds, current SPARC President Sandy Kitto and the organization’s board and membership for recognizing me, and the others. I’m extremely grateful.
While the road has been long to get where SPARC is today, Reynolds says she has enjoyed the self-described “hard journey” every step of the way.
“I remember people telling me, ‘this won’t happen. You can’t have an arts council in South Pasadena,’” she recalled of SPARC’s early beginning.
Reynolds proved the naysayers wrong, prompting the energetic woman to add, “And, I just love it!”