Pasadena Museum of California Art presents the breadth of California art and design through exhibitions that explore the cultural dynamics and influences that are unique to California.


On June 13, 2018, at a PMCA Board meeting, Chairman Jim Crawford recommended that the museum close after the current exhibitions end on October 7, 2018. The vote was made final on June 18, 2018 and the following day, Executive Director Susana Smith Bautista informed the museum staff and made the public announcement.



“It has been sixteen years since the PMCA first opened its doors and invited you to enjoy the art and culture created in California. The inspiration for this museum came from the Oltmans, who wanted to share their love of art with the community, and probably had no idea what they were getting into. They commissioned the architectural firm of MDA Johnson Favaro to design the building, and in 2001 hired the first director, Wesley Jessup. They, along with the first board, established our mission.  As all of us who live in California have experienced, the intensity of the natural light, the splendor of the landscape and the diversity of our culture have inspired countless generations of California artists. It is this spirit that the PMCA sought to capture, showcasing works ranging from our treasured plein-air masters to modern icons to the next generation of artists and designers.

On that first night, the museum exhibited ON Ramps: Transitional Moments in California Art. The show featured a broad spectrum from the early landscapes and photographs to the light and space minimalist movement of the 1960’s. A great beginning showcasing the wide range of California’s creativity. My wife Susan and I knew nothing about the museum or the Oltmans, but after seeing the show felt like this was an important new venue, one that didn’t focus on a particular style, but rather on how a place can inspire art through the ages.

Since then, the PMCA has had the privilege of exhibiting such artists as Maynard Dixon, Edgar Payne, E Charlton Fortune, Franz Bischoff and Millard Sheets. There were exhibitions of the works of Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Claire Faulkensten, Betye, Lezley and Alison Saar, Sister Corita Kent, and Judy Chicago to name just a few.

The museum held Design Biennials in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2010, The show LA RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles from 1945-1980 from Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy our contribution to the first Pacific Standard Time exhibition around the city. In keeping with our independent spirit, it featured figurative work.

The PMCA also used the building as an artwork. Susan Stilton wrapped the building in 2007, and RETNA covered the building with graffiti like markings in 2011 as part of our Street Art exhibition.There have also been exhibitions of local artists Kenton Nelson, Alex Kritselis, California Art Club exhibitions in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011, and a PCC student exhibition in 2008.

Since 2004, the PMCA served every 4th grader in Pasadena Unified School District through our early participation in the district’s program, My Masterpieces, as they learned about state history through our art exhibitions. We have also published important exhibition catalogues, served thousands and thousands of visitors from Pasadena, the Los Angeles area, and over the years received critical recognition from the art press.

I can’t let this moment go by without reflecting on a few of the wonderful experiences that we have had. The diversity of the art that is exhibited is oftentimes reflected in our visitors, a sort  of bonus to the typical sterile museum experience. My favorite moments here were when the great diversity of the arts community would descend for an opening such as opening night for the Millard Sheets and the LA River show: the older and younger generations meeting in our small entranceway, silently acknowledging a common love for the arts. I am a huge fan of Richard Diebenkorn, and there were a few small sketches of the view out of a bedroom window that elegantly showed the transformation from the literal to abstract that were very moving.

This was all possible because of our very dedicated staff who did the work of a much larger institution, a board that wanted to keep going as long as possible and all of you. I want to personally thank the board and the Oltmans, for supporting the final months of this exhibition, and Susana and her staff for guiding us through the closure. Over the last few months Susana has worked very hard to maintain the quality of your experience at the museum. I am most grateful that she has also found homes for many of the exhibitions that the PMCA was planning.

Remember now more than ever your commitment to the arts is important.”

-PMCA BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Julie Gutierrez, Reed Halladay, Gina Knox, Joyce Leddy, Jen Olson, Arlene Oltman, Robert Oltman, Patsy Pinney, Peter Richman, Earlene Seymour, Clarissa Weirick, Christopher Wilson

About the PMCA

The mission of the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is to present the breadth of California art and design through exhibitions that explore the cultural dynamics and influences that are unique to California. Informed by the state’s rich mixture of cultures and inspired by its impressive geography, California art has long been defined by a spirit of freedom and experimentation. PMCA exhibitions and educational programs explore the ways California’s distinct perspectives and customs have shaped and defined art in all media.

Join the mailing list!

Stay in the loop:


Pasadena Museum of California Art
490 East Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 568-3665