Dr. Adalbert and Eva Fenyes’s 1906 Beaux-Arts mansion served as a haven and gathering place for local musicians, artists, writers, and scientists for decades. In 1970, in an effort to ensure this salon atmosphere would live on, their descendants transferred the family mansion, its gardens, and scores of original furnishings and artwork to the Pasadena Museum of History. Today, the more than 85-year-old museum fills the Fenyes Estate with tours, exhibits, and a range of events as part of its mission to preserve and display Pasadena's history and culture.
Docents lead tours through the rooms of the National and California Historic Landmark mansion, which once served as the Finnish Consulate. (Nearby, the Finnish Folk Art Museum resides in the estate’s former sauna and guesthouse.) The history experts also conduct regular spotlight tours of specific collections that embody local high-society life at the turn of the 20th century.
In the History Center Galleries, the staff curates rotating exhibits on local history. Outside, visitors can wander the verdant landscaped gardens that separate the History Center Galleries from the Finnish Folk Art Museum and prevent staff members from reaching each other with volleys of water balloons.
What was once the personal collection of Pasadena residents Bob and Arlene Oltman is now a three-story institution with more than 10,000 square feet of gallery space. The Pasadena Museum of California Art features art, architecture, and design from all over the state and aims to explore cultural issues that are unique to California.
Petroleum mogul Dr. Armand Hammer clung to life just long enough to see The Hammer Museum make its debut in 1990, passing away three weeks later. Without the founder’s support, construction screeched to a halt and spaces sat in varying states of completion. But not for long. The powers that be at UCLA saw Hammer’s vision, and took control of the abandoned museum in 1994. They restored it to its former glory by importing the university’s own collections and staff. Today, The Hammer’s unique compendium of works still hints at the unlikely collaboration that bore the museum all those years ago. Its stockpile of masterpieces explores the modern-day in a contemporary collection of mostly drawings and photographs. Richard Hawkins’ disembodied zombie george green might best embody current artistic trends; his expressionless eyes stare from a yellow backdrop, the handiwork of an undead inkjet printer. Meanwhile, the Armand Hammer Collection, left behind by the museum’s namesake, balances george and other outlandish works with 19th-century art by Degas, Cézanne, and van Gogh. It’s virtually impossible to predict whether rotating exhibits will land in classic or contemporary camps. They range from performance art installations—Floor of the Forest depicts two dancers moving through hanging jumbles of used clothing and ropes—to sculptures, paintings, and drawings. To cultivate better artistic understanding, the Hammer Museum hosts events including lunchtime art talks, tours, and screenings.
A giant forest stretches across most of California?but its impossible to hike there. Submerged just off of the state's rocky coast, large kelp forests make a home to diverse animal and plant life. Moray eels, leopard sharks, and giant sea bass all swim beneath the water, while sea otters splash at the surface. That's just one of the habitats on display inside the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
The 21,000-square-foot aquarium showcases Southern California's rich marine life, making it the largest aquarium of its kind in the world. The Susanne Lawrenz-Miller Exhibit Hall charts a journey through different regions, from the open ocean, to the mudflats, to the sandy shores. Other areas present a more immersive experience. The tide pool lets visitors touch a starfish, while the exploration center lets them crawl into a tunnel, where they find themselves surrounded by octopuses, sting rays, and other creatures that have signed contracts to make public appearances.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium wants to keep all of these creatures around for the long term. Case and point: the aquarium houses a research library and an aquatic nursery, where the team raises young sea animals and trains young scientists.
In the late 1980s, the Simon Wiesenthal Center gathered top museum leaders and representatives to discuss new ways of teaching tolerance to a younger generation. Since 1993, the Museum of Tolerance has encouraged visitors to contemplate the effects of intolerance with interactive exhibits on the Holocaust as well as present-day discrimination. The guided, 70-minute sound-and-light presentation at the Holocaust exhibit recreates Nazi-occupied Europe, and the Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves exhibit showcases diversity through the personal histories of several American celebrities, including Billy Crystal and Carlos Santana. Some of the museum's features also examine more recent issues, such as the Tolerancenter, which highlights the struggles of the civil-rights movement and enlightens museum goers on contemporary human-rights violations. The museum also hosts special exhibitions, live testimonies from Holocaust survivors, and youth programs, such as anti-bullying workshops.
Since its inception in 1979, The Museum of Contemporary Art has devoted itself to post-1940 artwork, a focus that sets it apart from all other Los Angeles museums. Its permanent collection harbors more than 5,000 art objects, encompassing media from video installations and documentary photography to pop art. Works from renowned artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Diane Arbus share gallery space with pieces from up-and-coming artists across the museum’s three facilities.
To complement its permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating temporary exhibits, such as the current Mike Kelley exhibit, which explores american pop culture through irreverent, multimedia pieces. The museum staff also augments these displays with events, such as their screening series in collaboration with the Los Angeles Filmforum, which explores the intersection of experimental film and art like a projection screen sewn with pages from DaVinci’s journal.