feature / exhibitions / events / alumni / faculty / illustration
August 09, 2017
Writer: Mike Winder
Photographer: Juan Posada


Step into sp[a]ce on Walnut St. between Fair Oaks Ave. and Raymond Ave. and you’d be hard-pressed to remember that a Samy’s Camera retail store stood there just a few years ago.

This past May, the Ayzenberg Group—founded by ArtCenter Advertising alum Eric Ayzenberg (BFA 87)—opened the nonprofit gallery which occupies the first floor of the agency’s Pasadena headquarters. Created by Corsini Stark Architects, the space was designed for “showcasing the work of progressive international artists” and to benefit ArtCenter, California Institute of the Arts, City of Hope and Innovate Pasadena.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition For the Good Times, which ends this weekend, was curated by Illustration alumnus and faculty Mark Todd (BFA 93) and featured work by local artists Tim Biskup and Ramsey Dau, as well as alumni and faculty from ArtCenter’s Illustration department, including Frieda Gossett (BFA 04), Rob Clayton (BFA 88), Aaron Smith (BFA 88) and Esther Pearl Watson (BFA 95).

It’s an amazing, beautiful space that feels open and clean and modern

Mark Todd

Exhibiting artists (left to right) Tim Biskup, Esther Pearl Watson, Rob Clayton, Frieda Gossett and Aaron Smith.

Last Thursday, the Ayzenberg Group hosted a special event for FullCircle, ArtCenter’s new membership community, with artists from the exhibition in attendance and a portion of the proceeds from the sales going to FullCircle’s fundraising efforts for students.

“It’s an amazing, beautiful space that feels open and clean and modern,” said Todd over the hum of the guests, while pointing out how the gallery’s dividing walls can be moved to create different spaces, or how a large street-facing window replaced a rollup metal door specifically to shine daylight on the works in this exhibition. “It’s a breathable space.”

One of those works benefiting from the new daylight was Tornado, a new free-standing work by Watson that depicts the excitement the Texas native felt as a child when a tornado threatened to plow into her school. “I like that people are walking around the painting as opposed to just going up to a wall and looking at it,” said Watson, who describes her work as being very much about the narrative. “It’s a different sort of interaction with the piece, and a fun way to engage with the story.”

Providing “a venue for discovery, interaction and inspiration” is how the Ayzenberg Group describes the mission of its new gallery space. Interestingly enough, the space itself was a creative nexus of sorts even prior to its renovation.

“We purchased this space almost three years ago and it took another year and a half to get all our permits for renovation,” said Ayzenberg, finding a quieter portion of the gallery and explaining that, during that downtime, Todd and Watson, a couple whose work he collects, used the massive empty space to create large-scale work. “They also had gatherings here and I’d come in and see this place packed with people. I didn’t know they had that kind of energy, that kind of following, and that kind of influence on the art community.”

Community was very much on the mind of many in the audience that evening.

At the start of the event, Illustration Department Associate Chair Smith—who was showing several works from his recent series of stoic 19th-century men rendered in a striking contemporary palette—told the assembled crowd how he’s often stunned when he realizes he’s working and exhibiting with friends that he met as a student at ArtCenter. “Rob and Frieda and I were roommates in school, and we’ve been studio mates and friends ever since,” said Smith of the artist couple. “And when teaching, I often get reminded that these stories are still happening. We keep seeing new combinations of people. And new friendships.”

“I tell my students, ‘You’re meeting friends that you’ll have for a lifetime,’” continued Smith. “That’s one of the things we faculty model. It’s not just the skills that you learn. It’s who you partner with, and who you become friends with for life.”

A membership community committed to accelerating the impact of creativity on shaping a more humane future, ArtCenter College of Design’s FullCircle presents salons with dynamic hosts and is open to artists, designers, alumni, friends, family—anybody curious about what it takes to transform imagination into reality. Membership proceeds support funds and programs that have a positive impact on the student experience.