19 highlights from 2023, a cultural tour

by Pamala Nagler | Special to the Courier

1. Freeze Wild Ice Cream. California Botanic Garden and Bert & Rocky’s Cream Company teamed up this summer to feature artisan ice cream from endemic garden ingredients.


2. Vince Skelly at Claremont Lewis Museum of Art. Artist Skelly took to his chainsaw to fashion oxymoronic clunky/elegant sculptures from local fallen trees from the January 2022 windstorm. In anticipation of this event, Sycamore School reissued its vintage green tee shirt with a golden leaf, which Skelly wore in various magazines featuring his artwork.


3. Pitzer College’s Environmental Professor Emeritus Paul Faulstich lectured on “Scattered Notes on Environmental Art and Perception” at the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability. It was a great opportunity to open up the Bernard Biological Field Station to tour its recently restored 1930s infirmary building.


4. Print Pomona Art Book Fair. This annual event produced by Black business owner Julian Lucas, in partnership with Benton Museum of Art, featured some 80 independent regional and international publishers at Pomona’s College’s old Coop Ballroom. It included artist talks, performance, slideshows, and music. This year, UCR photographer John Divola showed his photos from his abandoned residence series, and Estevan Oriol, “LA’s Ansel Adams,” presented his environmental portraits.


5. Walter’s Restaurant salad dressing and chutney became the ingredients that made home cooking work.


6. That one rattlesnake my family visited on a handful of occasions living under a broken TV at Mt. Baldy Dam. (Not to mention its neighbor, a puce and white-striped banded gecko, rare for these environs.)


7. The renewal of the Laemmle Theater.


8. C & E Lumber for its help with making sustainable furniture. The staff at C & E, a family-owned and operated business for three generations, sanded a stump into an end table for us.


9. Thanksgiving at Las Borreguitas on Garey Avenue in Pomona. One of us is vegetarian, one gluten-free. Tamales for Thanksgiving are a no-brainer.


10. The Democratic Club of Claremont for showing some increased muscle in our local campaigns.


11. David Lindley’s memorial event at the Folk Music Center. This year was defined by the passing of Claremont’s renowned (and possibly most irreverent) musician. Jackson Browne showed up to highlight he and Lindley’s wonderful collaborative history.


12. The unveiling of Pomona’s Kid’s First Initiative, which will be featured on their ballot in November 2024. The Initiative aims to ensure that the children, youth, and young adults of Pomona have the resources they need to thrive and excel.


13. The announcement of the ACLU’s lawsuit over Julian Lucas’ photo installation at Gente Organizada in Pomona, a local fight for free speech. Pomona has stated that his artwork is in violation of a local ordinance and the ACLU maintains it is freedom of expression, a protected right.


14. Son Rompe Pera’s motto, “cumbia is the next punk.” This fall, Mexico City’s Gama Brothers brought their band to Pomona’s Glass House, moving their parents’ tradition of cumbia and marimba “into the garage/punk world of urban misfits.”


15. Brock’s Christmas Tree Farm back in operation. The only cut your own Christmas tree farm in Claremont since 1961, it has faced drought, wind, and other obstacles, but survives.


16. Janelle Lewis’ personal folk art at Laemmle Theater. One of Claremont’s most elegant personages makes large scale, rough-hewn ceramic statements that reflect on family, animals, and local experiences.


17. íyo’toróvim yaraarkokre ‘eyoo’ooxono (We the Caretakers Remember our Land) at Garrison Theater was a rare meeting of Indigenous oral history and intercultural music performance. The city is long overdue for these kinds of cross-cultural interactions.


18. City of Claremont’s fiber show at the Alexander Hughes Center. Something for the city to aspire to: more group shows that reflect the vibrancy and diversity of regional artists.


19. Courier editorials and letters to the editor. Where would we be without local journalism?


What’s on your list?


Longtime Claremont resident Pamela Casey Nagler is an NEA-funded performance artist, a retired public school teacher, and a self-styled diviner of culture.


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