Readers comments 5-20-16
Thoughts on Pomona College Museum of Art before council vote
Building a new PCMA (Pomona College Museum of Art) behind the library is a wonderful idea and a good location.
When standing on the corner in front of our post office, I can look down Harvard Avenue and see where the Claremont Museum of Art will be in our Depot. Turning to my left, I can also see the site where PCMA could be.
They are not out of sight and not out of mind, but inviting us in to celebrate the arts, to learn and to enjoy! And admission is free to both art museums.
Another bonus is the Metrolink line. It will make Claremont a two-art-museum day-trip destination, connecting cities from San Bernardino to Los Angeles with the town of Claremont. These museum-users won’t take up a parking space, and before they return home may very well have lunch in the Village and even do a bit of shopping.
I find this all very exciting and am grateful to Pomona College for opening its art museum to the public and for choosing a location that is so accessible to so many.
Take the long view, Pomona. This space is too important for a self-centered approach. The community should wait until Pomona College provides community benefit, not tokenism.
This art museum has to be about more than an old-fashioned, self-centered art study collection. If it is embedded in the center of the community, then it should be about renewing the social contract between college and community.
Now it is at a different scale than when the Claremont Inn served as commons for college and community and Pomona College philanthropist Mrs. Helen Renwick gave parties that mixed the two. Today, this means setting a broader vision that recognizes Pomona as playing a major cultural leadership role in southern California.
The museum should be seen as portal rather than boundary. As interactive entry rather than static and empty edifice. Certainly, it should not reflect any self-aggrandizement of meeting the deadlines of administrators who would like to claim credit for doing it on their watch. This is the plague of too many short-visioned projects. Let’s take the time to get it right.
It needs to demonstrate that Pomona has a vibrant support group for the arts (which it hasn’t yet established after all these years) and it should be about reaching a vision of how the liberal arts college engages both community and the other colleges (which is woefully lacking after all these years).
It needs an alternative vision of a new architectural team that better understands the best design traditions of southern California as the context; there is money available for supporting this.
Pomona has tried to push something through because the college is rich enough to self-finance. They could make wiser decisions if they had to depend on the larger community and hear more ideas while garnering more support.
The center needs to have a scale in keeping with its neighboring Seaver and the Carnegie buildings, which would then make it easier to preserve Renwick as a place for resident fellows and perhaps a small permanent exhibit on the history of Claremont planning (which could also give perspective). This could further enrich the occupancy of the buildings, filling them with life and encouraging a pivot to the other colleges to help populate the Renwick with fellows.
The complex needs public benefits like a cinema café, a community dining room with an amplified kitchen facility, parking that supports community activity and encourages animation, an authentic commitment to supporting contemporary artists with a percentage for art and crafts in the building rather than the proposed plop art from the Colleges’ collections. Note the sterile surfaces of the new Pomona arts building despite its architectural ambition. Why hasn’t Pomona engaged the new Sontag Center for Innovation in thinking about this project?
This facility should have some of the features of the Claremont McKenna Athenaeum, at least four nights a week of programming with student dinners and lectures, and the admirable features of the Caltech Athenaeum, which provides community facilities.
There is available money to provide this community programming if Pomona lifts its sights and broadens its vision. The community can and should require this, or let Pomona build a simple set of classrooms in its own space across College Avenue, a meager option that doesn’t realize the greatness of vision which Pomona should have as it aspires to lead the nation as the premier small liberal arts college.
There are the resources to do all of this, so think again, Pomona. And apply more pressure, Claremont. Don’t kowtow to Pomona; challenge their creativity and a quiescent rubber stamp board of trustees to think this through.
Once more into the breach, dear friends. There is a better alternative.
Ronald Lee Fleming, FAICP,
Pomona College ’63
Harvard Graduate School of Design ‘67
What would the proposed Pomona Museum of Art actually give us? Is there a commitment to any specific, significant additional public art programs or programs for schoolchildren? Not according to Pomona spokespeople.
Will there be lots of visitors who might then venture out to local businesses? Unlikely, since Pomona expects little if any increase in the current average of 24 visitors a day and maintains no increase in parking is needed.
Is the west side of College Avenue a blighted area in need of a facelift? No. Does the proposed museum guarentee any new, tangible, factual benefits to the city? No. Just the same benefits that the current one provides.
What would Pomona College get? A large new building for classes and offices and a place big enough to store all its artifacts. Permission to erode a transition zone between the Village and the Colleges by moving a historic building from its original site and replacing it with a monument. More room on the east side of College Avenue for other structures the college intends to build. All this without any binding commitment to give the city real benefits in return.
Who is actually getting the gift here? Sometimes a “gift horse” really needs to be looked in the mouth.
If Pomona College really had any desire to make community benefit a priority, it would have compromised by choosing one of the many viable alternative locations for a new museum instead of insisting on this one.
I have attended the recent meetings of the planning commission and city council on the subject of the Pomona College Master Plan and the concomitant zone change the college is requesting, which is actually the more important issue since zoning controls all development.
It is understandable that the Pomona College museum has become the focal point because a) museums are typically positive institutions in communities and b) zoning and Claremont’s General Plan, which is like the town’s constitution, are drier, more complex and often confusing subjects.
At the recent ad hoc committee meeting, Councilman Joe Lyons reflected the feeling most people have about museums when he concluded that, in comparison to preserving the current zoning of College Avenue between Second and Bonita and Harvard between Fourth and Bonita, which helps protect the residential look of that neighborhood and the history embedded therein, the proposed museum is “the greater good.”
The conclusion that “the greater good” is served by a new art museum on the west side of College Avenue is debatable, not only philosophically, but according to “the facts” of the museum, too.
It is noteworthy that representatives of Pomona College have encouraged Claremonters to think of the museum as one that would enhance cultural and business opportunities for Village merchants by attracting more notable exhibitions, since the display space would be larger than that currently present in the Montgomery Art Center. However, college representatives have also said that they are not planning an expansion of their programming. Sounds like double-speak to me.
Wouldn’t larger, more high-profile exhibitions be an expansion of programming? At the last meeting of the ad hoc committee, when addressing concerns about increased traffic and parking problems near the proposed museum, as Councilman Larry Schroeder pointed out, officials of Pomona College downplayed that concern by stating that the museum would be primarily for faculty and students who would walk to it. So, is it for the community and the college or mainly for the college?
Furthermore, college representatives and community members who support construction of the museum on College Avenue between Second and Bonita have described it as “a bridge” between the Village and Pomona College.
I ask those who have lived here for some time to recall when the Honnold/Mudd Library was wide open to any person who wanted to come in. Then, in the fall of 1993, the library shut its doors except to mainly adult Claremont residents who procured a Colleges-issued card with a magnetic strip that opened a gate near the library’s circulation desk.
As reported in the COURIER and the Los Angeles Times, the barrier was constructed because some younger members of our community had begun hanging out in the library after school. As anyone who visits the Village in the afternoon can attest, particularly Friday afternoons, there are lots of kids from El Roble and Our Lady of Assumption socializing downtown, in front of Starbucks and Rhino Records, as well as in the public library. Good for them! It’s great that the kids have the Village to walk to and to enjoy unaccompanied by overseers.
But I suspect some of the teens would also find their way to the proposed art museum, especially given its proposed proximity to the public library. Undoubtedly, the staff of the art museum would no more want to serve as monitors of our kids than did the staff of the Honnold/ Mudd Library. Just how long do you suppose it would stay open to the public, free of charge, with no gate to keep out certain members of our community?
There is no doubt that art museums do serve “the greater good,” which is why there is a new one slated to open in the Depot. But, preserving our history as it is depicted in the residential landscape also serves “the greater good.” It is a means through which we come to understand who we are and how we came to have the town culture we do—one that values education, art, history and small business—a mix that is not only fairly distinctive in southern California, but envied by many other small towns across the region.
Based on conflicting messages and past performance, I contend that Pomona College is an unreliable partner in deciding and developing “the greater good” for our town. And, it’s not really the job of any of the Colleges to do so. The job of the college presidents and their boards of trustees is to ensure the greater good for their institutions.
In the case of the proposed master plan for Pomona College, which includes the new art museum and the zone change required for it to be built, what serves the best interests of Pomona is not the same as what serves the greater good of our town.
A not so pleasant visit
My wife and I just spent a day in your beautiful city, having arrived in separate cars Friday evening at the home of friends, just north of the Colleges. We pulled up and parked at the curb. Their street, delightfully situated next to the biological preserve, was wide, clean and, more lovely still, free of parking signs.
A pleasant stay-over ensued, with dinner, breakfast, much visiting and warm goodbyes. Returning to our vehicles for a planned trip to the nearby wilderness area, we were greeted with his-and-hers slips of paper under our windshield wipers, which informed us that we each owed $35 bail for having parked on the street between 2 and 6 a.m.
However many years ago, when your city leaders debated instituting this revenue stream, there would have been sage nodding while public safety was mentioned. There might also have been attempts at looking patient while an objection or two were heard that such a policy might be mistaken as deceptive and unwelcoming, as a hardship for unsuspecting visitors of good will.
I now write to untangle this debate, and to assure you that the latter concerns, if voiced, were in fact well-founded. Recent visitors of good will indeed have felt deceived and unwelcome.
A nice final flourish was the policy of not including a mailing envelope for posting bail. This added a finishing touch of incredulity to the overall amusement value, and led to a pleasant afternoon of website navigation culminating in the joy of a paperless transaction. The cost of a stamp was saved, and good was done for the planet. Of course, it would take 3,000 saved stamps to defray the cost of the computer used in the transaction, and the communications satellite launch rocket would have emitted some 70 tons of CO2, but these are details to be worked out in future versions of the policy.
I applaud the readers’ comment by Dan Dell’Osa entitled “Educating Voters” in the May 13 COURIER. Although I agree every legal citizen has a right to vote, they have an obligation to their country to be an informed voter.
I also believe our current system is ripe for voter fraud. My deceased mother-in-law is still on the voting rolls even though she died four years ago. At least one of my children is still listed as a voter in my precinct even though he hasn’t lived within our precinct for more than eight years and has registered in two other communities since.
Either the voter registration rolls need to be updated for each election or we need to insist on each registered voter providing a government-issued photo identification in order to vote at the polls. With today’s modern computers and databases, there is no excuse why our government cannot stop the mailing of absentee ballots to people who have moved and registered in another precinct or who have died.
I also suggest we require every voter to dip their thumb or index finger (if they have one) in indelible ink at the polls like third world countries to help prevent voter fraud and to exhibit to the world that they have exercised their right to vote.
“When the people fear the government, you have tyranny, but when the government fears the people you have liberty!” The 2016 presidential primaries of both major parties are a testimony to the people who want to take our country back and an exhibition of those in power to prevent the will of the majority from accomplishing this goal. Rather than worrying about the people who don’t care, let’s ensure a fair, fraud-free process for those of us that do.
100 years of the League
As a longtime member of the League of Women Voters, I must respond to Dan Dell’Osa’s recent letter to the editor in which he stated that the League should be educating voters rather than simply promoting people to vote.
Since 1920, the League (at all levels: national, state, county and local) has diligently worked toward making sure people understand the issues they are asked to address when they vote.
In fact, our mission and vision statement is as follows:
“The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
The goal of the League of Women Voters is to empower citizens to shape better communities worldwide.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political membership organization, which acts after study and member agreement to achieve solutions in the public interest on key community issues at all government levels; builds citizen participation in the democratic process; and engages communities in promoting positive solutions to public policy issues through education and advocacy.”
So, Mr. Dell’Osa, for nearly 100 years, the League has been devoted to working to educate prospective voters on issues so that when their vote is cast, it is an educated vote, not just a number.
VP for Advocacy,
LWV of the Claremont Area
Portantino for State Senate
Anthony Portantino is, we believe, the best candidate in the June primary election for State Senate District 25. Mr. Portantino has been active in Claremont for more than five years. He has spoken at both the Democratic Club of Claremont and Claremont High School Young Democrats Club meetings several times. He has been part of our Independence Day booth and parade.
Mr. Portantino has listened to our concerns and shared his experience with us. While still a member of the assembly, before he was “termed out,” Anthony engaged with us.
While serving in the assembly, Mr. Portantino was a strong, progressive champion for education, jobs, human rights and the environment. He served as chair of the higher education committee, and authored the bill that protects our students from predatory “diploma mills.” Mr. Portantino fought for accountability and transparency in Sacramento and earned a reputation for independence and integrity.
Additionally, his strong record in the area of public health and public safety is second to none. Mr. Portantino introduced a bill to establish the California cord blood collection program. He has worked with the HIV/AIDS and women’s health communities on several bills to streamline bureaucracy and bring more services to HIV patients and has endeavored to bring more mammograms to women who have greater risk of developing breast cancer.
He championed efforts to coordinate the processing of rape kit evidence to send violent felons to prison and worked to bring survivor benefits to the families of fallen federal firefighters.
Along with the California Democratic Party, the Democratic Club of Claremont, Sam Pedroza, Joe Lyons, Larry Schroeder, Sandy Baldonado, Karen Rosenthal, Ellen Taylor, David Nemer, Steven Llanusa and Sue Keith, we support Anthony Portantino for State Senate in the 25th District.
John (Jack) and Carolee Monroe