Aspiring to New ‘Heights’

Emotional, upbeat film recalls old Hollywood 

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

“In the Heights” stars Olga Merediz and Jimmy Smits say their musical masterpiece is the perfect anecdote to a rough 18 months. 

“It’s balanced with emotional and deep moments, but there’s a lot of happiness and joy,” says Merediz, who plays matriarch Abuela Claudia. 

“The musical numbers are just right. The music cuts right through to you, and Jon Chu has done an amazing, amazing job with his incredible visuals. I think people are really going to resonate with the characters, and I think people are really going to enjoy it.”

With a wide smile, Smits says “ditto,” but he takes it a step further.

“We’ve also had to reckon with a lot of social issues in the past year and a half,” says Smits, who plays Kevin Rosario, a father who butts heads with his ambitious daughter. “We’re hoping that this film provides joy. Musicals tend to be uplifting and inspirational, but the universal themes resonate very strongly. I think this film is something all audiences will be able to grasp.”

Set to hit screens on Friday, June 11, “In the Heights” fuses Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music and lyrics with director Chu’s lively eye for storytelling. Chu also directed 2018’s “Crazy Rich Asians.”

The film takes viewers to the streets of Washington Heights, where the scent of cafecito caliente hangs in the air outside of the 181st Street subway stop. Led by bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos, “A Star is Born”), the tight-knit, multicultural community shares its dreams and wishes with each other — in the hopes of paving a way out, while maintaining its ties to Washington Heights. 

“I hope people recognize themselves and see themselves and feel proud,” Merediz says. 

Smits adds that viewers mustn’t live in Washington Heights to feel for the characters. 

“I’m sure you had your nanas, your grandmothers and that,” he says. “The city might be different and the cultural specificity might be a little different, but the feelings of community, family, and how the generation who comes here from another place has expectations for their (children and grandchildren) are all the same. 

“Those are universal things.”

Merediz starred as Abuela Claudia on the stage version of “In the Heights.” She’s excited to spread her character’s word among the mass of movie lovers.

“I wanted to give Claudia the platform she deserves,” says Merediz, referring to her character’s age. “She’s a character who is overlooked in our society. It’s just such a youth-oriented society. It gives me such pleasure to give her that platform.”

She explains that she enjoyed translating the stage version for film, although it was a little challenging.

“The difference is, on stage, you’re delivering to the last row and you’re doing things chronologically,” Merediz said. “In a film, everything is very internal and you shoot out of sequence. That is a challenge for an actor to keep your place, to where you are to keep that flow and that intensity of the moment in the song. It was definitely challenging, but I was up for the challenge. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

“In the Heights” will be available in cinemas and on HBO Max. Smits and Merediz say that although it’s available to watch at home, “In the Heights” is worthy of a trip to the movie theater. 

“The film has to be seen in the cinema,” Merediz says. “These huge numbers are epic, and they need the biggest screen you have. I know in the past year we were in lockdown. We didn’t have a choice. 

“I think it’s a good idea to have the option to see it in the movies and also at home, if you don’t have the ability to go to the cinema. I hope people see it in the theater.”

The singing and dancing numbers can translate to a cellphone or computer, but Smits agrees — go to the cinema.

“Jon’s chosen to give these visual flourishes to old Hollywood,” he adds. “It takes your breath away. He really did such a great job. I hope we bring richness, light and happiness to (cinemagoers’) lives. After the horrible year that we’ve had, people are ready for a film like this.”

“In the Heights”

Opens Friday, June 11, in theaters and HBO Max

Enjoying Summer Blooms

Pasadena Showcase event explores La Cañada Flintridge’s color

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Pasadena Showcase House of the Arts will show off the colors of three sprawling estates in La Cañada Flintridge on Saturday, June 19, as part of June Bloom, an outdoor progressive garden party. 

“What’s not to love?” says Marybeth Rehman-Dittu, June Bloom’s event chair. “It’s outside, and it’s time to celebrate for a great cause.” 

The public event asks guests to step out of their homes and safely stroll through gardens showcasing beautiful landscapes, Mediterranean terraced planters and blooming ornamental roses in the heart of Flintridge.

“I cannot wait to be outside in the warm sun with friends, glass of wine in hand, enjoying summer blooms and jazz,” says Susie Aguirre, 2020-21 benefit chair and June Bloom organizer. 

“It is going to be a delightful event, and I’m proud of my fellow Pasadena Showcase members who came together to make this possible.” 

Activities include docent-led garden tours, live music entertainment at each home, floral demonstrations, and the Shops at Showcase featuring a variety of craft purveyors. 

Grab-and-go meals and snacks, wine and beer will be available for purchase throughout the event. Tickets, which must be purchased in advance, are $60 at pasadenashowcase.org. Proceeds from the event will support Pasadena Showcase’s philanthropic initiatives.

The three featured estates include a Spanish colonial revival built in 1917 by architects Marston, Van Pelt and Maybury on 2.4 acres with a well-manicured promenade, terraced pools and planters, and a secluded tennis sanctuary; an English Tudor revival built in 1926 on 1.6 acres with a sprawling verdant lawn; and a colonial revival built in 1921 on 1.6 acres with an architecturally identical lifesize dollhouse and an expansive collection of 142 rosebushes. 

The homes’ interiors will not be open during the tour. 

Entertainment includes a jazz trio from Saturday Night Bath, Pasadena Conservatory of Music featuring Café Luar and classical guitarist Brian Barany, string trios from the Colburn School and Santa Cecilia Orchestra, pianist Greg Parker and the Riverboat Dixie Jazz Band. Many of the groups are Pasadena Showcase Gifts & Grants recipients. 

Shops at Showcase’s featured purveyors include Designer Sterling, JP Designs, The Treasured Accessory, Jacqueline B Clothing, Laurie Jo Designs, M&C Collective, Paco Soler, Veronica’s Garden, Lavender Blue, Susie O’s and Green & Bisque Clayhouse. Floral designer Drew Domenghini will give demonstrations throughout the day.

“We are grateful that the COVID-19 pandemic has vastly improved over the last several months, allowing us to do what we do best: gather family and friends together for a unique experience in a beautiful setting in support of music and the arts,” says Barbara Damerel, Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts 2020-21 president. “La Cañada Flintridge is a beautiful area and always a wonderful host city to Pasadena Showcase.” 

Guests will park at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, and take complimentary shuttles running throughout the day. They should expect to stroll across several acres and uneven terrain. Wheelchairs and walkers may not access all areas of these private estates; for questions regarding accessibility, call 714-442-3872. Guests will also be asked to comply with the latest COVID-19 guidelines. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the grounds, and portable restrooms and other high-touch surface areas will be sanitized regularly. The capacity of the event has been limited.

The all-volunteer Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts has been supporting local music and arts programs since 1948. It has given more than $23 million to nonprofits, particularly through its Gifts & Grants program, in support of music education, scholarships, concerts and music therapy. 

Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts also supports the LA Philharmonic and its learning programs. 

The organization raises funds from its major benefit, the Pasadena Showcase House of Design — one of the country’s oldest, largest and most successful house and garden tours. 

Rehman-Dittu has been with the organization for 12 years and has seen it evolve. 

“We have some younger members who have infused Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts with new ideas, new directions and really positive changes,” she says. 

“We’re just implementing them now. We’ve had many longtime members. It’s a very dedicated group of women and men.”

June Bloom

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 19

WHERE: Three houses in La Cañada Flintridge

COST: $60

INFO: pasadenashowcase.org

Pop-Up King Holds Court

Chef Laurent ‘LQ’ Quenioux fights fierce competition
By Frier McCollister

If there is a classically trained, fine dining chef in Los Angeles who was best positioned to weather the turbulent exigencies and uncertainties of the pandemic, it is chef Laurent Quenioux.  

A native of the Loire Valley’s Sologne, Quenioux has been pivoting masterfully since he arrived in Los Angeles in 1981. 

Quenioux has had a successful run since moving to LA — the 7th Street Bistro in Downtown Los Angeles opened in 1983; the small and eccentric Bistro K in South Pasadena; and the lauded Bistro LQ, which closed in 2013. He anticipates tastes and trends without sacrificing quality or his vision of French cuisine with a fresh California spin on it. 

Upon closing Bistro LQ, Quenioux collaborated with the Downtown LA underground supper club Starry Kitchen. That inspired him to host elaborate multicourse prix fixe dinners on the weekends at his Highland Park home. 

Food & Wine magazine took notice, as did LA’s burgeoning foodie culture, resulting in a sustained and successful five-year run. Ultimately and ironically, a victim of Highland Park’s hipster-fueled gentrification, Quenioux was forced to vacate his home there shortly before the pandemic. He landed on a verdant, capacious estate in Corona, where he began to host dinners again.

Quenioux laughs at the idea that he invented the “pop-up restaurant.”

“I am known to be the king of pop-ups, the longest-running pop-up in LA,” he says. With radically reduced overhead costs, the model allows him to present haute cuisine with high-quality ingredients, at far more reasonable price points than a typical fine dining restaurant.

“It’s not a business model for everyone,” he says. “Most of the people just want to do those pop-ups to try to find the financing to open a restaurant. We are going backward. We’ve done the restaurants way too many times. Pop-ups are a better version for us. We’re going backward. We’ve done the restaurants. We don’t want to go back.” 

Still, for all his astute nimbleness, Quenioux struggled during the last year, and it was underscored with personal pain. 

“At the beginning, there was a lot of support, but it’s been challenging,” he recalls. “The competition became fierce. I don’t expect people to eat our food every single day. There were a lot of (options) out there.”

Quenioux’s initial pandemic pivot was further challenged when his mother died in Paris in April 2020 from COVID-19 complications. Unable to travel, Quenioux saw his stress compound. 

“I am trying to go (to France) in September for a family reunion,” he notes.

Popular pandemic eating habits and trends toward fast, casual comfort food further complicated his progress. Don’t get Quenioux started on the current, local viral craze for fried chicken and its variant strains.

“Now we’re really trying to fight to get our place back in fine dining through a pop-up,” he says, adding that younger people crave junk food. 

“Now, fine dining is back, but we have to fight for it again. I don’t know what it is with that damned fried chicken,” Quenioux muses.

Quenioux notes the time, effort and expense of sourcing his products and ingredients. 

“I think what is the most difficult for us to deal with (is) we work so hard to get the best ingredients and we pay top dollar for good ingredients,” he says. 

“But it seems people don’t care. They are going to eat that fried chicken, and they don’t know where that chicken comes from. People don’t care. They just eat fried chicken. That is the hardest part for us.”

In May, Quenioux was still offering five-course boxed meals for delivery at $59 on select weekends. Meanwhile, he had already launched his first outdoor seating in Corona under the banner “LQ Fooding @ Ma Maison 2.0, Underground Supper Club.”

There are more planned in June, including a satellite experiment in Montecito Heights.

“There will be a few in June here (in Corona),” he explains.

“On June 26, it will be in Montecito Heights. It will be one of our new Los Angeles locations, near Pasadena and South Pas. But that location will not be as elaborate as what we are doing here. It will be much more simple, a three-course meal with wine and more fun, limited to 12 (diners) and a beautiful view of the city. It’s outside.”

The location is the urban farming operation Rose Hill Farm. With its limited indoor access, the location features a grill and outdoor pizza oven. The plan is for a more modest and informal three-course presentation. 

“We won’t be able to do what we usually do, but it will be fun,” he says. 

The next announced meeting of the Underground Supper Club in Corona is June 19. The sample menu, subject to change, demonstrates the depth of Quenioux’s artistry. 

Starting with an amuse bouche of uni flan with pickled shiso leaves, the first course is a spring vegetable tart with white asparagus, radish, carrots, baby leeks and turnips. The tart is accompanied by a fresh herb coulis of estragon, mint, coriander and parsley grown in Quenioux’s own garden. 

The second course: frog legs with caviar de sologne, mashed fingerlings with crème fraiche and a green garlic, ramp emulsion.

That is followed by smoked haddock with cauliflower espuma and sautéed apple. 

The fourth course features softshell crab with bacon in fish sauce and fermented chili paste, served with English peas and fava beans, garnished with makrut limes. 

Squab and crawfish in a red bell pepper, ginger lime emulsion with fresh morels is the fifth course. 

An optional cheese course, at an additional charge, is next, followed by dessert. Dessert is chocolate cremeux, served with chocolate sorbet and honey, with a cocoa nib lace tuile. Wine pairing with each course is also available at an additional charge. The price is $85 per person for dinner.

Regarding the optional cheese trolley, Quenioux is known as an expert connoisseur of French cheese and has developed a productive import channel with a cheese monger, identified simply as Sophie. 

Also available for delivery online, Quenioux’s curated cheeses are selections not easily found elsewhere. He sighed audibly when asked about it. 

“I’m getting so tired,” he says. “We bring our own cheeses from France. They’re not pasteurized. It’s so expensive. It takes so much in logistics. Then you guys write an article about cheese in the city, and I know all these restaurants and they all buy the same crappy cheese from the same distributor. It’s been such hard work to build the infrastructure, to make it efficient, to be able to sell it.”

With pandemic restrictions possibly lifting entirely in June, a gastronomic adventure to Corona may reinvigorate the public’s fine-dining sensibilities.

“The setting is incredible; the service is incredible,” Quenioux asserts. “We need to fight back for our (fine dining) space. People will have a phenomenal experience at prices that nobody can beat.

“We’re actually looking for a new Pasadena location as well. We want to do maybe twice here (in Corona) a month, one in Montecito and maybe one in Pasadena, to do four weekends a month. Pasadena is different. I love Pasadena. It’s a different crowd. The future is more east.”

Make no mistake, Quenioux is an Arroyo fan. “Eagle Rock, Pasadena, Monrovia, Arcadia — this is the area that I love. For me, Los Angeles is that area. It’s the best that Los Angeles has to offer.”

To punctuate that point, Quenioux was persuaded to give up his recipe for chocolate croissant bread pudding for the delectation of Arroyo Monthly readers. 

LQ Fooding @ Ma Maison 2.0

Underground Supper Club

bistrolq.com

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Ingredients

2 cups milk

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split and seeded

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup sugar

5 eggs

Pinch of salt

5-day-old croissants,
cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

caramel sauce for serving

lightly sweetened whipped
cream for serving

Method

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart oval au gratin dish. 

Pour the milk and cream into a heavy saucepan. Add the vanilla seeds and bean halves to the milk mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. 

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the 5 ounces finely chopped chocolate until smooth. 

In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and salt until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving. Gradually pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Add the croissants and stir to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes, occasionally pressing the croissants into the custard. 

Stir 3 ounces of the chopped chocolate into the croissant mixture and transfer to the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining chopped chocolate on top. Bake until a knife inserted near the center of the pudding comes out almost clean, 40 to 45 minutes. 

Adventures await via Ontario International Airport

A guide to some of the quick
trips provided by Ontario

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Summer fun needn’t stop at the California state lines. Ontario International Airport Southern California offers daily flights to a host of fun spots, including Phoenix, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas and Honolulu.

With seven daily flights, Phoenix is a quick jump from the airport. Fans can hang out at Chase Field when the Dodgers take on the Diamondbacks; hike Camelback Mountain (with plenty of water and early in the morning, naturally); imbibe in wine around Scottsdale; or take a day trip to the red rocks of Sedona with the Pink Jeep Tours. 

There are a few secret spots as well, like the restaurant Durant’s (probably the best steakhouse ever); The Wigwam resort in Litchfield Park (a treat for the mind and body with an Aveda spa and tremendous golfing); the Desert Botanical Garden; the Queen Creek Olive Mill and Salt River Tubing. Dare we say more?

Sure, why not. The Musical Instrument Museum, or, if you’re cool, “The MIM,” should be atop everyone’s list. Developed by Target’s then-CEO Bob Ulrich, the Musical Instrument Museum has a performance hall with perfect sound, instruments from a wealth of countries by continent, and a few laughs. Check out the air guitar contest attraction. 

Seattle is also seven daily flights from Ontario. The gorgeous Pacific Northwest region offers seafood cuisine, culture (more than grunge) and, of course, coffee. 

With just a snap of the fingers, travelers can head to the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Puget Sound, Chihuly Garden or Pioneer Square, just a few of the must-see stops in Seattle. 

Ontario International Airport recently saw welcoming news regarding Hawaii. 

In April, Hawaii Gov. David Y. Ige said travelers from Ontario International Airport could bypass the Aloha State’s mandatory 10-day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test performed by a “trusting” testing partner. Ontario was the first airport in Southern California to earn the designation from that state’s department of health. 

Travelers can choose from two options — an expedited PCR test with next-day results or a rapid molecular NAAT test that provides results within an hour. The tests must be administered within 72 hours of departure from Ontario.

Ontario’s local testing partner is the COVID-19 clinic that offers drive-thru testing in parking lot three daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The ONT site, open since November, offers tests by appointment and on a drive-up basis.

Recently, Hawaiian Airlines began nonstop service from Ontario to Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport five times a week. 

The majestic beauty of Salt Lake City is attainable through Ontario airport via five daily flights. According to Visit Salt Lake, the city’s highlights go beyond bar hopping, which is nonetheless fun. 

In 2002, Salt Lake hosted the Olympic Winter Games, and sports fans can tour the attractions and facilities related to it. Only a 20-minute drive from SLC proper, Utah Olympic Park features training facilities for moguls and freestyle aerials, as well as a terrain park and boarder-cross course where visitors can watch everyone from young kids to next-generation Olympic athletes hone their skills.

Beyond that, check out the primo movie theaters, historic sites and, of course, the Great Salt Lake. 

Dallas-Fort Worth is, well, worthy of a trip. With five daily flights, Dallas-Fort Worth is full of fun. According to Visit Fort Worth, travelers can see priceless masterpieces in the world-renowned Cultural District, Western heritage in the Stockyards National Historic District, shop and dine in the 35-block Sundance Square, chow down on barbecue and Tex-Mex, and check out more than 7,000 animals at the top-ranked Fort Worth Zoo. 

Dallas is filled with hidden gems as well. Visit Dallas is here to help. The center can provide itineraries for family vacations, budget travelers and freebies. Then there’s America’s Team. Cheer on the Dallas Cowboys with special game packages. 

Las Vegas isn’t last on anyone’s list, but here we go. The lights of Sin City have turned back on. Entertainers like the talented Usher, the alt-rock legend Morrissey, the upbeat yet seductive Bruno Mars and the delightful Katy Perry are among those who have scheduled residencies. 

Debbie Gibson and Joey McIntyre recently booked gigs at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas for a limited run late this summer. 

And restaurants go beyond buffets. World-class eateries took a gamble on Vegas, turning it into a foodie town.

So, pack your bags, head to Ontario International Airport Southern California and depart on a safe adventure.

‘Year of Wonders’

Art exhibit grows out of local protest work

By Bridgette M. Redman

For Elana Mann, her artwork and civic duties cannot be separated. 

Last summer, she co-founded — with Phung Huynh, Will Hoadley-Brill and Stefani Williams — the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) of South Pasadena. 

She also continues to make folk instruments of protest, some of which are on display through July 2 at Santa Monica’s 18th Street Arts Center in an exhibition called “A Year of Wonders, Redux.” It features sonic sculptures, a video, and works on paper. They have commonalities — they connect people and amplify voices of protest. 

“My artwork and my community organizing are intrinsically linked,” Mann says. 

“I can’t separate them. Sometimes they are combined into one project; sometimes they are on parallel tracks.”

Mann began creating sono-sculptures in 2014, delving into works related to the time period in which they are made. For this production, Mann focused on politics, the pandemic and passionate social movements. 

“The body of work that is at 18th Street really comes out of the past year of the rise in protest movements, BLM and getting involved in anti-racism work locally in my hometown of Pasadena,” Mann says.

Activism in South Pasadena

The grassroots ARC tries to heal the deep wounds of systemic racism in Pasadena. The 70-some members work toward racial justice in government policy, public safety, education, housing, art and community services. 

Last year, their activities included hosting a community listening session with the South Pasadena Police Department, supporting local anti-racist arts initiatives — including a Black Lives Matter mural to be painted on city hall — and successfully pushing for an investigation of the police chief.

This year, the group worked on multiple citywide projects, including anti-racist lawn signs, a city council acknowledgement of South Pasadena’s racist past through a “Sundown Town” resolution, pressuring the city to hire a new anti-racist city manager and police chief and sponsoring volunteer events that assist the homeless.

ARC is planning a vigil to commemorate the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. They’ll continue their call for greater racial equity in the schools.

Developing an artistic persona

Mann says her work began with the act of listening, a theme that is infused in her pieces. It started with a deep immersion in oral traditions as a Jew.

“I grew up in a very observant household, and Judaism is an oral culture,” Mann says. “The most important prayer starts with the word ‘listen.’ There’s even rules against visual representation. So much of my childhood was sonically oriented, not visual.”

As she developed her skills as a young artist, she mixed performance ideas into her work. Through natural evolution, she incorporated her background and interests. 

Her sculptures about the art of listening led her to antique listening objects and old-school cheerleader megaphones. 

“They are also listening devices,” Mann says. “You can receive sound through them. They amplify sound, and before there were electronic hearing devices, there were ear horns that were megaphone shaped. I was researching that and making art about that. Then I realized these can also amplify sound if I speak through them. I started making these modified megaphones and then just branching out to other kinds of instruments that could be used. It was a many-year evolution.”

Her instruments have been used in operas and by nationally and internationally recognized musicians. However, she ensures they are simple enough that anyone can use them even if they are not a trained musician.

“I’m not going to make something that I can’t play myself,” Mann says. “They’re all very easy to use, but a musician can use them in a different way than say I could use them — just like a trained singer could use the megaphone in a way that I could never do — but I can bring my instruments to a street protest or a demonstration and use them, and they’re really effective in that way.”

Her works are shown in museums, galleries and public spaces around the world. In 2020, she was a city of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellow, and in the fall, she was a 2020 International Artist-in-Residence at Artspace San Antonio.

Pairing folk music traditions with protest

Since the exhibit’s opening, Mann has been working on a new project called “Let Suffering Speak.” It is derived from folk music traditions that are tied to histories of resistance and liberation.

“In 2018, I began to research folk instruments along with folk music traditions and their connections to political struggles,” Mann says. 

“I discovered a homemade six-person protest horn in Claremont, California, interviewed a craftsman of a Turkish folk instrument called the ‘saz,’ and researched ‘Rara,’ music associated with the Haitian revolution.”

She plans to further develop this line of inquiry, all a part of encouraging the act of radical listening and emboldening voices to speak up and speak out against injustice.

This work is not new for her. In 2017, in connection with the Women’s March, she began a street performance troupe called Take a Stand Marching Band.

“The project involves a revolving coalition of people who play my sculptural instruments, bringing creativity to the intense and often draining work of street demonstrations,” Mann says. 

The project’s sculptures have been shown in multiple solo and group exhibitions. Musicians have used them on stage.

Huge horn stresses communal speech

Dominating the sonic sculpture exhibition at 18th Street are the sculptural folk instruments. They include “Our Work is Never Done (Unfinished Business),” which is modeled on the “Mega-kazoo-horn” that legendary folk music figure Charles Chase made based on an instrument his grandfather, a folk musician and communist, took to Claremont protests in the ’70s. 

“I was inspired and made this six-person protest horn that amplifies six different voices,” Mann says. “It’s in two parts so it is easy to transport, it is very light, made of fiberglass. It could be brought very easily to a protest space, and six people have to agree on what they’re going to say and what their message is going to be — or if they’re all going to be shouting at the same time and not be heard.”

Maracas fill protest spaces with sound

Surrounding the horn on the walls are rattles or maracas, titled “Unidentified Bright Object 11-60.” They are part of Mann’s ongoing series. The display carries 49 of the 60- to 70-piece collection.

With individually turned wood handles and heads made of cast ceramic, she finds different things to fill the hollow tops including glass, metal, wood and plastic. 

Each rattle carries verbiage, such as “Truth,” “Say His Name,” “Say Her Name,” “Stop” “Rage,” “Justice” or “Equity.” Because they are so lightweight, they are designed to be used at protests. They are also COVID-19-friendly.

“For COVID time, the maracas are great because you don’t have to worry about using your voice or breathing in other people’s air,” Mann says. “You can just use touch and wash your hands afterward.”

They create a diverse sound at protests and encourage attendees.

“I’m a mom with two kids. If I’m going to a protest, I don’t have time to make a custom sign, so I can just stick these in my bag and they’re really loud,” Mann says.

“They create another kind of sound and space in a protest arena, where sometimes the sounds are people wanting to be louder to make their voice heard, sometimes they’re trying to drown out sounds — sometimes there are oppressive noises of helicopters or police. This is supposed to bring celebration and joy to the protest space. People really respond. It adds play and pleasure to these kinds of spaces. Also, if you don’t want to shout or you don’t know what to say, you can shake the maraca.” 

“Year of Wonders, Redux”

WHEN: Various times through July 2

WHERE: 18th Street Art Center, Airport Gallery,
1639 18th Street, Santa Monica

COST: Free; appointments required

INFO: 18thstreet.org

Chef Ian Gresik and The Arbour

Fine dining mainstay remains relevant
By Frier McCollister

The Arbour represented chef Ian Gresik’s fine dining debut in Pasadena when it opened in 2017. 

In the three short ensuing years, which included a pandemic lockdown, Gresik’s quiet mastery in the kitchen has managed to garner a loyal cadre of enthusiasts, who have proven to be critical in sustaining the operation through the precarious course of the pandemic. 

“About 80% of our to-go orders are repeat guests, (people who come) once a week,” Gresik says. “It’s pretty impressive. Our clientele, who come weekly or more, give us their support.”

This fact was verified by two local gourmands — Laura Bulgarelli and Keith Rouse — who brought up the topic of The Arbour quite randomly in a recent conversation. 

“It is beyond divine,” Bulgarelli says. 

She describes Gresik’s take on risotto, showered with in-season truffle shavings. Though truffles are now out of season and the abbreviated pandemic menu doesn’t include the labor-intensive risotto, the couple had more to say about Gresik’s work at The Arbour. 

Rouse is a Pasadena-based lawyer and a former restaurateur who once owned and operated the Madeline Garden on Green Street. 

“I like the fact that it’s farm-to-table fresh. It’s high quality. The chef clearly knows what he’s doing,” Rouse says.

A South Bay native who grew up in Torrance and Redondo Beach, Gresik initially trained at Cerritos College for baking and pastry. 

“I’m a formally trained bakery and pastry chef,” Gresik says. 

“That’s how I broke into the field. I was down in San Diego working at a few places and then I decided to go back to the Cordon Bleu.” 

That was Gresik’s introduction to Pasadena, where he attended the vaunted and now-shuttered culinary academy for a second round of training in 2000. After graduating, he lived in Pasadena for a time and “bounced around” until 2015, when he, his wife Nancy and family returned to the City of Roses. The move sparked inspiration. 

“We thought (Pasadena) needed another restaurant, and we thought our style of food would play well here,” he says. 

Their instinct proved to be correct.

That style of food is based on fresh, organic ingredients. 

“The culinary inspiration behind The Arbour is just utilizing the bounty of California,” Gresik emphasized. “From the local produce to the meat purveyors, I would say 90% of our product is organic.” 

Pre-pandemic, Gresik routinely engaged with 20 to 30 local farms, most based in Ventura County. 

“Now it’s about a dozen,” he says wistfully. 

Before the pandemic, he helped sustain farmers. 

“Now they take care of us.” 

Jeff Stein of Scarborough Farms in Oxnard, for example, provides lettuces and herbs. 

“He runs a great program there,” Gresik says. 

The Arbour’s fresh meat is sourced from West Coast Meats and a broker in Newport Beach to stick with his mantra of sourcing local. 

“If we want lamb, we use California rack of lamb,” he says, for example.

That commitment to fresh, locally sourced ingredients is combined with Gresik’s refined palate and technical mastery to produce the menu at The Arbour. His evolution as a chef began after his tour at the Cordon Bleu, with the help of an influential mentor. 

“I spent seven years with Joachim Splichal of the Patina Group at the original Patina on Melrose and then at the Walt Disney Concert Hall,” he says.

Shortly after the onset of the pandemic lockdown, the now-legendary chef and restaurateur Splichal sold the Patina portfolio. 

“He’s pretty much retired,” Gresik adds. “He sold the group. He’s focusing more on his wineries. He’s got the Domaine de Cala, a winery in Provence. We have two of his labels on our wine list. He had a great run.” 

Gresik left Patina to helm Downtown’s lauded Drago Centro as executive chef for five years. There is another Pasadena connection here. The upscale Italian restaurant is owned by chef Celestino Drago, whose brother owns the popular local trattoria Celestino’s, just four blocks north of The Arbour on Lake Avenue. 

“So, arguably, I worked with the best French chef and the best Italian chef in town,” Gresik says. 

After settling in Pasadena and surveying the fine dining landscape, the Gresiks found the storefront on South Lake in The Arbour building, which prompted the restaurant’s name. 

“We went ahead and built out a restaurant,” Gresik says. “We’re in the old building that used to be Express Clothing. We did a full build-out. It was 11 months from start to finish.” 

The time and effort paid off. The dining room exudes a calm, casual elegance, and the expansive open kitchen seems, predictably, a chef’s dream come true. 

“I already knew what I wanted,” Gresik says. 

He engaged architect and designer Chris Keith and his firm, Spacecraft, because of Keith’s willingness to collaborate directly with Gresik’s vision. 

“He was one of the only people who wanted to work with my design.”

The lovely result speaks for itself.

Although the now-empty dining room serves to stage takeout and delivery orders, Gresik has managed to create a lovely, 16-guest outdoor dining space on his relatively quiet strip of South Lake. Although the restaurant also boasts a generously expansive parking lot behind the venue, Gresik hasn’t yet been able to activate it for outdoor dining.

“We’re an independent restaurant that is nimble enough to make it,” says Gresik, who winnowed his staff from 50 to seven when he pivoted to takeout. 

“We rolled with all the punches. Our strategy has been defense. We’d rather have a smaller footprint and be safe. (And) still be relevant and still serve our guests quality food.” So far so good.

Now about that food. Perusing the current menu, which has been slightly abbreviated during the pandemic, Gresik points to popular favorites.

For starters, the bacon tart ($13) baked in puff pastry with onion and served with béchamel sauce, Parmesan and wild greens is a standout. Perhaps a bit more on the farm-to-table theme is the shaved Brussels sprout salad ($14) with fresh goat cheese and toasted pine nuts tossed in a white wine vinaigrette. There’s also a classic Caesar ($13) and a beet salad with baby lacinato kale and golden raisins with a lemon vinaigrette and “hazelnut dust” ($13) on the menu.

Popular entrees include the sophisticated comfort of bucatini in vodka sauce ($25) with ground pancetta, tomato cream and Parmesan. There’s also sea bass with polenta cake, roasted fennel, baby bok choy, celery root puree and lemon foam ($35). 

One of Gresik’s signature dishes is the duo of duck ($38), which features roasted duck breast with a leg confit served with peppercorn sauce, parsnip puree, baby turnips and spinach. There are also weekly specials. Recently, it was roasted rack of lamb with spiced couscous, fresh peppers, chickpeas, green onions and salsa verde ($49).

The specials include custom cocktails to go, which, Gresik adds, has helped. Lead bartender Nick Christianson doubles as a waiter. 

Gresik is also quick to credit Mathew Haro, his chef de cuisine.

“He deserves a lot of kudos for being flexible,” Gresik says. “I give him a lot of credit. We’ve been working together for 10 years. You see the true colors of people in a crisis.

“We were lucky enough to get the PPP loans for the first and second rounds. That’s been a huge relief. But it doesn’t guarantee our livelihood or success, if you look at how it works. It’s eight weeks. But I will say, I’m very pleased with the city of Pasadena. The new mayor, Victor Gordo, he’s behind business.” 

Gresik never shut down The Arbour, realizing he needed to cater to the attention of his loyal following. Otherwise, “there’s no guarantee they’ll come back,” Gresik asserts. Accordingly, The Arbour serves dinner seven nights a week. “The whole thing for us is to stay relevant.”

Guests can preorder online for takeout or delivery, and reservations are likely recommended for outdoor seating on-site. That said, these days it might just be the chef greeting and seating, as Gresik’s focus has shifted to front of house. 

“I’ve been a chef for over 20 years,” he says. “It’s my first time being a waiter.”

Finally, as a grateful gesture to his loyal patrons and a sweet, exclusive gift to Arroyo readers, Gresik was persuaded to divulge The Arbour’s recipe for chocolate mousse.

THE ARBOUR
527 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena
626-396-4925, thearbourpasadena.com

Tea for Two

The Huntington to renovate historic garden tearoom
By Kamala Kirk

After decades of serving guests in its Rose Garden Tea Room, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens will renovate and expand it. 

Since the initial conversion of the building into a tearoom, there have been many alterations to the building over time, particularly to the kitchen areas. This is the first major rehabilitation. 

“The idea started with a (pre-pandemic) assessment of both the building on the outside and the building and the kitchen on the inside,” says Randy Shulman, The Huntington’s vice president for advancement and external relations. 

“The architectural details and overall condition of the original tearoom have been in decline for many years and need work. Over the past six years, we have worked to stabilize the exterior architectural details as much as possible, but we knew that over the long term it had to be worked on.”

The $7.5 million project went into municipal review in January 2021, and The Huntington expects it to be completed in 2022. Developed by The Huntington with Architectural Resources Group (ARG), the project will restore the front of the original building, in addition to a new outdoor dining experience and improved functionality in service areas.

“The COVID-19 seating and service considerations helped to inspire the idea of an elegant but exterior fully ventilated structure in the garden for dining,” Shulman says. 

“After the renovation is completed, the restaurant will be able to function with people seated more than 6 feet apart. Therefore, it would be a safer place for people to enjoy a meal as we emerge from the pandemic.”

The Rose Garden Tea Room’s food provider, Bon Appetit, also found the kitchen was inadequate for providing the level of service that it wanted to offer. The project will modernize the kitchen, upgrade the indoor dining space, develop new restrooms and ancillary areas, and create a pavilion on the building’s eastern side that opens onto the Shakespeare Garden for exterior dining service.

“The pavilion will be able to seat approximately 44 in COVID-spaced seating, approximately 68 in normally spaced seating,” adds Steve Farneth, the project architect for The Huntington’s Rose Garden Tea Room renovation and founding partner of ARG. 

“Overall, including interior and exterior seating, the new facility will seat approximately the same number as it does currently.”

The project plans to renovate the room on the west side of the building that opens to the Herb Garden. In addition to being used for the tearoom’s general service, it will be made available for private rentals. 

“On the west side of the building, we will replace an existing wood frame dining room with a slightly larger but much more open space overlooking the Herb Garden,” Farneth says. “Rolling doors along the south, west and north walls will open the room to the Herb Garden.”

The renovation comes on the heels of The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration, which kicked off September 2019 and features a yearlong series of exhibitions, public programs and new initiatives. The tearoom is part of The Huntington’s historic core and will connect the building to the surrounding gardens’ visual and physical elements, making for a unique tea experience.

“The tearoom has been closed to the public since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Shulman says. “However, when the tearoom reopens, we will be offering a high tea table service like we have in the past, including a vegan and gluten-free high tea, and expanding the add-on section of fresh salads, soups, cheese plates and charcuterie boards.”

For more information, visit huntington.org. 

Paired for Success

Realtors Peter Martocchio and David Goldberg help clients find their dream homes
By Kamala Kirk

For almost 20 years, local Realtors Peter Martocchio and David Goldberg have been top producers for Sotheby’s International Realty in Pasadena, representing buyers and sellers for many luxury and historically significant properties throughout Los Angeles.  

Their extensive knowledge of the Southern California real estate market and its rich history, combined with their background and expertise in creative design and architecture, has earned them a reputation as trusted professionals who offer clients true local knowledge and insight on the luxury real estate market and trends.

Growing up, Martocchio was a classical pianist and tap dancer. He worked at the La Jolla Playhouse while attending UCSD, eventually transferring to UCLA, where he graduated with a degree in theater arts. Several years after moving to LA, he opened a retail store in Silverlake that required a full renovation, and over the course of the project he discovered his passion for real estate. That ultimately led him to become a licensed agent in 2001.

“I discovered how much I cherished the design/build aspect of the Silverlake adventure, but seeing as I didn’t own the property, I vowed never to embark on property improvements on any property that I didn’t own outright,” Martocchio says. 

“That is what motivated me to get my real estate license. I later discovered that there is something entirely uncanny about the similarities of the theatrical cycle and the home-selling cycle. Each house is the set, the open houses are much like opening night, and the run of any listing always has theatrics. The concentrated duration of the process creates an instant family-type unit.” 

Goldberg’s family owned a construction supply business, so he was exposed to construction and architecture from day one. He has two degrees — a Bachelor of Arts in design/architecture and landscape architecture from UC Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. 

Prior to obtaining his license and becoming an agent in 2004, Goldberg worked as a designer for home remodels and new construction. He often oversaw renovations, restorations and other general improvements on properties that Martocchio listed for sale or had sold to clients.

“I started my career in real estate by building homes from the ground up and selling them,” Goldberg says. “I then started buying old character homes, renovating them and then selling them. As an agent, it has been a huge part of my success being able to show buyers the potential in a property that needs work. I also can oversee the things that need to be done to prepare a property for sale. My design background is an important part of my ability to make a property look amazing before sale.”

Married for 23 years, Goldberg and Martocchio have worked together as a full-time real estate team for the last 17 years and formed House of Martocchio in 2017. While the majority of their business is in Pasadena and Altadena, they work in many areas of Los Angeles, including Silverlake, Highland Park and Eagle Rock. They have also sold properties in Bel-Air, Palm Desert, Claremont, Oxnard, Santa Barbara and Lake Arrowhead, among others.

“Our dynamic as a team is great,” Martocchio says. “Because we live and work together, there is a natural rhythm and distribution of responsibilities. More often than not, David works with our buyers and is the field agent, while I handle the many nuances of our listings. In this new age of immediacy, that often means that I am close to my desk or portable electronic devices so that I can respond swiftly to any issues that come about.”

Since the beginning of their careers, Goldberg and Martocchio have been involved with historic homes and landmarks. They have sold renowned properties by many famed architects, such as Greene and Greene; Rudolph Schindler; and Buff, Straub & Hensman.

The Kresge/Richter Laboratory in the North San Rafael Hills was one of the most important historic properties for which they represented the purchase and ultimate resale. Goldberg worked as a principal designer with the owners and helped transform the property from a scientific/educational facility into a single-family home, receiving an award from the city of Pasadena and the state of California for his efforts on the project.

“Understanding the history and relevance of these properties architecturally is an important part of properly representing these homes,” Goldberg says. 

“When preparing these homes for sale, it’s crucial that you respect the original architecture and character of the property while taking current trends and styles under consideration.” 

One of Martocchio’s first listings was the Hale Solar Laboratory in Pasadena on what was once a remote edge of Henry Huntington’s estate. The property is a National Historic Monument, bearing the highest classification of a protected property, and had been owned by the Carnegie Institute before falling into private hands. 

“There are many special considerations that must be taken when dealing with such properties,” Martocchio explains.

“As the Mills Act took hold in Pasadena, I began working with many homeowners in the application process. Selling such homes also requires special knowledge and understanding of the maintenance contracts. There are pros and cons to the program, and I’m well-versed in explaining the nuances to homeowners, buyers, sellers, agents and the general public. Historic preservation isn’t something to be feared, and I try to explain potential restrictions in a matter-of-fact way.”

Goldberg and Martocchio have been Pasadena residents for 27 years and live in a National Register Spanish home in the Prospect Park Historic District. They recently purchased a post-modernist property next door to their home and are in the process of transforming it into an industrial-influenced modern loft, with the intention of using it as a deluxe home office.

“I was attracted to the area for many reasons, the most important is the abundance of beautiful character homes and stunning neighborhoods,” Goldberg says. “I also love the smaller town feel here and the city’s history.”

Martocchio, who had a secondary emphasis in writing in college, is putting the finishing touches on a novel he wrote that was inspired by his love for the Arroyo Seco.

“When I came to Pasadena in 1997, it immediately felt like home,” Martocchio says. 

“There is a genetic reaction I have when passing the Eagle Rock on the 134 Freeway and having the grandeur of the Colorado Street Bridge welcome me into the central Arroyo with the mountains running as far as the eye can see — it never gets old. It’s like turning the page in an illustrated novel and finding a two-page color spread. It goes without saying that the houses, the trees, the cultural institutions and the diversity of the community make it an exceptional place to live and work.”

One unique thing that sets Goldberg and Martocchio apart from others is the team of experts that they work with and bring in for various home projects for clients. 

“We have an entire crew of people, from architects to engineers, who we can tap into when a client wants to renovate or redesign their home,” Goldberg explains. 

“When we’re showing a buyer homes, we can show them the potential in a house, which opens up the possibilities. We make the experience much easier by taking control of all these things so that clients don’t have to worry about them. I love helping people fulfill their dreams when it comes to where they live.”

Clients appreciate the personal approach and attention to detail that Goldberg and Martocchio provide throughout the entire process of buying or selling a home. They are excellent negotiators, are transparent from beginning to end and make it a policy not to do double-end deals.

“We take considerable time making sure that our clients understand the process and the many situations that will come up that they need to be prepared for,” Goldberg says.

“One aspect of real estate that is extremely important for an agent is their ability to understand their client’s needs and personalities. An agent has a huge responsibility to keep a transaction together by negotiating a fair deal for each party involved. My negotiating abilities can result in significant monetary gains for our sellers and fair deals for our buyers.”

COVID-19 has impacted the real estate market, resulting in an increased homebuying demand, a lack of inventory, and home prices that have exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Martocchio and Goldberg recently represented a buyer and, out of 36 offers on a home, theirs was the one that was accepted. 

“Being successful listing agents gives us an advantage when competing with multiple offers, because we get to see the creative ways other agents work to represent their own clients, and we can take the best of their methods and apply them on behalf of our clients when confronted with multiple offers,” Martocchio says.

The pandemic has also raised the industry standard and forced a higher degree of organization. Goldberg and Martocchio’s listings are designed to protect the health of anyone who steps foot onto one of their properties. 

 “I think our clients know we are successful, capable and open-minded,” Martocchio says. 

“We try to make the process fun by infusing humor into our conversations. I believe that our clients know when hiring us that every decision we make is for their benefit. Our job is to adapt our services to each client — some clients don’t have computers; others don’t text. Some are out of the country entirely, so we may implement video calls to stay in touch. Our business occurs in an ever-changing landscape of technology and culture. We have to monitor the stock markets, the sociopolitical arena, new laws and regulations, mortgage rates, international politics and more. If we can speak to the specific needs of each client, then we start with a mutual understanding that builds a strong relationship.”

Goldberg adds, “You can make a huge impact on someone’s life by finding them an exciting home to buy or helping them sell a home. I love helping people. Seeing someone happy because of my work with them means the world to me.”

House of Martocchio
David Goldberg: 626-644-6011
Peter Martocchio: 626-529-6880
houseofmartocchio.com

Hop On Board

Poe the Passenger is driving toward notoriety
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When the Pasadena alternative rock trio Poe the Passenger performs, there’s one thing the musicians want to come across: They’re authentic. 

“The mantra in our band is live your life loving yourself first and spread love to others when you can,” says Jeff Pridgen, the vocalist and guitarist. “You never know what they’re going through. This is more than music. This is family.”

Recently, Poe the Passenger’s “family” pushed the band’s song “Follow Me” to the top of KROQ’s “Locals Only” show, which features bands out of Los Angeles and Southern California.

“It was a dream of ours,” Pridgen says. “We’re still on their rotation. Now we get to meet people via social media who are from Brazil, France, Russia and Pakistan, as well as local music supporters.”

“Follow Me” is an ode to a handful of Poe the Passenger’s fans. It tackles the pain of being bipolar.

“It’s not something any of us deal with,” Pridgen says. “I’ve researched and read about it. We have fans who have told us that they have it. It’s a tough subject for them, so we decided to shed a little bit of light on it.

“That’s where this ebb and flow comes from in that song. Sometimes people feel up and some feel down.”

Former Pasadena City College students Pridgen, Trent Marderosian and Matt Rosenblum assembled Poe the Passenger in 2017. Although they attended PCC at the same time, they didn’t connect for a few years later. 

Since forming, Poe the Passenger clocked well over 100 live shows pre-pandemic, gaining a diverse following of fans from all around the world.

Born in the Chicago area, Pridgen moved to Pasadena in 2011. He was into film before he co-founded Poe the Passenger. 

“I was doing a lot more film production and working behind the scenes,” he says. “I dabbled in a bit of acting, too. I had always played music in Chicago.”

He switched to music because he says he believed he didn’t have control over the outcome of his career. With music, he can create these “little, short stories” with songs and put all of his effort into it.

“I get way more out of this than acting,” Pridgen says. “It’s not the case for everybody, but that’s how I feel.” 

Inspired by Green Day, early Maroon 5 and Rise Against, Pridgen was performing acoustically when he ran into his now-drummer Marderosian. 

“I always wanted to reform a band, but I didn’t think about that when I moved to LA,” he says. “Trent listens to progressive music. He grew up on Thrice and Circa Survive, which had some fame in the early 2000s. 

“Matt loves groove. He’s big on Muse, Tool and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When we’re writing something, sometimes we have disagreements. We are able to meet somewhere in the middle. We come up with really cool stuff.”

Among the cool stuff is the single “Heart Strings,” which was scheduled to be released on February 19. Pridgen calls it a “hometown nostalgia type of song.”

“I wrote the lyrics from the perspective of being away from my family,” he says. “My family is 1,600 miles away, but every day I feel their love. 

“I wanted it to feel like I’m taking the people I met here in LA back home to see my brother, my mom and my goddaughter, and bask in that hometown nostalgia.”

Poe the Passenger is planning to release an album later this year but wants to release it with authenticity and sustainability in mind. When the trio are not recording, they do community service by helping out at recycling functions or working with the homeless in Pasadena. 

“We’re trying to find something we can do to promote the community and promote sustainability,” he says. “We want to be able to reach people around the world as well as locally. We keep it super honest. We come from a perspective of self-growth or inner growth.”

Although a livestream is in the future, Poe the Passenger is looking forward to performing live once again. 

“There’s something intangible about it,” he says. “This energy that you feel from people and they’re watching you and singing our songs is amazing. It’s the soundtrack of their night. 

“That feeling is so incredible. To not have that for almost a year has been really tough on us. Thankfully, we can still communicate with our fans through social media. We miss our fans dearly.” 

Magnificent Murals

Artist Patricia Llovera’s beautiful designs are showcased throughout the community
By Kamala Kirk

Patricia Llovera started drawing when she was 12 years old, around the time her mother passed away. She hung out in her room on a beanbag chair drawing pictures from the dictionary while listening to classical music. Her favorite was Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” 

Throughout her teenage years, Llovera continued to draw and dabbled in calligraphy, but when she landed an office job after graduation, her artistic endeavors were put on the shelf. 

Fifteen years later, when she was laid off, Llovera rediscovered her talent for the arts and began taking courses in writing and art at Pasadena City College and the Otis College of Art and Design.

Llovera studied multiple topics, including illustration, life drawing, composition, as well as writing, illustrating and designing children’s books. She became fascinated with geometric work, and one of her professors at Otis College once compared Llovera’s style to that of Frank Stella and early Piet Mondrian.

“I discovered that writing and drawing made me feel good about myself, and I really appreciated the discipline that I had,” Llovera says. 

Llovera began attending Wine & Canvas painting classes in Pasadena, where her artistic skills shined. On a whim, she participated in the Pasadena Chalk Festival in 2010 and honed her chalk skills. 

“I thought I could do chalk art, too, so I went to see what would happen,” Llovera shares. “My first year was a really cool year for the Pasadena Chalk Festival because they were named the Largest Display of Chalk Pavement Art by the Guinness Book of World Records. I love doing the chalk festival. It’s not always about winning. I do love to win, but I’m not tremendously competitive. I participate because it’s fun and creating makes me feel good.”

Since them, Llovera has participated in over 20 chalk festivals, including the Carlsbad ArtSplash, Monrovia Chalk Festivals and the Chalk Art Festival in Centennial, Colorado. 

In 2015, Llovera and a fellow artist formed a two-person mural team, designing and creating murals for cities, schools, restaurants and private residents, in addition to creating custom designs on windows for businesses. During the five years they worked together, Llovera helped create murals throughout the San Gabriel Valley and in Wilmington, and her various artwork has been displayed at libraries in Bellflower, Pasadena and Monrovia.  

“Murals are often complicated, detailed and require a lot of prep time,” Llovera says. “You have to clean and prep surfaces before starting the design, and paint acts differently on different surfaces. I often use a water-based latex paint, which is safe to use around schools. I’m very safety conscious and like to keep a neat and clean workspace.”

Llovera is also a member of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts and developed a talent for refurbishing utility boxes for the city of Monrovia, where she was eventually awarded with two boxes of her own to paint with her designs, along with another utility box in South El Monte.

“A lot of cities will put out an artist call to paint utility boxes, then you can send in your artwork to be considered,” Llovera explains. “Sometimes there will be a theme for the utility box. I lean toward geometric designs because they’re balanced and uniform. I love working with bright, eye-catching colors.”

Llovera now works on her own and continues to provide mural and artwork services for clients. She also enjoys painting canvases for friends and family and designing hand-painted cards for different occasions. Since COVID-19 occurred, the chalk festivals and competitions have gone virtual, so Llovera has been creating designs on her driveway or on canvas and submitting them online. Aside from chalk art, she also enjoys working with acrylics, watercolor, pencil, charcoal, and pen and ink.

“I love the drive that I get from art, and it makes one more disciplined,” Llovera says. “It’s cool being an artist, because I can use anything as a tool. Nothing is going to be perfect all the time, and you learn from your mistakes — there’s always an opportunity to improve. I’m always up for commissions, and I’m constantly looking for competitions to enter. It gives me an excuse to create, and it keeps me in practice. If I don’t win a competition this time, there will always be others.” 

For the past five years, Llovera has been a full-time, live-in caretaker in Pasadena for her 100-year-old grandmother.

“We have a lot of fun together,” Llovera says. “It’s definitely challenging being an artist and a full-time caregiver at the same time, but I’ve learned that if I want to get more things done, I have to take advantage of the time I have. So, if she’s taking a nap, I’ll use that time for working on projects or creating stencil letters for a client. It’s all about finding a balance between time and responsibility.”

Llovera is also eager to pursue a career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. Five years ago, she finished a book for young readers on how to execute chalk designs, addressing technique, art supplies and safety issues, as well as the joys of working as an artist in the public workspace. She is in the process of updating the book and plans to resubmit it to publishers.

“I want to write more books for children that have good morals and lessons in them,” Llovera says. “I also want to continue my journey as an artist. Picasso said that it took him a lifetime to paint like a child. There is beauty in children’s artwork; we seem to forget that as we grow up. If you want to draw a tangled mess of lines and weird colors, go for it. Draw what makes you happy; other people may end up liking it as well. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s always important to follow your heart.”

To see more of Llovera’s work and to contact her for commissions, follow her on Instagram @patricia_llovera_.