Finding a Home

Jason Hardin shares his love of Pasadena with clothing line
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Jason Hardin attended 19 elementary schools as he hopped from relative to relative, trying to find a stable home. 

“My parents were unstable,” he says. “My father had trouble with the law.”

As a high school freshman in 1995, Hardin moved from the Bay Area to Van Nuys. However, he attended Pasadena High School.

“Pasadena was the first place I never wanted to leave,” Hardin says.

To show his love for Pasadena and Altadena, he created the Made in Dena clothing line.

“I feel Pasadena isn’t presented on the mainstream media past the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl,” Hardin says. “There is so much more to it. I always loved the businesses here.

“Outside of the political division and borders, Pasadena and Altadena have always been one community for those who grew up here. It was my way of trying to shine light on the community and pay homage to the things I tend to love in Pasadena.”

Thanks to his years at PHS, 1995 to 1998, Pasadena was the first place he had a steady group of friends. 

“It was the longest time I went to one school,” he says. “I never stayed anywhere long enough.”

He rode the bus for 2 1/2 hours from Van Nuys to Pasadena High School every day. The time was worth it.

“When I moved to Van Nuys, (his guardian) says I could go to PHS if I could figure out how to get there,” he recalls. “I called the bus lines and found out how to get to PHS. I would take the bus every day, to and fro — even during football season. I didn’t have any time off. I just love the people here, the togetherness and the community.”

After high school, he briefly attended Pasadena City College, where he had access to a computer. 

“That’s what got me involved in doing business services and graphic arts for folks,” he says. “I struggled with finding myself and exploring what I was good at. My father passed when I was 19. My mother was still living in San Jose. I was here kind of lost. 

“I was homeless right out of high school. I was sleeping on the bus for a few months. I rode the 24-hour bus until school started at PCC and then I could go to my friend’s house and change.”

After college, he started the short-lived magazine The Dena Magazine to help promote the community as well as his friends involved in the arts and business. 

“I wanted an affordable, if not free, way to promote my friends,” says Hardin, an avid golfer. “With all that love, I wanted to create something. I did it all myself. I wrote all the stories, sold all the advertising, did the artwork and took the photos. 

“It was very, very tiring and overwhelming at points. I became so busy I couldn’t work on that product.”

An independent business consultant, Hardin plans to use Made in Dena with his youth-mentoring projects. He says he believes anyone can create or will themselves into their dream job. 

“I don’t care how qualified you are,” he says. “If you create that dream job, you have that job. No one can deny you if you do that. I invite youth to help me. Even if you don’t like T-shirts, you can learn about finance, artwork and marketing.”

Hardin hopes to inspire others. He was lost, but he found his way, thanks to Pasadena. 

“I never thought Made in Dena would resonate with so many folks and cross so many borders,” Hardin says. “Pasadena is a very diverse place. I still have an attachment to the city.

“People send me photos of them wearing Made in Dena clothing outside of Pasadena or Altadena. I was just amazed to see how proud people are of Pasadena — just like me.”

For more information, visit huntington.org. 

Made in Dena Clothing
madeindena.com

Achieving Real Estate Dreams

Hythe Realty is a women-owned company that guarantees the best results for clients  

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Seasoned broker Vera Nelson and Realtor Barbara Richardson King put their clients first with their brokerage Hythe Realty Inc, stripping the process of corporate or financial priorities. Clients and agents are drawn to the women-owned company because of their commitment to outstanding service and to the community.

“We really wanted to do something that totally focuses on the client,” Nelson says. “Whatever their needs, whatever the scenario, we are there for them during the entire journey. It’s not a cookie-cutter solution, and it’s not transactional for us. 

King adds, “Our leadership focuses on a high level of ethics and integrity. We are passionate about what we do and about helping people achieve their real estate dreams and their goals.”

Longtime partners in the business and Pasadena natives, the two women realize the launch of Hythe Realty in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic was ambitious, but more importantly it was a spiritual journey. 

“We felt it was the perfect time to get the message to clients that we understand the essence of their journey in good times and in challenging times,” Nelson says. 

The name Hythe Realty is eye-opening. The term “hythe” means small port, safe haven and/or soft landing. In other words, it is somewhere clients can hang their hat. Hythe Realty primarily serves Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, although they cover all of Southern California as well.

“If that’s where you’re going to find the home, that’s where we’re going to go,” Nelson says.

Nelson is a 20-year veteran of the real estate industry and living proof of the B.A.M. effect: broker, adviser and mentor. She began her real estate journey in 1999 and eventually became a top producer for Century 21 Master-San Marino, which she was affiliated with until 2010. She then became a broker associate, mentor ambassador and a top producer for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage/CB Realty from 2010 to 2020. 

Being in the top 2% of her chosen field is not by chance for Nelson. She knows how to set the agenda to lead the negotiations. 

“You don’t only represent your client,” Nelson says. “You have to have a relationship with the buyer’s agent or the seller’s agent. It’s a whole relationship-building journey from the beginning to the end. 

King, a veteran Realtor in town, was voted “Realtor of the Year” two years in a row, which represents her commitment to excellence and service to her clients. As a native Pasadenan, her knowledge of the area is unparalleled. 

In addition, King serves on several locally based community and nonprofit boards of directors, representing her commitment to improving and strengthening neighborhoods and the community. 

The team

Hythe Realty’s team consists of highly motivated and technical professionals, trustworthy real estate agents that will help guide clients during the home search. King and Nelson have trained all team members so that they are well versed in Hythe’s mission of service first. 

As technology continues to direct the path forward, Hythe Realty has several team members that provide the highest level of technology to help buyers find the perfect home quickly and to expose sellers’ listings to the broadest possible qualified buyer pool, resulting in the best price and terms.

Their in-house designer/Realtor, Wanda San Juan, has worked with renowned interior designer, author and television personality Nate Berkus, who is also Oprah’s designer. San Juan got her start in real estate by staging properties and buying and selling homes. 

“Hythe Realty stages homes because, after all, a showing is comparable to a first date,” San Juan says.

Nelson adds, “It’s nice when clients walk in and you see the looks of amazement and pleasure on their faces. They can’t believe it. Then when their home sells for top dollar, we’re right there with them. It’s not just to close, it goes beyond that. Now our relocation experts move in to find new housing in nearby or distant locations. We also have an incredible resource list of professionals that provide a myriad of needed services.”

The luxury market

In a historic year for luxury real estate, California saw its all-time price record shattered. More than 200 homes traded hands for more than $10 million, and two sold for more than $100 million. In the long-ago days of 2019, the $10-million-plus market fell well short of 200 deals.

Every home, whether 800 or 8,000 square feet, is a castle. In the end, it’s all about presentation.

“Everything is so grand sometimes with real estate and sales,” Nelson says. “To genuinely have each person’s harbor, their port, their safe haven is a pleasure. We’re going to help them do what they need to do in their lives to navigate their next chapter or make it easier for them. It’s more than a modern luxury market. It’s not just about giving statistics. It’s the ‘extra’ things, like a concierge service.”

King and Nelson also have extensive experience with VA home loans and frequently work with members of the military, veterans and their families.

“It’s not about the commission and the money,” Nelson says. “It’s about the passion for what we do to really find the right haven for people, or the right spot. Everyone has their place, and we’ll go find it. We have a deep respect for our military members and veteran community. Now it’s time for us to serve them.”

A first impression

A testament to their success, Hythe Realty has received many positive reviews from satisfied clients, praising them on their experience, vast market knowledge, positive and friendly attitude, ability to navigate challenging negotiations, and more.

“If you are looking for high standards, exceptional expertise, genuine care and someone who fights for you, then Hythe Realty is the only name you need to know,” says Kianna Dorman, an active-duty Air Force member. “All thanks to them, I’m proud to say I’m a first-time home buyer.” 

Hythe Realty also gives back to the community, specifically organizations like Black Girls Code, Surfrider Foundation USA and the Pasadena Educational Foundation. The movement isn’t something Nelson and King brag about. Often, they keep the donations to themselves. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a joy in it. 

“It’s not just a real estate company,” Nelson says. “It’s not an organization — we’re alive, we’re fluid, we’re moving.”

King adds, “I definitely agree. I think a ‘business’ is something that focuses on the bottom line of the client.  I take every situation and we build a custom package for each situation.  We listen, we care and we perform!”

“Hythe has solutions for every unique situation, and for every client, ‘We can give more,’” Nelson shares. “We can protect more. We can grow more. I think that’s the essence of Hythe Realty. We have that personal touch. It’s that connection with people.”

Vera Nelson

Founder | Broker

CAL DRE No. 01333471

626-298-3025, vera@hytherealty.com

Barbara Richardson King

Founding Partner | Global Estate Director

CAL DRE No. 00903286

626-319-0315, properties@barbara-king.com

Keeping Customers Safe

Post Alarm: Shields up since 1956
By Arroyo Staff

For more than 60 years, Post Alarm has been helping to keep its customers safe with a unique combination of technological innovation, practical experience and personal care. Post’s customizable security solutions are designed to meet customers’ needs now, and can grow alongside your changing family or business needs.  

Customers can rely on Post’s locally based team to stay vigilant so they can relax and enjoy their homes. Unlike many other security firms, the owner and operators of the company live and work in their communities. 

They have always been a local, family-owned company, and Post Alarm was founded on a passion for protecting the communities the staff calls home. It is that passion that makes Post the best in the business.

Post Alarm is one of the nation’s few security companies with the distinction of owning and operating its own UL Listed Monitoring Station. In addition to that elite certification, Post has been honored with 5 Diamond Accreditation. This puts Post Alarm in the top 5% of alarm companies in the nation. The superior setup of Post’s central station enables Post to have superior response time to most of its competitors.

“While our central station and technology is best in class, Post’s real superpower is our people,” says owner Rob Post.

“We invest in extensive training for our security team, as well as every other team member that serves our customers. Our team truly cares about delivering their very best. When something goes wrong, you can rely on us to be there as soon as possible with the help you need, when you need it.”

Post’s home security solutions put families’ safety first, but convenience is a close second. With fully customizable options that include motion detectors, cameras and smart home integrations, security systems can give clients peace of mind. This starts with traditional burglar alarms and extends to cameras with ID recognition. Post’s smart home integrations allow customers to remotely lock and unlock doors from a phone, turn lights off or on, adjust the thermostat, and of course see cameras from a smartphone. 

Customization options extend beyond traditional solutions — and even innovative services like Night Shield, protection for loved ones with Medical Alert, and traditional patrol services. 

Night Shield allows clients to set up their own preferences so that if an intruder steps foot onto a property at night, Central Station is notified. Post Patrol is automatically dispatched to the home so everyone can rest easy at night. The Medical Alert service can even help protect loved ones from a distance, allowing for private response with just the touch of a button. There are more services to explore — and Post can help customers find the perfect security solutions for their needs. Post’s local patrol arrives quickly on the scene whenever help is needed. 

Experience the peace of mind that Post’s locally based, award-winning, innovative protection can bring to a home and life. Give Post a call for a no-cost consultation.

In the Midst of Chaos

Artist Lita Albuquerque’s ‘Red Earth’ brings calmness

By Kamala Kirk

After being closed for more than three months due to COVID-19, The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino has reopened most of its garden areas to the public.

Guests visiting the Japanese Garden are greeted by a new site-specific artwork, “Red Earth” by artist Lia Albuquerque, an internationally renowned installation and environmental artist, painter and sculptor.

“I was commissioned to create a work for The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration, and I was excited to work in the gardens and to work in response to nature,” Albuquerque says. 

“Robert Hori, cultural creator of the gardens, took me all around the grounds and offered a wide range of sites. When we walked by the western gate of the Japanese Garden and I saw the intimacy of the bamboo grove there, I knew immediately what I wanted to do. It felt like it was the heart of the garden, that I could do something more personal there and speak to that specific site.”

The installation centers around an approximately 3-ton boulder capped with bright red pigment surrounded by bamboo stalks affixed with copper bands that glint under leaf-filtered sunlight. Vibrant red disks have been placed along paths leading toward “Red Earth” to draw visitors to the display.

“I work with color as presence and as a springboard to sensations,” Albuquerque says. 

“I drew my inspiration from the green circle of bamboo trees, which seemed like a nature theater on which to place a presence. That gentle theatricality also inspired me, like it was meant to have a work there that would be part of the site itself. The piece is really about the grove and the light hitting the bamboo, which I emphasized by creating copper rings to encircle the bamboo stalks at different heights almost as if it were a musical score, as well as Red Earth, which is the boulder around which everything swirls. Most of the time, the earth speaks to us if we would just take a moment to listen and to hear. This ‘Red Earth’ surprised even me after finishing the installation and experiencing it. It’s as if the boulder itself had a presence that was expressing itself to me, asking me to pay attention, asking me to synchronize my heartbeat to hers. Once I did that, I could almost see her breathe. It’s a wonderful moment to be connected like that to the earth itself in the intimacy of the bamboo grove.”

To create “Red Earth,” Albuquerque and her studio team went on a search for the perfect boulder that had to have a certain presence and a certain shape like the crest of a mountain. She knew she wanted Bouquet Canyon rock and found the quarry three hours north of Pasadena, but once there it was not an easy search. At the quarry, the boulders that were already quarried were on the ground and it was hard to see what their shape would be once standing vertically. The boulder could also not exceed 3,000 pounds, as it had to be craned over the bamboo without damaging trees.

“I wanted it to have a mass, a presence, which meant a lot of tonnage,” Albuquerque says. 

“When we finally found the correct boulder after multiple trips to the quarry, the one that we liked most was 7,800 pounds and had to be cut down and trimmed without losing its natural shape. We installed it on a rainy March 10. The opening was to be on the spring equinox, March 21, the first day of spring. Then, during the pandemic, we were able to create the red circles that led the public to “Red Earth,” and a few days before July 1, we were able to complete the installation of the red pigment and the copper rings on the bamboo trees. It is one of the few art works that can be physically experienced during this pandemic. That is exciting to me.”

For Albuquerque, the color red has always been about the fiery energy that is at the core of the earth. Back in 1981, she created a project called “The Horizon Is the Place that Maintains the Memory” for the Hirshhorn Museum and Gardens, which was about the memory of the earth being seen and maintained by the horizon of the moon. For that exhibit, she poured red powder pigment on the stone, as if the stone were emerging or rising from the core of the earth, bringing with it all its energy. The stone at the Hirshhorn was from a quarry in California and was called Bouquet Canyon rock, which is the same rock that Albuquerque used for “Red Earth.”

“Conceptually it is different, but aesthetically has the same quality, only placed in a different context and at a different time,” Albuquerque says. 

“In this case, there is the dichotomy between the presence of a 3,000-pound boulder, which is obviously permanent, and the ephemerality of the powder pigment that can be blown way. The gesture of dusting the boulder with pigment is also so ephemeral. The combination of strength and fragility is what I was going for, that we need to pay attention to both. We certainly understand how changeable things are during this time of the virus. There remain the eternal relationships and fundamental aspects of our existence. Perhaps that quiet theatrical space in the garden, perhaps the mass and presence of the piece, will remind us of that greater sense of being.”

Viva La Revolucion!

Muralist Alejandro Chavez adds color to the world

Story By Nikhil Bhambri | Photos by Luis Chavez

In a world of suffering and inequality, South Pasadena resident Alejandro Chavez uses different artistic mediums to encourage social change. 

Chavez has been using his talents to create art that portrays, in a deeply evocative way, the lives of those affected by political, environmental and social upheaval. It all comes from his belief that shared experiences through meaningful art can break down divisions and unite diverse people in the fight for equality. Chavez’s artistic family, his travels and multifaceted life experiences have shaped him into the artist he is today. 

In the late 1990s, Chavez’s uncle exposed him to political art, which helped him understand the 9/11 attacks. This inspired him to use muralism and graphic design to raise awareness of current issues. Chavez strives to challenge divisive or limiting paradigms, by creating dialogue that is catalytic to healing. 

According to him, art—regardless of what it depicts—is a universal language that can be appreciated by all people. His work conveys a message to raise consciousness about social issues and engages people in dialogue. These conversations allow for greater understanding and acceptance of others for who they are. 

Chavez is galvanized by local and global social and political concerns, and his art depicts impactful stories that he believes do not receive enough attention. His themes include environmental issues, women’s and gay rights, and immigration. He emphasizes leaders who have struggled on behalf of their community in the fight for liberation and equality.

Chavez began working on murals in 2014 with his cousin, who works on NBC’s “The Voice.” His murals revive the rich tradition of Chicano culture and stories. He says he believes murals bring life to a city’s streets. When street art is censored, it feels as if society has been numbed. The messages expressed through street art highlight something more important than what’s presented on the daily news. 

Trump’s political measures, such as the border wall and anti-immigration, have inspired Chicano artists to vocalize their views. In Boyle Heights, Chavez painted a wall in which Trump is in a headlock by a famous Mexican wrestler. Despite being a gang-infested neighborhood, community members have shown respect for the piece. In a neighborhood where few things are permanent, the mural has not been defaced many months later.

In 2014, Chavez and his father hosted a debut art show, themed “synergy,” in San Fernando. The father-and-son duo collaborated on artwork reflecting the daily struggles of communities worldwide. Pieces including a portrait of Malala Yousefzai and a painting titled “Peace in the Middle East,” in which children of different religions hug each other while bombs fall in the background.

“War is a dark topic to talk about,” Chavez says. “These children of all races embracing each other highlights the power of love, peace and unity, while also capturing my message of turning negativity to positivity.” 

One of Chavez’s most recent paintings is of Kobe Bryant. Shocked by the Black Mamba’s passing, he painted the image to heal himself. As Chavez grew older, he deeply respected Bryant’s mission to educate underprivileged children through sports. He hopes to follow the superstar’s message of hard work and dedication in his own life by being influential in a positive way.

“There are few guarantees in life, which include change, birth and death,” Chavez says. “This conversation can be brought to the table here in LA, and being the international city that it is, it will hopefully spread worldwide.” 

Travel helps Chavez refresh, reinspire and heal. His experiences overseas have a lasting impact on his art style and themes. 

“It has exposed me to several mediums of art, and messages from all around the world,” Chavez says. “They have impacted and influenced me to use my artistic skills to speak truth and bring darkness to lightness.” 

Chavez recently traveled to Japan, Cuba and Belize and brought cultural remnants back to Los Angeles. While painting a mural in Cuba, he modified his style and technique, as he could not buy supplies from an art store. This inspired him to paint more “freestyle art pieces,” in which the wall guides him through the process, while he just uncovers it through paint strokes.

 In addition to creating art, Chavez works as a bartender at ARO Latin Bar, where his mural titled “The Future is Women” is painted on the bathroom wall. 

His interactions with his Indian boss, Karan Raina, have broadened his horizon and impacted his artwork. He has become more aware of international politics, and the India/Pakistan conflict was the key influence in his “Peace in the Middle East” painting. Furthermore, he has become fascinated by Indian spirituality, specifically the yogi lifestyle and concept of Karma. 

Doing yoga regularly helps him feel relaxed and connected, and he has found that it enhances his creativity. 

“Through spirituality and the mind-and-body connection, I have expanded my consciousness and understanding of how energy works,” Chavez says. “It is through this understanding and in this space where I can create my most authentic and truest work. Art heals.

“During the time of COVID, I have been blessed to have many quantum leaps in my mental and spiritual growth. All of (them) have positively impacted me in many aspects of life.” 

Howard Serrian, Chavez’s friend, describes him as a liberal, anti-establishment revolutionary who is about exploiting change while going against the normal society standards. 

He finds Chavez’s art to be thought provoking, intriguing and empowering. The color patterns catch viewers’ attention, as they are very easy on the eyes. Serrian believes Chavez’s messages about tolerance and peace are especially important for mid-adolescents, who are still shaping their ideas and trying to grasp reality. 

Chavez wants to leave a legacy. His exposure to different walks of life has helped him better identify with the marginalized and hence create a realistic portrayal of their plight. He believes that a shared appreciation for art is a strong first step in breaking barriers and engaging people in meaningful dialogue. Chavez has a vision; he dreams of a personal artistic mission that will eventually unite different citizens to fight harder for international peace and equality. 

Welcome to PUSD

District welcomes new team members this summer

Courtesy Pasadena Unified School District

New school years bring new staff members and Pasadena Unified School District is no different. Here are a few new faces to PUSD this school year. 

Marco Villegas

Dr. Marco Villegas is associate superintendent of specialized student support. Villegas is responsible for administering all programs and services for children with disabilities, leading cross-departmental strategic planning, improving standardized procedures and training for staff, strengthening collaborative partnerships with parents, and improving the organizational efficacy of the special education department.

With nearly three decades of experience as a teacher, successful principal and regional director, Villegas has provided leadership skills training and coaching, and customized professional development for schools across the state. 

“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Villegas to PUSD where he will focus on improving the efficacy of systems that serve students with disabilities,” says Superintendent Brian McDonald. 

“As a teacher, successful principal, district administrator, and mentor to emerging educational leaders across the state, Dr. Villegas is uniquely qualified to lead our district’s special education department in developing effective teams and creating systems that support a culture of learning for all students.”

Villegas joins PUSD from the Ontario-Montclair School District in San Bernardino County where he served as regional director of learning and teaching since 2015. In this position, he was the direct supervisor of 16 schools in the region while supporting the general administration of instructional, business and operational functions.

“I truly feel honored to join the Pasadena Unified School District family, and I am excited about the level of collaboration and the systems already in place that support students with disabilities,” Villegas says. “I look forward to partnering with general and special education educators and families to provide the best possible educational opportunities for all of our students.”

Villegas earned a Ph.D. in urban educational leadership from Claremont Graduate University and has been an adjunct professor in the educational administration department at Azusa Pacific University and California State University Los Angeles. 

An experienced educator and leader, he has served as a mentor for aspiring school administrators and leaders through the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators’ (CALSA) mentoring program. He has also presented at numerous state and national educational conferences over the past 10 years. He replaces Dr. Cherilyn Lew, who accepted a position with another district.

Ana Maria Apodaca 

Ana Maria “Ria” Apodaca, director of health programs. Apodaca leads the planning, development, implementation, evaluation and maintenance of all district student health programs, including the delivery of health services, health education, staff development, and assistance pursuing competitive grants. 

“I am pleased to welcome Ms. Apodaca to PUSD at this crucial time in our history,” McDonald says. “As a proven educational leader with deep ties to our community, non-profit administrator, and devoted advocate for the health and well-being of our students and staff, Ms. Apodaca is a crucial member of the PUSD team as we confront the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for our district’s return to normal times.”

With 25 years of experience as a leader and advocate for student wellness, a trauma-informed practices administrator and coach, school principal and classroom teacher, Apodaca brings a dedication to the academic, physical, social and emotional growth and development of the children of PUSD. She has extensive experience working with nonprofits and has deep ties to the community, having grown up in the area and devoting her professional life to serving the needs of the students of PUSD.

“In these challenging times, services that support the health and well-being of our students, teachers, staff, and families have never been more essential and therefore the work of the Health Programs Department is even more valuable,” Apodaca says. “I have been honored to have served PUSD for many years as both a teacher and an administrator and now I am honored to continue to serve our community by joining the health programs team as we continue our vital mission.”

A member of the PUSD team since 1995 when she began her career as an educator, Apodaca moves to the director of health programs position from her most recent post as a second- and third-grade teacher at Madison Elementary School.  

From 2017-2019, she was director and trauma-informed practices coach with the Resilience in School Environments program of the Los Angeles Education Partnership. Apodaca supported the management of Kaiser Permanente national pilot project, designed and implemented professional development focused on trauma-informed practices, collaborated with district and school leadership to ensure that policies and procedures reflected a trauma-informed mindset, and coached school personnel to implement and sustain trauma-informed practices. She developed a curriculum for the Resilience in School Environments program funded by Kaiser Permanente.

Previously, Apodaca was principal of PUSD’s Altadena Elementary School, where she collaborated on the successful application for a Magnet School Assistance Program grant and the development of an implementation plan for the school’s French Dual Language Immersion program. Prior to Altadena Elementary, Apodaca was principal of Field Elementary School from 2007 to 2016, leading the school’s Mandarin Dual Language Immersion program and implementing a successful Farm-to-School Program, including the development of a 12,000-square-foot vegetable garden and three hydroponic gardens. Under her leadership, Field Elementary won the California Distinguished School Award in 2010 and the Title I Academic Achievement Award in 2007. 

Apodaca earned a master’s in educational leadership from California State University, Los Angeles, a teaching credential from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and a bachelor’s from the University of California, Berkeley. 

She replaces former Health Programs Director Ann Rector, who retired in June.

Leonard Hernandez 

Leonard Hernandez Jr., director of maintenance, operations, transportation and facilities. Hernandez leads the management of districtwide facilities planning, maintenance and repair functions, custodial services, transportation services, fleet management, utility management, and district safety, recycling, indoor air quality and security programs. 

Hernandez has served in high levels of school district facilities management, led facilities and operations for a 1,800-student school complex, taught JROTC, and retired from the U.S. Army as a sergeant, first class, after more than two decades of honorable service.

“Mr. Hernandez brings a unique blend of leadership, experience, and expertise in school facilities and operations, school site-level administration, classroom instruction, and military service to PUSD,” McDonald says. 

“His emphasis on excellence in service through delivering campuses that are clean and in good repair is especially important as we prepare for the eventual safe return of students and staff to our schools as public health conditions with the COVID-19 pandemic evolve.”

Hernandez joins PUSD from the Pomona Unified School District, where he was director of facilities, maintenance operations, from 2019-2020 and was responsible for directing, coordinating, evaluating, and planning the day-to-day facilities, maintenance, operations and transportation for the district’s 43 campuses and three sites. From 2003-2007, he was a school site administrator for Pomona Unified’s Pueblo K-8 and Village Academy High School complex that served 1,800 K-12th grade students and hosted an adult education program. In this role, he managed student discipline and student leadership activities, the schools’ operations, maintenance, and facilities, and supervised classified employees. He was subsequently promoted and served as Pomona Unified’s coordinator of civic center permits and operations from 2007-2016.

From 2016-2019, he was the chief facilities operations officer of the Inglewood Unified School District, where he supervised the construction, maintenance, and repair of school buildings and facilities, energy management, and facilities planning and operations. 

“I am honored to join the PUSD team,” Hernandez says. “As a former site administrator and classroom instructor, I know that the role of school facilities and maintenance is to support and serve students, teachers, and staff with clean facilities in good repair. The facilities and maintenance team has a powerful influence on the educational experience of our students, staff, and families. I look forward to working collaboratively to provide excellent and caring service to our students and staff during the challenging times we face now and in the future.”

Hernandez has a passion for education and is a life-long learner, obtaining several degrees and professional certificates. He earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix, a master’s degree in occupational studies in education from California State University, Long Beach, and a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College in New York. 

Merian Stewart

Dr. Merian Stewart, interim principal of McKinley School. Stewart is the interim principal of McKinley School for the 2020-21 academic year. 

Stewart brings 29 years of steady experience as an elementary and middle school principal. She has served as principal of Franklin Elementary since 2016, where she ushered in a computer immersion program, and Washington STEAM Middle School from 2008-2016, where she led the school’s transition to a STEAM magnet school. 

Stewart previously served as principal of Noyes Elementary and as program and services director of D’Veal Family and Youth Services Mental Health Agency. She began her career as an instructional assistant in PUSD. Stewart brings experience with technology and her commitment to family and community partnerships.  

Dr. Merle Bugarin

Dr. Merle Bugarin, interim principal, Don Benito Fundamental Elementary School for the 2020-21 academic year. 

Bugarin brings 23 years of experience as an elementary and middle school educator and administrator. She successfully served as principal of Roosevelt Elementary for the last five years. Prior to becoming a principal, she was a teacher on special assignment coordinating the K-12 English Learner program for the Pasadena Unified School District for two years, a curriculum coach for 12 years and a classroom teacher for five years. Bugarin has consistently mentored colleagues throughout her career. Her focus while at Roosevelt was to use a growth mindset model to develop learners who are curious, motivated to think critically, innovative in developing solutions, and strong communicators. 

Committed to Community

Urban Kitchen’s intimate classes  teach the tricks of the trade
By Kamala Kirk

Raised in a home where her family connected over food and cooking, Michelle Hohman was inspired by the special moments she experienced growing up. Trained at Le Cordon Bleu with restaurant and test kitchen experience, she opened Urban Kitchen in 2013 to offer a space where people could create and enjoy meals together. 

“Urban Kitchen is a culinary space that celebrates community and connection over the preparation and enjoyment of handcrafted meals,” Hohman says. “We do this through a variety of curated experiences, including our recreational classes and workshops, private dinners, corporate team-building events and kid camps.”

Cooking classes are offered in Urban Kitchen’s industrial loft-style space in South Pasadena, which includes a large kitchen that resembles one you’d find in a person’s home, not a restaurant. Hohman designed it this way this so that customers could learn how to make a meal and visualize themselves doing it at home.

The classes cover everything from pasta making, breads and desserts to farm-to-table Latin meals. Seasonal classes, such as making desserts as holiday gifts, are added to the schedule at various times of the year. Classes are taught by Hohman and her team of guest instructors—all are accomplished chefs who share knowledge, tips and tricks that participants can incorporate into their cooking at home. Previous instructors have included Food Network star Jane Soudah and chef Matthew Roberts of Union Restaurant, among others. 

Class sizes are eight to 10 people and typically last three hours. The first two hours are spent cooking, followed by the last hour, where everyone sits together around a table and eats their creations. Hohman’s weekly classes were always full and quickly booked up on the website—so much, in fact, that the South Pasadena space had already reached full capacity. Hohman was planning to open more locations in other cities in order to accommodate people in other communities that wanted to enroll in her cooking courses. But then the COVID-19 crisis occurred and changed all of her plans.

“We had great momentum going into 2020 when the pandemic hit,” Hohman says. “I think initially we thought it would be somewhat short term, so we postponed our recreational classes and private events for the first few weeks. As the coronavirus numbers and casualties continued to mount, we realized this was going to be our new reality for the foreseeable future. The revenue stream was completely cut off.”

Back to square one, Hohman knew she had to get creative—and fast. She and her team members began reaching out to their loyal customer base and asking how they could be of service. Based on the feedback they received, Hohman built out a more robust recipe page on the website, provided meal plans and shopping lists via her newsletters, and hosted “Saturday Social” live lessons on IGTV.

“We also began promoting like-minded businesses who were also in need of help during this pandemic,” Hohman shares. 

“These were not revenue-generating activities, but we felt it was important to be a resource to our customers and community. This pandemic has taught us so much. We learned to stay positive and turn to our customers as a resource for how we can best serve. It created the space and revealed the importance of reaching out to other businesses and developing long-lasting partnerships. It solidified the idea that we needed a revenue stream that we could maintain should this happen again. We are a family-owned and -operated business, and this pandemic certainly brought us closer together.”

Just prior to the shutdown, Hohman had been planning the addition of a pantry component. She picked up the pace on the project during the time that her business was closed. 

“We’ve been working with our fabulous branding team, Designsake Studio, on building out the pantry component,” Hohman says. “Urban Kitchen Pantry will have an on-site and e-commerce presence and offer many of the products and ingredients we use in our classes and then some.”

As businesses have begun to gradually reopen, Hohman says she will offer her popular “Kids in the Kitchen” summer camps once again this year but with new guidelines. Designed for kids ages 9 to 14, each week-long session enables young chefs to learn new culinary skills, tips and techniques. On the last day of camp, participants get to compete in a friendly “Chopped” challenge as they put their new skills to the test.

Hohman and her team are excited to see its campers and have been busy redesigning the space and curriculum to adhere to Los Angeles County guidelines. Urban Kitchen’s adult recreational classes will also slowly restart, but their private parties, workshops and team-building events will remain on hold for now.

“The pandemic may have been a punch to the gut, but the recent display of minority-targeted brutality and violence knocked us out emotionally,” Hohman says. “Since the day we opened our doors, Urban Kitchen has been deeply committed to providing a safe culinary space to celebrate family, friends and community. Our community only thrives when we collaborate while celebrating our differences.”

For more information, visit urbankitchen-la.com.

Movies for the Masses

Tribeca moves screen classics to drive-ins
By Connor Dziawura

As local economies attempt to return to some semblance of normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the film industry continues to take a hit, with theaters remaining closed, numerous tentpole summer blockbusters pushed back, and major film festivals attempting to compensate with alternate programming.

Tribeca Enterprises, behind Manhattan’s annual Tribeca Film Festival, is one such organization that has been looking to find new ways to connect with moviegoers. That includes a multi-state drive-in series.

The Tribeca Drive-In will bring classic films, comedy acts and more to venues around the country all summer, including the Rose Bowl Stadium every Thursday through Sunday July 2 to July 26.

“I think from the minute we all were told get back to your house in lockdown, we tried to figure out ways that we could engage the community, which is really the basis of Tribeca’s existence,” explains film and television producer Paula Weinstein, Tribeca Enterprises’ executive vice president, referring to the festival’s revitalization efforts in New York after 9/11.

Weinstein calls Tribeca’s long-running drive-in movies one of her favorite aspects. After deciding to expand it, Tribeca organizers brainstormed new locations, partnerships and films while also figuring out ways to ensure social distancing and sanitation. Weinstein says programming is different, in that the focus is now on beloved movies and classics as opposed to the festival’s usual discovery model.

“Festivals like Tribeca are mostly independent film, so we thought, ‘OK, this is a wider audience. So, what do you go to a drive-in to see? Fan favorites.’ And that’s what we did,” Weinstein explains, noting that a large part of curation went into refreshing audiences on previous entries in current franchises, exposing younger audiences to classics, and just choosing films that people may have never seen on the big screen. The schedule is extensive.

Fourth of July will celebrate “The Wizard of Oz,” “Apollo 13” and “Field of Dreams.” The latter is sold out.

Some Sundays will include sports movies, like “Creed” (July 5) and “Friday Night Lights” (July 19).

Early-afternoon films for kids include “Inside Out” (July 11), “Spy Kids” (July 12) and “The Lego Movie” (July 25).

High school comedies “Mean Girls” and “Superbad” will be shown on July 17. The latter is sold out.

The N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” will hit the screen July 18.

“Meet the Parents” and its sequel “Meet the Fockers” will play July 23.

Ladies’ Night, July 24, will feature “Girls Trip” and “Bridesmaids.”

Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” and “Do the Right Thing” will screen July 25.

Other classics include “The Goonies” (July 18) and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (July 26), while some modern hits include “John Wick” (July 16) and “Wonder Woman” (July 19).

The new romantic comedy “Palm Springs,” starring Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti and J.K. Simmons, will also screen, on July 9.

Planners also looked for anniversaries, a major one being the 45th year of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” which Weinstein calls “the ultimate summer scary great movie.” That will screen July 2 but is sold out. “Apollo 13” is also celebrating 25 years.

While Weinstein wouldn’t reveal any details, some filmmakers and others are slated to introduce movies. Upcoming film teasers are planned, too.

“We all have very good relationships with the studios, and the studios have been great because it’s very clear we cannot wait for the movie theaters to open and for everybody to be able to go back to see a movie,” Weinstein says. “We’re not in competition with that. We are supportive of that. And, it also I think gives the studios a chance to know that people are out there experiencing movies together in a safe way.”

Films aside, Tribeca has partnered with Comedy Dynamics to host four standup shows at the Rose Bowl the weekend of July 9 through July 12: Dave Helem, Ester Steinberg, Daniel Webb and Erica Rhodes. The shows will be taped for a wider release down the road, which Weinstein says “should be a fun experience.”

Tribeca will also support the community. According to a press release, a portion of ticket proceeds will be donated to Black Lives Matter. Additionally, essential workers will be offered complimentary access and reserved parking the first night at each venue.

“It’s our way of saying thank you,” Weinstein says of supporting essential workers, adding that the events will employ hundreds of people at each site and look to partner with local food trucks on concessions. “This is, in our minds, also an economic development revitalization plan, just the way it was when Jane (Rosenthal) and Bob (De Niro) started the festival.”

As event partners, Tribeca announced AT&T will provide other on-site entertainment, like photo ops, film trivia and giveaways, while IMAX will lead on the technology front with its Digital Re-Mastering process, technological support and equipment for venues, and film curation assistance.

“The hope is that the audience comes and has a wonderful time, and that the essential workers and the people in Pasadena and the local other areas around find enjoyment, employment, putting some people back to work or helping them restart their businesses in some way—if we can help, that’s what we want to do,” Weinstein says. “That will give us great joy.”

A Lasting Legacy

Judson Studios remembered in new book
By Kamala Kirk

For more than a century, Judson Studios has created stained glass installations for projects around the world, ranging from historic landmarks and religious institutions to private residences.

Founded in 1897 by painter and professor William Lees Judson and his three sons, Judson is the oldest family-run stained glass company in the United States. Throughout the years, they have continued to build upon their legacy due to their level of expertise, Old World craftsmanship, and commitment to artistic innovation. 

The first book to document Judson’s 124-year history was published in March by Angel City Press. Co-authored by Steffie Nelson and David Judson, fifth-generation president of Judson Studios and William’s great-great grandson, “Judson: Innovation in Stained Glass” covers generations of the studio’s famed projects and collaborations. 

“The book was inspired by the creation of the new studio,” Judson says. “I found that as I was making decisions for the future of the studio, I really needed to look into its past to see when it performed its best and when it struggled the most. Expanding the company felt like a risky endeavor—knowing more about its past helped me ease my fears.”

Judson Studios was established in Downtown Los Angeles before moving to its Highland Park location in 1920, which was declared a historic monument in 1969 and remains open to this day. In 2016, the company expanded to open a second facility in South Pasadena, which hosts most of its contemporary projects and also serves as a space for exploring innovative techniques and opportunities in fused and kiln-formed glass.

“Our big push has been in the realm of fused glass,” Judson says. “When we expanded our studio to a second location, it was to move into a state-of-the-art fusing studio with six kilns, cold working/polishing equipment, and a dozen light tables to create our glass panels. No one has ever created such a major studio dedicated to working in fused glass, and we are putting together a talented team of artisans to work with fine artists in developing the future of stained glass design.”

Through 11 chapters and 300 original images, the book sheds a unique light on a fairly unknown part of the history of Los Angeles that is a visual delight. It begins with patriarch William Lees Judson’s move to Southern California and his involvement with the arts community, eventually leading to his appointment as dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. In 1906, his son Walter founded the family’s first studio, W.H. Judson Art Glass Company.

“The book took a little over four years to put together,” Judson shares. “To be honest, working on it was a struggle for me and way more work than I was expecting, but finding older projects that my forefathers carried out that I did not know much about was worth the effort. One of the most interesting projects I learned a lot about was the Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.”

Among his favorite historical projects that are highlighted in the book are the 1914 dome at the Natural History Museum, which Judson Studios restored in the early 2000s, along with the globe at the LA Central Library in Downtown.

“Both of these projects feel like hidden gems in the fabric of our wonderful city,” Judson said. “There are also amazing pictures of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses where Judson did work in the 1920s for the legendary architect. Some of the more recent collaborative projects we have done with contemporary artists represent the intriguing future ahead for stained glass.”

Despite a long history of success, Judson Studios faced its biggest challenge yet during the COVID-19 crisis, which forced it to completely close its operations—a first in the company’s 124-year history.

“The pandemic has been an extremely stressful scenario for us,” Judson says. “Coming back online has been difficult to manage, but luckily our crew is used to working with PPE and other precautions, so we are getting back up to speed pretty quickly. A number of our artists are working from home now at least part time, so we are really having to adapt our communication skills while working apart.”

Judson’s latest project is developing art glass for dozens of the Seattle Sound Transit Authority’s expanded public transportation line stations and working on a 3D pagoda with artist James Jean that will create an immersive experience in colored art glass. 

“We will also be restoring the windows at the Air Force Academy chapel starting this fall, which will take us approximately four years to complete,” Judson says. “I hope people get a chance to go through our book and experience some of the wonderful projects that Judson has been lucky enough to be involved with over the years.”

“Judson: Innovation in Stained Glass” is available for purchase at all major bookstores in Los Angeles, including Vroman’s in Pasadena. Copies can also be purchased at angelcitypress.com. For more information, visit judsonstudios.com. 

History Revived

The lights haven’t gone out at the Pasadena Playhouse
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Beth Fernandez calls the history of Pasadena Playhouse “interesting and fun.” 

Fernandez, the Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse’s president, is celebrating a continuation of that—the renovation of the historic neon sign at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and El Molina Avenue. 

The Pasadena Playhouse neon sign is the last remaining example of a historic neon sign in Playhouse Village. It directs audiences and the community to the Playhouse and, as such, is a part of the neighborhood’s identity. “It was originally installed to tie all of the Spanish buildings on El Molina together,” Fernandez says.

In 1935 this freestanding neon sign, on a metal pole, was placed on Green Street. When Green became a one-way street, it was set into the sidewalk on the east side of the Symes Cadillac building (now Jacob Maarse Florist). It was moved to its present location by the city in 1993 and is now on Route 66. The Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse, a volunteer corporation that provides priceless support for the Playhouse, recently paid for some much-needed repairs to bring this sign into working order.

“The electrical work had gone dead,” Fernandez says. “It’s wonderful now. You drive down Colorado Avenue in the evenings and it’s brightly lit. The playhouse is bright, even though it’s not open. There’s a library above the theater entrance. The library was for the students when it was a drama academy. 

“Now we use it for meetings. They always keep a light in that window that says, ‘Yes, we are always open.’”

As for when the Pasadena Playhouse is officially open, Fernandez says she’s hoping the Holland Taylor play “Ann,” which was scheduled for May 27 to July 28, will be on stage in January, 

“It just depends on everybody’s schedules,” Fernandez says, “It’s very difficult right now with social distancing. Like all small theaters, we’re having problems. We’re a professional theater and we have to pay union rates. It’s expensive to launch any production.”

This time of year, the Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse are gearing up for the street fair, which has been canceled. Instead, the Friends have made online and mail appeals to keep supporting the playhouse. Online classes are another form of raising money.

“We have a wonderful class about Broadway and American theater,” she says. “I think we have close to 400 people signed up for it. It’s an eight-week course. I think that’s going to be ongoing as we go through the summer and fall. 

“I’ve been sitting in on it, too. It began with ‘Oklahoma’ and it talks about how the musical changes over the years to become more socially relevant. It’s basically an overview of Broadway and theater, especially how musicals have changed.”

The Pasadena Playhouse also hosts online student classes.

“They’re online, too. They’ve been very successful as families try to keep their kids busy during the quarantine and pandemic,” Fernandez says.

Fernandez grew up in theater. She attended classes at the Pasadena Playhouse when she was a teenager. As an adult, she worked as a puppeteer for 20 years. 

“It was a great thing to be doing while my kids were growing up,” Fernandez says. “It was easy to be home when they were home. It was a wonderful career. At 42, I got my degree.”

She has high hopes that the Pasadena Playhouse will follow the light of its recently renovated sign. 

“Every theater in town is like we are—suffering,” she says. “We know we’ll make it. Our artistic director is working hard with the board to make sure we stay afloat.

“In January, we hope to go back to putting on great shows and bringing theater to the people of the San Gabriel Valley.”