September / October 2014
Ambition and Aspiration
Summer is usually considered a season for relaxation, but we’re here to tell you: it can be exhausting! The Huntington was buzzing with activity from June through August as scholars arrived in droves to work on their research. The summer also saw us working feverishly to open five gorgeous new rooms in our American art galleries, putting The Huntington solidly on the map with its spectacular collection of art “made in the U.S.”
Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight captured the tenor of the new galleries nicely when he said they represent “an expression of ambition and possibility for the future.” The New York Times struck a similar note last year, calling The Huntington “aspirational.”
The Huntington lives and breathes opportunity, while never losing focus on our mission as a collections-based research and educational institution. The expanded galleries are an example of that aspiration and continued forward movement. And they are, in and of themselves, a remarkable achievement by staff, donors, and lenders.
Here’s another example of aspiration: through partnerships we’ve created with area school districts, we’ve come to realize the unique role The Huntington can play in education and the potential we have to make an even wider impact. So this past summer we tried something new: we formed partnerships with several community organizations, including the YWCA of Pasadena–Foothill Valley, the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Pasadena-based Institute for Educational Advancement. The idea was to take existing community organizations and add value. Why start from scratch when they’ve got the people and we’ve got the programs?
Working with Education staff and these new community partners, we were able to provide a diverse group of kids with a range of workshops and classes that used The Huntington’s collections to engage young minds on topics such as women in art and foods from the garden. But we were doing something equally important at the same time: giving these young people a safe place to learn. The Ys and the Boys and Girls Club frequently serve at-risk children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds—kids who may have few opportunities for cultural enrichment. As Education Director Catherine Allgor pointed out, “These groups help keep children off the street and away from at-risk behavior. They serve as some¬thing of a safety net, and so can we.”
We also teamed up with the Institute for Educational Advancement, a Pasadena nonprofit that serves academically advanced students. As we worked with the IEA to develop a summer program for them, we proposed that they open the classes to gifted students from Rockdale Elementary in Eagle Rock, a Title 1 school we’ve had a partnership with for some time. The IEA jumped at the opportunity and offered these low-income students tuition-free enrollment. They’ve expanded their reach, and we’ve deepened ours.
Collaboration is key to all of this, and for that we’re grateful to our staff, which continues to be innovative and nimble, and to our partner organizations, who bring their own creativity and enthusiasm to the process. As we focus on our educational mission, we’re carrying forward the legacy of our founder. When Henry Huntington made his plans back in 1919 to transform his estate into a cultural institution, he was, in fact, thinking about the vibrant future of Los Angeles.
We continue to do the same.
Steve Koblik, President