And art of the state: The new Pasadena Museum of California Art is just one part of the city's cultural renaissance

The view from the rooftop terrace of Robert and Arlene Oltman'snew Pasadena residence is breathtaking: vistas of Old Pasadenalandmarks―the St. Andrew's bell tower, city hall's red-tileddome―with the San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop. It's thesort of scene designed for plein air painters trying to capture thegolden light and Castillian architecture that have long made thecity a favorite artists' subject.

That is just as it should be. The Oltmans' new digs sit atoptheir Pasadena Museum of California Art. Opened in June, it's theonly museum dedicated exclusively to the display of California art,architecture, and design.

The Oltmans bought the empty lot on Union Street several yearsago with the idea of building a facility that could serve as bothmuseum and residence. "Originally it was just going to be a littlemom-and-pop museum," says Robert Oltman, "but the concept keptgrowing."

Now the museum is an important link in an expanding Pasadena artcircuit. That circuit includes the well-known Norton Simon and therenovated Armory Center for the Arts, as well as a gallery scenefed by artists who've studied at Pasadena's Art Center College ofDesign. "The new Pasadena museum really whets everyone's appetitefor California art," says Diane Nelson of DNFA Gallery.

Pasadena's art district is particularly accessibletoo―even on foot. The Pasadena Museum of California Art isnext door to the Pacific Asia Museum (which maintains a collectionof Asian art and artifacts) and is a block north of the new PaseoColorado (with upscale retailers and restaurants, and convenientparking). The Armory Center for the Arts is in Old Pasadena, a fewblocks west. A few blocks farther west, the Norton Simon might be abit of a hike, but a free shuttle service, Pasadena ARTS buses,runs up and down Colorado Boulevard and will stop near the NortonSimon's gates.

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