Thursday, July 19, 2018

What is art?

Well, that's a question that can’t be answered in one blog post. We suppose it's really rhetorical.  But what can be said is that in Monrovia, we like to approach things from a different angle, take a broader view and think outside the box…but stay in the room.  Although, occasionally we've been known to go out on a limb.  

That’s the approach the Art in Public Places Committee takes with when considering new art projects.  Which have you noticed?  They’ve been busy.  There is art going up all around town...and more to come.
Installation of Paula Gemme's winning poem
near the corner of Mayflower and Chestnut

Not too long ago, the City Council approved a new program to celebrate the art of words:  poetry.  This translates into the Monrovia sidewalk poetry program, recently dubbed Footnotes.  

It takes Monrovia residents’ original short poems and stamps them into newly poured sidewalks all over town, eventually creating our own, city-sized book of poems by Monrovians.

Working in conjunction with ongoing sidewalk repair or new development, poems will be stamped as sidewalk panels are installed or replaced. Since the program follows the repair needs, the randomness provides an “element of surprise” for pedestrians.

We're soooo excited about this, that we devoted our last two posts to the program! So if you'd like to find out more, check out the links found in a haiku we composed just for the occasion.

First post tells background
more to say can be found here

understanding, all.

Clearly we won't be winning any contests.  Moving along...

Winning poet Kathee Henigan Bautista with
 Councilmember Gloria Crudgington
Speaking of contests, last fall the City held a contest asking residents to submit their creations.  Well, the response was terrific!  Who knew we had so many talented wordsmiths?  Our judges really had a tough time narrowing it down to just 10 poems.  Congratulations to the 2018 winners:

Kai Armstrong  (age 15)
Kathee Henigan Bautista
Juliette Fang  (age 10)
Paula Gemme
Rhia Hernandez
Megan Lundgren
Gayle Montgomery
Annette Simpson
Carol Steiner
John Vorhaus

The first poem to be immortalized in cement was “The Mountains” by Kathee Hennigan Bautista, imprinted in front of 238 West Palm Avenue. 

All ten poems can be read on the City’s website,  or better yet, look for them when you are walking around town.  We hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Get your creative juices going!  The next contest will be rolling out in the late fall.
The Mountains

P.S.  We're sorry you haven't heard from us in a while and we're humbled that we've been missed by a few (thanks mom!).  We've got lots of terrific stuff to share, so stay tuned.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sidewalk Poetry Contest

The last time you heard from us, we told you about our awesome new public art program that we have affectionately named the Monrovia Cool Stuff That Our Super Talented Public Works Folks Stamp in the Sidewalk Program (or MCSTOSTPWFSITSP, if you will). You remember, we showed you our first stamp, which you can find right outside of the Monrovia Historical Museum. Remember? No? 

Ok, then before you read any further, check out this post to refresh your memory. We'll wait.

You back? Ok, good. So, now that you remember the MCSTOSTPWFSITSP, we are ready to tell you about phase 2. Oh, yes, there is most definitely a phase 2.  Let's make that capital 'P', Phase 2!  

Now, this is where we need your help. In addition to "Monrovia Tidbits," the other cool stuff that our super talented Public Works folks will be stamping into the sidewalk is poetry. But, not just any poetry. Poetry that is written by you guys and gals, the residents of Monrovia! Pretty neat-o, right?

So, here's the way it works. We have just launched our very first Annual Monrovia Sidewalk Poetry Contest. Sounds nice and official, don't you think? If you are interested in taking part of this public art program and seeing your works take physical shape on the public rights-of-way (AKA sidewalks and streets) around town, submit a short (200 - 225 character) poem to us by December 31, 2017. If your poem is selected, we will stamp it into the sidewalk!

As we replace sidewalks throughout the town, we will be stamping "Monrovia Tidbits" on east-west streets, and "Poems by Monrovians" in the north-south streets. This is a citywide public art program, so your poem could appear anywhere in the City, maybe even outside of your own front door! For more information and to download the Sidewalk Poetry Contest application, click here.

We can't wait to read the submittals! 

We know that we can expect great things from our Inspired and Engaged Community Full of Budding Artists and Those Dedicated to Neighborhood Beautification (or, as we like to call it, IAECFOBAATDTNB).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A program in search of an acronym

Did you know that the first parcels of land in the newly subdivided town of Monrovia were sold on May 17, 1886? 

Still a town in 1886, we wouldn’t become a city for about another year and a half.

Hmmm…May 17, that day sounds familiar…

Anyway, the reason we bring this tidbit up, is that it’s now memorialized as part of the City’s newest public art program.  

We've been racking our brain for months and we think we came up with a catchy name and affectionately call it the Monrovia Cool Stuff That Our Super Talented Public Works Folks Stamp in the Sidewalk Program—MCSTOSTPWFSITSP for short!  That rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?  You know government, we love our acronyms!

Well, perhaps we can shorten it...just a bit…

Ideas? We're listening!  Send them to  The winner will get a lifetime free subscription to “Over the Counter”

Wahoo!  (It’s all the budget will allow.)

Speaking of art…one of the great things that we get to do is work with the community on developing public art.  Several years ago, the City Council adopted a public art program that is funded by new development.  Over the past decade, the City has amassed some cool and interesting pieces.  And because Monrovia does things a little different, a little cooler, and thinks outside the box, our art collection is becoming quite eclectic.  And we believe that suits Monrovia to a T! (or is it ‘tee’, ‘tea’...?) 

There we go, off on a tangent again!  (Squirrel!)  But you know how we get, just a little excited to talk all things Monrovian.   

We really just wanted bring you in on the inauguration of MCSTOSTPWFSITSP.  Coming soon: more cool stuff in the sidewalk!  And hopefully a few less letters...

So next time you're headed to the Monrovia Historical Museum, look down at the sidewalk and check it out!  Don't know where the Museum is?  Here's a hint: it's on the north side of Recreation Park (742 East Lemon Avenue).

While you're there, take a #sidewalkselfie and tag it #artinmonrovia.  

Oh, and the significance of May 17…it’s Monrovia Day!

…and now you know…the rest of the story.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Everything Old is New Again

You know, they say that time is like river... it's cold and wet and teeming with bacteria or something like that. But, we think that time is more like a circle. Things come in and fade out only to return again when it's least expected. This blog post is dedicated to the old becoming new again. We know, that seems like kind of a deep topic for our blog, it's amazing how a couple of overcast days have turned us into philosophers!

So, what has us thinking about time in metaphors? Why are we questioning the very nature of how we organize our lives? The answer is Pavilions. Yes, you read that right, Pavilions grocery store has got us thinking about life, the universe and everything. Why has a grocery store affected us in this way? Because Pavilions will soon be looking a little different. Actually, it will soon be looking like a Vons. We know, we know, we just got used to calling it Pavilions, too! 

So what does this change mean for grocery consumers? In a nutshell (which you can buy at Vons, by the way) you'll probably see some lower prices. All of the great products and customer service that you expect from your Monrovia store will still be there.

If you're a planner in Monrovia (so, you know, if you're one of about 6 1/2 people), you're probably wondering about the new sign design. We were thinking that they could save on their new signs by just removing the extra letters, like this:

    v   ons

Shockingly, they didn't particularly like our design idea and decided to go with this instead:

So, if you're driving down the street and notice something different about the grocery store, you haven't time traveled back to 1985 (if we could travel back to 1985, we'd buy some Apple stock) (apples are also available for purchase at Vons... but we were actually thinking about the company that makes iPhones), it's just the universe reminding you that time is cyclical and everything old can become new again!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When anti-aging cream doesn’t work...time for a nip-tuck!  Even buildings need face-lifts.

Though we strive to be less creepy than the little girl from Poltergeist, in this case we are going to have to borrow her catchphrase… “WE’RE BAAAAAACK!”

Since it’s been a hot minute (it’s also been a particularly humid minute, don’t you think?) since our last blog post we wanted to update you on some of the revitalizations happening throughout the city. Some of the City of Monrovia’s commercial buildings are undergoing some major facelifts.. Just in case you look around one day and wonder where the heck you are, here are some of the more prominent age-defying changes currently underway.

The 7-Eleven on Duarte Road is getting a spanking new look! New eyebrow lift, new paint, and new parking will be noticeable. “Did you know?” 7-Eleven was previously named for their hours of operation 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. However, most are now open 24 hours per day. We guess those late night hours would age anybody! Not to worry, through the miracle of modern construction technology, 7-Eleven will be refreshed and looking new again in no time! This facelift is bound to bring new energy to a classic location. Now onto our next problem… is there any way we can let them be open more than 24-hours per day?
The renovated 7-Eleven is going to be a quality project, and we think this next one will be too. I mean, it says so right there in the name! We’re talking about the Quality Inn on Huntington Drive, of course! Yep, you heard it here first, folks, the Quality Inn is doing the Cadillac of all facelifts… new stone facades, shutters, and light fixtures, in addition to a new breakfast room and ADA upgrades! After they’re done, you may not even recognize them. But don’t worry, you can still expect the same QUALITY service and reasonable room rates.

And, have you seen the facelift that is in progress on Huntington Drive? Watch out, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, oh, wait, it is a plane! The iconic airplane mural at the former Albertson’s is getting saved! In fact, it is such an important piece of art, that the shopping center shall henceforth forever be known as “Monrovia Landing” (sound the trumpets!). Yes, this major transformative and refreshing fa├žade remodel is breathing new life into an important commercial center. New Facelift, New Make-up, New Parking, New Landscaping and New Businesses! Once the work is done, the tabloids will run side-by-side photos and report that Monrovia Landing denies having any professional work done. It just drinks lots of water and gets plenty of sleep. We swear.

It may be the end of summer, but things are still heating up around here! Stay tuned for more to come!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 Year In Review

You know one of our guilty pleasures around here? No, it's not Keeping Up with the Kardashians... We're slightly addicted to those year-end web articles that show up around this time rehashing the big events of the past 12 months. December is one of those times when we take stock and look at what we've accomplished, what we can do better, and what we are pursuing for the next 12 months. After our extensive year-end assessment of 2016 (which consisted of looking at our previous blog posts), we can reach only one conclusion - it has been quite a year! So, in that spirit, we'd like to proudly present to you Community Development's top ten list of 2016 achievements:

10. 5th & Huntington and MODA Break Ground - Have noticed something a little different at the western gateway of the City and at Station Square? Maybe some buildings under construction? If you have seen them and you're wondering what they are, wonder no more! Two large residential projects broke ground this year - a 154 unit building at 5th Avenue and Huntington Drive and a 261 unit building at Station Square. These big projects have been in the works for a few years now, and we are excited to finally see the results. Now, there's only one enduring mystery to solve - what does MODA mean? Is it an acronym for Monrovia Offers Definite Awesomeness? Is it a reference to Depeche Mode? Your guess is as good as ours. Actually, considering our guesses above, your guess is probably better than ours.

9. Monrovia Celebrates a Once-in-a-Century Event - As we ZIP up this year, we fondly reflect upon Monrovia ZIP day (9/10/16), which was an event 100 years in the making. Monrovians celebrated this special day as we do many big moments in town, with a big ol' party in Library Park. We had such a good time that we can't wait for the next Monrovia ZIP day party! See you all on September 10, 2116!  One question, will the Post Office still be around?

8. The Stars Come Out - You know how your out-of-state friends and family always ask if you've met anyone famous? Well, now you can add your very own hometown to the fame list! Monrovia hosted quite a few filming productions in 2016. Car commercials, student films, and even a music video captured our beautiful downtown, historic homes, and gorgeous open space. Television shows including CSI Cyber, Maron, and American Crime all chose Monrovia as the backdrop for an episode or two. And the movie The House with Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell spent a few days filming in Old Town. Look out, Hollywood, Monrovia's giving you a run for your money - we already have our own hillside sign!

7. Shopping Center Gets a New Lease on Life... and Several New Leases - Picture this... a Home Goods, a TJ Maxx, and an ALDI right here in Monrovia. That's right, those big names will soon appear at the shopping center at 725 East Huntington Drive! Additionally, the center itself will have a new look and a new name...goodbye "Huntington Shamrock Shopping Center", hello "Monrovia Landing." We think the new name is perfect - Monrovia once again landed at the top of our list of great San Gabriel Valley cities.

6. The Depot Embarks on a New Journey - 2016 was huge for one of our very special historic buildings! Not only did the Santa Fe Depot at Station Square receive local historic landmark status, but it was also approved to be the site of a new restaurant and will undergo an extensive rehabilitation to restore its former splendor. It's wonderful to see this historic train station start a journey of its own!

5. The New Building Code is Approved - The adoption of the tri-annual California Building Code update is a massive achievement for our Building Division. That's no joke! In fact, the new code is so unfunny that our Building Division Manager decided to retire! We thank him for his years of dedicated service - he will be missed!

4. Neighborhood Services Wins National Recognition - We just have to brag about the amazing work our Neighborhood Services team does! And 2016 was the year that the rest of the nation noticed how our little city inspires community, revitalizes neighborhoods, and encourages civic participation. In fact, our very own Monrovia Area Partnership (MAP) program won three awards at the 2016 Neighborhoods USA annual conference. We claimed 1st place for our MAP Neighborhood Newsletter, and 2nd place for both our Care for your Neighbor Program and MAP Youth Leadership Academy! Neighborhood Services really knows how clean up - in every sense!

3. Public Art Abounds - The Art in Public Places program was just like butter this year - it was really on a roll! Get it? Butter on a roll? But, really, this year, Monrovia became even more beautiful through this program. Mechanical boxes were given a fresh coat, a new kinetic art piece was placed in front of City Hall, and a three piece bronze sculpture found a home in front of the Krikorian Theater. And did you see the awesome new book mural in the Library? But it doesn't stop there - 2017 promises to be another big year for #artinmonrovia (which just happens to be our Instagram handle)!

2. Monrovia Enters a "Golden" Era - Ok, Ok, we can't take full credit for this one. This multi-decade project was the product of every City Department, elected official, and concerned resident's work. In March, the METRO Goldline extension opened, along with Monrovia Station Square! People around here were VERY excited to ride the rails and take advantage of free trips that day. Trains were so packed with people, that we now understand how clowns feel getting in and out of those little cars.

1. New Demolition Review and Neighborhood Compatibility Ordinances Take Effect - We talked about compatibility so much this year, you'd think we ran an online dating service! But, all of that chatter resulted in two new ordinances that will serve to preserve historic architecture and ensure that new development fits with the existing character of our Monrovia neighborhoods.

Well, what can we say? It's all in a year's work. We are looking forward to continuing to serve this amazing city in 2017 and beyond. Until then, Happy Holidays from the entire Community Development team!

Friday, November 4, 2016

"Film Holiday for Monrovia"

When last we heard about the Monrovia Feature Film Company(MFFC), a call had gone out to Monrovians that aspired to become actors.  All of the excitement of the movie industry continued to be front page news…..

On September 20, 1915 the newspaper headlines pronounce that the “Movie Company Begins Operations” and appeals to Monrovians to take part—especially if they own saddle horses and carriages, as these will be necessary for their historic drama.  The MFFC had set up temporary offices at 428 S. Myrtle (only a few buildings down from the current Krikorian theatre and the building is still there).

Hoping to whip up even more interest—and probably funding—the MFFC plans a “boost” on September 22.  This will involve a parade of Monrovians marching up Myrtle from Lime to White Oak (Foothill).   The MFFC will be filming this spectacle so that they can promote the wonderful town of Monrovia to other film companies.  The parade was followed by lunch at the Monrovia Country Club which offered another opportunity to film the residents.  On September 27, the reel and a half of coverage was screened at a Monrovia Theater so that residents  can see the picture quality and the following day’s headline proclaims “Monrovia Impressive on Screen”.  (Some things never change!)

The month of October 1915 brings more excitement as the MFFC releases more details about the filming schedule.   A major scene in Argonauts will be the burning of San Francisco, so much work is being done to build a miniature replica of an early San Francisco set.  While the MFFC has mentioned big plans for their studio and soundstage buildings, they explain that they are waiting to build so that they can focus on the making of the Argonauts film. 

Details of the planned studio buildings can be found in an announcement in the Building and Engineering News of January 26, 1916.  Local architect Frank O. Eager (architect of numerous landmark homes in Monrovia) had been hired to build a Motion Picture Studio with 1 and 2 story buildings of frame and steel.  The movie picture stage will be 500 feet by 100 feet, there will be multiple administration buildings, a zoo, a swimming pool 75 by 200 feet, garages, a lake and indoor studio of glaze and steel with up-to date equipment planned for all buildings.  Total cost of all construction is $200,000 but the first buildings to be built are estimated at $25,000.

The Town of Monrovia is so enthralled with its new film company that a civic holiday is slated for October 23, 1915 so that all of Monrovia can watch them film the burning of San Francisco and then there will be a band concert and picnic lunch in the park.  There will also be a ceremonial ground breaking at the site of the new studio.  According to headlines, 3000 Monrovians attended.  (Note: The 1910 population of Monrovia was 3576, in 1920 it had grown to 5480—there may be some exaggeration in the headlines’ numbers, but it appears that a whole lot of Monrovians were there.)  The first spadeful of dirt at the top of Gold Hill is turned by Mrs. C.T Renaker (note: She and her first husband A.P Seymour built Historic Landmark # 41)

The MFFC has been busy filming other scenes before this major spectacle.  They used a historic home in Duarte to stand in for the home of the Don, filming also took place behind the Pacific Electric depot and they filmed some ocean scenes in San Pedro.  The civic holiday even makes page 3 of the Los Angeles Times announcing “Film Holiday for Monrovia”.  A quote from the article states that “Monrovia is the latest Southern California city to join the ranks of the picture-producing centers of the West and she intends to let others know she is in the game to the finish. “  The film’s director, Henry Kabierske, will be situated a mile away from the action but will be using a military field telephone to direct, possibly making him the first person to use this long distance technology in the film industry.

On November 1, the Monrovia Daily News reports two interesting bits of news: the Argonauts will be completed in five weeks and there are currently 71 Monrovia stockholders in the MFFC.  It is easy to surmise that Mrs. C.T. Renaker was one of them and her connection to the film company will continue. 

Early Monrovians must have been enthralled by all of excitement the film company produced—parades, a civic holiday and a front row seat to the new film making industry.  Doesn’t it seem likely that there would be some photos sitting in family albums of all of this activity?  Surely the Monrovia Legacy project would appreciate seeing these.

There is a lot of momentum growing for the completion of the film by mid-December, but an unforeseen event will cause some major delays…..find out in the next installment what happens to the production.