About » Mission and History

Mission and History

Our Mission

The Armory builds on the power of art to transform lives and communities through creating, teaching and presenting the arts.

Our History

The Armory Center for the Arts has been at the forefront of art education in southern California for more than 60 years. It originated as the education department of the Pasadena Art Museum in 1947. Classes were led by artists whose teaching concepts grew out of the museum's exhibitions of modern modern art.

The education program became known as the Pasadena Art Workshops after the museum closed in 1974. Without a permanent space for exhibitions, the workshops used professional artists as teachers, and focused on the development of arts programs that presented alternative forms of learning. By working in partnerships with schools, libraries, parks, neighborhood groups, community centers and city agencies, the museum’s programs brought the arts to new audiences – a trend that continues to this day.

In 1989, the Pasadena Art Workshops found a new home and changed its name to the Armory Center for the Arts after renovating and moving into the National Guard Armory. With 20,000 square feet, the building provided ample space for art studios, workshops and galleries. The new setting also allowed for the reintroduction of contemporary exhibitions and performances, which have become an integral part of the Armory's programming. The unique floor plan of the Armory encourages ideas to flow freely among exhibitions, classes, artists, teachers and students.

After 13 years at the National Guard Armory building, the center began to experience growing pains. In 2002, it underwent a $2.4 million transformation, which created an additional 6,800 square feet of classrooms and studio spaces for drawing and painting, digital arts, and photography. The architects were Donna Vaccarino, who was the architect for the first renovation, and Aleks Istanbullu. In 1989, the Armory had approximately 40,000 visitors. By 2007, the number of participants and viewers in Armory programs and exhibitions exceeded 100,000 people.

Today, we maintain our commitment to providing accessible public spaces for the exhibition of contemporary art and to providing meaningful experiences in art education.

Strategic Planning Statement

The Armory staff and board have created a Strategic Planning Statement, which outlines our values, strengths and goals for the next three years.

Find out more about our philosophy, motivation and focus here.