Arts & Entertainment

2-week AxS arts festival launches in Pasadena

Grisha Coleman's dance performance installation echo::system ActionStation#2 THE DESERT
Grisha Coleman's dance performance installation echo::system ActionStation#2 THE DESERT

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A two-week arts festival just got underway in Pasadena. The AxS Festival combines exhibitions, performances, public art and conversations. Most events are free to the public. The nonprofit Pasadena Arts Council oversees the Festival.

“We talk so often about the connections between art and science in Pasadena," said Pasadena Arts Council executive director Terry LeMoncheck. "We have such great research institutes in Caltech, JPL, the Planetary Society and Carnegie Observatories. And it’s been our observation that the more artists and scientists talk with each other, the more their vocabularies are enhanced.”

When they work with each other, she adds, artists and scientists enhance their ability to tackle the problems of tomorrow that we’re creating today. This year’s festival theme is "Fire and Water."

“And the thing that makes this year’s festival particularly exciting is that we have significant money from the Irvine Foundation, the Parsons Foundation and the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] to commission new works just for the festival," LeMoncheck said.

One of the new commissioned works is "Rain After Ash," written and directed by Corey Madden, the founding artistic director of L'Atelier Arts. “This is the result of a two-year obsession of mine. I woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the computer, started surfing and found on the early edition of the New York Times a story called 'Missing Poet.'”

The poet was Craig Arnold, who disappeared while hiking along a volcano’s rim in Japan, following in the footsteps of the 17th century haiku poet Matsuo Basho. Madden read Arnold’s blog and his poem, 'Hymn to Persephone."

“I found it connected back to my writing," Madden said, "a poem I’d written about the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the way Persephone, the little girl who’s abducted by Hades and kept by him in the underworld, plays in that story.”

One idea led to another, one mythological figure led to another and Madden constructed the story “Rain After Ash.”

“I had had a friend several years before whose son had disappeared and wasn’t found until two years later, murdered," Madden said. "It occurred to me to tell the story about Demeter and her daughter Persephone from the point of view of a Pasadena mother who loses a 16-year-old daughter and to tell Craig’s story at the same time.”

"Rain After Ash" is performed in and around the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. It’s one of 16 AxS Festival events at various locations throughout Pasadena, including Art Center College of Design, Pasadena City College and the Gamble House and the Huntington Library in San Marino.