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Day 175: Pasadena ARTS Bus

Petrea BurchardI am so excited to introduce our guest author for day 175 of 365 Things To Do In Pasadena.

Please help me welcome Petrea Burchard of Pasadena Daily Photo. Petrea describes herself as a lover of words and as her huge following will attest, she shares that love by bringing Pasadena to us in a very unique way on a daily basis.

A few days ago, Petrea wrote a post on transportation in Pasadena that we would like to share with you.  So, here it is… Enjoy!

Pasadena ARTS Bus

Pasadena ARTS Bus
photo courtesy of Pasadena Adjacent

If you live in Pasadena you’ve seen this artfully decorated bus. Take a look at all the Pasadena icons: starting at left, you see the Thinker (one of Rodin’s at the Norton Simon Museum), then the Colorado Street Bridge and the LA River. Next, City Hall in a bed of roses (we’re the Rose City), the bell tower at St. Andrew, Pacific Asia Museum, a bunch of brands and…a bull.


We are blessed at Pasadena Daily Photo today because, thanks to Pasadena Adjacent, we have scans of the original artwork that led to this design. How did she get hold of this work, you ask? Easy. Pasadena Adjacent, aka PA, created the art on this bus. Cool, huh? She was kind enough to take me through a little bit of the process.

Here’s a scan of an early proposed design:

Design 2 Pasadena ARTS Bus
photo courtesy of Pasadena Adjacent

Left to right: PA started with the tile from the Royal Laundry on South Raymond. Next, parakeets. I didn’t know this, but PA says there used to be parakeets (wholly different from our famous parrots) in the Arroyo Seco near where Busch Gardens used to be. (PA should know, she grew up here.) Then you have the bridge and the river.

The portrait of the two women refers to one of the more interesting stories from the Colorado Street Bridge’s dark side, aka “Suicide Bridge.” “…a despondent mother threw her baby girl over the railing on May 1, 1937. She then followed her into the depths of the canyon. Though the mother died, her child miraculously survived.”

I was going to say “one of the more tragic stories,” but they’re all tragic.

Then we have the brands and the…bull.

You may be aware that some folks in Pasadena don’t like calling our bridge “Suicide Bridge.” The idea of commemorating a suicide attempt on the side of a bus didn’t sit well with the bus art people. But they liked PA’s work so they sent her back to the (literal) drawing board. I don’t know why the tile and the parakeets were dropped–not iconic enough?

PA returned with this:

Design 1 Pasadena ARTS Bus
photo courtesy of Pasadena Adjacent

Now we’re getting there! You see our Thinker on the left, and the bridge, City Hall in its bed of roses, St. Andrew’s Tower and the Pacific Asia Museum. On the right we have a cut-out of a Rose Bowl Queen. Totally iconic Pasadena.

PA’s idea was to include under the queen’s crown a picture of Dr. Kate Hutton, aka “the earthquake lady.” See the seismograph running along the length of the San Gabriel Mountains in the background? Dr. Hutton, a Caltech seismologist, is a local fixture on the news whenever there’s earthquake activity. Queen Kate’s scepter is a parking meter. PA says parking meters were new in town (it was 1994) and folks weren’t too happy about them. I guess before then you could park pretty much anywhere in Pasadena for free.

The bus art people didn’t want earthquakes or suicide or parking meter jokes.

Fine. PA threw the bull back in.

What’s up with the brands and the bull?

PA had done her research. The brands are not about the bull, as I had assumed. They’re the brands of of the different California missions. The bull represents the Indiana Colony, the first Anglos to settle Pasadena, some of whom were cattle ranchers.

And PA did manage to inject a bit of humor into the design: the Thinker is soaking his toes in the Los Angeles River.

This has been a fun post to put together, thanks to Pasadena Adjacent. Let’s give her a big hand! She’s an immensely talented artist and Pasadena is lucky to have her. Thank you, PA!

Update: I’m now at liberty to tell you that Pasadena Adjacent’s name is Elizabeth Garrison. She and her partner Victor Henderson have created numerous works of public art around southern California. Tash did a great post about their work at Fire Station #5 in Westchester.


Thanks Petrea!

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