Few Modestans realize that in the mid-20th century, the city attracted some of the most famous architects and landscape designers in the country. Their work was lauded nationally and featured in books published by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Now, for the first time, the new locally produced 16-minute documentary “Modesto Modernism” tells that story. It will premiere at the sixth annual Modesto International Architecture Festival, which runs Sept. 14-22 at various venues around the area.
The film was produced by California State University, Stanislaus, art professor Jessica Gomula-Kruzic and Steve Arounsack and highlights the Modesto work of such architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Church and Lawrence Halprin. It will be shown Sept. 20 at the State Theatre and Sept. 22 at the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock.
“I had no idea when we started doing the research we would uncover designs from so many major architects,” said Bob Barzan, director of the Modesto Art Museum, which sponsors the festival along with the Sierra Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “As of today, we’ve uncovered 85 landscapes and architecture of the biggest names in architecture for modernism.”
The architecture festival features many other ways to learn and celebrate architecture. There will be guided tours of Modesto architecture and self-guided tours people can download from www.modestoartmuseum.org. So far, there have been 7,000 downloads of self-guided tours, Barzan said. There will be exhibits of paintings, quilts and photography inspired by Modesto architecture at the Chartreuse Muse, Picasso’s Deli, the Peer Recovery Gallery and McHenry Museum. The Modesto library also will set up a display of architecture books.
Barrett Lipomi, who helps coordinate the festival and represents the American Institute of Architects, is excited about the Instagram photo contest, which recruited the public to take pictures of interesting Modesto architecture. The winner, which will be chosen by a panel of judges, will receive an iPad and a prize bag. Within a few weeks of the contest’s start, there were already 200 entries. “I think (architecture) interests people more than they realize,” Lipomi said. “Architecture and design is part of everyday life.”
Other highlights of the festival include Modesto participating in worldwide PARK(ing) Day on Sept. 20, with several parking spaces on J Street between 10th and 14th streets being transformed into mini parks, and a children’s architecture and design workshop Sept. 21 at Graceada Park. There will be two architecture cafes – one at Picasso’s Deli on Sept. 17 about how to research house history, and another Sept. 21 at Greens Cafe in downtown Modesto with noted architecture photographer and writer Russell Abraham.
One of the best things about the festival is every event except one movie is free, Barzan said. That’s because the festival has received financial support from donors and major sponsors like ArtPlace America, San Francisco’s Creative Work Fund.
Barzan hopes many people attend and bring out-of-town guests. “It will make them feel good to be Modestans,” he said. “It’s a rare opportunity for inexpensive entertainment.”
Read on for some highlights of the festival. All events are in Modesto unless otherwise noted.