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.• Sept. 14, 7-9 p.m., Chartreuse Muse Gallery, 918 10th St. – Opening Night Reception. Food, poetry and fine art.
• Sept. 14, 7 p.m., Chartreuse Muse Gallery, 918 10th St. – Architecture Poetry Event. Modesto poets read poems inspired by local buildings.
• Sept. 17, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Picasso’s Deli, 986 10th St. – Architecture Cafe with Lorie Garcia: How to Research Your House History. Coffee and snacks will be served.
• Sept. 20, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., J Street between 10th and 14th streets – Park(ing) Day comes to Modesto as creatively designed parklets temporarily take over parking spaces.
• Sept. 20, 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. program, State Theatre, 1307 J St. – Architecture Movie Night, featuring 12 short films from around the world. Includes the premiere of “Modesto Modernism,” a film about Modesto’s distinguished 20th century architectural heritage.
• Sept. 21, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Greens Cafe, 953 10th St. – Architecture Cafe with architecture writer and photographer Russell Abraham. Discussion about architecture photography over coffee and snacks.
• Sept. 21, 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. program, State Theatre, 1307 J St. – American Institute of Architects Sierra Valley Awards with keynote speaker Russell Abraham, one of the leading architectural photographers and writers in the U.S. His books include “California Cool, Modernism Reborn” and “Rural Modern.” He has written for Sunset magazine. He has degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, in architecture and design.
• Sept. 21, noon-2 p.m., Graceada Park, Sycamore Avenue and Needham Street – Children’s Architecture and Design Workshop. Fun family activities, including drawing, model building and more. Parent or guardian must be present.
• Sept. 22, 2 p.m., State Theatre, 1307 J St. – Film: “Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie with April Wright.” Join April Wright for a screening of her new documentary about the rise and fall of drive-ins and why most haven’t survived. $8.
• Sept. 22, 2 p.m., Carnegie Arts Center, 250 N. Broadway, Turlock – Films: “Eames: The Architect and the Painter,” “Modesto Modernism.” The first film is about the husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames. The second film is about Modesto’s 20th century architectural heritage.