Kurt Andersen brings visionary possibilities to Pasadena’s Art Center College


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This week’s news that author and public radio personality Kurt Andersen has begun a 14-week stay in Pasadena as Art Center College of Design’s ‘Visionary in Residence’ set us to Googling. And the results set us to thinking that what we may have here is the beginning of a beautiful bicoastal intercollegiate frenemieship.

Background: Art Center harbored its first (and heretofore only) resident visionary in 2006 when science fiction author Bruce Sterling came to play seer-on-a-modernist-hill.


But as it turns out, the Center For Women & Gender at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire has been designating an annual Visionary in Residence since 1999 to spend a few days of forward-thinking amid that campus’ colonial splendor. The late folk singer and civil rights activist, Odetta, held forth in 2003, playwright Eve Ensler (‘Vagina Monologues’) filled the bill last year, and Liz Canner, a Massachusetts-based digital artist and documentary filmmaker, will do the vision thing this spring.

So how about it, Pasadena and Hanover -- USC vs. UCLA, Yale vs. Harvard, Army vs. Navy -- yeah, those rivalries are classic, but think of the possibilities if you guys start having at it in face-to-face intellectual throwdowns to see whose visionaries are more, well, visionary.

Art Center reports having gotten good mileage out of Sterling, who is credited with inspiring a new research initiative in its media design program called ‘New Ecology of Things.’ Sterling in turn gave the title ‘Visionary in Residence’ to a collection of his short stories.

Andersen, who won’t let his open-ended responsibilities at Art Center stop him from continuing to host his ‘Studio 360’ radio program, starts earning his laurels by inaugurating an on-campus lecture series dubbed ‘The Big Picture,’ Monday at 1 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

-- Mike Boehm