Times Art Writer

Baxter Art Gallery, which ceased operation at Caltech on Sept. 2, may reopen at a new Pasadena location under private sponsorship, The Times has learned. The site being considered is the Armory on North Raymond Street in Pasadena's Old Town.

The gallery's private support group and board of governors have pursued plans to relocate the gallery since June, 1984, when Caltech announced its intent to close Baxter for financial reasons. The project moved forward recently when the board presented a plan to lease the city-owned Armory to Pasadena's Community Development Committee. The committee granted preliminary approval and instructed the board to meet with the city's Development Department.

"It's premature to talk about it," Gallery Director Jay Belloli said. "We don't have a name--some people want to keep Baxter; others want to change. We don't have a building. We're not even incorporated and we don't have nonprofit status yet. Other than that, everything is going well," he joked. A lecturer in art history at Caltech and director of Baxter since 1982, Belloli plans to continue teaching at Caltech and to head the proposed gallery.

Plans are moving along more quickly than expected, despite major uncertainties, he affirmed. "The Armory is everything we could hope for," he said. "It's in central Pasadena. It's near a park. And architecturally it's very interesting. The Armory is considered the most significant WPA building in Pasadena, which is why it's on the National Register (of Historic Places)."

The Armory has about 20,000 to 25,000 square feet of usable space, more than the gallery needs, according to Belloli. If backers arrange to lease the building from the city, they may invite other art organizations, such as Pasadena Art Workshops, to share the facility. "We might be able to develop a modern art center," he speculated.

The building is currently used by the Pasadena Badminton Club, which would have to relocate if the gallery's plan becomes a reality.

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