Azusa Downtown Station
A Passage Through Memory by José Antonio Aguirre
Station artist José Antonio Aguirre worked closely with the City of Azusa and the community to transform the Azusa Downtown Station into a prominent gateway and landmark through his artwork A Passage Through Memory. Aguirre’s overall artistic design reflects an integration of motifs drawn from ancient Native American traditions, California Spanish- Mission style, and early 20th century American design. The fusion of these histories captures the cultural significance of the area and beautifully reflects the City of Azusa’s rich historic and cultural diversity.
The most ambitious of the design elements at the Azusa Downtown Station is a pair of grand Spanish colonial-style arched portals placed at the entry ramps leading to the station platforms. The arched portals are made from architectural concrete and supports with a metal header announcing “Azusa” in large illuminated letters. Topping the sign is a crown motif that was inspired by the city’s original Azusa sign installed at Foothill Boulevard in 1923 and later removed in 1946.
Aguirre has also created a distinct image for the mosaic panels inset into the two portals at the station entry by appropriating and abstracting elements from pictographs drawn by local Gabrielino-Tongva ancestors. To complete his design, Aguirre worked over a four-week period with students from nearby Azusa Pacific University and visitors to The Mexican Cultural Institute at El Pueblo Historical Monument to create a series of glass mosaics inspired by native basket weaving and drawing traditions of the region’s indigenous peoples. These mosaics encircle the base of each canopy column adding vibrant bursts of color visible to those waiting at the station and passengers on the train.
“For the Azusa Downtown Station, I was inspired by the local expressions of cultural identity and how ancient images that have been painted on rocks in the area or woven into vessels centuries ago by this region’s tribal ancestors have survived as sacred icons and still resonate today. They have the power to collapse time and space between the generations and create a portal for new discoveries.”
About the Artist
José Antonio Aguirre was born and raised in Mexico City and currently resides in Pasadena, CA. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago and a Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute for the Arts. Over the past 30 years, Aguirre has actively contributed to his community as an internationally respected exhibiting artist, cultural worker, journalist, and educator. He has designed and fabricated more than 35 permanent public artworks for civic, educational, and private entities in Southern California, Chicago, Denver, San Antonio, and Mexico. His most ambitious glass mosaic mural, Our Legacy: Forever Presente, is installed at the East Los Angeles Public Library and was commissioned by former First District County Supervisor Gloria Molina. In 2010- 11, Aguirre was awarded a Fullbright-García Robles fellowship to research community public art at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Azcapotzalco in Mexico City.