Not only does the exhibit at the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts at Fairplex transport Fairguests back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it also brings to life the people behind the photos on the walls.
From the Industrial Age to the Computer Age . . . Three Centuries of Artistic Innovation shows Fairguests how the Industrial Revolution changed not only how the world worked in agriculture, manufacturing and transport, but also affected everyday life and the arts.
Take for example Emily Warren Roebling, the woman who built the Brooklyn Bridge (a photo of which hangs in the timeline display at the beginning of the exhibit). She was the first woman field engineer, who carried out her husband’s instructions for the bridge’s construction because he was incapacitated by “the bends” – the decompression sickness suffered by divers.
Mrs. Roebling’s story is a compelling example of will power, fortitude and bravery inspiring young and old alike thanks to the talents of actor Brenna Kelly of Pomona.
Kelly presents a primly dressed society matron – “a wife, a mother, a self-taught architect” – whose demeanor disguises the single-minded determination to carry out her husband’s instructions for the bridge.
She particularly captures the imaginations of school children taking part in the FairKids Discovery Club field trips that take place each weekday before the Fair opens (and entertains Fairguests weekdays from 1-3 p.m. and weekends from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.).
“I’m creating a memory as a person, that’s how I get their attention,” she explains of her Fair audiences. “I tell them, as Roebling, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’”
That same fiery determination Roebling exhibits comes through Kelly as she discusses her goals for her presentations at the Sheets Center. She also portrays a Luddite bent on destroying a factory and a textile mill worker whose daughter (portrayed by Kelly’s own 12-year-old Monet) works beside her as “the bobbin girl.”
Kelly taught beginning comedy at the Improv Comedy Club in Ontario and Irvine, where she discovered her true passion helping people of any age to cultivate their authentic voice and share their unique perspective with confidence and ease.
She is the founder of Conspire to Inspire Theatre Arts Program in Claremont and Pomona.
“It’s all about the connection,” Kelly explains. “Every time I have an audience – one or 1,000 – one can feel the energy exchange. I don’t merely present, I have a conversation with the audience, more like a soul conversation.”
She credits Tony Sheets, the center’s director, and storyteller Jim Cogan with her involvement in the exhibit. Kelly calls her collaboration with Cogan “the salt that seasons Jim’s dish” as they present the people and stories behind the displays of From the Industrial Age to the Computer Age . . . Three Centuries of Artistic Innovation.
MSCAF is a proud part of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliation Program. Through this partnership, the Center shares with the community the Smithsonian Institution’s artifacts, programs and expertise.
MSCAF is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.
The L.A. County Fair is Sept. 4-Oct. 3. Hours – Wednesdays, noon-10 p.m.; Thursdays, noon-11 p.m.; Fridays, noon-midnight; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-midnight; and Sundays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. For more information, visit lacountyfair.com.
Under the direction of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, Fairplex is home to the L.A. County Fair, the largest county fair in the world, as well as The Learning Centers which encompasses Fairtime Learning, The Child Development Center, The Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC), the Junior Fair Board, and the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts. Fairplex also operates a diverse hospitality business with the Sheraton Fairplex, McKinley’s Grille, KOA RV Park, Finish Line Sports Grill, Cornucopia Foods, and the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel and Conference Center (opening 2011). The campus is also home to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum and the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona; horse-racing and Barretts Equine Limited; as well as the Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition. For more information, please visit www.fairplex.com.