Dianne’s Creature Feature

A wild day at the Sawdust

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

What a crazy month. Only a few short weeks ago the circus came to town with acrobats, hula hoopers and stiltwalkers, and then last week, wild animals arrived at The Sawdust Festival. The appearance, aptly, was hosted by renowned wildlife artist Chris Hoy, a guest exhibitor at this year’s Sawdust. 

Captivated (in a good way), a huge crowd of both children and adults had the opportunity to get up close (very close) and personal with five amazing Conservation Ambassador animals from Zoo to You, which currently houses 200 animals in their Paso Robles sanctuary. 

And, in line with this strange summer, unexpectedly, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream of meeting a lemur (and feeding it a snack). What’s next, an eclipse? Oops, no, that was on Monday.

Founded 28 years ago by animal expert David Jackson (who is also a veterinarian), the Zoo to You mission is to give a worldwide voice to wildlife by providing a permanent loving home for displaced, abused, abandoned, or permanently injured wild and exotic animals. They share these animal ambassadors through Zoo to You outreach programs to educate children in school and the public of all ages about conservation. 

Before the show, I met David’s wife Lisa, who’s in charge of Media Relations. She immediately handed me a baby kangaroo (yet unnamed, but they’re leaning toward Matilda) in a cloth pouch for me to hold. Wow! Not everyone gets to come nose to nose with a six-month-old kangaroo. This baby was kicked out by its mother when a new baby turned up. 

Click on photo for larger image

Tallulah delights the crowd

The crowd was first introduced to the gorgeous Tallulah, a West African Crowned Crane, a diva who strutted and honked to our delight and was fed beetle larvae by a gaggle of children. 

Then, Peeve, a Black and White Ruffed Lemur, arrived on the scene, and stayed for a long time, climbing on people’s shoulders and heads, licking necks, hanging from a rope, and endearing himself to everyone with his antics. No one was exempt. If Peeve were a kid, he’d be the class clown. He later returned for another go at the crowd, and they loved it, and him. 

Lisa said, “Many of our exotic animals (such as lemurs) are confiscated because they’re illegal to own in California. People buy them as babies in Nevada and smuggle them here. They’re either confiscated or when the animals get larger, or sick because if they can’t take them to the vet, they’re abandoned.” 

Click on photo for larger image

Lisa Jackson holding Peeve

I was surprised at how calm and comfortable the animals were while interacting with the crowd. Lisa explained, “First, after they’re confiscated, we try to get them healthy, and then we have to teach them to trust people.” And they must be calm enough to travel and appear on shows such as Good Morning America. Most of the animals Jack Hanna, David’s mentor and close friend, would take on television shows were from David’s sanctuary.

But not all their animals become ambassadors. The sanctuary has one of only three Slow Loris, a venomous mammal, in the country. And even though they knew a mountain lion rescued from one of California’s largest forest fires wouldn’t be suitable for school programs, they took it in. 

Click on the photo for larger image

David Jackson looks on as Devin meets the baby kangaroo 

A spider monkey rescued 25 years ago became one of their greatest ambassadors. Maya was found by animal control in an LA garbage dumpster very sick and nearly dead. It took six months, but once she was healthy and strong enough, they introduced her to new friends at the zoo. Maya visits schools almost daily so Zoo to You can share her story. 

David said, “There is no better way to inspire children to protect wildlife than to connect then with our animal ambassadors.”

Next we were treated to the company of a beautiful Kookaburra from Australia, who entertained us (while perched on Lisa’s hand) with a litany of laugh-like sounds, her large sharp beak evidence of the fact that she catches and eats rodents.

David saved the biggest surprise for the end. The crowd backed away and gasped as he brought in Spike, an American Alligator, who was confiscated from a crack house drug raid. Lisa told me earlier in the day that drug dealers get alligators to scare customers. Spike is a veteran ambassador, and presided over us like an old monarch, with only an occasional blink of his eyelids, patiently letting every finger and hand stroke his armor-like skin. 

Click on photo for larger image

David brings in Spike to meet the crowd

But let’s backtrack to what led these animals and Lisa and David, to our Sawdust Festival.  Well, of course, the wildlife connection is Chris, whose love for exotic animals began in 1979 when he traveled to his aunt and uncle’s zoo in Oregon. He interacted with lions, tigers, and bears, became instantly obsessed, and began drawing wild animals. For him, it was the defining moment that sent him in a certain trajectory in his life.  

Chris’ combined love of adventure (as a boy, he was a huge fan of Tom Sawyer) and animals has led him to all seven continents (one more trip to Antarctica and he’ll have been to all continents twice). At 19, he was accepted into the FOA, one of the youngest artists in its history, and has participated in Laguna’s art festivals for 40 years.

He considers himself very fortunate to be able to do what he loves for a living, which then provides the means to travel. He’s seen a pink dolphin in the Amazon, frolicked with humpback whales in the Dominican Republic, and in his long career, met countless celebrities such as, Jack Hanna, Jane Goodall, and Mrs. Disney. However, of all the places he’s visited, his favorite is the wilderness of Yosemite.

Click on photo for larger image

Wildlife Artist Chris Hoy gets a helping hand from Peeve

That brings us to Chris’ encounter with David at Zoo to You. After more than two decades of traveling, he wanted to hold a bald eagle, and discovered that David had some at his sanctuary. Chris visited, and their shared passion for animals resulted in a lasting friendship, and led to Thursday’s show. Lucky for Laguna. 

Thank you, David and Lisa for bringing your critters to the Sawdust and for the extraordinary work you do for animals. And thanks, Chris for hosting their visit. It was a wild day.

More of Chris’ stories (and he has a lot of them) will appear in a future Creature Feature.

For further information on Zoo to You, visit, www.conservationambassadors.org, or www.hoysart.com for Chris’ info.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” ― Martin Buber


Here’s a gallery with more of Mary Hurlbut’s amazing photos:

A Night with Janis Joplin sets the Playhouse ablaze, with one standing ovation after another


One night wasn’t enough, let me say that right now. I’ll be going back.

Before Sunday evening, the closest I’d gotten to Janis Joplin was seeing the stage where she performed at The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. 

But on Sunday, it only took one look at the Laguna Playhouse stage to realize this was going to be a special night, a “happening,” as we used to call them. Yes, it involved the most lighting ever used at the Playhouse, but something else shone brighter…an aura, mysterious and mythical and drenched in nostalgia, that enveloped the audience throughout the evening. 

This concert style revue was created, written and directed by Randy Johnson. It was brought to the Laguna Playhouse under the leadership of Executive Director Ellen Richard and Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham, and they are to be applauded for this dazzling choice.

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted Photo

Kelly McIntyre as Janis Joplin in A Night with Janis Joplin

Even though Kelly McIntyre looks and stunningly sounds like Joplin, it isn’t an impersonation or a re-creation, it’s as if Kelly channels Joplin’s raw emotion and pain in her electrifying performance. Her hair swinging, her voice raspy, the rendition of Piece of My Heart brought the audience to their feet. She punctuates her singing with dialogue about her childhood in Texas, occasionally sipping from a bottle of Southern Comfort.

The show also pays homage to Joplin’s musical influences. Masterfully interwoven in the revue are unforgettable performances by the singers who comprise the Joplinaires/Chantels; Sharon Catherine Brown as Blues Singer, Tawny Dolley as Etta James, Carol Hatchett as Odetta and Bessie Smith, and Amma Osei as Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. 

And eight blazing hot musicians create a formidable presence on stage; Todd Olson, Mark Chosak, Michael Praisler, Aiden Moore, Aaron O. Smith, Patrick Lenertz, David Catalan, and Shannon Ford. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dianne

Plenty of attendees choose to dress appropriately: here’s Joy Vansell

The behind the scene people should also be commended: Scenic Designer, Brian Prather; Costume Designer, Amy Clark; Lighting Designer, Ryan O’Gara; Sound Designer, Rafe Carlotto, Production Stage Manager, Hethyr Verhoef, Associate Director, Grady McLeod Bowman; Music Director, Todd Olson; Original Music Arrangements, Len Rhodes; Operations Manager, Jim Prodger. 

The brilliant performances by Kelly McIntyre and the other singers, the band, lighting, sets, the clothes, all blend together to cast a magic and musical spell on the audience.

If you’re lucky enough to experience A Night with Janis Joplin at Laguna Playhouse, do not, I repeat, do not take a pair of the earplugs from the container on the bar.  You will want to hear every note. And every note will haunt you.

The show runs through Sept. 10. 

The Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.

        For tickets, go to http://www.lagunaplayhouse.com/ or by calling 949-497-2787.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

A mentorship program that really clicks, part 2


I feel so blessed to cover the arts for Stu News. I feel even more blessed when I have the opportunity to cover a story like this one, about the Festival of Arts mentorship program with the young photographers in the Boys & Girls Club’ Photo Club. 

Watching budding photographers Sade, Alexy, Fatima, Joanna, Kimberly, and Alex being mentored by Laguna’s best at the Festival of Arts, I felt like I was seeing future Festival artists in the making. 

What a privilege to witness something so special, especially under the guidance of FOA photographer mentors, Tom Lamb, Jeff Rovner, Mitch Ridder, Jacques Garnier, Rick Ferncase, and Gar Cropser. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Alex I., 8,

Coin, Alex, 8: “The settings on the camera allowed me to get such a focused and sharp image of my professional and his coin. It’s one of the first photos I took, and I am so proud of it.”

LCAD alum Isaac Sanchez is the art specialist at the Boys & Girls’ and oversees their Photo Club. He and volunteer Mary Church, who was integral in starting the mentorship program, introduced the young photographers. 

“This is my photo club and I am really proud of these guys. And I am really stoked to see what you can get out of them, and see where they can go with it, because I really think that this group of kids we’ve got right now, they’ve got an eye for it,” Sanchez said. “I realized that as soon as I took them off automatic to manual. It just started coming natural. You can see it in some of the photos. I think it’s a great start of their age.”

The Photo Critique – learning from the best

The day started with a critique of the Club’s work with photos spread out on the table so the mentors could see them and provide constructive feedback. 

“Each of them kind of have a different feel to it and I think they did a good job as you can tell,” Sanchez said.

Immediately upon seeing their photography work, collective words of praise were heard from the mentors.

Sade kicked off the session.

“This one, we were focusing on portraits so we took a couple of models at the Boys & Girls Club and we took pictures of them,” Sade said. “And I took pictures of him because I like the lighting. I like how half of his face is dark and how half of his face is light.”

“What is the motivation for the light?” asked Ferncase. “Is that an actual source or is that a light simply for effect?” 

Sade said she liked the effect.

Sanchez asked Sade what she liked about it. He asked her for the word she had used when she described it to him earlier at the Club.

Sade said, “Dramatic. I like that it’s dramatic.”

“I think that is very beautiful. And there is so much emotion in his hand gesture and his eyes,” Rovner said, about a second photo Sade shared. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Sade M., 9,

Balance, Sade, 9: “It felt like she was struggling to balance on her feet, the rocks are smooth and she’s just strong enough to stay up, I love focusing on the little details.”

Joanna was up next. It was exciting to see everyone leaning in, getting close to the work, and being so engaged.

Joanna said of her subject, “We tried to put half of her face in the lighting and the other half on the dark side.”

“It’s got a nice kick. It’s like film lighting where you have your key light here, which looks like it’s motivated from a window and then you have this kick, which is sort of a warm source, as opposed to a cooler one, and it’s a really nice effect,” Ferncase said.

“I like the location. Often the photographers who have not had a lot of experience will put their subject right in the middle of the frame. And the fact that you placed her over there, it just offers a little visual excitement that you don’t get when the person is right there in the middle,” Cropser said.

Kimberly shared a shot that she thought worked well. “I like the angle of it and the background. It’s kind of blurry and it focuses on this part,” said Kimberly.

“I think it’s good because if you have to tell a story with a photograph, which I think was the assignment, I think that one does a very good job of it. And I like the fact that the main model was in the corner looking out toward the rest of them, which is talking about the eyes,” Garnier said. “See the eyes are pointing toward that negative space in the background. And I think that’s really important.”

Fatima talked about a piece she chose. “What I like about this picture is the camera, but I think it would be better if it was more visible,” Fatima said. 

Lamb suggested the idea of an assignment with a frame within a frame. 

“You could do that with mirrors or you could do that with the camera itself. You could have a mirror that’s reflecting everything backward too,” said Lamb.

Alexy talked about the photo she chose. “I actually adopted this photo. I thought it was cool because of the motion, like the way her hair is blowing that way. I would probably focus her face more, but I really like the motion.”

The mentors concurred, commenting how impressed they were with their work and talent, especially for their young age. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Kimberly O., 11,

Floral Composition, Kimberley, 11: “A tight restricted composition of a flower that shows off color and shape language.”

Tour of Art, viewing the mentor photographers’ work at their booths

The mentees were eager to see the work of their great mentors, imaging what it would be like to be a professional photographer exhibiting at the FOA. 

Jeff Rovner was first the first stop on the tour de talent. His 16-year-old daughter Haley was on hand for the day, volunteering as the model for the shoot that followed the tour. 

“I am a circus performer and my dad takes pictures of my circus. I am a hula hoop dancer,” said Haley, who is a member of Le PeTiT CiRqUe, a nonprofit group of youngsters who perform acrobatics and circus acts.

She is the source of inspiration for Rovner’s work. 

“I got a chance to travel with and be with the circus group during their rehearsals and their performances,” Rovner said. “These are portraits really, but they are portraits in action.” 

The group marveled at his work and were in awe of Haley’s talent, punctuating both with a resounding, “Wow!” They were very curious and asked a lot of questions, including about how he could get such a close-up view. 

“I did the shoot from 20 feet up, and I was on a great big crane that got me up to her height, so I could take a picture straight on. But she’s very high above the ground,” Rovner said. That ignited more wows.

Lamb showed his work, explaining that all his photos were taken from a helicopter.

“Look at this picture here, it’s an aerial photograph and someone said it looked like a drawing on a legal pad. But it’s really way up in the air. What else do you see there?” asked Lamb. 

One of them saw a bicycle, others saw a figure, a balloon, and a bowling pin.

“It’s amazing, it’s kind of like the ink blot test. You just don’t know,” said Lamb.

Ferncase’s work was next on the tour. 

“If your work is about depth of field my work is almost the opposite. I’ve taken the depth of field out of all of this. All this is about trying to eliminate the clutter and distractions from our lives,” Ferncase said. “Because I feel like we’re too busy all the time and we don’t focus on things well enough. So this is a message to myself to stop and smell the roses and focus. So I have chosen buildings around Orange County and Los Angeles. I’ve taken everything out of the photograph – blacked out everything that I didn’t think was important.”

“I like how it looks like it’s a sketch,” said Sade.

Ridder shared work that he’s exhibiting in the year’s Festival, photos he took in Cuba, a year and a half ago, when the country first started letting American tourists in.

“I shoot what is going on in the streets. It’s called street photography. I wanted to go down and take pictures before things kind of shift and change,” said Ridder. “So it’s taking pictures of the old buildings, some are 500 years old, a lot of old American cars, street vendors; there’s a lot of fun things to shoot.” 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Joanna R., 11,

Tiny House, Joanna, 11: “I chose this photo because of how the small house feels real, and how it feels like a real place in a real time, even though it isn’t.”

He explained that his work is printed on canvas instead of paper to avoid reflection and glare and to make it more accessible and durable. 

When they visited Garnier’s booth he asked, “Can you tell me what makes these different than all the different photographs?” They answered that the photos are all black and white.

  “I used to shoot with infrared film for years. Now you can modify your camera. So what I wanted to do was take pictures of ordinary things in Orange County that I thought were interesting,” Garnier said. “So the filter does the work of making the leaves white. I like to juxtapose the nature with the things that were put there by people. I like to contrast textures and things like that.”

The young photographers were particularly taken with the bright and vibrant colors in Cropser’s landscapes. 

“Instead of just providing all the details, I would rather have you take a look at some the pictures and ask me some of the questions of how they speak to you,” said Cropser.

Sade said she liked the way the sun was coming down.

“Because I am interested in having vibrant colors, look at the dimensional field. I want the sun low,” Cropser said. “In terms of light, people say all the time how do you get those vibrant colors. So it really goes back to the time of day. And the sun’s position.” His wife Geraldine was present too, she was a great source of information for the inquisitive group. 

Strike a pose – model shoot with Haley

After being inspired by seeing the work of their mentors, the Club members couldn’t wait to start shooting their own masterpieces. They put the straps of their newly donated Rebel Canon cameras around their neck, while carefully holding them with both hands.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Alexy T., 10,

Secrets, Alexy, 10: “I liked this photo, mainly because of how the wall draws your eye to the model, but because she’s so whimsical, as if she has a secret to tell. She knows something about you, and you don’t even know it yet.”

Lamb asked the group to think about how they wanted Haley to pose, telling them it was their job to give her direction. It was obvious that they were having a blast shooting Haley in myriad poses and places. 

They moved around to capture the best shot, exploring the right angle, some from overhead, others shot from the ground up. 

“It’s like we’re paparazzi,” they said laughing, loving every minute of it. 

Pairing up with the pros for photo adventures

Next, they were each paired up with a Festival mentor to explore what subjects they wanted to shoot.

Fatima paired up with Ferncase. He asked what she liked to photograph.

“I like shooting nature because it’s so green,” Fatima said. 

As she shot various trees, plants, and flowers, Ferncase suggested that succulents make nice pictures. He also stressed the importance of having the right light, pointing 

to various spots, from dappled to bright.

Sade ventured out with Ridder. She was mesmerized by Tom Swimm, as he was painting on the grounds. “I liked how he mixed the colors, how careful and how amazing his painting is,” she said.

“There’s really warm afternoon light, so he’s probably painting this just like he is starting that one,” Ridder said as they visited Swimm’s booth. “With the bright colors underneath and the darker colors over, that’s how he gets that feeling that it’s late afternoon, just before sunset. That’s what you want to think about with photography, think about quality of light.” 

Alexy scouted the grounds with Garnier. “We shot abstract shapes and lines, whatever we thought was interesting. I probably found the nature most interesting, there’s a lot of different colors and shapes around here,” Alexy said. “I like to shoot nature because it’s really beautiful. I love going out in nature to take pictures.” 

Joanne and Kimberly explored the grounds with Cropser. He said they talked about color and shadows and took pictures focusing on pieces with a lot of colors, pattern, and design. “We have some really neat perspectives,” Cropser said.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Fatima R., 10,

Trash Horse, Fatima, 10: “This horse was beautiful, so seeing it beside trash was interesting, it felt very surreal. Like a statement.”

Tour of the Junior Art Exhibit

The young photographers enjoyed looking at work in the Junior Art Exhibit.

“Looking at the work, it looks like a trail to some place mysterious, Kimberly said of one entry. “I like the different colors it has and how in the distance it’s like a cooler blue color, so it looks like it might be cold over there.”

Sade pointed out to a piece and said, “I like the cool angles.”

Kimberly and Joanne both said, “My favorite part of today is when we walked around and started taking pictures of the paintings.”

Alexy agreed and said she liked the tips and skills she learned from the Festival mentors.

Before they left, the Photo Club members thanked their mentors profusely, glowing from their priceless experience. 

Some of the mentees said they would like to be professional photographers when they grow up. I believe with their talents they all can.

Until next time…so much exciting photography mentoring, so little time!


Take a look at more Jeff Rovner pics in this gallery…

G Ray Kerciu’s Historical Art Show proves timely after the events in Charlottesville

Nationally renowned artist G. Ray Kerciu opened his temporary Pop Up Art Show ‘Five Decades of Art’ to a big crowd in Laguna Beach last weekend. The exhibit, which runs until August 31, showcases artwork ranging from 1960s historical paintings supporting civil rights and anti-segregation to lithography, sculptures and more recent landscape paintings.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Debra Oakland

G Ray Kerciu

Kerciu’s opening reception highlighted and discussed his painting Never, which caused controversy in 1963 during his exhibit at the University of Mississippi because of controversy over the depiction of the confederate flag (the word ‘never’ was superimposed over the flag). The painting drew attention again last weekend as the Charlottesville, Virginia events unfolded on the same day as the art show opening. 

During the tumultuous times in the 1960s, Kerciu was arrested over a violation of state law prohibiting desecration of the confederate flag – under circumstances that are now eerily reflected in recent events. 

Kerciu documented in his paintings what he experienced on campus during that period. Charges were later dropped, as chronicled in Kerciu’s book ‘Radical Retrospective’. This ushered in a period of intense media attention, and Kerciu was featured in publications such as Artnews, Artforum, Time Magazine and World Book Encyclopedia, raising awareness of his work in the art world.

In the years following, several other pieces of Kerciu’s art work became popular and are featured in selected public collections across the country today including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Michigan State University Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum; the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena; the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., and locally at the Laguna Art Museum.

The Pop Up Art Show is still available for viewing by appointment at 2894 S Coast Hwy until August 31 by contacting 949-433-8712. The viewing includes discussions with the artist about his five decades of art and how it has evolved since his first historical paintings were featured. 

A venerated member of the community, G. Ray Kerciu has lived in Laguna Beach for more than fifty years. He is a past President of Laguna Art Museum. Surprisingly, this is his first solo exhibition in Laguna Beach. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Debra Oakland

Opening night crowd at G Ray Kerciu’s August art show

Kerciu rose to prominence in the art world in 1963 after his controversial solo exhibition at the University of Mississippi where Kerciu was arrested, and charged with violating a state law prohibiting desecration of the confederate flag.  

The following year Kerciu accepted a teaching post at what is now known as California State University, Fullerton where he taught until his retirement in 2002. He was also featured as a guest artist in prestigious print houses such as Tamarind in Los Angeles and the William Hayter Atelier in Paris. 

More than a decade after his retirement from teaching and fifty years after his whirlwind introduction into the art world, Kerciu remains committed to his art.

G. Ray Kerciu’s book Radical Perspective is available on Amazon.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

Young photographers enjoy a mentorship program that really clicks


It was a picture-perfect day at the Festival of Arts, which was rather fitting for the exciting Festival of Arts Mentorship Program with the Laguna Beach Boys & Girls Club’s Photo Club about to take place.

The six young photographers from the Photo Club were in for a real treat. And so were we as we enjoyed exploring the talents of Alex, Joanna, Kimberly, Sade, Alexy, and Fatima

“The Boys and Girls Club has a Photo Club, an Art Club, and they have art shows and photo shows that we sometimes jury at the Festival,” said Tom Lamb. “But in the summer, they have a Summer Photo Club and we mentor them.” 

The day consisted of different learning sessions working with Festival photographers Tom Lamb, Jacques Garnier, Jeff Rovner, Gar Cropser, Rick Ferncase, and Mitch Ridder.

 It started with a critique of the young photographers’ work, followed by a tour of the Festival photographers’ work, a photo session with a model, pairing with a Festival photographer to take pictures on the grounds, and a visit to the Junior Art Exhibit. I had the pleasure of spending the day with them and will be writing a two-part story about it. 

Boys and Girls Club volunteer, Mary Church, and the Art Specialist who runs the photography program at the Boys & Girls Club Isaac Sanchez were excited about the day.

Click on photo for a larger image

Group of Boys and Girls

Church got acquainted with the Boys & Girls Club through her volunteering efforts with the Hearts of Montage. She told me the told the heartfelt story of how the mentorship program got started.

 “How it all came to fruition is my fiancé, who used to exhibit in the FOA in 2008, passed away. I presented the idea to Tom Lamb and Pam Estes to have a photography mentoring program at the FOA as a living legacy. We sat down and worked out the details and everything clicked,” Church said. “We’ve been doing it ever since 2009; it’s a whole organic thing.” 

Through the generosity of a donor the young photographers now have new digital cameras to work with. She said they really rely on donors for the program to keep it going and urged anyone if they to donate to please do so.

“The most important part is seeing the joy of these kids. They had been working with point and shoot cameras up until this year’s program,” Church said. “Thanks to the generosity of a donor they could move up to the next level with these Canon Rebel cameras. It just makes my heart so happy.”

Church explained how the program works.

They’ve had some portraiture sessions and part of the program is to go through and critique the works with the professional Festival photographers. 

“The children are going to share an image and we’re going to go through and critique their work,” said Church. “Then they’ll go on a tour of the Festival photographer’s work and show them their source of inspiration. And then, we’re going to break up into teams, so they can take them over to the Festival photographer’s booths and show them what they do and what their inspiration is.” 

Next, they worked with Hayley Rovner as a model, the young daughter of Jeff Rovner, one of the outstanding photographers who have booths at the Festival She generously volunteered for the day. Then they broke into groups and each child was given a mentor and picked a focus they wanted to work on that day with the guidance of a Festival photographer, Church explained.

Fun! Fun! Fun! Read all the amazing details of the mentorship in part two of my story.

Until next time…so much exciting photography mentoring, so little time!

A Night with Janis Joplin will light up the Laguna Playhouse stage like never before

A Night with Janis Joplin blazes onto the stage of the Laguna Playhouse this week, guaranteed to light up the playhouse, both literally and figuratively. This, the second show of the 2017-2018 season opens in a limited engagement and involves the most lighting equipment ever on stage in Playhouse history. 

Audiences should expect to experience an exceptional night of music as Kelly McIntyre performs the unforgettable songs of Janis Joplin; “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” “Cry Baby” and “Summertime.” 

A Night with Janis Joplin is a musical journey celebrating Janis and her biggest musical influences—icons like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone, and Bessie Smith, who inspired one of rock and roll’s greatest legends.

Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham says, “We are going to take a little piece of our subscribers and audiences’ heart with the amazing Kelly McIntyre and the brilliance of Randy Johnson’s creation. The roof is about to be blown off the Playhouse with this spectacular show!”

Kelly joined A Night with Janis Joplin for the first national tour in 2016. She went on to headline three more productions of Janis at Capital Repertory Theatre, Barter Theatre and A.C.T.

Performed in association with the Estate of Janis Joplin and Jeffrey Jampol of JAM, Inc., the show was written and directed by Randy Johnson. Musical direction is by Todd Olson.

 “Janis Joplin is one of my favorite artists. I know many of our subscribers will relate to this brilliant Tony-nominated production. And I look forward to introducing Janis to a whole new generation of audiences,” comments Laguna Playhouse Executive Director Ellen Richard.  

Randy Johnson’s (Book & Direction) work has been seen across the country and worldwide in such venues as The Savoy Theatre in London’s West End, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Apollo Theatre, Wembley Arena, Grand Ole Opry, The Ryman Auditorium, Off Broadway, Regional Theatres across the United States and Canada, Las Vegas and Arena’s worldwide. 

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted photo

Kelly McIntyre as Janis Joplin

Todd Olson’s (Musical Director) credits include; New York: Everything’s Coming Up Ethel (Orchestrator), Zorba (Music Assistant). National Tours: Smokey Joe’s Cafe (feat. The Coasters), A Christmas Carol. Regional: A Night with Janis Joplin 

(American Conservatory Theater, Barter Theatre, Capital Repertory Theatre). 

For a list of full credits of the talented cast, go to website listed below.

The Hale Family is the Laguna Playhouse’s season underwriter. Additional season sponsors are South Coast Plaza, Haskell & White, Surterre Properties, Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders, Gelson’s, and Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin.

The show will run through Sun, Sept 10. Performances will be Tues through Sat at 7:30 p.m.; Thurs and Sat at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 1 p.m. There will no Thurs performance on Thurs, Aug 24, at 2 p.m. There will be an additional Sun performance on Sun, Aug 27, at 5:30 p m.

Tickets range from $60 - $105 and can be purchased online at http://www.lagunaplayhouse.com/ or by calling (949) 497-ARTS (2787). Group discounts are available by calling 949-497-2787 ext. 229. Prices subject to change.

The box office is open Mon – Sat: 11a.m. to 5 p.m. (open until show time on performance days); Sun: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information on all shows and programming visit the website listed above.

Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.

Laguna Dance Festival announces Master Classes 

Master classes with dance masters and a one-of-a-kind on-stage rehearsal this year are part of the expanded Laguna Dance Festival. Feature performances begin Sept 14 with the iconic Paul Taylor Dance Company of NYC and conclude with the groundbreaking Ballet BC of Canada at Laguna Playhouse.  

“We’re delighted to once again offer an opportunity for aspiring dancers and dance professionals to take classes with some of the most extraordinary performers and choreographers on the stage, and learn more about the business of dancing as well as the art,” says Jodie Gates, Laguna Dance Festival Founder/Artistic Director, and Vice-Dean, USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. 

Up first, Patrick Corbin, alum of the prestigious Paul Taylor Dance Company, will conduct a master class on Sat Sept 9, from noon to 2 p.m. A celebrated dancer and choreographer, Corbin currently teaches dance at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and also directs and choreographs for worldwide audiences.

Submitted Photo

Patrick Corbin set to teach a master class for the Laguna Art Festival 

“Master classes provide access to movement theory, practice, technique, and choreography that many students haven’t experienced, which creates a unique opportunity for professional and personal growth. As a master teacher, it is a special pleasure to expose dancers to the diverse choreography of Paul Taylor,” says Corbin. 

Master Class with Ballet BC’s rehearsal director, Makaila Wallace, will be held on Sun, Sept 17, from 10 a.m. to noon, just before the company’s final performance. This is a unique opportunity to explore contemporary dance movement and choreography with some of most inventive dancers on the modern stage. 

Master Classes are held at Laguna Beach High School. Tickets are $25 for students, and $15 for observers. Students must be age 12 or older and at an intermediate or advanced level. 

Master-class performance packages are also available

As the master classes will focus on elements of dance performed at the Festival, there is an opportunity for students to tie the two together with a master class-performance package ticket of $50. There is also a group rate for ten or more students taking the Sunday morning Ballet BC class followed by the matinee performance.

Tickets are available at www.lagunadancefestival.org.

A very special program, “Choreograph Your Career” will take place on Sun, Sept 10, from noon  to 4 p.m. The event will feature top LA choreographers and dance administrators, and includes a mock audition with Laguna Dance Festival founder and artistic director, Jodie Gates. 

Also, in a first for the Festival, “Backstage with Paul Taylor Dance Company” features Patrick Corbin and two of the company’s lead dancers in a rehearsal on stage at the Playhouse, on Sep 13, at 7 p.m. This is a free event, first come, first seated. 

Laguna Dance Festival presents world-class performances on the local stage and provides quality dance education in an effort to increase public appreciation for the art. An award-winning non-profit enterprise in collaboration with many local arts programs, see the Festival schedule, tickets, and video excerpts of previous performances at http://www.lagunadancefestival.org.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

Sawdust Artists’ Benevolence Fund Auction exemplifies the art of giving


The Sawdust Artists’ Benevolence Fund Auction on Sunday was a huge success, raising $22,000 net, according to Monica Prado, Sawdust exhibitor and President of the Artists Benevolence Fund Board.

 According to Linda Grossman, a trustee who oversaw the Benevolence Fund efforts this year, it was the best to date.

“It was extremely well received and brought in the most ever. We’re so thrilled,” Grossman said. “A lot of the pieces were donated by past recipients.”

 Grossman said the stories that were shared at the auction were heartbreaking. From an artist whose art studio was ruined during the mudslides to artists with cancer and other serious health issues, many tearful yet grateful moments were shared, as past recipients gave thanks for the money they’ve received from the Benevolence Fund.

“I estimate about 220 pieces of art of all sizes were donated. They were extremely generous,” said Grossman.

Prado contributed a mosaic, depicting a wetlands scene, valued at $1,100. It was purchased at auction for $1,000 by local philanthropist George Heed. And a glass blown sculpture by Gavin Heath, also a board trustee, brought in $3,000.

The Benevolence Fund is an indispensable source of financial aid for Laguna Beach artists who have suffered a catastrophic event and are unable to work. The Fund began as the Artists’ Relief Fund in 1987, when artwork was auctioned to help a critically ill Sawdust Festival artist. The auction is the primary means of growing the fund, said Prado.

“Many artists don’t have health insurance, they don’t qualify under Covered California nor can they can’t afford private insurance. In times of serious illness, injury, or disasters that wipe out studios, where do artists turn,” said Prado. “Most importantly, we look out for each other. That is what the Benevolence Fund is all about, artists helping artists. We couldn’t do it without the art lovers who attend the auction each year.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo provided by the Sawdust

The Sawdust Benevolence Fund raised a record amount at its auction 

Sawdust artist, Dr. Neon, who donated a piece, agreed, but expressed how much Laguna and the Sawdust have both significantly changed over the decades.

He has changed as well. Back in 1980, when he first exhibited at the Sawdust, he was fearless. Now, he said, everyone is aging and most of the artists he has worked with are either gone, dead, retired, or have moved on.

“The Benevolence Fund, for the many artists who are down on their luck or who have had a hard time, it really comes out to be quite handy and important,” said Dr. Neon. “As Blanche Dubois said, ‘I live off the kindness of others.’ So it’s good for other artists to support other artists. Altruism is a disease many of us don’t have.”

Sawdust artist and Laguna Beach native Karen Hedges donated a piece this year.

“I donated a framed original oil painting that I painted en plein air on the grounds of the Mission in San Juan Capistrano,” said Hedges. “Although I have not been a recipient of the Benevolence Fund, I know artists who have been very appreciative to have such a fund available in time of need. These recipients are often the most generous donors when they are able to give back to our close-knit community.” 

Over the years more than $125,000 has been distributed to Sawdust and Laguna Beach artists who have experienced an unexpected calamity.

“What people don’t realize is the Sawdust Benevolence is for all Laguna Beach artists, not just Sawdust artists,” Grossman said. “It’s such a support for so many people. It has helped hundreds over artists over the years.”

Until next time…so much benevolence, so little time!

LB Juried Fine Art 2017 submissions will be accepted until Sept 9

The 2017 Laguna Beach Juried Fine Art Exhibition is now accepting submissions.

The exhibition is open to Orange County artists 18 years of age or older. Entries must be made via https://lagunabeachcity.slideroom.com by Sept 9. 

This program is funded by the Lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

For more information contact Michael McGregor, Arts Program Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tickets to an event that’s the talk of the town – the Annual Girls Night Out – are selling fast

Tickets are selling fast for theNinth Annual Girls Night Out event, which benefits the LB Boys & Girls Club. This event is exclusively for women will take place at the spectacular Wilson family home in Laguna Beach on Thurs, Sept 28 from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. 

The ladies will enjoy an evening in a beautiful oceanfront home as well as amazing food, signature cocktails, wine, martinis, shopping, pampering, and fun! In addition to all of that, each lady will go home with a swag bag full of girly goodies.

Early bird tickets are selling for $150, and can be purchased on the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach website: www.bgclagunabeach.org

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Girls’ Night Out provides guaranteed fun – this year, it takes place on Sept 28

This event is sponsored by Wilson Automotive Group, Winston’s Crown Jewelers, Montage Laguna Beach, Newport Lexus, Starfish, PIMCO, State Street, and Whole Foods.

This event is the “talk of the town” and organizers promise that you will not want to miss it. For more information contact Michelle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 715-7584.

The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach provides childhood experiences designed to keep children healthy, active, and “thinking” while having fun. The CEO of the Boys & Girls Club, Pam Estes, says “The Boys & Girls Club has filled a vital role in our community and we will continue to do so for generations to come.”

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach occupies three sites in Laguna Beach; Canyon Branch, Bluebird Branch and Lang Park Branch. Together, they offer a nationally recognized and award winning year round Out-of-School enrichment program that focuses on the whole family. 

From preschool to parenting classes, The Boys & Girls Club offers an array of services that focus on academic success, good character and citizenship, healthy lifestyles and creative expression. 

For more information about The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, visit: www.bgclagunabeach.org or call (949) 494-2535.

Artists draw on their imaginations – and trash – for fashions that resonate in Laguna


Photos courtesy Festival of Arts

It is amazing what can be done with soda pop bottles, cleaner’s plastic bags, used crayons and losing lottery tickets.

Of, course it helps if you are talented artists, as are all of the participants in the 9th Annual Festival of Arts Runway Fashion Show, the brilliant brain child of Special Events Director Susan Davis.

Seven exhibitors in the 2017 show drew on their imaginations and their trash baskets to design fashions that resonate in Laguna---a combination of art and recycling.

Five prizes of $1,000 each were awarded.  

The show opened with ceramist Mike Tauber’s sassy dress composed of duct tape, blue and green paint chips and a belt buckle designed by the artist. The dress was modeled by Sophie Higuchi, one of the models in the very first festival fashion show, and daughter of Sharbie Higuchi, festival director of marketing.  

Click on photo for a larger image

Elizabeth McGhee walks the runway in an outfit she created

Elizabeth McGhee’s own childhood inspired the outfit she designed and modeled, winner of the Most Creative Concept Award. More than 600 crayon wrappers were sewn together to make the bodice. Construction paper for the skirt and collar was collected from children’s art classes, some of them perhaps taught by McGhee, a member of Laguna Outreach Community Arts that provides art workshops for the children and adults.

Artists Antje Campbell and Carla Bosch were inspired by the ordinary scraps found in the studios of a painter, a woodworker, a vinyl graphic designer and a seamstress. They transformed the disparate materials into their vision of a butterfly, complete with bubble wrap wings, modeled by Sara Bosch.

Kirsten Whalen won the Most Innovative Use of Materials Award for “Pop Diva.” The entry was constructed of hand-woven cassette tape for the bodice and old window screens for the skirt. Shoes and hat were decorated with guitar strings. A vinyl record was molded into a purse that carried a microphone, which Whalen’s daughter, actress and singer Erika Schindele, put to good use, performing “What the World Needs Now is Love.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Sierra Manos wears a dress created by Festival artist Brad Elsberry

Hundreds of transparent plastic water and soda and the little plastic boxes used for cookies were cut up by perennial winner Brad Elsberry, and reshaped by heat to create his ethereal entry, modeled by Sierra Manos. It won the Most Exciting Concept Award. 

The gown and cape were put together with hot glue, one of the few substances known to man that will glue one plastic water bottle to another. Layers of sunset colored paint overlaid the plastic.

An inner warrior queen hidden inside the power broker in her grey flannel suit burst forth in Mariana Nelson’s design. Model Laura Nelson strutted down the runway in a colorful gown of dry cleaners bags, topped with a crown of wire hangers.

Click on photo for a larger image

Mary Schmidt wears a dress created by Festival artist Richard Moren

The simple purchase of a lottery ticket inspired Richard Moren’s entry: $4,800 and 1,600 tickets later, he had yet to win the lottery, so he did something beautiful with them. 

His divine evening gown made from tickets, folded into origami-like flowers, won the Most Red Carpet Ready and People’s Choice awards

Actor, writer and singer Kate Flannery, who played Meredith on the nine-year run of “The Office,” hosted the show. 

Mar Luc Zanola, a French transplant to Laguna Beach, Emmy winning costume designer Marie Schley, actress Melissa Biggs, who recently starred in “Clarissa’s Gift,” and the 2,000 folks in the audience served as judges. 

Those who missed the show can see the costumes in the booths of the artists that created them.  

Suzie’s ARTiculation

Say “Meow” with haute looks on the catwalk at FOA’s Fashion Show Saturday


Forget Paris, Milan, New York and London, when it comes to the fashion scene, they have nothing like the fashion seen at the Festival Runway Fashion Show. See for yourself on Saturday, 12 to 3 p.m. View the truly original “recycled” stylings of eclectic elegance with these on-trend, lust-have, couture du jour featuring a collection of must-see, artful designs. 

Be close to the catwalk to witness festival artists compete to create the most inspired couture using reclaimed, reused or recycled material, boasting the most allure. Featuring Festival exhibitors Carla Bosch, Antje Campbell, Brad Elsberry, Elizabeth McGhee, Richard Moren, Adam Neeley, Mariana Nelson and Mike Tauber, vying for top cash prizes of $1,000 in four categories: Most Creative Concept, Most Exciting Ensemble, Most Innovative Use of Materials and Most Glamorous & Elegant “Red Carpet” worthy creation, and a “People’s Choice Award” to be voted, by you the audience, at the event.

The 9th annual Festival Runway Fashion Show will be hosted by actress Kate Flannery, a Festival favorite, best known for her role as Meredith on “The Office,” Flannery shared the stage with Jane Lynch in, “See Jane Sing,” last Saturday.

Selecting the winners will be a panel of judges including actress/model Melissa Biggs, Marc Luc Zanola, former Paris Boutique Manager for designer Gianfranco Ferre, and Lauren Shapiro, Costume Designer and Wardrobe Stylist for the “Late Late Show with James Corden.”

Fashion designer, aka ceramicist Richard Moren, said he loves the runway extravaganza. 

“The fashion show is one of the many shining gems here at the Festival. To be a part of it is artistically stimulating and exciting,” said Moren. “And, who doesn’t love a creative challenge?” 

Terms like reclaimed, reused and recycled are part of Moren’s nomenclature, so to speak.

“I grew up in a family where nothing was wasted. Everything was saved, just in case,” Moren said. “We, especially my mom, made magic out of scraps and bits of stuff and pieces. Both practical and fanciful magic. It’s part of my nature to want to do the same.”

His model is his wife’s friend, Mary Schmidt, a long time Laguna Beach resident, who will be wearing couture made of lottery tickets, inspired, of course, by “Lady Luck!”

“The act of buying a lottery ticket gives me a sense of unlimited possibilities, and inspires the dreamer’s imagination in me to soar to the heavens. This dress is constructed of approximately 1,600 lottery tickets,” Moren said. “My medium in the festival is clay, so exploring how to repurpose these, shall we say, ‘less than successful’ paper tickets into a dress, was great fun.”

 Moren estimates the “original purchase price” for the tickets used in creating the dress to be more than $4,800. Will he hit the jackpot with his couture? Let’s hope!

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo provided by Mike Tauber

Get ready to get your clap on with Tauber’s theme song at the FOA Fashion Show

Mike Tauber, ceramic tiles, calls his fashion design, Paint-Chips dress, inspired by his work and a recent tour of the Costume Studio at Denver Art Museum.

“They have an awesome exhibit of tools, samples, and techniques used for creating wearable art,” Tauber said. “My design is made from scraps from my studio, objects found on our shorelines, paint chip samples, Duct Tape, and hot glue. My starting point was one of my seascape paintings in my booth. It’s an ocean scene and I love the blues and greens of our local coastline.”

Tauber said he entered the Fashion Show because he sees the FOA as a multifaceted art venue.

“I love being involved with things like the Art-to-Go Fundraiser, the Festival stage and concerts, and I have been in the Pageant in the past,” said Tauber. “And Project Runway is a great way for exhibitors to engage with audiences.”

And engage he will, having fun with the fashion show-goers.

“To bump it up a notch, I think it’s important to have audience engagement. So I picked a song by Fitz and the Tantrums called, “HandClap,” for my soundtrack,” said Tauber. “I am seeking out attendees who know the following two things - how to count to six and how to clap, so they can clap along to my theme song,” Tauber said. “I thought it would be a great way to bring in the audience and to engage them. I want everyone to join together in the fun and clap along with my model Sophie.” 

To get your clap on and learn the moves of your palms, Tauber provided a link to “HandClap,” on https://www.facebook.com/mike.tauber.35?fref=ts or visit the band’s YouTube video  https://youtu.be/Y2V6yjjPbX0.

“It will be an upbeat interactive experience, and after all, the day is about fun, fun, fun,” Tauber said.

Until next time…so much creative couture, so little time!

Art-to-Go features travel-themed works: 20 percent off sale takes place at FOA, Sat Aug 12 11:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Art collectors who love travel will enjoy the 2017 Art-To-Go fundraising collection at Festival of Arts. More than 100 exhibitors donated originals under the theme “The Art of Travel”. 

A special 20 percent-off sale will be featured Sat Aug 12, 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Sealed bids will also be accepted, opened at 2 p.m, and items sold by 3:30 p.m. Bid forms are available now at the displays on the Festival grounds.

Works are available for purchase daily, now through Aug 31, while supplies last.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted Photo

Marlo Bartels’ Diamond Planter 

“My travel involves flying over Avalon,” said painter Michael Obermeyer, “So I painted an aerial of a seaplane over the famous casino.” The collection also features originals by Marlo Bartels, Kate Cohen, Toni Danchik, Rick Graves, Mark Jacobucci, Greg LaRock, Tom Lamb, Tom Swimm, Jacquie Moffett, Mariana Nelson, and many more.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted Photo

A stunning piece of art from the talented Tom Swimm is available

Proceeds from Art-To-Go sales benefit The Artists Fund at Festival of Arts, providing hardship and disaster relief grants for artists in need. View the online gallery at www.TheArtistsFund-foa.org or call (949) 612-1949. Visit the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd, FoAPoM.com

Suzie’s ARTiculation

The City is working with the community to help solve affordable Artist Work/Live space issues


Last week consultants came to Laguna Beach for an initial visit to help facilitate plans for affordable housing for local working artists. 

Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl explained that the City Council approved an implementation plan, which including hiring Artspace to undertake an assessment of Artist Work/Live in Laguna Beach. Over 100 people attended workshops over a two-day period, and included residents, artists, employers and financers.

While the action orientated study is a directive of the City of Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Plan, the discussion of affordable housing and working spaces has been a goal for years, including in the Vision Laguna Plan 2030 from 2000. 

The Cultural Arts Plan notes:

Goal 1.3 Support development of affordable artists work/live, work and production spaces.

Goal 1.3.1 Explore development of a new artists’ work/live project in partnership with a nonprofit developer, such as Artspace. Nonprofit developers typically bring financing to such projects and require a minimal investment on the part of City government, such as land assembly, soft costs for preplanning and permitting assistance. Begin with a feasibility study conducted by Artspace, PLACE or other nonprofit developer.

Goal 1.3.4 Develop an inventory of land and buildings that can be considered as potential sites for artist work/live, studios and cultural facilities.

Established in 1979, Artspace is well-known for their Artist Work/Live expertise. Since 2004, Artspace has worked with over 223 communities in 45 states. 

Poeschl gave thanks to Artspace’s Senior Vice President, Consulting & Strategic Partnerships, Wendy Holmes, and Vice President, Consulting & Strategic Partnerships, Teri Deaver.

“Wendy Holmes and Teri Deaver from Artspace really engaged and embraced the community and its culture,” said Poeschl. “They are aware of our challenges and their goal is to help identify solutions that not only make our collective vision possible, but also make our community safer, and more livable.”

Art Commissioner Suzi Chauvel, who was also on the Steering Committee that helped formulate the Cultural Arts Plan agreed.

“Artspace is the gold standard for these kinds of projects with successful examples of their work all over the U.S.,” said Chauvel. “I was impressed that all their projects are completely suited to each community’s unique needs.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Over 100 Laguna Beach artists, residents, employers, and financers attended Artist Work/Live workshops last week

Laguna Beach has 164 low-to-moderate income housing units. There is now low-income housing, disabled/HIV and senior housing in Laguna Beach, and the City Council directed the Arts Commission to provide innovative ideas about facilitating affordable working/living space for working artists. 

The creative sector is an anchor point of Laguna Beach that contributes $95.4 million is economic spending by non-profit arts organizations and its audiences generating $4.4 million in local revenue. 

“Art and Artists are not just good for the economy, they put the heart in our home,” said Poeschl.

She explained that the study is not a one-fix to a large issue facing not only Laguna Beach, but the state as a whole.

“It is a holistic approach to progressive thinking and innovative solutions. Artspace has a successful background in undertaking just that, and we have been fortunate in having them on board to help guide solutions,” Poeschl said. “They have undertaken their first fact finding visit and will now be doing a lot of research before presenting their preliminary report to the Arts Commission which is expected in November.”

Chauvel said the community’s support is integral.

“I would like to thank the Laguna Beach Community for all of their valuable feedback. We had a healthy discourse in our community engagement with the Artspace team,” said Chauvel. “I think everyone came away from the experience more knowledegable about the possibilities for Artist Work/Live projects.”

Poeschl said the City and the Arts Commission are committed to retaining artists working and living in our community and will explore all avenues to achieve this for future generations to call Laguna Beach home.

“Laguna Beach has for generations been a socially and economically diverse community generating an authentic character and sense of place,” said Poeschl. “The work we are doing now is to look towards our future, not for next year, or the year after that, but what we want to identify ourselves as 20 to 40 years from now.”

Until next time…so much in the works for our artists, so little time!

Sawdust Artists Benevolence Fund auctions – silent and live – will take place on Sun Aug 13 

The Sawdust Artists Benevolence Fund, a source of financial assistance for artists living in Laguna Beach who have suffered a catastrophic event, leaving them unable to work, will host its 31st annual Art Auction on Sunday, August 13.  

A silent auction will be held in the Healy House at the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival at 10 a.m. followed by a live auction on the main deck, beginning at 1 p.m.

The auction features paintings, ceramics, jewelry, clothing, photography and more, created by Sawdust artists with the goal of raising funds for fellow artists in times of need. Professional auctioneer, Tony DeZao, who will be presiding over the live auction, is sure to pack the experience with lots of laughs, entertaining stories and amazing art.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Donita Lloyd is donating an original oil painting as a way to say thank you

“Last year we celebrated our best auction to date, and we hope the community turns out again to support our artists,” stated Monica Prado, President of the Artists Benevolence Fund Board of Trustees.

Two recent recipients shared their story and donated original works to the auction. “Six months ago my world was falling apart. A grant from the Artists Benevolence Fund made a huge difference and got me back on my feet,” said Donita Lloyd, who is donating an original oil painting to the auction.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Cliff Wasserman is also donating an original oil painting in gratitude

Cliff Wassermann, who also is donating an original oil painting said, “While in recovery from knee surgery and unable to maintain my art show schedule the Benevolence Fund came through for me and helped me get past that difficult time.”

To attend the auction, email Franky Duschane at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for complimentary tickets. 

For more information on the Sawdust Artists’ Benevolence Fund, visit:


Chicago at NoSquare is so successful, the theatre is adding a matinee this Sunday Aug 13


Not surprisingly to me after watching the show last week, Chicago at NoSquare has done so well that the theatre will be adding a matinee this coming Saturday, Aug 12, at 2 p.m.

As I wrote, I felt part of the show because of the intimate setting and the actors’ energy, which enveloped the entire audience. I was mesmerized by the tale of the two murderesses, intrigued by the drama, swept up in the singing, and immensely grateful to be able to experience such terrific performances right here in Laguna Beach close to home.

Submitted photo

Juliet Schulein (Velma), center of photo, and fellow actors during rehearsals

Every production at this venue, I’m in awe of the bravery and accomplishment of the actors who make maximum use of the small stage without ever appearing to be aware of how close they are to the edges.

According to Director Joe Lauderdale: “Chicago was based on the real murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, as chronicled by Maureen Dallas Watkins for the Chicago Tribune. Watkins turned her reports into a play called Chicago, which opened on Broadway in 1926. 

“The amazing thing about Chicago, whether it was 1926 or 1975 [when it was first performed on Broadway] is that celebrities who do bad things are made media darlings by a public that craves controversy. The ideas are never out of date.”

I’m not sure if it is comforting or not to know that there have always been OJ Simpson figures – will there one day be a musical called Brentwood? – but either way, this show entertains, illuminates, and proves once again that we humans are happy voyeurs at heart. 

We’re lucky to have access to such great talent in our town, thanks to the dedicated NoSquare team. NoSquare is located at Historic Legion Hall, 384 Legion St. www.nosquare.org

Playhouse is awarded $20,000 grant from S.L. Gimbel Foundation to benefit Youth Education programs

 The Laguna Playhouse was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from the 2017 S.L. Gimbel Foundation Fund, administered by The Community Foundation, according to Executive Director Ellen Richard. 

The grant will support the Playhouse’s year-round, award-winning Youth Education and Outreach Programs: Youth Theatre; TheatreReach:  Bringing Books to Life; and workshops. 

“We are extremely pleased to provide this grant, which is to support the Playhouse’s proposal to engage homeless/underserved youth in literature-based theatre,” said Celia Cudiamat, executive vice president of programs of The Community Foundation.

Submitted photo

Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre summer workshop

“The Community Foundation is a new and important partner in support of our youth education programs. This grant-funding will enable Laguna Playhouse to develop new collaborations with local agencies serving homeless youth to provide artistic enrichment by bringing them to the Playhouse for Youth Theatre performances,” Ellen Richard added. “We are convinced that participation in the arts is necessary and highly beneficial for all youth and provides hope and inspiration to help all youth succeed.”

Playhouse Youth Programs provide the joy of live theatre based on classic children’s literature and innovative, high-quality arts education for youth. Grant support also enables low-income children to participate, which is often their first exposure to live theatre. In schools that benefit from the TheatreReach program, 100 percent of the teachers report that most of the students are more involved in the curriculum because of this program.

Submitted photo

Youth Conservatory students perform with professional actors in Romeo & Juliet

“Support of Laguna Playhouse Youth Education Programs helps provide innovative, high quality arts education for approximately 7,500 youth throughout the year. Arts education improves critical thinking and spatial reasoning skills, while encouraging creativity and stimulating imagination. Theatre training encourages discovery and innovation, offering children a more complete picture of their own identities and an expanded view of the world around them,” explained Donna Inglima, Playhouse director of youth programming.

 The Laguna Playhouse is widely noted for its Youth Theater, Education and Outreach programs. Donna Inglima received a 2017 Life-Time Achievement Award from the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance, and was named Arts Educator of the Year in 2009 by Arts OC. The TheatreReach program, which brings books to life on-stage for elementary school children, was awarded the ‘Outstanding Arts Entity Award’ by Arts Orange County.  

Because of its longstanding commitment to the arts, The Laguna Playhouse has been recognized for excellence by the LA Drama Critics Circle, NAACP, Backstage, ArtsOC, OC Weekly, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and more.  Laguna Playhouse’s educational programming, which includes classes, productions by and for children and teens (Youth Theatre) and a school tour, has been honored by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, Arts Orange County and the Orange County Department of Education.

Live! at the Museum presents renowned violin artists YuEun Kim and EtienneGara at LAM on Aug 10 

On Thu, Aug 10, Laguna Beach Live! presents YuEun Kim and Etienne Gara at the Laguna Art Museum. Live! and the Laguna Art Museum have partnered to present an evening of art and music on the second Thursday of each month from 7 – 8 p.m. 

Born in Seoul, Korea, violinist YuEun Kim is forging a significant international career. Having earned her Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in violin performance from the prestigious Seoul National University, Ms. Kim is presently working toward her Artist Diploma, as a Starling Fellow on full scholarship at the USC-Thornton School of Music.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted Photo

Musician YuEun Kim 

French born violinist Étienne Gara has performed extensively worldwide since making his orchestral solo debut in 2005 with the Savaria Symphony Orchestra in Hungary. 2010 laureate of the prestigious Fondation Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, Etienne currently is the artistic director of the Open Academy Orchestra, in Los Angeles. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted Photo

Ètienne Gara on the violin 

The concert is free to museum members and to non-members with museum admission. Pre-reservations are available online through the Museum’s website, or at 949.494.8971 x203. 

These seats are held until 6:45 pm. Additional seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information about the series and other concerts, go online at www.lagunabeachlive.org or phone 949-715-9713.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

For Festival freshmen life is good, living the dream


Time seems to be passing by at an exceptional pace, exceeding the speed limit for my taste.I can’t believe I am writing this, but we’ve already reached the halfway mark of the Festival season. So, I thought it would be a good time to check in with the freshmen class at the Festival of Arts now that they’ve had a chance to get their bearings. Here’s what a few of them had to say about themselves, their work, and their experience of being a first-time FOA exhibitor.

Pil Ho Lee, Oil Painting

“I’ve always admired the level of work shown here at FOA. Seven years ago, when I decided to put more time into painting, I remember being inspired by some of the artists that I’m exhibiting with this year. It’s such a privilege and I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.

It’s already met my expectations and we’re half way into the season. I’m thankful just to be an exhibitor this year but also with how this show’s been going. From the people, artists I’ve met, to the paintings sold, it’s been very encouraging. One of my goals at the end of the season is to try to make it back for the 2018 season.

I’m learning how important it is to meet with patrons to get feedback on my work. It’s very interesting to hear their take on my work and what they look for and draws them in. Most of the time it’s very affirming and encouraging. It’s often the subject matter and the style of my paintings that they connect to on an emotional level which encourages me the most.

I’ve always been drawn to a painterly, loose style. And it was about three years ago I started experimenting with abstract work. Although abstract and representational are two very different approaches, I respect both forms of painting. And I like to have elements of abstraction in all my paintings. I will continue my work both in abstract and representational work and see where it takes me.

I enjoy being able to create something that’s part of who I am. Painting is a beautiful way to express my emotions and it’s special when others connect with it. I think this is the reason why artists have to be authentic. I believe that’s the only way you can do good work...plus hard work.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by the artist

Check out pieces by new Festival artists like Pil Ho Lee’s “Twilight Reflections”

Joy Vansell, Printmaking

“The experience has been fantastic, the camaraderie of all the artists. The festival is like going to adult art camp. To spend my days with like-minded folks and discussing methods with other printmakers, art struggles and inspiration with others, medium choices and papers and frames and techniques. It’s a family. My goal was to thoroughly enjoy it as a newbie of the festival.

Art is my way of life. When my children were young and the studio seemed impossible, I’d garden. Unlimited texture, waves of color, creating space, all lends itself to creating. Art has always been a part of my life, it enhances the quality in my life.

I’m attracted to strong images that reflect emotional feeling, reference to a thought or time. As it develops the tenor or mood evolves to suggest and reveal something. Facial representation, mood reflection, language, layers, serenity. Whatever image I work with I always end up back to the figure.

I love color. My background is in ceramics where you build a piece and after the first firing the piece is stark white and you create over again with color. Printmaking allows me the use of color while the figure is being investigated. The use of the primary colors, red, yellow and blue allows me to layer and create all variety of colors.”

Leslie Bonanni, Pastels

“It has been absolutely amazing. The other artists are as extraordinary personally as professionally. Management is organized and efficient. It is better than I thought it ever could be, exceeding my expectations. Yes, my goals were to have new experiences, meet new friends, gain exposure, and sell work. To my delight, I’ve already met all these of these goals and look forward to continuing the momentum. 

What a full circle moment, when a viewer connects with my paintings. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Patrons ponder, they look, they move closer, they look deep. They stay with it, and I leave them in silence to allow an emotional connection. 

Some are surprised the medium is pastel, as they did not recognize it as such. With comments like “simple, elegant, soothing, moody, contemplative, fresh, unusual, never seen anything like it, emotional, evocative, atmospheric, and meditative,” I feel grateful. The viewer has been taken on a journey, and is at one with the message and the messenger. 

My work is painted in a Tonalist style, with an emphasis on atmosphere, mood, and a limited color palette. I paint intuitively, from memory, and in one setting, until I feel the painting is finished. My approach is self-taught, using my hands and fingers like paintbrushes and a few select tools to blend many thin layers of soft pastel pigment into the pastel paper. These passages build up an atmospheric dreamlike quality that render evocative, emotional, personal and spiritual paintings.

It is my persistent desire for the process of painting that beckons me to the studio and awakens my senses. While there, I am energized by the thrill of anticipation, not knowing what will happen. Each day is a new discovery, an opportunity for passionate self-expression. It’s all part of living life out loud, making a difference for myself, and for those who hear my artistic voice.”

Rachelle Chuang, Mixed Media

“I have known about FOA for many years. I can’t even express how amazing being at the Festival has been. I am extremely grateful, humbled and honored to be there. Without a single exception, every staff or security person and fellow artists have been gracious, helpful and kind. This is confirmed by my other fellow first year artists as well. It is beyond my expectations and my personal and business goals are being reached. 

The response has been favorable and gracious. Most people respond that my work is very unique and I have to say it is. I’ve come up with a unique process and art form combining relief printing and collage that strikes people. I am very grateful. If people walk away with just a moment of joy by viewing color, then I have succeeded.

My work is the result of experimentation and chance using four things that I love: paper, print, collage and color. Full sheets of heavyweight paper are uniquely printed from antique wood type, cut into strips and collaged on wood panels using archival PVA glue. Thick layers of epoxy resin are used to coat each work, resulting in brilliant, lively colors that show natural mark-making from relief printing as well as overprinted color shapes. I consider this series a demonstration of creative color play showcasing the multiple processes used in its creation. I hope that every viewer receives a “color benediction” or blessing as an enjoyable, visually-saturated experience.

My motto and sign-off is ‘May your soul be filled with vibrant color!’” 

Until next time…so much art and talent, so little time!

Laguna Playhouse announces change: Twelve Angry Men now opens Oct 4, The Graduate opens March, 2018

Due to scheduling conflicts beyond the production’s control, Laguna Playhouse has announced that the previously scheduled dates for The Graduate, starring Academy Award nominee Melanie Griffith as Mrs. Robinson, will move to March 2018. In its place, Twelve Angry Men, which was scheduled to open in March 2018, will now perform from Oct 4 - 22. 

Executive Director Ellen Richard comments, “This schedule change of switching our two anticipated upcoming plays of The Graduate with Twelve Angry Men ends up working out best for both these important productions for the Playhouse.” 

Click on photo for larger image

Twelve Angry Men will now open on Oct 4

Adds Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham. “We are thrilled with the team that director Michael Matthews is putting together for a very timely Twelve Angry Men,and we look forward to having Melanie Griffith on our stage next March.”

Single tickets range from $40 - $75 and can be purchased online at http://www.lagunaplayhouse.com/ or by calling (949) 497-ARTS (2787). Group discounts are available by calling 949-497-2787 ext. 229.

Subscriptions to the 2017-2018 – 97thseason are now available by calling the box office at the number above or going to the website.

The box office is open Mon – Sat: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (open until show time on performance days); Sun: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.

Salute to the Arts spotlights Maile Meloy during a special author discussion on Sun, Aug 6, at FOA

As part of a new series of Sunday afternoon events at The Festival of the Arts, Salute to the Arts hosts Maile Meloy in a discussion of her new novel, Do Not Become Alarmed on Aug 6 from 2 - 4 p.m. Inspired by the original Festival, which featured a variety of artistic endeavors in theater, literature, dance, and more, the FOA introduced Salute to the Arts as part of its 2017 calendar.

Do Not Become Alarmed is a story about the protective force of innocence and the limits of parental power, and an insightful look at privileged illusions of safety.

Celebrated for her spare and moving fiction, Maile Meloy has written a gripping novel about how quickly what we count on can fall away, and the way a crisis shifts our perceptions of what matters most.

On Sun, Aug 6, Maile Meloy discusses her new novel Do Not Become Alarmed

Maile Meloy is the author of the story collection Half in Love and the novel Liars and Saints, which was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize. Meloy’s stories have been published in The New Yorker, and she has received The Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in CA.

FOA is located at 650 Laguna Canyon Rd. Tickets for the event are $30 and include FOA admission, hardcover book, author reading and discussion, Q & A, and book signing. For tickets, call 800-487-3378, or go online at https://www.foapom.com/event/salute-08-06/

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Maggi Henrikson is our Contributing Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster.

Katie Ford is our Ad Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Cameron Gillespie, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are the staff photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Account & Instagram Manager.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com for questions about advertising


Email: Lynette@StuNewsLaguna.com with news releases, letters, etc.