Laguna’s nonprofit Arts & Culture industry generates $95.4 million in economic activity and 2.5K+ jobs

The nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $95.4 million in annual economic activity in Laguna Beach, supporting 2,512 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $8.8 million in local and state government revenues, according to the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 national economic impact study. 

Americans for the Arts, which conducted the study, is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts educationin partnership with the City of Laguna Beach.

Results show that nonprofit arts and culture organizations spent $40.1 million during fiscal year 2015. This spending is far-reaching: organizations pay employees, purchase supplies, contract for services and acquire assets within their community.

Those dollars, in turn, generated $32.6 million in household income for local residents and $8.8 million in local and state government revenues.

The arts mean business

“This study demonstrates that the arts are an economic and employment powerhouse both locally and across the nation,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive and helps local communities become stronger and healthier places to live. Leaders who care about community and economic vitality can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts. Nationally as well as locally, the arts mean business.”

In addition to spending by organizations, the nonprofit arts and culture industry leverages $55 million in event-related spending by its audiences. As a result of attending a cultural event, attendees often eat dinner in local restaurants, pay for parking, buy gifts and souvenirs, and pay a babysitter.

The arts make Laguna special – and are key to its economic vitality

“I have always known that the arts in Laguna Beach make it a special place, but it is wonderful to learn just how much they contribute to the economic vitality of our town,” said Mayor Toni Iseman.

The Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study was conducted by Americans for the Arts and supported by The Ruth Lilly Fund of Americans for the Arts. Americans for the Arts’ local, regional, and statewide project partners contributed both time and financial support to the study. Financial information from organizations was collected in partnership with DataArts™, using a new online survey interface. 

For a full list of the communities who participated in the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, visit

The Laguna Beach study can be found at

It had to be Stu, wonderful Stu

Stu’s Celebration of Life took place last Saturday at Riddle Field, where Stu spent some of the happiest years of his life coaching Little League. One of the speakers, council member Bob Whalen, recalled a time when Stu did some umpiring also – but, being Stu, apparently he’d occasionally wander toward the bleachers to chat to the spectators or get caught up offering random coaching tips, so that he had to be reminded there was a game going on. 

Stu didn’t care as much about the rules as he did about the spirit of the game, much like his attitude toward journalism. “It’s about heart,” he’d say about both.

Because that was Stu – above all, a man with a big heart. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Brandon Leahy tells the crowd about his love of Stu

The words “kindness,” “warmth,” “mentor” and “humor” were repeated by almost all speakers during the remembrances. (Though Mayor Toni Iseman snuck in a “sneaky” also, by which she meant that as an inveterate newsman, Stu would put his interview subjects at ease, so much so that from time to time they’d forget they were talking to a journalist with the means to reveal their deepest secrets.)

But no one ever had to worry about that with Stu. As several speakers noted, Stu cared deeply about people and community. He loved journalism and news, not gossip, and never broke a confidence.

Another theme throughout the speeches was Stu’s tendency to talk, well, quite a lot. Several mentions of hours-long telephone conversations were made, with sadness that those conversations would no longer happen. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Speakers and FOS (friends of Stu) l-r: Brandon Leahy, Mark Christy, Shaena Stabler, Bob Whalen, Chris Keller, Dennis McTighe

Chris Keller told how he met Stu at his hotel one evening, an evening that became early morning as they talked nonstop about matters dear to each of their hearts – which we know would have included all things Laguna.

Speaker after speaker, including also Brandon Leahy, whom he regarded as a son, former Laguna mayor Elizabeth Pearson, Festival of the Arts’s Sharbie Higuchi, and Lynette Brasfield, now the editor of Stu News Laguna, spoke of his absolute confidence in the people he loved, and how inspiring it was to be so trusted by a man of such integrity.

Shaena Stabler, his business partner, said that Stu was “the best man she had ever known.” With tears in her eyes she shared: “He had a way of making each person in his life feel special and worthy and empowered to be the best versions of themselves that they could be. He gave freely and without limitation his time, his talent, and most importantly his beautiful heart...over and over again in this life.”

And to cap it all Mark Christy gave a speech that was funny, warm and generous, just like the man he was honoring. “I thought I knew more than most people about music, baseball and Laguna, but Stu had me beaten on all counts,” he said of their long and deep friendship.

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Mark Christy gave a speech that was funny, warm and generous

Christy added, “Stu loved baseball and understood the integrity of America’s game rested on a fair and unbiased pair of eyes calling ‘em as they see ‘em…When reporting on local events, Stu dug deeper than anyone else, listened intently to all sides, positioned himself in the best vantage point to observe the action, and… at the end of the day, called it as he saw it.”

Pastor Don Sciortino started the ceremony with a prayer, Chris Quilter summarized Stu’s life, and three songs were played, each a Stu favorite, highlighting facets of his personality: Let it Flow, by Elvin Bishop; A Lucky Life, by Vonda Shepard; and Ramblin’ Man, by the Allman Brothers. A poem by Maya Angelou, When Great Trees Fall, was read by Linda Morgenlander, Brandon Leahy’s aunt.

Stu News Laguna staff were out in force also to pay tribute to their boss, mentor and friend. Present were former associate editor Maggi Henrikson, Police Beat writer Alli Rael, columnists Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Suzie Harrison and Samantha Washer, writer Dianne Russell, photographers Scott Brashier and Mary Hurlbut, and of course Dennis McTighe, McWeather, who relished the sunshine. 

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Dennis McTighe, McWeather, made sure the sun shone

People seemed reluctant to leave, understandably. They had spent the last two hours eating great hamburgers and hot dogs at Riddle Field in true Stu fashion, listening to the music he loved, and sharing many a story of the great but humble newsman’s accomplishments – not to mention his wonderful quirks – and above all, his love of Laguna, and of Shaena, who has promised to keep Stu News Laguna flourishing as Stu had so dearly wished. 

It’s hard to bid farewell to such a man.

Escape into dreams at the exhibit “Extended Vacation” running until July 30 at the JoAnne Artman Gallery

JoAnne Artman Gallery presents “Extended Vacation,” a group exhibition featuring Anthony Hunter, Ryan Jones, Robert Mars, and Billy Schenck. The exhibit opened on June 15 and will continue through July 30. JoAnne Artman Gallery is located at 326 N Coast Hwy. 

With the beckoning suggestion of the possibility of the dream escape, this summer guests can experience an “Extended Vacation,” featuring artists Anthony Hunter, Ryan Jones, Robert Mars and Billy Schenck.  

Billy Schenck has a definitive flair for highlighting the drama, and evoking the action of classic Westerns along with their corresponding mythology.

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Submitted photo 

Billy Schenck, “Scorpion I,” oil on canvas

British painter Anthony Hunter delivers a fresh take on abstract expressionism, creating works that are both emotionally powerful and visually captivating. Hunter, who has been immersed in the art world as an art fabricator for Damien Hirst, is known for his energetic compositions, unexpected palettes, and innovative use of materials. 

A New York based artist, Robert Mars integrates his own cultural icons with imagery of America’s Golden Age with various paper ephemera. Focusing on 50’s and 60’s iconography, the images take us back to a pre-reality TV era, when icons and celebrities were tantalizingly out of reach. Each image reads as an enticing glimpse of a not so distant past. 

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Submitted photo

Ryan Jones, “Extended Vacation,” oil on canvas

Ryan Jones’ work combines elements of the surreal with luxe, Pop referential imagery, bringing us into a world of mystery and intrigue with a little bit of the uncanny. Luxurious, lustrous, and lush scenarios introduce us to a world of a stolen moment, presented through a hyper-realistic visual collage. Galloping horses, blood orange sunsets, dusty cowboys, one can almost feel the rising heat from the sun-warmed earth. 

For further information, contact JoAnne Artman at 949-510-5481, or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or at the website:

City prepares response to Paris accord & residents’ queries about joining the Climate Mayors Network


Within a week of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, more than 290 US cities pledged to honor the worldwide agreement – and the number is reportedly climbing.   

City staff is preparing an update on the existing Laguna Beach Climate Protection Action Plan to be presented on July 25 to the City Council. The presentation will include an overview of the Paris accord. 

“Toni (Mayor Iseman) requested that we put this on the agenda,” said City Manager John Pietig.

The City should join the “Climate Mayors Network,” according to letters sent to Stu News, including one signed by One World One Ocean founders Greg and Barbara MacGillivray.

“Barbara and I encourage our wonderful city council to sign on the Climate Mayors Network and adopt the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” wrote the MacGillivrays. 

Laguna Beach resident Sara Lowell wrote that she was surprised that Laguna Beach was not already on the list of U.S cities that have pledged to support the Paris agreement in response to President Trump’s opting out of the agreement. 

“I am posing a request to our forward-thinking city council members to sign such a resolution…” wrote Lowell.

However, Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Boyd questions the advisability of the city’s participation in the mayor’s network.

“Laguna Beach is one of the leaders in environment issues – we always step up to the plate,” said Boyd. “But, I don’t think we should get involved in international affairs.”

A history of environmental awareness

The council adopted the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2007, as recommended by then-Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman due to strong public support, she said.  

A draft action plan was presented to the city council in 2008 and approved in 2009 after review by other city committees. 

The council was last updated on the plan in 2012 by Environmental Specialist Michael Phillips.

His report included steps the City had taken to reduce its energy consumption: purchase of alternative-fuel vehicles, replacement of incandescent lighting in city-owned buildings with compact florescent lamps and the encouragement of natural lighting and ventilation in the construction of new public building.

Bike racks were installed downtown and sharrows were painted on city streets to encourage walking. The City also worked with Waste Management to replace its diesel fleet with low-emission vehicles.

The international and local goal in 2007 was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The stated goal in 2017 is to pursue efforts to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

A Note from Shaena

Thanks to everyone who attended the wonderful celebration of Stu’s life last Saturday. 

I want to give an extra big thank you to Laguna Beach Little League, especially Steffanie Gapp and Heather Loughlin, without whom the event would not have been possible. From the Snack Bar (serving meat donated by The Butchery) to the beautiful centerpieces to chalking the field up, LBLL was tremendous every step of the way in helping make the day such a special one.

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Stu was the best man I have ever known

I’d also like to thank Katie Ford for designing the beautiful programs, UPS Store for printing them at no cost, the LBHS high school baseball players that volunteered the day of the event, Laura and John Buckle for the sound, and Cory Sparkuhl for videoing the celebration. We look forward to sharing his video with our readers as soon as it’s ready.


More tributes and pics

Mayor Toni Iseman, acting as a reporter in honor of Stu, gathered a few tributes from attendees as they mingled before and after the Celebration – more than we can publish, but here’s a selection…

Greg McGillivray: “Stu was all that is best with Laguna. Heart, soul, intelligence and love.”

Bonnie Hano: “Stu knew what people wanted to know.”

Billy Fried: “Stu taught me all that I know about journalism. But not everything he knew! I’ll miss his wisdom and passion.”


View the two photo galleries below

Photos by Mary Hurlbut


Photos by Scott Brashier

10 local women artists create responses to President Trump; exhibits on show at BC Space until July 15

“Women OnWord,” a unique exhibit inspired by the election of the president last November, showcases the work of selected women artists who were asked to create works that included words juxtaposed with their own style and media. 

“With the election of Donald Trump, I decided it was vital for women artists to speak their mind and that creating pieces inserting words, might be an asset in producing some meaningful work. For a number of us the challenge of incorporating words was unique, while being part of the usual avenue for others,” Jennifer Griffiths, who curated the exhibition, notes. 

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Photo courtesy BC Space

Artist Hedy Buzan, Rev. Dr. Paul Murray, mixed media

Griffiths adds, “Aesthetically, the art works exhibited here relay a softness... the feminine, moving straight to the significance of commitment, inclusion, strength and determination. The underlying tremor of jitters (that we all feel) is there for sure, but dances below the main force of each work.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy BC Space

Artist Darlene Campbell, S.O.S., Oil on board

The result is an extraordinary visual and visceral feast by some of our great locals, Griffiths says.

Artists include Hedy Buzan, Darlene Campbell, Sandra Jones Campbell, Jennifer Griffiths, Dana Herkelrath, Andrea Lee Harris McGee, Bette Mcintire, Colleen Kennedy Premer, Karen Feuer Schwager and Sheryl Smith Seltzer.  

The show, Women OnWord, curated by Griffiths, is on view at BC Space, 235 Forest Ave.

 On July 12, the studio will host an event featuring women writers reading their words on President Trump. Call 497-1880 for more information.


Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

The Webmaster is Michael Sterling.

Katie Ford is our in-house ad designer.

Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Dianne Russell, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, and Aga Stuchlik are the staff photographers.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

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