Artist Rowan Foley captures the magic and mystic of Michael the Greeter

By DIANNE RUSSELL

For 14 years, Michael the Greeter (Michael Minutoli) has been a Laguna institution. It can’t help but brighten your day when spotting him spinning, dancing and waving. His is a particular brand of wizardry that’s undefinable, one that brings passersby into his own private world.

As ethereal as that quality is, local artist Rowan Foley was able to capture it in her painting of Minutoli titled, Michael, which is now on display at Laguna Coffee Company. (The shop consistently features the work of local artists.)

As for the title of the painting, Foley said, “I’ve decided to keep it simple and call it Michael – it just feels right.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Foley with her painting, “Michael,” which is on display at Laguna Coffee Company

“This painting means the world to me because it’s all about Michael – his essence, his vibe, everything,” Foley said. “When I was working on it, Michael and I had these amazing conversations about creativity and the magic that exists in the moments before an artist begins their performance. I wanted the painting to capture that feeling – Michael lost in thought before he begins to perform, holding the Boz Scaggs record that he uses both as inspiration and to spin on.”

Residents may recognize Foley from Festival of the Arts (FOA), where she exhibited for the first time in 2023, and she’ll be returning for this year’s FOA season as well. As detailed in her FOA profile, Foley’s artistic journey began in Sonoma County, where her parents – a writer and a painter – instilled in her a passion for the arts. She refined her skills as an apprentice under the tutelage of acclaimed sculptor Colin Lambert during her senior year of high school. Foley pursued her artistic education at the Savanna College of Art and Design, as well as the Laguna College of Art + Design, where she earned a BFA in Drawing and Painting, with an emphasis on Sculpture.

Since her graduation in 2020, Rowan’s exceptional talent has captured the attention of the art world, with her work featured in Best of Drawing magazine and showcased at prestigious galleries such as the National Geographic Gallery and Woods Cove Gallery in Laguna Beach.

“Living in Laguna and getting to know Michael has been such a blessing,” said Foley. “He’s this incredible force of positivity, always spreading joy wherever he goes. Whether he’s waving to passing cars or just making everyone’s day a little brighter, he’s a true gem and inspiration.”

Foley explained her inspiration for the painting: “With this portrait, I wanted to give back a piece of the joy Michael brings to the world. If it sells, I’m planning to donate the proceeds. I haven’t decided where yet, but I am sure the right cause will come to me once the time comes.”

Although Foley didn’t see Minutoli’s initial reaction to the painting, she said, “The first time he saw me after I painted it, he gave me a hug and expressed how much it meant to him. He said he felt a little awkward looking at it but was also proud and touched that I asked him to model for me. He said that when I asked him, he didn’t even know I was an artist, so he didn’t think much of it and was shocked when he saw the painting. He felt it was part of his legacy.”

For more information on Rowan Foley, go to www.rowanfineart.com.

Laguna Coffee Company is located at 1050 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.


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