Festival without borders: This summer’s Art-A-Fair will feature new international artists, as well as returning favorites

By THERESA KEEGAN

No need to travel the globe looking for art this summer – a trip to the Laguna Art-A-Fair will transport attendees to places near and far.

“I’m really excited about our new artists,” said Kim Brandon-Watson, vice president of marketing for Art-A-Fair. “We have artists from eight different countries and 16 states. Having artists from all around the world will attract people who want to see that art.”

With Laguna Beach boasting three impressive art festivals – in addition to Art-A-Fair, the Festival of Arts hosts juried Orange County artists and the Sawdust features Laguna Beach artists – there is a well-earned reputation of the town as an art hub said Brandon-Watson. And that reputation prompted a record number of 253 artists seeking a spot at Art-A-Fair, with 113 accepted. There will be 28 new and 85 returning artists this summer.

“I just think artists know Laguna Beach is a hub for art and having the opportunity to display their work with a lot of like-minded artists in a whole different country is appealing,” she said.

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Courtesy of Art-A-Fair

Last year’s late August hurricane ripped apart many awnings at Art-A-Fair, but rather than be dismayed, the artists and organizers gathered and rebuilt the festival grounds, ending the season on a positive note

The festival also started recruiting artists in August last year, building on the excitement of the 2023 festival. Ironically, while the grounds were heavily impacted with the end-of-season hurricane that forced them to close for 10 days, there are more returning artists this year than in past years.

“That’s pretty phenomenal,” said Brandon-Watson. She said the rebuild after the storm damage created an esprit de corps among all participants. “We’re all so excited for the new year.”

Ilze Sims of Ninole, Hawaii is an artist who is new to the festival, but is already excited about participating in the summer show.

“I feel as though I’m already part of a big family,” she wrote. “The organizers…have been extremely welcoming and helpful.” As a person who has traveled the world for 10 years on her sailboat, the opportunity to spend summer in Laguna Beach is appealing.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with other artists and people appreciating art,” she said. While Art-A-Fair does not provide housing for invited artists, many will get a long-term rental for the summer or make other arrangements, said Brandon-Watson.

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Courtesy of Ilze Sims

The Hawaiian artist Ilze Sims is influenced by her worldwide travels while living on her sailboat for almost a decade. The piece “Turtle Pond” utilizes her multimedia approach to creating art.

Sims creates multi-media textural abstract art that is influenced by her travels in the South Pacific and Asia.

“I’m an autodidactic artist,” she said. “I hope to share my work with a broader audience…and to have the experience of being part of this amazing art community.”

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Courtesy of Art-A-Fair

A fresh mural with a tropical theme will brighten the music stage at this summer’s Art-A-Fair

Brandon-Watson believes there will be enhanced opportunities for the artists as well as visitors this summer. She expects to partner with Sawdust on community nights, when residents from certain Orange County towns and cities can visit the sites for free, hosting chamber nights and improving the festival’s profile on Laguna’s trolley stops. There are musicians playing and classes offered throughout the summer. The sales and artist processing system has also been upgraded, which should make for an easier experience for selling artwork. The ground improvements will also include a mural by an exhibiting artist on the band stage.

Art-A-Fair board president Bob Ross (not the artist of bad hair fame) is energized by this year’s offerings.

“We have a phenomenal line-up this year,” he said. “This influx of fresh talent brings a wave of exciting new energy and perspectives, making it a show unlike any we’ve seen before.”

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Courtesy of Bongani Khumalo

The wire and bead animal creations by Cape Town artist Bongani Khumalo utilize a process of beading that was taught to him by his grandmother

Artist Bongani Khumalo from Cape Town, South Africa, is excited at the prospect of selling his bead and wire art, which includes large, 3D replicas of animals.

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“I started my artwork when I was taught by my grandmother to do some beaded bracelets,” he said. Lately he’s been traveling to art shows throughout Germany and other states and is met with enthusiasm and effective on-site sales.

“Laguna Art-A-Fair is going to be amazing,” he said. “I love this medium because I inherited it from my grandmother through our culture. Women wear a lot of beaded jewelry, each symbolizing something.”

In addition to the sales, Khumalo wants to showcase his talent and meet with other artists.

“We have such a friendly environment where people come and talk with us,” Brandon-Watson said. A few new board members are really encouraging that accessibility, she said. And the opportunity to share artist’s work on social media has also been beneficial, as people are learning about Art-A-Fair.

“We share their reels and posts in our stories and we’re tagging everybody,” said Brandon-Watson. “I integrated with the artists so we’re cross-promoting each other.”

Ross believes the more interaction the festival can provide for both artists and attendees, the greater the success for everyone.

“We’ll have a fantastic blend of both traditional and cutting-edge art on display,” he said. “I believe this will be one of the most exciting shows presented in decades – a true landmark event for the art community.”

Art-A-Fair will run daily from June 28 through September 1. For more information about the artists and special programs and workshops offered by Art-A-Fair, click here.


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