Print

Mebergs’ all-around support for community’s art program to be recognized at Art Star Awards 

By THERESA KEEGAN

If passion and enthusiasm were qualifiers for recognition at the upcoming Art Star awards, it’s easy to understand why Carla and Jeff Meberg would be recipients of this year’s Individual Arts Patron award. Add into that mix their generous support and all-around involvement in all things Laguna and it’s obvious why the committee selected them.

“Art is about expression,” said Carla. “It’s for everybody – it’s not just for artists.” And making sure everybody has access to the arts defines her, and her husband’s, life in Laguna Beach.

Their personal involvements, board positions and support read like a guide to Laguna institutions: Laguna Art Museum, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, LOCA Arts Education, Glennwood House, Friends of the Arts and Laguna Playhouse.

“Every night people in Laguna have the ability to gather with people who are enjoying art and we get to learn from each other because of that art,” Carla said. “It’s like an art oasis. There are so many valuable places and the people, oh my word!, Laguna has great people here who are always thinking and have great ideas.” 

Mebergs all around Jeff and Carla

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Jeff and Carla Meberg 

And that environment creates an engaged community, for everyone from the youngest to the oldest of residents, regardless of their artistic abilities.

“Art helps us to explore ourselves, it helps us all to grow,” Carla said. “We’re better – and more than what we would be – because of art.”

Educational programs critical

Carla is thrilled that, through LOCA outreach, so many people have a chance to create and experience their own art in a setting where they’re comfortable. The diverse programs are offered at The Suzi Q Center, the Boys & Girls Club, the Marine Mammal Center, the outdoor parks and schools. In fact, the Glennwood House is one of Carla’s favorite teaching environments.

“I just love going to Glennwood. It’s my favorite place to be,” she said. “They are the most loving, giving, kind individuals and their art is always so different. You go home from teaching there and you’re just so happy.” 

Mebergs all around with Julie

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Eric Stoner, LAM

Jeff and Carla Meberg with LAM Executive Director Julie Perlin Lee

And bringing art to the schools is another of her favorite activities.

“I just love teaching kids,” she says effusively. “I learn so much. They are fun and so inappropriate – you see in their faces so much joy.” When she arrives at a lesson often the students already have a concept in their head about what they’ll create. Initially she’d often think the program just wouldn’t work out. But inevitably it always does.

“It’s not about your expectations, it’s their expectations,” she said. “They love it and that’s when it’s a success. You’re teaching them to see. To feel.” 

Learning creatively

Carla personally knows how important it is to nurture creativity for all people. In college she fell under the influence of teachers who quashed her creativity. The impact was so strong she switched majors from art to communications.

“I was turned off (from art) for a large part of my life because I could not find a teacher to help me get where I needed to be as an artist.” A sketch class at Saddleback Community College a few years ago changed her perspective, literally.

“I could not believe how that one drawing class changed me so much…it made me stop, look at an object and draw it.” And then she went back again, and again and again, to get the details right. It’s a skill she says anyone can develop, and it has long-lasting implications well beyond the actual art that’s created.

“If you want to see your world differently, take a drawing class,” she said. “Art takes you beyond the ordinary.” 

Mebergs all around LAM auction

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Eric Stoner, LAM

Jeff and Carla Meberg at the Laguna Art Museum’s art auction. Carla is on the board of LAM. 

Her own art evolved and she now pursues printmaking, and even recently spent time with ateliers in the industry in Paris. She experienced a new appreciation for the process – even liking her work upon completion.

“Usually, when I make a piece and finish it, I hate it. Then a year later I like it and the second year later it’s on the wall.”

Her personal knowledge of the creative process may be why she is such an advocate for artists being recognized and rewarded financially for their work – especially the artists who offer art education programs. 

Valuing art for what it’s worth? Priceless

“Artists need to be paid a fair wage. You think about how much time and energy goes into a painting that sells for $1,000 – they’re really getting less than minimum wage,” she said. In her dream scenario, artists wouldn’t have to leave a studio to go work at some convenience store in order to pay rent.

“In order to be good at your craft you need to do it all the time,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be great if they can just continue with it?” Meberg is proud LOCA’s payments to their art teachers reflect the value of their knowledge, as well as prep time. 

“Artists aren’t paid like other industries in a fair way,” she said. “They deserve what anybody who is good in their craft deserve. Part of our mission is to keep the artists going after the festivals are over. This is why I love Laguna Beach.”

Valuing the impact of art to people, and to a community, is a mission for the Mebergs. They believe the universality of art transcends boundaries.

“Art takes you beyond the ordinary,” said Carla. “Art teaches you to see and it strengthens your thinking. I think art makes us better at anything we do.”

“This award means a lot to me,” said Jeff. “I have been very involved with many organizations in Laguna Beach. I see how powerful art is to the community and I love being a part of it – the plays and music at the Playhouse, teaching art at Glennwood House with LOCA and participating with art instruction at Pacific Marine Mammal Center. All of these organizations are so worthy to our community and the individuals that are involved. This is a tremendous honor to be chosen for this award.”

The Art Star Awards hosted by the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance (LBAA) will be held on Sunday, April 24. For tickets and more information, go here.