Art Stars 2020 honored by the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance at Art Star Awards on Sunday


Photos by Jeff Rovner

Since 2007, the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance (LBAA) has hosted the annual Art Star Awards to recognize excellence in achievements in – and contributions to – the arts in Laguna Beach. On Sunday evening at [seven-degrees], the 2020 awards (canceled due to COVID) were bestowed on a dazzling array of talented recipients. It was apparent that the two-year postponement made the event even more special, and the artists and community members who filled the spectacular venue were ready to honor their Art Stars.

art stars dittberner

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Joy Dittberner, LBAA chair and executive director of the Laguna Beach Dance Festival, kicks off the 14th year of Art Star Awards

The award categories were Best Arts Program, Individual Arts Patron of the Year, Corporate Arts Patron of the Year, Outstanding Arts Collaboration, Arts Leadership, Artist of the Year and Volunteer of the Year. A special award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts was also presented. 

Created in 2002, LBAA represents the partnership of 22 Laguna-based organizations dedicated to promoting a collaboration of artists and those who support the arts – serving as a united voice for the arts in this city.

art stars Louies

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“Louies” created for the Art Star Awards by Louis Longi

The various category winners are given one-of-a-kind sculptures (“Louies”) created by local artist and celebrity Louis Longi. The “Louies” are created specifically for the Art Star Awards with no molds or editions.

The Art Star Awards Committee – Wayne Baglin (chair), FOA/Pageant of the Masters; Faye Baglin, Community Art Project; Joy Dittberner, Laguna Dance Festival; Amy Francis-Dechary, Third Street Writers; Michael Ervin, Laguna Beach Arts Commission; Deena Harros, First Thursdays Art Walk; Sharbie Higuchi, FOA/Pageant of the Masters and Pat Kollenda, Laguna Beach Arts Commission – put on a stellar event.

art stars committee

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Art Star Awards Committee: (L-R) Pat Kollenda, Faye Baglin, Mike Ervin, Deena Harros, Sharbie Higuchi and Joy Dittberner (absent from the photo, Amy Francis-Dechary and Wayne Baglin)

LBAA Chair Dittberner thanked the city, county and state for their support, which allows Laguna to be known as an artist colony. “Within the artistic fabric of Laguna, the artists create art that transcends time and space.”

Allyson Allen was the recipient of the 2019 Grant Winner – The Honarkar Family Grant. It’s widely known that Allen’s quilt exhibition at Wells Fargo Bank was taken down due to a few unfavorable reactions. However, they found a new temporary home at the Neighborhood Congregational Church. “It worked in my favor,” Allen said. “Only a few hundred people would have seen the exhibition at the bank, but at the Neighborhood Congregational Church, over 700 people viewed it.” 

Allen’s quilt exhibition was displayed on the walls of [seven-degrees], adding another layer of meaning to the evening.

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Recipient of the Honarkar Family Grant - Allyson Allen

The first to receive the coveted “Louie” was Keynote Speaker Marrie Stone. For several years before her role as arts columnist, Stone interviewed many of our town’s greatest legends for Stu News. For the past year, she has been an archeologist of sorts, digging into the many facets of the lives of local artists. During her stint as Stu News’ arts columnist, she’s profiled 100+ artists in addition to covering art installations, exhibitions, performances and events for the 22 arts organizations of the LBAA. 

art stars marrie closeup

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Honored speaker Marrie Stone

Stone is also a freelance writer, podcaster (she’s interviewed more than 600 writers on the Writers on Writing radio show) and lawyer. During Stone’s speech, she gave the audience insights into the quirky and unique psyches of the extraordinary artists she has interviewed. 

“I figured what better time than tonight to revisit all those things we decided were off the record and I wouldn’t print,” Stone said. “I’m kidding. All secrets are safe. You know what they say. ‘What happens at [seven degrees], stays at [seven degrees].’”

art stars marrie and joy

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Marrie accepts first “Louie” of the evening from Joy Dittberner

However, Stone did reveal a few of their common traits – they were all very funny and weird little kids and mostly knew that they were destined for the arts out of the gate. “The lore in Bree Burgess Rosen’s household was that when she was born, the doctor slapped her butt and she immediately hit a high C,” she said. “She was performing in public by the age of 2.”

As children, artist Kathy Jones believed tiny singers lived inside her radio, Scott Moore thought he could fly and Kaitlin Evans was selling her art on the front lawn when she was only 5 years old. 

art stars perry, bartlett, higuchi, prince

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(L-R) President of the Board of Directors FOA David Perry, Orange County Supervisor for District 5 Lisa Bartlett, Marketing/PR Director at Festival of Arts Sharbie Higuchi and Community Relations Advisor/Policy Advisor at County of Orange Sergio Prince

Stone recalled the advice that artist Yuri Kuznetsov received from a teacher early in his career, “Once you start to love nature and learn by experience, you can become great. Once you can imagine it, you can translate it into art.”

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Another quality all the artists – and supporters of the arts – have in common is that they are deeply woven into the tapestry of our artistic community and have made it what it is today. They see the world differently and that has made all the difference.

Those rare abilities were celebrated on Sunday.

Winner Best Arts Program - City of Laguna Beach Temporary Public Art Installations 

(Nominees: Community Art Project Gallery Exhibitions, Third Street Writers Weekly Public Writer’s Workshops)

art stars temp public art

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(L-R) Karen Wood, Suzi Chauvel, Pat Kollenda, Mike Ervin, Arts Program Coordinator Mike McGregor, Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl and Mayor Sue Kempf

Winner Corporate Arts Patron of the Year - Quilter Labs 

(Nominees: Dawson Cole Fine Art, Laguna Clay Company)

art stars quilter

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Faye Baglin and Patrick Quilter

Winner Individual Arts Patron of the Year - Carla and Jeff Meberg

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.

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Carla and Jeff Meberg 

Winner Outstanding Arts Collaboration - LOCA Arts Education and Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) for their joint art workshops. 

For 25 years, LOCA has provided art programs to all the schools in the Laguna Beach Unified School District. LPAPA enhances its mission through alliances with complementary arts organizations and provides mentoring and scholarships to emerging artists, as well as its youth education programs dedicated to inspiring the next generation of artists.

art stars collaboration LOCA and LPAPA

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(L-R) Sherry Bullard, LOCA Educational Coordinator and Honorary Board Member; Executive Director of LPAPA Rosemary Swimm and President of LOCA Carla Meberg

Winner - Arts Leadership - Ellen Richard and Ann E. Wareham, Laguna Playhouse

(Nominees: Diane Challis Davy and Wendy Wirth)

art stars Wareham and Richardson

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Laguna Playhouse Executive Producing Director Ellen Richard (left) and former Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham

Winner - Artist of the Year - Lojo Simon

(Nominees: Kathy Jones, Timothy Robert Smith)

Playwright, writer, founder and curator of Bare Bones Theatre, Lojo Simon also serves as Literary Laureate Emerita for Laguna Beach.

art stars Lojo Simon

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(L-R) Amy Francis-Dechary and Lojo Simon 

Winner - Volunteer of the Year - M. Charlie Ferrazzi

(Nominees: Pageant of the Masters Volunteers, Pat O’Brien)

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M. Charlie Ferrazzi is a board member of Community Art Project whose mission is to increase the visibility and appreciation of art and serve as a catalyst for art education

Lifetime Achievement - Bree Burgess Rosen

Burgess Rosen’s colleagues from No Square gave her a rousing rendition of “Bree’s Way” to the tune of “My Way.” In part, the lyrics went, “She lives a life that’s full, Most of it’s true, “the rest is hearsay “For those, who do not know, She does it, Her Way.”

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Ensemble from No Square Theatre singing “Bree’s Way”: (L-R) Ella Wyatt, Rob Harryman, Marc Marger, Kristen Matson, Jay Rechter, Bridget English (wrote the lyrics), Yvonne Browning and Roxanna Ward at the keyboard

As co-founder and artistic director of No Square Theatre, Burgess Rosen is famous (or infamous) for her productions of Lagunatics. She is a local philanthropist whose time and talent have helped raise more than $1 million for local causes. 

art stars bree burgess rosen

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Bree Burgess Rosen

A champion of arts and music education for our youth, Burgess Rosen’s contributions to the town are impressive to say the least. And she can always be counted on to bring humor to any situation – her way. 

As Stone said at the close of her speech, “This town is rich in its art and lucky in its artists. It’s one of those things that makes our community so unique.”

art stars winners

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Recipients of Art Star Awards 2020

Congratulations to all the recipients!

For more information about LBAA, go to